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Tejada HR saves baseball's longest streak since '53

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Over and over again, the ball left
Miguel Tejada's bat and landed in the left-field seats. Each time, the
Coliseum crowd cheered wildly as Tejada screamed with joy and
pumped his arms while rounding the bases.

The televisions in the Oakland clubhouse played just one program
after the Athletics won their 18th straight game -- and every time,
Tejada was the star.

Tejada hit a dramatic three-run homer as the A's blew a two-run
lead in the ninth inning, then rallied to beat the Minnesota Twins
7-5 Sunday to extend baseball's best streak in 49 years.

Everyone in Oakland was in a bit of disbelief -- particularly the
A's clubhouse staffers, who played the final at-bat on a continuous
loop.

''Every year, I take all my tapes back home (to the Dominican
Republic), and I show them to my dad,'' Tejada said. ''This one
might break. I'm going to watch it every day.''

The first game-ending homer of Tejada's career extended the
majors' longest winning streak since 1953, when the New York
Yankees also won 18 in a row, on a day it seemed certain to
continue -- and then seemed certain to end when Oakland allowed
three solo homers in the top of the ninth.

''This thing has a life of its own,'' Oakland manager Art Howe
said of the longest streak in franchise history, besting the
17-gamer by the 1931 Philadelphia A's. ''I can't say I'm surprised
by anything that happens. We sort of blew that game, but Miggy
found a way to get it for us anyway.''

Matthew LeCroy, Corey Koskie and Mike Cuddyer homered for
Minnesota in an improbable rally that ruined the complete-game
hopes of Mark Mulder and sent the Coliseum into stunned, empty
silence.

But in the ninth, Ramon Hernandez walked and Ray Durham singled
against ace closer Eddie Guardado (1-3). Pinch-hitter Olmedo Saenz
struck out, setting the stage for Tejada's homer.

''While I was running, I looked up and I saw my dad (in a luxury
box),'' Tejada said. ''He was jumping. It was funny to see him
jumping. That's where I pointed.''

At Howe's urging, Tejada stepped out of the dugout moments later
for a curtain call.

''I threw a fastball low, but it caught too much of the plate,
and he reached down and got it,'' Guardado said. ''As soon as he
got it in the air, I knew it was gone. What are you going to do?
Tejada is an All-Star.''

Tejada also hit an early two-run homer, driving in five runs on
three hits.

''MVP. Period. Three letters describe that guy,'' said A's
closer Billy Koch (7-2), who gave up Cuddyer's go-ahead homer but
got the victory. ''I don't think there's any other choice. If he
wasn't on this team, where would we be?''

By sweeping AL Central-leading Minnesota, the A's won their
ninth straight series. When ace Barry Zito goes for his 20th win
Monday against Kansas City, the A's have a shot to tie the AL
record of 19 straight victories set by the White Sox in 1906 and
tied by the Yankees in 1947.

Nail-biters have been a rarity during the streak for the A's,
baseball's best team in one-run games. The A's hadn't even trailed
in any ninth inning during their streak until Sunday, and they've
outscored their opponents 122-48.

''You touch them, you burn yourself,'' said Torii Hunter, who
broke up Mulder's shutout bid with a game-tying, two-run homer in
the sixth. ''You can't play those guys. They're so unbelievable.
You can't take those guys light, even with a 5-4 lead in the bottom
of the ninth. When they have something going, they finish it.''

Minnesota lost its fourth straight, but with a magic number of
13, the Twins' division title is all but assured.

The A's jumped ahead early in another good start by Mulder, who
struck out seven and opened the ninth with a chance for a
three-hitter.

Mulder got a raucous standing ovation when he emerged to pitch
the ninth -- but LeCroy and Koskie blasted homers to left, putting
Mulder on the bench with his head in his hands.

After Koch got two outs, Cuddyer -- hitting .196 entering the
game -- hit his third major league homer. The Twins' unlikely trio
had 22 homers among them before the game.

When the A's visit the Metrodome next weekend, it might be
another playoff preview for two teams that probably would meet in
the first round if Oakland holds off Anaheim and Seattle for the AL
West crown.

Game notes
John Mabry homered in the sixth for Oakland. ... Tejada is
second in the AL behind Alex Rodriguez with 115 RBI. ... The Twins
are expected to activate LHP Eric Milton in time to start against
Seattle on Monday. Milton, who leads the Twins with 13 victories,
has been out since Aug. 7 after minor knee surgery to repair a
small tear in his meniscus. ... With thousands of fans waving his
bobblehead doll, Jermaine Dye went 1-for-4, grounding into a double
play and striking out with the bases loaded in the first inning.