Before this weekend’s series against the Houston Astros, Josh Reddick said, it was discovered a box of the A’s right fielder’s bats had somehow ended up in infielder Alberto Callaspo’s locker.
Reddick, mired in a slump that had him batting .098 entering Friday, took one of the bats from that box and used it to rap out three hits Friday night, including his first home run of the season. Saturday, he again had three hits, the last being a walk-off single that gave the A’s a come-from-behind 4-3 win over the Astros.
“We were blaming (the slump) on that,” Reddick said of the bat mix-up. “It’s obviously showing somewhat.”
In the past two games alone, Reddick has eclipsed his hit total from the first two weeks of the season, when he went 4 for 41 with no extra-base hits. It was anything but the start Reddick had wanted to a season meant to remind people what he can do when healthy, following offseason surgery to address a wrist injury that hampered his swing in 2013.
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Optimism surrounded Reddick in spring training, when he hit .333 with three homers, but those results had not translated to the regular season. He struck out in 15 of his first 40 at-bats with one RBI. Friday, after skipping pregame work in the batting cage and taking only batting practice on the field, he went 3 for 4 with two RBIs and said it was “the best I’ve felt since Opening Night.”
Reddick flied out and struck out in his first two at-bats Saturday against Astros left-hander Brett Oberholtzer. In the sixth, he went the other way with an outside fastball from Oberholtzer for a single. Two innings later, he pulled a two-strike pitch from reliever Matt Albers into right for another single.
Neither helped produce a run – the A’s left 14 runners on base Saturday – and entered the ninth trailing 3-1. But after Jed Lowrie led off with a home run off Chad Qualls, the A’s tied the score on Callaspo’s one-out RBI single, leaving runners on first and third for Reddick.
Reddick fell behind in the count, 1-2, fouling off two pitches on early swings. Qualls then threw a breaking ball that Reddick hit squarely for a line drive to right-center, which fell in for a single and Reddick’s fourth career game-winning RBI. He rounded first base and threw his helmet halfway across the diamond as teammates rushed to mob him.
“I thought his swings had been good, his balance has been pretty good,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “I think it’s just a matter of being more confident, and that’s just a product of getting a few hits.”
Reddick said he has tried not to take too many swings between games to avoid “overthinking things,” and that getting into a regular batting practice schedule – odd weather and start times during the season’s first week interfered with that – also has helped. He also agreed he has regained some confidence at the plate after “the first week, going up there thinking, ‘How am I even going to touch this baseball?’ ”
“Now it’s, ‘How am I going to think about getting out?’ ” Reddick said. “That’s how I feel right now. It feels great just to have some confidence back.”
Too often last season, Reddick has said, he felt powerless in the batter’s box. He batted .226 with 12 home runs a year after slugging 32 homers, and has attributed that dropoff largely to the sprained wrist that bothered him all season. Starting this season slowly, he admitted, weighed on his mind.
“Just to be able to do something with the bat and not be just a one-dimensional guy (with defense) is a huge pickup, especially considering what I went through last year,” he said.
“People think I’ve got a lot to prove this year with injury issues and the way last year was. But I feel like I have nothing to prove. I’ve shown what I can do in this league, and I’m here to do it again.”
Saturday’s game-winning hit earned him what has become the traditional whipped cream pie in the face after A’s walk-off victories. It’s a tradition Reddick started upon arriving in Oakland in 2012 to “just make it a little more fun.” Normally, he’s the one delivering them; this time, it was Coco Crisp with the honors.
Crisp added a wrinkle Saturday, sneaking up behind Reddick and hitting him with pies in both hands, first with the left hand and then with the right. While he knew the first pie was coming, Reddick said the second took him by surprise.
“That was well-played on his part,” Reddick said. “That was very Reddickesque.”