MINNEAPOLIS -- Carlos Silva's trusty sinker is working again, and September was a great time to find it.
Silva threw seven smooth innings, Michael Cuddyer homered and drove in four runs and the Minnesota Twins beat the Oakland Athletics 9-4 Monday night to move within 1½ games of idle Detroit in the AL Central.
"I want to win with the team. I want to celebrate with the team. That's all I'm looking for," said Silva, whose only blemish was a fourth-inning home run by Frank Thomas.
Thomas homered for the sixth straight game, two shy of the major league record, and has 36 this year.
Torii Hunter also went deep and Nick Punto added a two-run single for the Twins, who trailed the Tigers by 12 games at the All-Star break and had not been this close to first place since before play on April 18.
Silva (9-13), who held Tampa Bay to one hit over six shutout innings last week before pulling himself from a game that Minnesota's major league-leading bullpen blew because of an upset stomach, lowered his ERA to 6.08. He has struggled all season, but his last two starts have been the best of the year.
He gave up five hits, one run and one walk while striking out one, impressing his team by finishing a scoreless seventh after the first two batters reached base.
"You it see on his face today. It's a sigh of relief," Cuddyer said. "It's tension-free. He's not down on himself."
First-place Oakland stayed 5½ games ahead of Los Angeles in the AL West. The Chicago White Sox won 3-2 at the Angels and remained 1 ½ games behind the Twins in the wild-card standings.
Joe Blanton (15-11) was the fourth straight starter to have trouble, after Barry Zito, Esteban Loaiza and Dan Haren each gave up four runs or more in outings that lasted six innings or less over the weekend.
Blanton surrendered nine hits, six runs (five earned) and three walks in 5 1/3 innings. After Cuddyer's two-run homer in the fourth, Justin Morneau singled and scored on an error by Eric Chavez. The five-time Gold Glove third baseman bobbled Jason Bartlett's chopper with his bare hand and couldn't throw him out.
"I feel like I was struggling with my command all night," Blanton said. "It was one of those games I felt I had to fight through every hitter."
Chavez hit a sacrifice fly earlier in the inning off Jesse Crain, a run charged to Dennys Reyes that ended his scoreless innings streak at 21 1/3. Crain later walked Dan Johnson, forcing in a run and cutting the lead to 6-3.
In the ninth, Nathan walked the bases loaded and gave up a sacrifice fly to Milton Bradley before settling down and finishing the game.
"This club's amazing," A's manager Ken Macha said. "We made Nathan earn that save."
Thomas, who has 98 RBI, talked with Minnesota over the offseason but wasn't offered a contract because of concerns about the health of his ankle on the Metrodome's artificial turf.
An unexpected season by Cuddyer, the new cleanup hitter who was still fighting for a starting job in spring training, has helped make up for at least some of that lost power. He has a career-best 22 homers and 98 RBIs. Cuddyer hit a two-run double off Jay Witasick in the eighth to make it 8-3, and Hunter followed with an RBI groundout.
- Oakland's Rich Harden threw a simulated game in the afternoon without pain, and the right-hander -- who has pitched only six times this season first because of a back injury and then due to elbow problems -- will throw a bullpen session on Wednesday.
- Because Rondell White has hit better when he plays in the field, Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire used him in left and made Tyner the DH. Tyner has not homered in 1,012 career at-bats. Thomas, by comparison, has 484 homers.
- After going a career-best seven starts without allowing a home run, Blanton has been taken deep five times in his last three outings.
- With six homers in six games, Thomas set an Oakland record that he previously shared with George Alusik, Dave Kingman and Matt Stairs.