Josh Donaldson, Coco Crisp Lead A’s Past Red Sox 4-3

Riding a three-game winning streak, and five of the past six games, the A’s continued their weekend series against the Boston Red Sox Friday evening after winning the opener Thursday night by a score of 4-2.

The A’s were able to push their winning streak to four games as they squeaked out a one-run victory, 4-3, powered by a three-run homer off the bat of Josh Donaldson and a late-inning RBI single by Coco Crisp, to secure no worse than a series split in this four-game weekend series.

The newly acquired lefty, Brad Mills, traded by the Milwaukee Brewers to the A’s for the sum of $1, yes one dollar, took the mound for the first time for the A’s opposing Felix Doubront for Boston.

Despite less than impressive stats through 15 MLB starts (3-3 record and a 7.76 ERA), the 29-year old lefty had a very impressive 1.56 ERA and 4-2 record through 12 starts for the Brewer’s Triple-A affiliate this season. He had a pending opt-out clause in his contract if a MLB opportunity presented itself, allowing the A’s to secure his rights for just $1 rather than the Brewers risk receiving nothing (though let’s face it, that’s exactly what they technically received).

The investment in Mills proved effective in the first inning as he managed to get Brock Holt, Xander Boegaerts and David Ortiz to strike out.

Mills’ teammates staked him to an early 3-0 lead in the bottom half of the first inning. Following Craig Gentry’s single, Jed Lowrie grounded into a force out at second. Yoenis Cespedes drew a walk to move Lowrie to second and put runners on first and second for Josh Donaldson. Having shown signs in recent days that he was pulling himself out of a lengthy slump, Donaldson erased all doubt on the 1-1 pitch, launching a frozen rope into the left field bleachers to clear the bases and give Oakland a 3-0 lead.

Mills wasn’t quite as steady in the second inning, allowing Mike Napoli to lead off the inning with a single and move to second on Jonny Gomes walk (following an A.J. Pierzynski strikeout). It appeared that former A’s shortstop Stephen Drew had hit into an inning-ending double play, but A’s second baseman Nick Punto botched his throw to Lowrie and both Gomes and Drew were safe to load the bases. Jackie Bradley, Jr. instantly made Oakland pay for the mistake with a single up the middle to center field that brought Napoli and Gomes in to score and cut the A’s lead to 3-2. Gentry made an amazing diving catch on a line drive off the bat of Brock Holt that surprised Drew who was anticipating a hit and doubled him up at second to end the inning.

Doubront set the A’s down in order in their half of the second inning, and it was back to work for Mills. Boegaerts walked to lead off the third inning for Boston, followed by a ground out by Pedroia for the first out. With Boegaerts now on second, Ortiz hit an RBI-single to right field to even the score at 3-3.

Napoli followed up Ortiz’s single with one of his own to put runners at first and second with just one out, threatening to take the lead. Mills fought back and got Pierzynski  to ground into an inning-ending double play though and keep the score knotted up at 3-3.

From this point, the game turned into a battle of the bullpens.

Having thrown 94 pitches through four innings, the A’s opted to bring in Jim Johnson for the fifth inning. Mills’ final line wound up being three runs, two earned, on four hits and four walks in four innings. He also struck out four batters.

Johnson started out poorly, allowing singles to Pedroia and Ortiz to open the inning. He walked Jonny Gomes to load the bases with two outs before finally getting Stephen Drew to ground out for the final out of the inning. Johnson wound up with a pitching line of two hits, one walk and two strike outs in one scoreless, albeit stressful, inning of work.  Ryan Cook relieved him to begin the sixth inning and threw two perfect innings with three strikeouts.

Fernando Abad pitched a scoreless eighth inning for the A’s, allowing just Pierzynski to reach base on a hit-by-pitch.

Doubront pitched into the fifth inning, finishing with a final line of three earned runs on two hits and four walks, allowing the home run to Donaldson in 4 2/3 innings. He was relieved by Burke Badenhop who threw two innings of scoreless relief, allowing just two hits and striking out two.

Andrew Miller came in with two outs in the bottom of the seventh following singles by Lowrie and Cespedes and retired Stephen Vogt to get the Red Sox out of the inning still tied 3-3.

After getting the first batter of the inning in the eighth, Miller hit both Kyle Blanks and Alberto Callaspo with pitches to put runners on first and second with just one out. Nick Punto struck out looking, but Coco Crisp came through with a clutch line drive single to right field to score Blanks and put Oakland ahead 4-3.

Miller finished with a final line of one run in one inning of work. He gave up one hit and hit two batters. Junichi Tazawa came in to get Lowrie to line out to left field and end the inning.

With the one-run lead, Sean Doolittle entered the game in the ninth in search of his 10th save on the season. Jackie Bradley, Jr. popped out to Josh Donaldson at third base for the first out. Brock Holt struck out swinging for the second out. Xander Bogaerts struck out for the final out as the A’s improved to a Major League best 46-28 for the season.

Abad was credited with the win and improved to 2-2 on the season. Andrew Miller was charged with the loss for the Red Sox, dropping to 2-5 on the season.

The Red Sox stranded eight runners and the A’s left 10 on base.

Jesse Chavez will pitch on Saturday as the A’s against Ruby De La Rosa for the Red Sox.