Claimed off waivers in spring training last year, Brad Mills toiled in Triple-A for a couple of teams and even went to Japan before getting another shot in the big leagues.
No wonder he fits in so naturally on the roster full of castoffs and vagabonds that has Oakland on top of the standings.
“I definitely fit that mold, you know? Been all over the place,” Mills said Wednesday night after beating the New York Mets 8-5 for his first major league victory in almost two years. “Being only five or six days of being here, it’s very comfortable. I feel like a very big part of the team.”
Yoenis Cespedes hit a three-run double, slumping Brandon Moss had a two-run homer and the A’s jumped all over an ineffective Zack Wheeler in the first two innings.
Coco Crisp homered and had three hits as the AL West leaders built an eight-run cushion for Mills, who took a shutout into the seventh.
“I think he’s got a good little mix right there that keeps guys off balance really well,” Moss said.
Oakland, with only a couple of homegrown players, rebounded from its most lopsided loss of the season to split the two-game interleague series, boosting the best record in baseball to 48-30.
Mills (1-0) was obtained from Milwaukee for cash last week when fellow left-hander Drew Pomeranz went on the disabled list after breaking his right hand when he punched a chair in frustration.
Mills, who had a 1.56 ERA for Triple-A Nashville at the time of the trade, lasted four innings in his A’s debut last Friday against Boston. He was backed by some fine defense in this one and did not walk a batter over 6 1-3 innings, overcoming some early leg cramps on the way to his fourth big league win.
The previous one came on July 8, 2012, when he threw five innings for the Los Angeles Angels in a 6-0 victory over Baltimore.
“He did a great job,” Moss said. “He definitely fits in. These guys, our front office here, they do their homework before they go and get a guy.”
Sean Doolittle struck out all three hitters in the ninth for his 11th save, extending his scoreless streak to 25 1-3 innings. He has retired 37 of his last 38 batters – and racked up 53 strikeouts against one walk in 37 innings this season.
Pinch-hitter Lucas Duda chased Mills with a three-run homer in the seventh. Chris Young connected for a two-run shot in the eighth, his third home run in two nights.
Curtis Granderson added three hits for the Mets, who had won three straight and five of six. It was their sixth three-game winning streak of the season, but they haven’t won four in a row since July 7-10 last year.
Wheeler (3-8) followed up the best outing of his brief career with his worst.
“He just didn’t bounce back,” manager Terry Collins said. “He struggled with all of his pitches. … I have never seen him get hit that hard.”
Coming off a three-hitter in a 1-0 win at Miami last Thursday, his first complete game in the majors, the 24-year-old Wheeler had command problems right away. He missed badly with his first two pitches in the first inning to Moss, who drove the next one deep into the second deck in right field for his 18th home run.
Wheeler issued a leadoff walk to Josh Reddick in the second and another free pass after Crisp’s RBI single. Cespedes followed by lining a bases-loaded double down the left-field line to make it 6-0.
Convinced the A’s were picking up signs, Wheeler called catcher Travis d’Arnaud out to the mound and struck out the next two batters.
“They were onto my signs in the second. It’s my fault for not catching onto it sooner. The next few pitches after we changed them up were good. When somebody turns on a 96 mph fastball, they probably knew it was coming,” Wheeler said. “It was just a bad outing.”
When the Mets loaded the bases in the bottom half, Wheeler was lifted for a pinch-hitter. He was tagged for six hits and a career-high six earned runs in two innings, the shortest of his 33 career starts.
Crisp hit a solo homer in the fourth off Dana Eveland.
“Coco’s our igniter. Usually when we’re playing well, he’s playing well,” manager Bob Melvin said.
NOTES: Derek Norris was held out of Oakland’s starting lineup for the second consecutive night after leaving Sunday’s game when he was hit in the head by a backswing. He entered behind the plate in the ninth. Before the game, Melvin said Norris was feeling better and was on target to start Friday night in Miami. … The A’s clinched their 13th consecutive winning month, tying the longest streak in Oakland history (1970-72). The previous team to have a run that long was Boston (July 2004 to July 2006). … After the game, New York optioned backup infielder Wilmer Flores to Triple-A Las Vegas to make room for CF Juan Lagares (right ribcage), who will be activated from the disabled list Thursday before the Mets open a four-game series in Pittsburgh.
Updated June 26, 2014