OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) – Jay Payton hit a three-run homer to lead the the Oakland Athletics over the Minnesota Twins 5-2 Saturday for their major-league leading 23rd win since the All-Star Break.

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.

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

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

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.

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 single with right fielder Nick Swisher’s fielding error to open the ninth, but struck out Jason Bartlett, Shannon Stewart and pinch-hitterTerry Tiffee for his 15th save in 19 chances.

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.

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.

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.

Notes: Twins 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. … The A’s retired Dennis Eckersley’s No. 43, helping 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.

AP-ES-08-13-05 1903EDT

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