OAKLAND -- Scott Kazmir is still relatively new to Oakland, but not too new to make this observation following the A’s 4-3, walk-off win over the Astros on Saturday:
"If we’re close enough we feel like it’s only a matter of time," Kazmir said. "Especially if we get to the late innings, eighth and ninth, even if we get their best guy -- the closer out there -- we feel like we can still pull it out."
The A’s recorded their second walk-off win of the season Saturday in a game they trailed 3-1 going into the ninth. Jed Lowrie led off the inning with a home run off Chad Qualls, the A’s tied it four batters later on Alberto Callaspo’s RBI single scoring Josh Donaldson, and Josh Reddick then singled with runners on first and third for his fourth career game-winning RBI and third hit of the day.
"We came back and battled our butts off," Reddick said.
Before that, the story had been the A’s stranding runners in nearly every inning. They left 14 on base altogether Saturday, went 4-for-13 with runners in scoring position, and still managed to hand the Astros their 13th loss in 18 games.
"We seem to get our best at-bats late in games," A’s manager Bob Melvin said. "It wasn’t pretty for a while early on, we had some opportunities with runners in scoring position, situational at-bats where we didn’t come through. But that’s why we play to 27 outs, and almost every at-bat in the ninth inning was fantastic."
It came too late for Kazmir, but the A’s wouldn’t have been within striking distance in the ninth without the left-hander’s eight-inning performance. Kazmir allowed three runs (two earned) on six hits, walked none and struck out five while throwing 106 pitches.
The main blemish against him was a one-out home run by Jonathan Villar in the third. Villar also doubled in the fifth and scored when he stole third and catcher Derek Norris’ throw sailed wide into left field. Houston’s other run came when Chris Carter doubled with one out in the fourth and scored on Matt Dominguez’s single.
After Villar’s double in the fifth, though, Kazmir retired 12 of the final 13 hitters he faced to complete eight innings for only the second time over the past two seasons. Four starts in, Kazmir has a 1.65 ERA and has struck out 24 batters while walking just four in 27 1/3 innings.
"It’s great, especially this early in the year, to be able to go deep into games and still have quality pitches," Kazmir said. "And to be able to get quick outs like that from the fifth on, to be able to reduce my pitch count every inning was important."
Kazmir had left his last outing in Seattle after six innings with some triceps pain, but said it didn’t bother him at all Saturday. He departed in line for a loss, but was spared that fate by the A’s comeback in the ninth.
"I thought he pitched great," Melvin said. "We throw one away that gives them one run and again didn’t play great behind him. … But he doesn’t let that stuff bother him. He certainly didn’t deserve to get a loss out of that one."
Reddick pointed out something interesting after the game -- all four of Kazmir’s starts with the A’s have come in day games. Reddick guessed that Kazmir is "ready to pitch at night," but a look at Kazmir’s stats suggests he doesn’t mind the 1 p.m. first pitch.
Before Saturday, Kazmir had a .622 winning percentage and 3.82 ERA in day games for his career, compared to a .485 winning percentage and 4.24 ERA at night. His next turn in the rotation comes up April 24 in Houston -- at 7 p.m. CT.
* Tomorrow’s print story is all about Reddick and his past two days at the plate. Coming into this series, the right fielder was batting .098 (4-for-41) with no extra-base hits. In the first two games against the Astros, he’s 6-for-9 with a home run and three RBIs.
One thing Reddick said is that he’s feeling confident at the plate -- something he couldn’t claim during the first two weeks of the season. He also said he found a box of his bats in Alberto Callaspo’s locker -- he doesn’t know how they got there -- and started using them Friday night. So there’s that, too.
"It feels good to go from a guy in the first week going up there thinking, ‘How am I even going to touch this baseball?’ to now it’s, ‘How am I going to think about getting out?’" Reddick said.
"It’s a great turnaround and a great feeling to be back with some confidence in the box, and keep telling myself, ‘This guy’s not going to get me out.’ That’s how I feel right now. It feels great just to have some confidence back."
* The win -- and even before that the runners left on base -- somewhat overshadowed the A’s making two more errors Saturday. That included Norris’ throwing error, which led to Houston’s third run. Melvin said before the game the A’s haven’t done a lot of defensive work as a team since breaking camp, and he intends to make that more of a regular thing.
The A’s have now committed 18 errors in their first 17 games. They began Saturday tied with Cleveland for the most errors in the American League.
"There’s times where we make the unbelievable plays and sometimes the routine plays, we lose a little bit of focus," Kazmir said. "But it’s early in the year. It’s something that we know we’re capable of having a solid, fundamental defense, and we’ll be just fine."
* Your double-digit RBI men on the A’s are now Brandon Moss (15), Yoenis Cespedes (13), Josh Donaldson (10) and … Alberto Callaspo (10). Callaspo, who’s also leading the team with a .327 average, went hitless in his first four at-bats Saturday but delivered the clutch hit with two on in the ninth to tie the game and set up Reddick’s heroics.
* With Reddick the recipient of the customary pie in the face following his walk-off hit, it was Coco Crisp taking over Reddick’s usual duties as the player delivering it. He added a wrinkle, sneaking up behind Reddick and pie-ing him twice -- first with the left hand, then with the right.
Reddick said he knew the first one was coming, but the second took him by surprise.
"That was well-played on his part," Reddick said. "That was very Reddick-esque."
* The A’s now lead the all-time series with Houston, 22-5, which is the best record by any major-league team against another among teams that have played 20 or more times. They’ll go for the sweep Sunday afternoon behind Jesse Chavez, while the Astros will start former A’s minor-leaguer Brad Peacock. First pitch at 1:05 p.m.