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A'S SEND MINNESOTA'S HOPES SPIRALING

Until recently, Bobby Witt and Ruben Sierra were just painful reminders to Oakland fans that slugger Jose Canseco was hitting howitzers for somebody else.

On Aug. 31, Canseco went southeast in a blockbuster trade while the Athletics simply went south.Witt, outfielder Sierra and reliever Jeff Russell arrived from Texas and Oakland, the American League-West front-runner, promptly lost six straight games.

What a difference two weeks make.

Sierra singled home two runs Wednesday night and Witt won his first game for Oakland, helping the first-place Athletics to a 4-2 triumph over the Minnesota Twins and a sweep of their three-game series.

The Athletics' ninth straight victory put them nine games ahead of the second-place Twins in the AL West, reducing Oakland's magic number to eight. Minnesota is the defending World Series champion.

"I don't know what people here expected of me, but I just wanted to pitch a few games here," said Witt, who picked up his first decision with Oakland in three attempts. "Right before I came here, the feeling (of confidence) wasn't there. The feeling that I have right now is that my confidence is back."

Witt broke a personal six-game losing streak and improved to 10-13. He gave up two runs on six hits and three walks while striking out eight over six innings for his first victory since July 25. Russell completed the Texas trifecta by pitching the final 12/3 innings for his 30th save.

"After the first game, deep down inside, I wanted to do so well to show them (Oakland) it wasn't a bad trade," Witt said. "It's getting a little bit more comfortable now."

Witt remembers a time not long ago when things were very uncomfortable for him and Sierra.

"Opening day (in Texas) (Manager Bobby) Valentine, Ruben and myself were booed," recalled Witt. "Now all three are gone. Now I hope I can make these fans happy."

Twins starter John Smiley, 14-9, took the loss.

Orioles 3, Roylas 0

At Baltimore, Mike Mussina hurled a four-hit shutout, Glenn Davis knocked in two runs and the Orioles crept within three games of front-running Toronto in the AL East. Mussina, 16-5, has gone 5-0 in has last six outings.

Indians 6, Blue Jays 3

At Toronto, Glenallen Hill homered twice, drove in four runs and scored three times to lift Cleveland to its sixth win in seven games. Hill's three-run homer in the second inning to capped a four-run Cleveland uprising against Todd Stottlemyre, 10-11.

White Sox 9, Yankees 6

At New York, Frank Thomas doubled twice and drove in five runs to pace Chicago to a sweep of its three-game series against New York. Thomas also collected three singles and Steve Sax added three hits to pace Chicago's 18-hit attack. George Bell had a pair of hits and drove in his 101st run.

Brewers 2, Red Sox 1

At Boston, Bob Zupcic bunted home Jody Reed with the winning run in the 15th inning to snap the Red Sox's slide at four. With the loss, the third-place Brewers had a win streak halted at four and remained five games behind AL East leader Toronto.

Angels 2, Mariners 1

At Seattle, Luis Sojo's single in the 13th inning sent the Mariners to a club-record 13th consecutive loss. Joe Grahe, 5-4, pitched two innings for the win and Steve Frey recorded the last out for his second save. The Mariners wasted a one-hit, nine-inning gem by Randy Johnson, who struck out a major-league high 15 batters.

Tigers 4, Rangers 1

At Detroit, rookie right-hander David Haas and reliever Mike Henneman combined on a two-hitter and Chad Kreuter's RBI sacrifice in the seventh inning snapped a tie. Haas, 5-2, allowed both hits and one run before being replaced by Henneman for the eighth. Henneman earned a career-high 23rd save.