By Matthew Harrington
In a reversal of fortunes from Tuesday’s 10-1 drubbing at the hands of the New York Mets, the Oakland Athletics shelled promising youngster Zack Wheeler early on Wednesday to split the a two-game series at Citi Field. Coco Crisp and Brandon Moss homered for Oakland in the 8-5 contest while Yoenis Cespedes went 3-for-4 with a three-run double to give starter pitcher Brad Mills his first win with the green and gold despite a late comeback bid by the Metropolitans (36-42).
The A’s (48-30) scored twice in the first inning off Wheeler on Moss’ team-leading (along with Josh Donaldson) 18th long ball of the season that came with two outs and a runner on base. A four-run second, highlighted by Cespedes’ bases-loaded double, wrapped up the night for Wheeler (3-8, 4.45 ERA). The former San Francisco Giants draft pick, acquired by New York in the 2011 Carlos Beltran trade, went only two innings. He allowed a season-high six earned runs in his first start since going the distance in a 1-0 shutout over Miami on June 19th.
A Coco Crisp solo shot, his sixth round tripper of the campaign, off Dana Eveland put Oakland up 7-0 in the fourth while a Mills double play ball plated Josh Reddick from third base for the A’s eighth run and final run in the sixth frame.
While Wheeler scuffled, Mills thrived in his second start since replacing the injured Drew Pomeranz in the rotation. While he was tagged with a no decision in Oakland’s 4-2 win over the Red Sox last Thursday, Mills (1-0, 4.35) picked up his first win in the Big Leagues since 2012.
The man supposedly purchased for one dollar from the Milwaukee Brewers on June 17th went 6 1/3, allowing only three runs. All three tallies came on the first pitch of a pinch-hit at-bat for Lucas Duda which resulted in a three-run shot that chased him from the game.
Dan Otero finished off the seventh, but set-up man Luke Gregerson scuffled with his inning of work, allowing a two-run homer to former Athletic Chris Young, the chief culprit in Tuesday’s thrashing after mashing two dingers. Sean Doolittle struck out the side in the ninth to seal the 8-5 win for his 11th save of the season.
On Thursday, the A’s receive a second dose of respite this week after having a day off Monday to make the trek from Oakland to the East Coast. They’ll have a day off in Miami before opening a three-game weekend set against the Marlins Friday in Oakland’s first visit to Miami’s new ballpark which opened in 2012. Right-hander Jesse Chavez takes the hill for the Athletics while the Marlins counter with righty Anthony DeSclafani and his 7.59 ERA.