HOUSTON -- The most dynamic moment of the A's season, the trade of left fielder Yoenis Cespedes to Boston for pitcher Jon Lester and left fielder Jonny Gomes, continues to reverberate even through Wednesday night's 5-4 win over the Houston Astros.

The A's pulled the victory out with a three-run ninth inning -- a game-tying RBI single by Eric Sogard and a go-ahead two-run homer by Sam Fuld. It sets up a four-game weekend series in Anaheim with first place in the American League West on the line with the 78-54 A's a game behind the 79-53 Los Angeles Angels.

The A's are 12-13 since the trade and have lost the lead in the West. But general manager Billy Beane made the deal because the A's were struggling after peaking in early July. He said then, and he says now, that the trade and the earlier one that netted starters Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel were about giving the A's their best chance to win the division.

And Lester and Samardzija will have the chance to prove Beane's point. They are the A's starters Friday and Sunday. Sonny Gray starts Thursday and Scott Kazmir on Saturday.

If you think having a losing record since the Cespedes/Lester/Gomes deal has Beane second-guessing himself, you'd be wrong.

"I'm happy to have Lester's three wins,'' Beane told this newspaper Wednesday. "Those are three wins I don't know we'd have without him.''


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Beane said the A's were on "a downward track'' when the club made the move for Lester, who is 3-1 with a 2.60 ERA in five starts with Oakland.

The A's peaked at 23 games over .500 at 59-36 after a two-game sweep of the Giants on July 7-8. They are 19-18 since then. And from June 20, when they were six games out, through Aug. 4, the Angels won 29 of 40 games, a blistering .725 winning percentage.

Beane's trade for Samardzija and Hammel came down before the length and quality of the Angels' surge was fully evident. When it was suggested to Beane that he couldn't have been expected to figure on a division rival wining at a .700 pace, he disagreed.

"You can't assume that they won't,'' he said.

The Angels have slowed down, only 12-9 since Aug. 4. It's the A's mission to slow them further, and winning ugly like Oakland did Wednesday is still winning.

"It's huge; an ugly win is as good as any kind of win,'' Fuld said. "It wasn't our best baseball game, but you can't be picky. That's the sort of win that can get momentum going, knowing you can win without playing your best. We need to build on it a little bit and maybe play a little better this weekend.''

The A's almost gave this one away, not scoring early when newly recalled starter Drew Pomeranz began with five shutout innings. Once the A's got the lead on a Gomes sacrifice fly in the sixth, the A's gave it right back thanks to an error and a wild pitch.

Coco Crisp homered in the seventh for another lead, but the A's gave it right back again, this time with Ryan Cook hitting a batter and Houston coming up with a pair of two-out RBI singles for a 3-2 lead.

The game stood there until the ninth when Gomes singled and pinch-runner Craig Gentry stole second. Gentry made it to third on a grounder and scored on Sogard's single off closer Chad Qualls. One out later, Fuld, known as "Super Sam'' in the clubhouse, hit just his third homer of the year.

The A's survived a solo homer by Chris Carter off Eric O'Flaherty for the win, Oakland's major league-best 12th of the year when trailing after seven innings.

"We didn't play to our capabilities,'' Gomes said. "But to look to positive, we did everything we could. We bunted, stole bases, hit-and-run, hit homers. And we picked each other up.''

They even picked Beane up a little.

  • O'Flaherty recorded his first big league save.

  • Gomes' pinch-hit sacrifice fly was his seventh of the year, split between Boston and Oakland. That's the best in the A.L.

  • Dan Otero got the win and is 8-1, tied for the most wins by an A.L. reliever.

  • Nate Freiman was optioned to Single-A Beloit (Wisconsin) to make room for Pomeranz on the roster. Beloit won't make the playoffs, so the A's can get the first baseman back Tuesday by having him on that roster rather than on Sacramento's with the River Cats headed to the Pacific Coast League playoffs.

    THURSDAY'S GAME
    A's (Sonny Gray 13-7) at L.A. Angels (C.J. Wilson 10-8), 7:05 p.m. CSNCA