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TEX@OAK: Hicks' first home run gives A's walk-off win

OAKLAND -- The shaving cream industry is thriving these days, thanks in large part to the A's.

Baseball's surprise team, it appears, is intent on making the product part of its everyday getup, as it continues to reveal itself as a potential playoff contender rather than a pretender.

Modeling it on Wednesday was Brandon Hicks, who got a taste of the cream after his first walk-off home run -- which also happened to be his first home run -- in a thrilling 4-3 victory over the Rangers at the Coliseum.

It marked the ninth walk-off win for the A's, most in the Majors, and only further added to a surging streak that has seen the team win 10 of 12 in July.

As for the shaving cream, Hicks wore it well, particularly in the clubhouse while talking to reporters, after teammate Josh Reddick sneaked in and delivered the pie to his face.

"He avoided me on the field, and I got the side of his face," Reddick said. "So don't avoid me. You are going to get it, anyway."

"I wasn't ready for that one," Hicks said, smiling.

The infielder, who became the fourth player in A's history to hit a game-ending home run for his first Major League homer, didn't enter the game until the seventh inning, as a pinch-runner for Chris Carter. And when he did, he brought with him a 2-for-24 slump.

But as he stepped to the plate with no outs in the ninth against Rangers lefty Michael Kirkman, Hicks left it behind, instead focusing on a 1-1 changeup that he launched over the center-field wall for the storybook win.

"The first pitch was a fastball that just missed down," Kirkman said. "I got him to pull off another fastball and I felt I could get him out front on a changeup. He was right on it. It was a little up. It was on the outside corner, a little up."

Predictable, even?

"You know what?" A's manager Bob Melvin said. "The inning before, I was thinking if they send Kirkman back out there, it was a good matchup for him. I don't know if I was thinking walk-off home run, but I thought it was a good matchup for him."

"It's exciting to get that kind of big hit in that situation to win the game," said Hicks, who has been splitting time at shortstop with incumbent Cliff Pennington since his June 23 arrival.

After falling to the Rangers on Tuesday night, the A's found themselves facing a two-run deficit in Wednesday's matinee. But Reddick's two-run double in the seventh off the stalwart arm of Alexi Ogando turned the A's fortunes around, paving the way for a split rather than a series loss -- creating some much-needed momentum as the Yankees make their way to Oakland for a four-game set starting Thursday.

A previously struggling Brandon Inge also contributed, launching a fifth-inning homer off Rangers righty Colby Lewis -- fresh off the disabled list -- over the center-field wall, snapping an 8-for-63 stretch, before adding a double to his day in the seventh, when the A's found the groove that's driven them into playoff contention.

"Everyone calls us scrappy, and it's true, we are," said Oakland starter Travis Blackley, who gave up three runs in 5 1/3 innings. "Don't sleep on us. All 27 outs, we're going to keep coming.

"I was up here and I saw it was going to come down to the bottom of the ninth, and sure enough, first hitter."

"I think when we get into the ninth inning or beyond and it's tied, we've had so many of them that I think we just feel good about it," said Melvin, whose club is 17-10 in games decided in the last at-bat. "It was good to see Hicks contribute and get a part of the whole deal. We're getting different contributors, but I think just the fact we feel good about it based on past experiences, that when we get into that situation, we know we have the ability to do it again."

And to reach for the shaving cream just as easily.

"It's fun," Reddick said. "This is a fun time. Anybody wants to walk off any day. We just seem to start off slow and then kick it up after the sixth inning and make it a little more exciting. It'd be nice to do that a little bit earlier, but a win's a win."

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