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Athletics 4, Astros 3

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OAKLAND -- The first-place Oakland Athletics bumbled in the field and stranded runners left and right much of the day against the last-place Houston Astros on Saturday.

Oakland still somehow pulled out a last-minute victory, however, against the A's frequent punching bag. Jed Lowrie led off the bottom of the ninth with a solo homer to cut the Astros' lead to one, then Josh Donaldson walked, Yoenis Cespedes singled -- and Alberto Callaspo tied the game with a base hit to center.

Josh Reddick followed with a game-winning single to right-center, giving the A's a 4-3 victory. The A's, at 12-5, have matched their best start over the past 33 years, also done in 1990 and last season.

Oakland is 22-5 vs. the Astros all-time, and Saturday, the A's made two errors and stranded 12 runners through the first eighth innings.

Lowrie led off the ninth with a homer down the first-base line off Chad Qualls. Lowrie's first-inning bunt attempt the night before, with a 7-0 lead, had irked Astros manager Bo Porter.

Astros starter Brett Olberholtzer, who left early the previous day because of flu-like symptoms, went 5 2/3 innings and allowed eight hits and two walks but only one run while striking out three.

Anthony Bass, who took over from Olberholtzer in the sixth with two on and two outs, walked pinch hitter Coco Crisp but got Lowrie to pop up to end the inning.

Nick Punto, who started at second base for Oakland, finished with three hits, including one sliding head-first into first base in the sixth inning.

Scott Kazmir started for the A's and went eight innings. He allowed six hits and three runs, two earned. He struck out five and walked none; over four starts with his new club, Kazmir has 24 strikeouts and he has walked just four.

Kazmir had not allowed a homer in his first three starts and 21 1/3 innings until the third inning Saturday, when shortstop Jonathan Villar crushed a ball over the fence in dead center. Craig Gentry, starting in center for Oakland with Coco Crisp on the bench, came within inches of getting his glove on the ball after a leaping attempt.

Villar's blast, his third of the season, was Houston's first hit of the game off Kazmir.

Kazmir has not allowed many homers over his past 22 starts -- just eight total.

The A's tied it up against left-hander Brett Oberholtzer in the bottom of the inning, which first baseman Daric Barton led off with a double to right center, snapping an 0-for-11 streak. Gentry followed with a double to left, sending in Barton.

Gentry was in center in place of Crisp because the A's would prefer not to have Crisp bat right-handed after he received a cortisone shot in his left wrist a week ago. Manager Bob Melvin said he expected Crisp to be available off the bench and to be able to hit against left-handers as soon as Sunday.

The Astros jumped back ahead in the fourth inning. Designated hitter Chris Carter doubled with one out and third baseman Matt Dominguez sent him in with a single; Carter was safe in a bang-bang play at the plate.

Houston's next run came in the fifth, courtesy of more poor A's defense. The A's have made four errors in the past two games, and in the fifth Villar doubled, stole second and scored on catcher Derek Norris' throwing error past third base. Oakland's 18 errors lead the majors.

NOTES: OF Alex Presley remained out of the starting lineup with the flu-like bug that has hit the Astros the past week. ... A's LHP Eric O'Flaherty, who had Tommy John surgery last year, threw a bullpen session at the Coliseum on Saturday morning and used all of his pitches. Manager Bob Melvin said O'Flaherty might be ready to throw to hitters when the A's return from their next road trip in early May, the next step before any potential rehab assignment. ... CF Coco Crisp was not in Oakland's starting lineup because the A's have been cautious about having the center fielder bat right-handed since he received a cortisone shot in his left wrist. He was available off the bench. ... Melvin anticipated no second-day flare-ups after some hard feelings over Jed Lowrie's first-inning bunt attempt on Friday; the A's were up 7-0 at the time but the Astros were playing Lowrie in a shift. "I gave them an out. I did what they wanted me to do," Lowrie said Saturday. ... Astros RHP Paul Clemens threw a pitch that nearly hit Lowrie in the legs his second at-bat Friday, then Houston manager Bo Porter came out and yelled at Lowrie. Said Melvin, "Hopefully we can move on. I don't think it was that big an issue, to tell you the truth."
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