It was an important night for Brad Mills, even if he downplayed it from a personal standpoint. The left-hander found his way into the major league win column for the first time in nearly two calendar years, pitching the A’s to an 8-5 victory over the New York Mets.
Not that he made a big deal of that.
“I don’t really read into it,” Mills said matter-of-factly afterward. “I’ve been pitching somewhere the last two years. It’s not like I haven’t picked up a baseball or anything. I feel like it’s a good thing to be able to come in and contribute to a first-place team.”
And that seemed like the biggest take-away as the A’s split a quick two-game series at Citi Field. Aside from notching his first big league ‘W’ since July 2012, Mills proved he can contribute to a team that’s trying to hold on to a division lead and needs reinforcement in its rotation.
To this point, the A’s starting staff has more than held its own under trying circumstances. Despite the absence of Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin to season-ending elbow injuries, Oakland’s starters entered Wednesday with the third-best ERA in the majors at 3.21.
But with Drew Pomeranz now on the shelf with a fractured right hand, the A’s had a void to fill. Mills showed Wednesday he might be the man to do it. It wasn’t flashy, and you can tell it never will be with Mills.
He’s not a hard thrower. He allowed nine hits over 6 1/3 innings Wednesday but didn’t walk a batter. He held the Mets off the scoreboard until his final hitter, Lucas Duda, hit a three-run homer in the seventh. By then, the A’s had built an 8-0 lead.
His game plan was “just coming out and attacking the zone, getting them in swing mode,” Mills said. “That’s the goal of a starting pitcher. Get them swinging, hitting it to your defense, and you look up and it’s the sixth or the seventh inning, and you’re winning the ballgame.”
Pitching to contact was a good idea on a night the A’s defense shined. There was a terrific catch in foul territory from Josh Reddick, who effortlessly caught Eric Young Jr’s pop-up over the railing and around a fan who stayed frozen as if he were in quick sand.
“You kind of hold your breath because he got hurt on that play in Houston (last season), but he only knows how to play one way,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “It seems like almost every day out there he comes up with some defensive play that helps you win a game.”
Reddick also singled, walked and scored twice in his second game back from the disabled list.
There were other defensive gems in support of Mills, not to mention some quality middle-of-the-order production from Yoenis Cespedes (three-run double) and Brandon Moss, who crushed a two-run homer, his 18th long ball that ties Josh Donaldson for the team lead.
All encouraging factors.
But surely Melvin slept easier Wednesday night after watching Mills improve on his A’s debut. Last Friday, three days after he was acquired from Milwaukee, Mills walked four and lasted just four innings against Boston.
He didn’t walk a single batter Wednesday and struck out four.
“He used all of his pitches (Wednesday),” Melvin said. “He got ahead effectively so he could use all of his pitches. He pitched a little bit differently today and he was a lot more effective.”
And Mills pocketed his first big league ‘W’ since July 8, 2012, when he was with the Los Angeles Angels and pitched five shutout innings against Baltimore.
Not that Mills got very sentimental about that. He’s with the A’s to fill a need, and he looked capable of doing just that Wednesday.