OAKLAND, CALIF. - Twins General Manager Bill Smith is an admitted optimist, so even if some of his advisers are less hopeful -- or, perhaps, more realistic -- about the team's playoff chances, Smith's not ready to concede anything.

As teams decide whether to buy or sell before Sunday's 3 p.m., non-waiver trade deadline, Smith hasn't tipped his hand, but his answers in a phone interview Friday afternoon offered clues.

"The main question you have to ask yourself is, are you in contention?" Smith said. "We fought back from a long way down, and we are in contention. We've got a chance to win our division again, and we're looking forward to the coming two months."

Smith said this before the Twins played the Athletics at the Oakland Coliseum on Friday night. The Twins, behind seven strong innings from starter Francisco Liriano, beat the Athletics 9-5.

Jason Kubel and Trevor Plouffe each had two RBI, and Michael Cuddyer hit a three-run homer, as the Twins overcame Josh Willingham's two-homer, five-RBI outburst.

The victory, coupled with Detroit's 12-2 victory over the Angels, kept the Twins 6 games back in the AL Central.

"I don't think you can vacillate too much inning-by-inning and game-by-game," Smith said. "We're [9-8] since the All-Star break, so we haven't really pushed the needle one way or another. But we're still in contention."

As non-contenders, the Twins might have considered trading away a pending free agent, such as Michael Cuddyer or Jason Kubel. As contenders, they'll likely keep those players and add righthanded relief help, perhaps by giving up Kevin Slowey, who is scheduled to start Saturday for Class AAA Rochester.

The Nationals have been trying to acquire Twins center fielder Denard Span but have refused to part with young closer Drew Storen.

The Twins scored in four of the first six innings Friday, and Revere played a part three times. He started the game with an infield single off Gio Gonzalez, and five batters later, Kubel delivered a two-out, two-run double.

Josh Willingham answered later in the first inning with a two-out, two-run homer. Willingham had the green light with a 3-0 count and smashed Liriano's fastball high into the left field seats.

The Twins capitalized on two Oakland errors to take a 3-2 lead in the third inning, when Trevor Plouffe scored the go-ahead run on Cuddyer's double-play grounder.

Plouffe scored Revere with a single in the fifth inning, and Revere drew a bases-loaded walk in the fifth to make it 5-2.

Plouffe added an RBI single in the eighth before Cuddyer hit his 16th homer, a three-run shot that stretched the lead to 9-2.

Willingham struck again in the eighth inning, hitting  a three-run homer off Jose Mijares. After Alex Burnett walked one batter in the ninth, manager Ron Gardenhire turned to Glen Perkins for the final two outs.

Plouffe delivered offensively and defensively in his first career start at second base, as well as his first time in the No. 2 spot in the batting order.

"We know Plouffey can swing the bat," Gardenhire said. "He hit 15 home runs in the minor leagues. It's all about finding a position he's comfortable in and getting the outs we're supposed to get. Tonight, he looked good at second. he looked like he felt comfortable."