Oakland has won 20 of its last 23 games to complete an improbable charge to the top of the standings. Even more surprising was the manner in which the A’s overtook the Los Angeles Angels, winning two of three, including Thursday’s wild come-from-behind 5-4 victory.
Eric Chavez hit a three-run homer in the seventh inning to help Oakland erase an early 4-0 deficit. He was at the plate with two out in the bottom of the ninth when Los Angeles closer Francisco Rodriguez dropped a simple return throw from catcher Jose Molina, allowing Jason Kendall to race home from third with the winning run.
“I’ve never seen that in my life, but that stuff happens in baseball,” Kendall said. “You learn early on that you’re supposed to always follow the ball. I saw it rolling away, and I didn’t think he’d get it back in time. Fortunately for us, I was right.”
Jay Payton also homered for Oakland, which was 8 1/2 games out of first as recently as July 18.
The A’s, who took three of four from Minnesota from Aug. 1-4 at the Metrodome, are 8-2 this month after winning a franchise record 20 games in July.
Haren has been the beneficiary of Oakland’s surprising surge. The A’s have won each of the right-hander’s last 14 starts—a club record—dating to a 2-1 loss at Tampa Bay on May 26.
Haren allowed four hits over seven innings in an 11-0 victory at Kansas City on Sunday, improving to 9-0 during his unbeaten streak.
“Early on it was more maybe me keeping us real close,” Haren said of his winning streak. “There was a stretch there where I wasn’t pitching that well and the offense picked me up every time. Now it’s just kind of both clicking. I’ve thrown the ball better the past few times and the offense is still rolling and picking me up. It’s a nice combination and hopefully there’s two more months of it.”
Winners of three straight AL Central titles, the Twins are in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time since 2001.
Minnesota had Thursday off after losing two of three at Seattle. The Twins snapped a three-game losing streak with Wednesday’s come-from-behind 7-3 win in 14 innings.
Joe Mauer caught the entire game and doubled home a pair of runs in the 14th for Minnesota, which improved to 4-6 this month.
“It’s good to come out on top in a game like that,” said Mauer, who went 4-for-5. “It was just one of those nights when I was seeing the ball pretty good. I was just able to put a good swing on the one in the 14th inning.”