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Street paves way to 15th save

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Jay Payton endeared himself to his
Oakland teammates and fans in a hurry, and he's been rolling ever
since.

Payton hit a three-run homer to lead the Athletics over the
Minnesota Twins 5-2 Saturday for their major league-leading 23rd
win since the All-Star Break.

"It's been great. I'm having fun just winning," he said after
hitting his eighth homer since joining the A's on July 13. "I
still felt I could go out and play every day and I had to prove
that to myself."

Payton, acquired from the Boston Red Sox, continues to add
much-needed right-handed power for the A's. He hit his 13th homer
overall, as the A's erased a deficit for the 36th time this year.

"He's been unbelievable," A's outfielder Mark Kotsay. "He's
always been a good player and he's given us a huge lift."

Payton voiced his displeasure sitting on the bench in Boston but
has been able to enjoy his time in Oakland. The A's have not lost
two straight since a week before his arrival.

"That's a nice rebound after being shutout last night and
falling behind 2-0 with their pitcher running through us," A's
manager Ken Macha said. "To come back shows our resiliency. Jay
has really given us a lot. The guy has just been terrific."

Kirk Saarloos (8-6) gave up six hits over six innings to win his
third straight decision as the A's remained tied for the AL West
lead.

"Pitching six quality innings and handing it over to the
bullpen you're looking pretty good," Saarloos said. "They have
been lights out down there."

Justin Morneau hit a two-run homer for the Twins, who lost for
the fourth time in six games.

Saarloos, making his first appearance against the Twins,
solidified his spot in the rotation with another effective outing.
The right-hander, who has three or fewer strikeouts in 18 of his 20
starts, took a shutout into the sixth inning before giving up a
single to Joe Mauer and Morneau's blast into the right-field
bleachers. He walked three and struck out one in improving to 7-2
over his last 11 games.

"I feel just as strong now, if not stronger, than I did at the
beginning of the season," Saarloos said. "I've been getting a
week off, six days off, and that's helped."

Saarloos retired 14 of the first 16 batters he faced. Kiko
Calero, Jay Witasick and Huston Street each pitched a scoreless
inning. Street put runners on second and third with walk and a
double to open the ninth, but struck out Jason Bartlett, Shannon
Stewart and pinch-hitter Terry Tiffee for his 15th save in 19
chances.

Street gave Dennis Eckersley, who had his No. 43 retired before
the game, some credit.

"I was exciting all day just knowing he was going to be here,"
Street said. "I knew I would get a chance to meet him. I felt like
with him here we had to win. It was an added bonus. Everybody was
excited the whole day."

Joe Mays (5-8) also carried a shutout into the sixth before
allowing four runs to lose his fifth straight decision. He gave up
six hits in 5 1/3 innings, losing to the A's for the first time in
five starts -- spanning nearly three years.

"Payton didn't miss that bad pitch I gave him," Mays said. "I
just hung a slider. It seems I make a mistake late in the game and
it costs me."

Bobby Crosby's one-out triple paved the way for Oakland's rally.
Michael Ryan tried to make a shoestring catch of Crosby's sinking
liner but the ball skipped past him and rolled to the right field
fence before Lew Ford could track it down.

"He was a bit over eager there," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire
said. "He was aggressive with it."

Eric Chavez walked and Dan Johnson singled in a run ahead of
Payton's towering shot over the right-center field fence. Payton
pumped his fist in the air as he rounded first.

Mark Kotsay added his 10th homer, a solo shot off Jesse Crain,
in the seventh to make it 5-2.

Game notes
The Twins placed IF Juan Castro placed on the 15-day DL
with right knee tendinitis. ... OF Jacque Jones (strained right
oblique muscle) hasn't played since Wednesday and a decision to
place him on the DL will likely come on Sunday. ... A's DH Scott
Hatteberg was back in the lineup after missing six games with a
strain in his right rib cage. ... Eckersley's retirement ceremony
helped swell the crowd to a season-high 47,385. ... Minnesota lost
its seventh straight day game. ... Twins starters have not won
back-to-back games since July 2-4. ... Saarloos is 4-0 in day
games, 11-3 lifetime.