Athletics 5, Angels 4

When Francisco Rodriguez dropped a simple return throw from his catcher, the Oakland Athletics sneaked into first place all by themselves with perhaps the strangest win anyone had seen in years.

Jason Kendall alertly dashed home from third base with the winning run when Los Angeles's miffed closer flubbed the easy toss, and the A's took sole possession of first in the AL West with a 5-4 come-from-behind victory on Thursday.

Eric Chavez hit a tying three-run homer in the seventh for the A's, who rallied from a four-run deficit. They took two of three to stand alone in first place for the first time this season, but not even the freewheeling A's could have predicted this finish.

Chavez was at the plate again in the ninth with two runners on and two out. After Rodriguez's first pitch was called a ball, the right-hander stared in and nonchalantly stuck out his glove for catcher Jose Molina's throw -- but it glanced away.

Kendall, watching at third, sprinted home and beat the throw, sending the A's roaring from the dugout to celebrate. The victory caps a surge of 19 wins in 23 games since the A's trailed Los Angeles by 81/2 games on July 18.

"I've never seen that in my life, but that stuff happens in baseball," Kendall said. "You learn early on that you're supposed to always follow the ball. I saw it rolling away, and I didn't think he'd get it back in time. Fortunately for us, I was right."

Vladimir Guerrero homered and drew three intentional walks. Paul Byrd allowed eight hits over six innings and left with a 4-0 lead, but the Angels' normally solid bullpen collapsed for the second straight day.

Jay Payton homered on Brendan Donnelly's first pitch in the seventh, and after Mark Ellis and Kendall singled, Chavez cleared the bases with his 20th homer of the season deep into the right field stands.

Scot Shields (7-8) blew the save again in the ninth Thursday after doing the same in Los Angeles's 4-3 loss Wednesday night, allowing two singles before Rodriguez took over.