DETROIT -- He has become a leader, somehow a veteran presence at the age of 25, plus the Oakland A's unlikely season leader in home runs. But for most of the first two games of this American League Division Series, Josh Reddick looked a bit lost in the lights of his first postseason.
Entering the eighth inning of Game 2 -- a 5-4 walk-off loss for the A's -- Reddick, who hit 32 homers this year, had followed a familiar path on the Comerica Park field following his at-bats: turn around from home plate and saunter about 15 paces to the northwest.
"I was just trying not to walk back to the dugout like I'd been doing all series," said Reddick, who entered the plate appearance against Tigers setup man Joaquin Benoit with three strikeouts in his first three at-bats on Sunday and three more (along with a walk) in Saturday's Game 1 loss.
In his early at-bats, Reddick appeared to carry frustration from his Game 1 at-bats with him to the plate. After striking out looking against Detroit starter Doug Fister on a close call by home-plate umpire Mark Wegner in the third inning, for example, he threw his bat aside in disgust and slammed his helmet to the turf.
But he got redemption in the eighth. With the A's losing, 3-2, Reddick came to the plate with one out and teammate Yoenis Cespedes on first base. He watched as Cespedes sparked the team, stealing second base and third base in succession and then scoring the tying run on a Benoit wild pitch.
Then Reddick swung and finally hit horsehide instead of air. He blasted a home run over the wall in right field, giving the A's a 4-3 lead. Ultimately, it wouldn't hold up in a game the Tigers would win in the bottom of the ninth, but it was a start -- a start the A's need him to build on as the team heads back to Oakland needing to win three in a row to advance to the AL Championship Series.
"He hit a good pitch, a changeup," Benoit said. "Everybody who's in the big leagues is here for a reason. He made some adjustments on me. What can I say? I tip my hat."
For Reddick, it was simpler than making adjustments.
"It was obviously a frustrating two games for me, not putting the ball in play one time," Reddick said. "But I was just up there trying not to strike out. That was my mindset in the last at-bat.
"Just try to get something to fall and get Cespy in. I knew he was going to go on contact, so I was just trying to put something on the ground, and he did a great job stealing second and third and ended up benefiting for us on the wild pitch, and then I just tried to relax and go back to the old Josh."
That's the player the A's want to see and hadn't been seeing until late in Game 2. He hit the home run and practically sprinted around the bases, arriving once again at the dugout, but this time to a throng of boisterous supporters.
"He's a big bat in our lineup," A's infielder Cliff Pennington said. "He led our team in home runs. We need him just like every team needs their middle-of-the-order bats. He got a big one for us there, it was a huge swing of the bat, and at the time, we thought it might have been the game-winner."
It wasn't, but the A's also recognized that Reddick's struggles almost mirrored their own.
Throughout Games 1 and 2, Oakland had chances to win. They came close on plays, such as Coco Crisp's pivotal seventh-inning drop of a Miguel Cabrera pop fly in center field on Sunday, a play that cost the A's two runs and, ultimately, the game. Or Crisp being tagged out at the plate on a very close play in Sunday's third inning, another huge run narrowly missed.
Reddick hadn't gotten particularly close to any base hits prior to the homer, mystified as he seemed by the pitching of Game 1 starter Justin Verlander and Game 2's Fister, but he, like the A's, found a way to battle.
"Baseball's tough, especially hitting," Oakland outfielder Seth Smith said. "And you're going to go through stretches where you don't look good, and it's not because you're a bad player or you don't feel good at the plate. Sometimes it's just you're getting pitched tough and things aren't falling for you. So Reddick's fine. We're not worried about him."
And Reddick said he's not worried about the A's.
"We're going to go out there positive," he said. "We're not going to go out there and hang our heads low and act like a team who's defeated. We've been coming from behind all year, so we're going to keep grinding and keep grinding."