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Oakland Athletics pitcher Santiago Casilla (44) heads back to the mound as Minnesota Twins' Justin Morneau, back, rounds the bases with a solo home run in the eighth inning of a baseball game, Sunday, July 15, 2007 in Minneapolis. Morneau tied the game at 3-3. Minnesota won 4-3 to sweep the Oakland Athletics.
MINNEAPOLIS -- This is the point in the season when the A's typically put their foot on the gas and make their move in the American League West.

Right now they would simply settle for a victory, the smallest of building blocks that might get things headed in the right direction.

The Minnesota Twins finished off a four-game sweep Sunday at the Metrodome with a 4-3 comeback victory as Joe Mauer's RBI single off Joe Kennedy trickled through a drawn-in infield in the bottom of the ninth inning.

It was the seventh straight defeat for the A's, their longest losing streak since a seven-game skid from May 20-26 of last season and their 19th setback in the past 26 games.

The A's wanted to use this quick four-game trip to try to position themselves for a nice second-half postseason run like seasons past. Instead they're headed in the opposite direction, a season-high four games under .500.

"I've never been part of a losing team, and I don't want to be part of a losing team," starting pitcher Dan Haren said. "We came out here and got our butts kicked for four games. It's going to be a long flight home. We could go one of two ways. There's got to be a point where we stop this."

Unlike the first three games of this series, the A's managed to command a late lead and put it in the hands of their bullpen.

Travis Buck, who went down swinging on breaking balls three times against Twins starter Boof Bonser, delivered a two-run single off reliever Matt Guerrier to put the A's ahead 3-2 in the top of the seventh inning.

Santiago Casilla was called upon to protect the victory for Haren, who gave up just two runs in six innings. Casilla cruised through a 1-2-3 seventh but hung a 3-2 slider in the eighth to Justin Morneau, who crushed a game-tying homer into the upper deck in right field.

It was the first homer Casilla has surrendered in 22-1/3 innings this season, and just his second earned run.

"Casilla pitched good, he just made one mistake," A's manager Bob Geren said.

Kennedy, recently shifted to the bullpen after struggling in the rotation, entered in the ninth and immediately gave up a triple to leadoff man Luis Castillo, who hurt the A's all weekend with his speed. Castillo's hit found the gap in left-center and rolled all the way to the wall.

It was the second triple to hurt the A's, as Nick Punto drove in two runs in the fourth when he bounced a ball just inside the first-base line to give the Twins a 2-1 lead.

"Giving up a leadoff triple to the leadoff hitter of the Twins, it's definitely an uphill battle," Kennedy (2-8) said.

The left-hander then walked Jason Bartlett, who took second base on defensive indifference. With runners on second and third and the infield in and the outfield playing shallow, Mauer bounced a 1-1 pitch up the middle to score Castillo.

Mauer, the defending AL batting champion, went 3-for-4 and reached base four times.

The A's begin a six-game homestand tonight against the Texas Rangers 111/2 games behind the Los Angeles Angels in the AL West. The A's also trail five teams for the AL's wild-card spot, including leader Cleveland by 101/2 games.

They have scored three runs or less in 10 straight games, their longest such streak since a 10-game run in September 1978.

"Time is running out," Haren said. "We're not stupid. The Angels are playing great. Seattle is playing great. These next two weeks make or break our year."

Contact Joe Stiglich at jstiglich@cctimes.com.