OAKLAND, Calif. -- Oakland A's manager Bob Melvin kept center fielder Coco Crisp out of the starting lineup Friday night against the Boston Red Sox and hoped to give him the entire night off to rest his sore neck.

So much for Melvin's plan.

With the A's and Red Sox deadlocked 3-3 and the game on the line, Melvin brought Crisp off the bench to pinch hit in the seventh. Crisp struck out that time, but in the bottom of the eighth he delivered an RBI single off left-hander Andrew Miller, bringing first baseman Kyle Blanks home from second with the tie-breaking run.

With third baseman Josh Donaldson hitting a three-run homer in the first inning and Crisp delivering in the eighth, the A's beat the Red Sox 4-3 at the O.co Coliseum.

The A's improved to a season-high 18 games over .500 with their second straight victory against Boston. At 46-28, they own the best record in the major leagues.

"Everybody in here in the later innings, his number can be pulled out of the hat," Crisp said. "We know with our team we play a full squad so we're always prepared in case of anything."

With one out in the bottom of the eighth, Miller hit Blanks and designated hitter Alberto Callaspo with pitches in back-to-back at-bats. Miller struck out second baseman Nick Punto, but Crisp lined a single to right, driving in Blanks.

"Honestly I was just trying to throw a breaking ball kind of to the same spot to Blanks," Miller said. "He chased the first one. I was trying to throw one a little bit lower, get him to chase again. I just went a little too far. And the second one was just a bad yank. That was not even close to where I wanted to go. Just can't afford to hit those two guys in that part of the lineup right there."

Crisp hit an outside fastball that Miller said he left up too high.

"In hindsight I should have thrown a breaking ball or thrown something in," Miller said. "I didn't."

A's left-hander Sean Doolittle pitched a scoreless ninth for his 10th save, extending his streak of scoreless innings to 23 1/3.

"We left a number of people on base, which is once again the story in this one," Red Sox manager John Farrell said.

Left-hander Brad Mills allowed three runs (two earned) over four innings in his A's debut after being called up from Triple-A Sacramento and got a no-decision. Mills was acquired Tuesday in a trade with Milwaukee for cash considerations -- reportedly $1 -- and made his first major-league appearance since July 8, 2008, a start for the Los Angeles Angels.

Red Sox left-hander Felix Doubront was activated from the disabled list and made his first start since May 20 against Toronto, when he left the game after four innings with a strained left shoulder. Doubront allowed three runs on two hits over 4 2/3 innings. He struck out four, walked four and didn't figure in the decision.

The A's took a 3-0 lead in the first inning on Donaldson's three-run blast off Doubront, his first home run and first extra-base hit since June 6 at Baltimore.

Center fielder Craig Gentry lined a leadoff single. Then the A's caught a break when second baseman Dustin Pedroia bobbled what looked to be a sure double-play ground ball by shortstop Jed Lowrie. Pedroia got the force at second, but Lowrie beat shortstop Stephen Drew's relay to first. After left fielder Yoenis Cespedes walked, Donaldson lined Doubront's 89-mph fastball for a home run to left.

Boston cut Oakland's lead to 3-2 in the second as rookie center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. drilled a two-run single off Mills with the bases loaded.

First baseman Mike Napoli lined a leadoff single and moved to second when left fielder Jonny Gomes walked with two outs. Mills had a chance to escape unscathed, getting shortstop Drew to hit what appeared to be a double-play ball to second baseman Nick Punto. But Punto flipped the ball low and wide of second base for an error, loading the bases for Bradley.

The Red Sox could have scored more runs in the second, but Gentry made a diving catch in right-center field of Brock Holt's line drive, then doubled off Drew at second.

"It ends up being a whole different inning, if he doesn't make that catch," Melvin said. "Now the momentum kind of shifts back to your dugout. But it could have been a completely different game if he doesn't make catch. It kind of gets lost where it goes but if you are looking at the entire game."

Boston pulled even with a run in third when third baseman Xander Bogaerts led off with a walk and scored on designated hitter David Ortiz's one-out single.

NOTES: Oakland RHP Evan Scribner was optioned Friday to Triple-A Sacramento, opening a roster spot for LHP Brad Mills, who was called up from the River Cats and started against Boston. ... OF Grady Sizemore, who was designated for assignment Tuesday by Boston, cleared waivers Friday, becoming a free agent.... RHP Clay Buchholz (hyperextended left knee) joined the Red Sox on Friday in Oakland, one day after pitching six shutout innings in a rehab start for Triple-A Pawtucket. Boston manager John Farrell said he hasn't decided when Buchholz will rejoin the rotation, but he has yet to name a starter for Wednesday's game at Seattle.