HOUSTON -- Houston reliever Dan Wheeler blew a save, then shoved starter Chris Sampson in the dugout on Wednesday night, an ugly twist to the Astros' frustrating season.
Wheeler left after giving up three runs in the eighth inning Wednesday night, and the Oakland Athletics got a rare home run from Jason Kendall in the sixth and rallied for a 7-3 victory.
Sampson, who pitched seven strong innings, tried to console Wheeler when he came back to the dugout. Wheeler turned and shoved Sampson with both hands, then yelled at Sampson to go to the other end of the dugout.
The shoving was reminiscent of the scuffle between the Cubs' Carlos Zambrano and Michael Barrett two weeks ago, though this one was over in an instant. Wheeler (0-4) was contrite after the game and told Sampson he wanted to talk to him after the media finished asking Sampson questions.
"There's nothing going on," Wheeler said. "I love Chris. It was just frustration on my part. I'm a professional, I should be better than that. I take full responsibility."
Sampson said the outburst shouldn't be blown out of proportion.
"It's not a big deal," he said. "There's no issues there. I think of Dan like a big brother. It was bad timing on my part. I was trying to pat him on the back and tell him, 'We'll get them next time.' He was in the heat of the moment."
Wheeler, demoted from the closer role after blowing a save in Colorado last Thursday, struck out the first two A's he faced in the eighth before Kendall and Marco Scutaro singled. Scutaro pinch-hit for Oakland starter Joe Blanton (6-4).
Mark Kotsay then drove a double into the left-field corner to score Kendall and tie the game, and Mark Ellis lined Wheeler's next pitch off the left-field wall to bring home Scutaro and Kotsay.
"I felt great tonight," Wheeler said. "I felt like I had some of my best stuff. It's unfortunate that what happened, happened."
Trever Miller relieved Wheeler, but Eric Chavez added a two-run single later in the five-run eighth as the A's came back to win after trailing through seven innings for the second straight night. Chavez also homered for the A's, who have won nine of their last 11.
Kendall's leadoff homer in the sixth off the facade in left-center was his first home run since May 31, 2006, a span of 157 games and 619 at-bats. It ended the second-longest drought in the majors among active players.
Kendall wasn't sure if the ball was going out until the moment it hit the wall.
"I don't know that feeling," said Kendall, who has just 69 homers in 11 seasons. "I just hit it and ran."
Blanton won for just the second time in five starts, despite giving up eight hits - six of them doubles.
"It seems like when they bring in the reliever, we turn it on a bit," Blanton said. "It's not the first time they've scored for me late. I was just trying to keep us hanging around, keep us close enough."
Sampson allowed only three hits -- two of them homers -- and also singled and scored a run. Eric Munson and Hunter Pence had RBI doubles for the Astros, who've lost five of their last eight.
"Obviously it's frustrating," Sampson said. "It's frustrating as a team, not just for my own personal stats."
Sampson baffled the A's with a sinker that produced mostly groundball outs. He retired the first seven A's on grounders before Kendall singled to left in the third. Blanton then bunted back to Sampson, who threw to second to start a double play.
"It was my game plan going in, be economical," Sampson said. "I wanted to get strike one, strike two and make them hit my pitch."
Munson doubled home Carlos Lee in the second before Sampson started the Astros' third with a single. The rookie Pence then doubled, his 25th RBI and 23rd extra-base hit since he was called up from Triple-A Round Rock on April 28.
Chavez, who struck out four times in Tuesday's 5-4 loss, drove Sampson's first pitch of the fifth inning into the right-field seats to make it 2-1. It was Chavez's 10th homer of the season, but only his second on the road.
Kendall tied the game at 2-2 with his second homer in his last 406 games. He's been working on his swing mechanics lately with Ty Van Burkleo.
"He's been working hard with Ty," said A's manager Bob Geren. "He was able to get the angle coming through the zone and drove the ball to left. He hit the ball hard too between third and short. That's good because we know he's real good at hitting the ball to right, but now it opens up a lot of holes for him."
Adam Everett led off the Astros' seventh with a double into the right-field corner. Orlando Palmeiro pinch-hit for Sampson and grounded out.
Craig Biggio then doubled off the left-field wall, a few feet shy of a homer, to put Houston up 3-2. It was Houston's sixth double of the night, tying a season high.
Biggio has 656 career doubles, one behind Nap Lajoie for sixth on the all-time list. He ranks 26th all-time in extra-base hits with 996 and has 2,984 hits in his career. ... Oakland has hit into 63 double plays, most in the majors.