They just didn't think they would need a run like this to be there.
Danny Haren ran his unbeaten streak to 13 straight starts and Mark Kotsay had three hits and scored the go-ahead run to lead the Athletics to their sixth straight win, 5-2 over the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday night.
After trailing the Angels by 12½ games in late May, the A's have used a remarkable run of 33 wins in 40 games to get right back in the hunt.
"Looking back, it's amazing where we're at," Scott Hatteberg said. "Considering that, this is the team we expected to have coming out of training camp."
Haren (9-7) scattered eight hits over seven innings, allowed two runs and struck out six to improve to 8-0 over his last 13 starts. The A's have won all 13 of those games and now hold a three-game lead over the New York Yankees in the AL wild card race.
They are 16-3 since the All-Star break and began the night just one game behind the Angels in the AL West.
"It's unreal," Haren said. "I've never been a part of something like this, and I said that two or three weeks ago. It's amazing."
The atmosphere wasn't quite so festive in the Twins' clubhouse after yet another game in which the punchless offense spoiled another strong outing by their starter.
Joe Mays gave up two runs and four hits in six innings, but the A's scored three times in the eighth off J.C. Romero (2-3) to hand the Twins their sixth straight loss, their longest losing streak since an eight-game skid in July 2003.
"You've got to look for some kind of positive," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "You can't be negative and screaming every night. You'll chew yourself up."
Kotsay had missed six of the previous seven games because of a bad back. He looked just fine on Tuesday, notching a double, two singles and an RBI.
Jay Witasick struck out the side in the eighth and Huston Street earned his 11th save.
After giving up six hits, including a solo homer to Jacque Jones, in the first three innings, Haren settled down and allowed two hits over his final four innings. One of those was a 425-foot homer by Michael Cuddyer that sailed deep into the stands in left field and tied the game at 2-2 in the seventh.
But the A's came right back in the eighth against the lefty Romero, who was brought in to face a portion of the A's order that had three lefties in a span of four hitters.
Kotsay led off with a single and advanced to second when righty Bobby Crosby walked. Eric Chavez and Dan Johnson followed with RBI singles and Chavez scored on a fielder's choice by Hatteberg to cap the scoring.
Romero was relieved by Juan Rincon without recording an out.
"It's very disappointing, especially when we managed to tie the game," Romero said. "I guess I'm human, and I guess lefties can get hit around sometimes too."
Mays cruised through the first 4 2/3 innings, allowing two hits and striking out three. But after getting Jay Payton to ground out and Hatteberg to fly out in the fifth, Mays walked Nick Swisher and Mark Ellis.
Jason Kendall followed with a single to right and Swisher scored when Jones' throw pulled catcher Joe Mauer up the third base line. Kotsay's single then gave the A's a 2-1 lead.
The Twins have scored 16 runs during their latest losing streak, and looked equally stagnant most of Tuesday night.
In the third inning, the Twins had runners on the corners with nobody out and the heart of the order coming to the plate.
But Haren struck out Mauer and Matthew LeCroy, then got Jones to hit a comebacker to get out of the jam unscathed.
"There's just a confidence in the dugout right now," Hatteberg said. "It's not a fear of losing, it's, 'We're going to win."'
Johnson, a native of Coon Rapids, Minn., purchased 64 tickets for friends and family, who cheered loudly when he hit his RBI-single in the eighth. It was his only hit of the night. ... Jones' homer gave him a team-leading 16. ... Mays has not lost a game to Oakland since September 2002.