The A’s find themselves alone in first place for the first time in a month.

On Friday they showed what’s enabled them to make the climb atop the American League West – an offense that’s discovered a variety of different ways to score runs and keep pressure up on opponents.

They also displayed what makes their stay in first so tenuous -- increasing shakiness from a closer that used to be automatic in the ninth inning.

The A’s got back on track with a 7-5 victory over the Houston Astros but only after Grant Balfour gave up a run and put the tying runs in scoring position before striking out Matt Dominguez to finally end things.

Afterward A’s manager Bob Melvin acknowledged the ninth-inning situation has become worrisome.

“It was a little shaky again” Melvin said of Balfour’s night. “ He’s not happy about it. Certainly if we don’t make an error there it’s probably a little different. You know you gotta look at the body of work too. We’ll continue to go accordingly. This isn’t the best stretch right now and we’ll monitor that.”

The optimists among the fan base will look at Friday’s victory and justifiably find plenty to be happy about. The A’s bounced back from a lackluster defeat in Thursday’s series opener and pounded out 13 hits.