Walk-off single caps A's ninth-inning rally

Oakland, which holds the top AL Wild Card spot, snaps its skid

Walk-off single caps A's ninth-inning rally

OAKLAND -- The A's 4-3 walk-off victory over the Astros on Saturday afternoon does not void the terrible stretch of play that preceded it, nor does it guarantee anything after it. It does offer them a reminder of what life was like before it, though, and that may be all they need to find their way again.

"We've won many games like that this year, so hopefully they remember the feeling," said manager Bob Melvin. "It hasn't been a great feeling, and we haven't looked like we've had the fight that we normally do. We're not playing very well all the way around, so hopefully a game like that can spur something."

"We just need to keep that momentum, use that momentum moving forward," said Jed Lowrie, "and continue to believe what we set out to do from the beginning."

It was Lowrie who brought in the winning run on a ground ball through the left side of the infield off Astros closer Chad Qualls, with Josh Reddick racing home from second base to beat the throw from shallow left field and secure the victory.

"I made it look a lot harder than it was," said Reddick, laughing. "I knew where everyone was playing, I just got conscious about that ball and it wasn't hit super hard. I kind of hesitated for a second, then hit third, and the next step after third I think I tripped over myself, so I had to gain my footing again, so I made it a lot closer than I should've. But it doesn't matter how you do it as long as you cross the plate before the ball gets there."

"It felt like he was a jockey or something, just trying to get him to go," said Lowrie.

The A's trailed, 3-1, with one out in the ninth inning, and it sure looked like they were doomed for their fourth consecutive loss. That's when the Astros unwrapped the gift of Qualls, who has struggled to contain these A's this year, and Reddick responded with a game-tying two-run double to straightaway center.

Lowrie fell behind Qualls, 0-2, and, "I'm just looking for a pitch that I can get barrel on," he said. "I was able to find a hole, and Reddick was able to just beat it."

In six games against Oakland this year, Qualls is 0-4 with a 27.00 ERA and four blown saves, with 12 runs and 16 hits allowed in four innings.

"It's been happening all year, and I'm tired of it," said Qualls. "Four of my five losses are against them, four of my five blown saves are against them. I'm over it. … In the words of Pedro Martinez, 'In 2014 the Oakland A's are my daddy.' What do you want me to do?

"I don't get away with mistakes, or when I make a good pitch they put it in play. I don't know. I've never seen it before. That's all there is to it."

For Lowrie, it was his first walk-off hit with the A's, leading to his first taste of walk-off pie and first dose of a Gatorade shower.

"I feel like if you don't experience that, then you never really had the A's experience," he said. "That's something you welcome -- not in many situations, but in that for sure."

"I think this is big for us," said starter Scott Kazmir. "I think we needed a win kind of like this. You could look at everyone in this clubhouse, between all of us, we wanted this real bad. I think there were a couple games where I felt like the energy level just wasn't there. It's to the point where we just got to, you got to dig deep and finish strong. I feel like a win like this is something that could kick-start us, just give us the little push that we need."

Before Saturday, the A's had lost seven of their last eight and nine of their last 12, and their 7-17 record since Aug. 10, when they held a four-game division lead, was tied with Cincinnati for worst in the Majors.

The A's remained six games back of the Angels, who won in Minnesota, in the American League West and just two games up on the Mariners, who won at Texas, for the top AL Wild Card spot with 21 games to go. Their postseason picture remains murky, but the A's are at least looking like themselves again after Saturday's thriller.

Even Kazmir looked more like his first-half self, taking a no-hit bid into the sixth inning and finishing with three runs allowed and eight strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings, after going 2-4 with a 7.80 ERA in six August starts.

Relievers Dan Otero and Luke Gregerson combined for 2 2/3 scoreless innings to keep the deficit at two.

"The way we've been playing, it's been ugly, and we've had very few games where we've been fighting back," said Reddick. "Our losses have been quite ugly, so to come back like this is hopefully something that gets us going, maybe sparks a fire in our tail ends, because that's what we need right now."

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.