HOUSTON -- On Tuesday, he made an extremely rare appearance in the outfield. Then on Wednesday he snapped a 619 at-bat homerless streak.

What might today bring for catcher Jason Kendall?

The A's looked as if they would go quietly at the plate Wednesday night before getting a jolt from a rather unlikely offensive source.

Kendall ripped a solo home run off Houston Astros starter Chris Sampson in the sixth inning and then used some good old-fashioned hustle to ignite a five-run outburst in the eighth as the A's rallied for a 7-3 victory before 34,611 at Minute Maid Park.

"Slump" doesn't do justice to the offensive funk that has plagued Kendall in the season's first two-plus months. But he went 3-for-4 Wednesday and by night's end had nudged his average over the Mendoza line to .210.

"I feel good," Kendall said. "That's been the most frustrating part. I feel good. I know I can hit. I've dug myself a big hole. I know I can get out of it."

If the stat sheet indicated Kendall was a long shot to go yard, manager Bob Geren wasn't so shocked. He's praised Kendall for the extra hours he's punched in the batting cage to try to correct his struggles.

Geren said Kendall recently has been getting more lift on his bat through the hitting zone. On Sunday he drove a ball to deep left field at AT&T Park only to have the Giants' Barry Bonds make a great catch. In Tuesday's loss, he smoked a double off the wall in left, just his third extra base hit of the season.

"We know he's real good hitting the ball to right field," Geren said. "(Pulling the ball) opens up a lot of holes for him."

Kendall came into Wednesday owner of the major-leagues' lowest slugging percentage at .214.

With the A's down 2-1 in the top of the sixth, Sampson served up a 1-0 fastball that Kendall drove off the facade behind the bleachers in left field to tie the game.

He trotted briskly around the bases and said he was taking nothing for granted.

"I don't know that feeling very much," he said with a smile, "so I just ran. I knew I hit it good."

Kendall shaved his head just "to change something up" before the team flew to Houston, but only after consulting with his 3-year-old son, Kuyper.

It's added some spice to his past two games. Kendall played two innings in left field Tuesday, as the A's were short on healthy position players, followed by his heroics with the bat Wednesday.

His last homer had come on May 31, 2006, off the Kansas City Royals' Joel Peralta, a blast that snapped a 247-game, 961 at-bat homerless streak.

Joe Blanton, who was on deck as the No. 9 hitter for Wednesday's homer, also had started that game against the Royals.

"It was awesome, especially when I'm standing on deck and get to see it," Blanton said. "I thought it was gone when he hit it. But I'm a pitcher, so I don't know."

Even with Kendall's homer and a fifth-inning solo shot from Eric Chavez, the A's managed just three hits in seven innings off Sampson.

They trailed 3-2 entering the eighth when Kendall started a two-out rally by beating out a check-swing infield single off Dan Wheeler (0-4). Pinch-hitter Marco Scutaro followed with another infield single.

Then, Mark Kotsay shot an RBI double down the left-field line to it. Mark Ellis smacked a two-run double off the left-field wall and Chavez blooped a two-run single to right-center for a 7-3 A's lead.

That made an unlikely winner out of Blanton (6-4), who was tagged for six doubles but pieced together seven decent innings.

Contact Joe Stiglich at jstiglich@cctimes.com.