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BOS@OAK: Donaldson hits a walk-off single in the 11th

OAKLAND -- The A's nearly acquired Red Sox starter Brandon Workman during trade negotiations involving Rich Harden in 2011.

But a deal never went down, so Harden remained in Oakland's organization, Workman in Boston's.

Workman was nearly forever entwined in both, though, after taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning for the Red Sox in his first Major League start on Sunday.

Yet, it was a player who actually was traded in exchange for Harden in 2008 who ended Workman's day in an eventual series-clinching 3-2 A's win: Josh Donaldson.

Donaldson, fittingly, was also responsible for ending the game, walking off the A's for the second time this season in the 11th on a two-out single that sent home Chris Young, who led off the inning with a walk against lefty Matt Thornton and advanced to second on Eric Sogard's sacrifice bunt.

"That's pretty apropos that not only did he knock in the winning run, but all three runs," manager Bob Melvin said. "Pretty good first half for him."

With the win, their seventh in 10 tries in extras, the A's head into the All-Star break in sole possession of first place in the American League West -- ahead of the Rangers by two games -- for the first time since 1990, having won six straight series. At 56-39, they also have their best record after 95 games since '90, not to mention their first winning ledger before the break since 2008.

"I really believe that the guys in this clubhouse really believe that we have one of the best teams in baseball," Donaldson said. "It's just one of those things, where when we get an opportunity to play a good team like the Red Sox or the Pirates or the Cardinals, we're out there sending a message that we are a good team, that we're for real."

From a personal standpoint, Donaldson, too, is proving he's for real.

Despite not being an All-Star, Oakland's third baseman put up numbers worthy of such a nod, ending the first half with a .310 average and 16 home runs, which are tied with Brandon Moss for the team lead. Moreover, his 107 hits before the break are most by an A's player since Carney Lansford tallied 118 in 1988.

That's quite impressive for a guy one of his teammates knew little about heading into the season.

"First day of Spring Training, I remember being in the same batting group with him and just seeing the bat speed that he possesses, thinking, 'This guy's really talented,'" said Jed Lowrie. "I was excited to see what he was capable of doing once we actually got on the field."

Now, everyone knows.

"In our hearts, in our minds, he's an All-Star," Melvin said. "He's a fighter. He's got that competitive bone. In situations that are big, he's not scared of them. He enjoys them. He looks forward to them. That's really kind of the tell-tale for me in telling who the true competitors are, is how they react in those type of situations. You can just see, there's added focus, there's desire, there's commitment to what he's doing. It's been pretty impressive to watch."

Following a leadoff single by speedster Coco Crisp in the seventh, knocked down in fine fashion by second baseman Dustin Pedroia though not in enough time for the out to preserve Workman's no-no, Donaldson crushed a towering shot over the left-center-field wall to even the game at 2.

"Never seen the guy before, not much video on him," Donaldson said of Workman. "He was probably feeling pretty good, mixing pitches and throwing strikes for the most part. I was able to get to a 3-2 count right there, and he just made a mistake. It kind of just spun out over the plate."

The home run came on Workman's 103rd and final pitch, after the righty had faced the minimum on 88 pitches entering the inning. To that point, he had stolen the show from All-Star Bartolo Colon, who put on another impressive performance to close out the first half with a 2.70 ERA, third-best in the American League.

Oakland's 40-year-old righty limited the Sox to two runs on eight hits with no walks and four strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings, marking the 10th time in 19 starts he hasn't issued a walk. He's only issued 15 free passes spanning 126 2/3 innings.

"He pitched today pretty similar to how he has all year," Melvin said. "He pitches deep in the game again and gives us a chance to win when he's out there, and most times we do win the game."

"This is the best first half I've ever had in my career," Colon said through A's coach and interpreter Ariel Prieto. "I want to keep it going."

With the likes of Colon and Donaldson in tow, there's little doubt in Oakland the A's will continue to win as a team.

"I think we're right where we want to be," Lowrie said. "We've got the good, quality starting pitching, a good bullpen all the way around, and I think our offense will continue to get us as many runs as we need to win."

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