OAKLAND, Calif. -- After two long rounds in the cage last week in Atlanta, Frank Thomas told his manager he was starting to feel it at the plate. The Big Hurt did the same thing in his first stint with Oakland two years ago and began hitting home runs regularly.
"He said they're starting to come," A's manager Bob Geren said of Thomas. "He knows."
Harden (3-0) didn't allow a hit until Dustin Pedroia's solo homer with one out in the fourth on the way to winning back-to-back starts. The hard-throwing right-hander had five of his eight strikeouts in the first three innings, which he got through on 36 pitches with 24 strikes.
Harden, who spent time on the disabled list with a shoulder injury, has 23 strikeouts in three starts spanning 17 innings this year against the Red Sox. After Pedroia's third homer of the year, Harden walked two batters in the inning but escaped unscathed.
"I felt good early. I wish I could finish as well as I start," Harden said. "Unfortunately I only went six innings tonight."
He was still getting clocked at 95 mph on the radar gun in the sixth and allowed two runs on four hits with three walks. Harden wants to work deeper into games, but knows that will come as he continues to regain his arm strength.
"He's got as good as stuff as anybody in the league," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "He gets into some fastball counts and doesn't give you a fastball. We've seen him too much. We don't need to face him every other game. I hope he's not going to come back and pitch Sunday."
Thomas hit the first pitch he saw from Tim Wakefield (3-3) in the third for his seventh home run, then Ellis, returning to the lineup after missing nine games with a strained left hamstring, hit his fourth homer of the year in the third.
Thomas' two RBI gave 1,701 for his career. The Big Hurt homered for the fourth time in four games, which included a two-homer game Tuesday. The latest power surge for the slugger follows a 30-game, 102 at-bat homerless streak -- the second-longest of his 19-year big league career.
Thomas, who turns 40 on Tuesday, has four homers since joining the A's after Toronto released him April 20. He also singled in the third and fifth.
"One man doing well takes the pressure off others," Thomas said. "That's why Billy (Beane) brought me back. This is the time of year I start to feel it. ... I work for it."
Bobby Crosby hit a sacrifice fly in the sixth, doubled and scored a run for Oakland.
Winning this one had to be a boost for the A's, who had lost seven of nine and nine of 12 but ended a three-game losing streak with a win over Tampa Bay on Wednesday. Many players spent their off day Thursday participating in a team golf tournament.
Boston hitting coach Dave Magadan was ejected by plate umpire Tim Tschida in the sixth for arguing during J.D. Drew's at-bat. Leadoff hitter Jacoby Ellsbury had a pair of RBI singles for the Red Sox, who were coming off a 7-0 homestand and trying to win eight in a row for the first time since a 12-game run from June 16-29, 2006.
Drew wanted timeout to apply pine tar to his bat but wasn't allowed and Magadan said something. Umpires were asked Wednesday to enforce speed-up rules.
"It's coming from the league and we know that and we were warned," Francona said. "We all have different opinions. Tim does it as good as anybody in the league. ... What we don't want to do is start getting into arguments over non-baseball, non-calls. That's what I was trying to tell him. He knows. Everybody gets directions from everybody else, that's the way it is."
Wakefield faced the A's for the first time in 2008 and the right-hander gave up two homers in a game for the third time.
"The one I didn't expect was Ellis," Wakefield said. "I think my mechanics are a little off right now. It was a grind."
On paper this looked like Oakland's best shot at victory this weekend against the World Series champs considering the A's will get Josh Beckett on Saturday and then Jon Lester on Sunday in the left-hander's first outing since pitching the majors' first no-hitter.
"We'll certainly be waiting to see how he bounces back," Francona said. "There was a ton of effort expended. How taxing was it? We'll see. Hopefully none, because he stayed in his delivery."
- Kevin Youkilis went hitless for only the third time in 19 games.
- Ellis was 1-for-15 against Boston this year before the homer.
- Thomas is batting 24-for-72 (.333) over his last 22 games after hitting .157 in his first 19. The Big Hurt is 15-for-53 (.283) with seven homers lifetime vs. Wakefield.
- Francona said third base coach DeMarlo Hale could rejoin the team Saturday. He has been away from the club the past few days to support his wife, who was undergoing medical tests.
- A's RHP Kiko Calero, on the 60-day DL recovering from a torn rotator cuff and currently with Triple-A Sacramento, could come off the disabled list next week.