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Zito allows four hits, fans eight in eight innings

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Barry Zito and the Oakland Athletics have
been streaking all summer.

Zito pitched eight strong innings to win his eighth consecutive
start, and Eric Chavez singled in the go-ahead run in the eighth to
help the A's beat the Minnesota Twins 5-2 Thursday.

"He had a lot of life in his arm," Oakland manager Ken Macha
said. "That's one of his better outings. He had everything
going."

Zito (11-8) allowed just four hits and two runs while striking
out eight and walking two. He hasn't lost since June 17 against
Philadelphia.

"Not very many teams have been very good against him," Twins
manager Ron Gardenhire said.

Huston Street pitched the ninth for his 12th save. He tied
Rollie Fingers for most saves by a rookie in franchise history.

Oakland is 34-8 in its past 42 games after taking three of four
in Minnesota. The A's entered the day two games behind the
first-place Los Angeles Angels in the AL West and three games ahead
of the New York Yankees in the wild-card race.

The A's have made a habit of late-season surges in recent years,
but Zito said this year's turnaround is the best he's seen.

"The clubhouse chemistry is better than it's ever been since I
got here in July 2000," he said. "The team has just been
unreal."

Oakland trailed Minnesota by 12½ games for the wild card on June
11. But after Thursday's victory, the A's lead the struggling Twins
by six.

Minnesota has lost seven of eight and 11 of 14.

"It's been a little bit of a struggle for a while now," Twins
starter Kyle Lohse said. "You can't go out there and hit yourself
in the head every time you have games like this."

Lohse pitched seven innings and allowed two runs and seven hits.
He hasn't earned a win in his past six starts.

"He threw the ball real well," Gardenhire said. "He went
right at their hitters."

Dan Johnson, a rookie who grew up in the Minneapolis suburb of
Coon Rapids, hit a go-ahead homer leading off the seventh for the
A's. He extended his hitting streak to eight games and is batting
.368 since the All-Star break.

Chavez, who also hit a solo homer, singled off reliever J.C.
Romero with one out in the eighth to drive in Jason Kendall from
third and give Oakland a 3-2 lead.

Kendall was hit by a pitch from reliever Jesse Crain (9-2) to
start the inning.

"You get yourself up a creek right then, as soon as you do
that," Gardenhire said.

Kendall moved to second on a wild pitch. Nick Swisher flied to
left and Bobby Crosby followed with an infield single to advance
Kendall to third. Romero came in to face Chavez.

Oakland tacked on two more runs in the ninth off Juan Rincon on
an RBI double by Swisher and a sacrifice fly by Crosby.

The Twins tied the score at 2 when Jacque Jones scored from
first on Justin Morneau's two-out double to right-center in the
seventh inning. Zito struck out Michael Cuddyer to end the threat,
making Minnesota hitless in its past 23 at-bats with runners in
scoring position.

Zito, the AL pitcher of the month for July, was perfect through
four innings, but Matthew LeCroy hit a line-drive homer to left on
his first pitch of the fifth to tie the score at 1.

The Twins threatened to take the lead when Jones followed with a
walk and Morneau a single to put runners on first and second. But
Zito got out of the jam by striking out Cuddyer and inducing Mike
Redmond to hit into a double play.

Zito, whose big, looping curveball was in fine form, struck out
six of his first nine batters.

"I thought Barry had command from the first pitch on all of his
stuff," Macha said.

Game notes
In his last 10 games, Chavez is 13-for-38 (.342) with three
homers and 10 RBI. He has 18 homers this season, six since the
All-Star break. ... Crosby went 2-for-4 to break out of a 3-for-30
slump. ... The Twins are 7-38 when scoring three runs or fewer.