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Thomas helps Athletics reduce magic number to five

Sep 20, 2006 - 2:28 PM OAKLAND, California (Ticker) -- Frank Thomas does not want to be forgotten in the American League MVP race.

Thomas snapped a tie with a two-run double and Milton Bradley belted his 11th homer as the Oakland Athletics used a three-run seventh inning to post a 4-3 victory over the Cleveland Indians.

With the win, the Athletics (88-63) reduced their magic number to clinch the AL West Division title to five with 11 games remaining. Seven of those contests will be against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (82-70), who trail Oakland by 6 1/2 games.

"We would like to do it this week if we could," Thomas said of clinching the division. "It's going to be tough, though. We have C.C. (Sabathia) tomorrow, and we know what to expect from that guy, he's one of the best in the league.

"Then we have the Angels for three after that. It's going to be rough. We just have to find a way to keep putting up Ws, like we did tonight."

While hitting .329 in September, Thomas is leading the major leagues with 10 homers and 28 RBI in 18 games this month. He has vaulted himself into the MVP race with 28 go-ahead RBI, which is the fourth-highest total in the AL.

A two-time MVP, Thomas has 38 homers and 107 RBI, including nine in his last five games.

With two on in the seventh, Thomas hit a line drive off Jason Davis over the head of center fielder Grady Sizemore to plate both runners and snap a 2-2 tie.

"It was a slider," Thomas said. "I wanted to give him the first pitch because I've faced him before and sometimes he'll start you off with that high fastball over the plate, and if you chase, it can be ugly.

"Once he threw the fastball, I really focused in on the next pitch. Fortunately, I got a ball out over the plate and was able to drive it."

Mark Ellis and Jason Kendall started the rally with singles off Fernando Cabrera (3-3). Bradley followed with a run-scoring base hit up the middle to knot the game.

"For myself, I feel like I've just been treading water lately," said Bradley, who blasted his 11th homer - a solo shot - in the sixth for Oakland's first run. "I haven't been swinging the bat like I have been capable of. It felt good tonight to be able to drive the ball and come through with the hits when we really needed them."

Red-hot starter Esteban Loaiza (11-8) allowed three runs - two earned - and five hits in 7 2/3 innings. The former 20-game winner, who was the AL Pitcher of the Month for August, has gone 7-1 with a 2.52 ERA in his last nine starts.

"Since the beginning of the season, it seems like we always end up scoring runs after the fifth inning," Loaiza said. "I just wanted to go out there and keep putting zeros up there on the board. I was able to keep it close, and then the offense came through for us again."

"He gave up three hits in the first inning, then after that, nothing," Athletics manager Ken Macha said. "He controlled their bat speeds, moved the ball in and out, cut it, sank it, threw some changes. He was tremendous."

Justin Duchscherer recorded the final out of the eighth and Huston Street pitched the ninth for his 35th save.

Cleveland starter Fausto Carmona pitched well, yielding one run and six hits in six innings.

"I felt good out there tonight," Carmona said through an interpreter. "I was more aggressive in the strike zone. I was throwing a lot of first-pitch strikes and getting ahead of their hitters."

"I thought he threw the ball well tonight," Indians manager Eric Wedge said. "He seemed to have good command of the strike zone and was able to get ahead early. He had a good tempo going out there and threw some big pitches when he needed to."

Sizemore had two hits for the Indians.

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