Bradley, who had been out since June 15 with a strained left shoulder, made the defensive play of the night, went 4-for-5 with a double and a walk, scored three runs and drove three in to help the A's remain tied with the Rangers atop the American League West.
"I'm just going out and trying to play ball," Bradley said. "If it's exciting, great."
The double was Bradley's first of the year, and while he had to share the spotlight with Mark Ellis (3-for-6 with a double, a homer and five RBIs to match his career high), his night in general marked one of the few times he'd lived up to the hype generated when he was acquired from the Dodgers in a December deal that sent the A's top prospect, outfielder Andre Ethier, to Los Angeles.
"We knew we were getting a great player," said Eric Chavez, who is sitting out this four-game series with tendinitis in both forearms. "I said when he came here that he's an MVP-type player, and I really believe that."
As the game progressed, it became clear that another member of the organization -- the new top prospect -- will be trying to live up to some hype of his own in the very near future.
When fifth starter Kirk Saarloos, who picked up the save in Thursday's series opener, took over for Barry Zito in the sixth inning, it left little doubt that Saarloos won't be making his scheduled start Monday. That assignment almost certainly will go to 23-year-old righty Jason Windsor, who is 8-0 with a 3.92 ERA at Triple-A Sacramento and was lifted from his Thursday start after three innings.
A's manager Ken Macha, who missed much of the game while dealing with a persistent bloody nose, wouldn't confirm that Windsor will be called up, but assistant general manager David Forst didn't rule it out.
"I'm not sure what we're going to do," said Macha, who was treated for a broken blood vessel at a local hospital and released in time to join the postgame celebration.
It was another eventful night in Beantown, following Thursday's 11-inning affair, and among the developments was that Zito (9-7), who has been haunted by a lack of run support for much of the season, got more than enough on a rare off-night for the All-Star lefty.
Oakland beat up on Red Sox righty Josh Beckett to the tune of seven runs on eight hits and four walks, helping Zito avoid losing four consecutive starts for the first time in his seven-year career.
It marked the 100th time in Zito's career that he's been backed with at least four runs, and he's lost just four of those games.
"You get him some runs and he's going to win," said catcher Jason Kendall. "We've [let him down] a bunch this year, so it was great to kind of pick him up for once."
Zito was far from at his best Friday, never coming close to matching the perfect inning he threw in Tuesday's Midsummer Classic at Pittsburgh, and his line of two runs on six hits and four walks over five-plus frames Friday snapped his streak of quality starts at five.
He threw 50 to 60 pitches in the bullpen while warming up for his All-Star relief appearance, and though he only threw eight pitches in the game, it was a dramatic departure from his standard between-starts routine.
"At one point I was hot and ready to go into the game, and they told me [Roy] Halladay was going back out for another inning, so now I know what guys in the bullpen feel like," he said. "I don't know if it affected me tonight. ... I was just laboring out there the whole time."
As average as Zito was, Bradley was brilliant, and he opened the show by robbing Manny Ramirez of a home run in the first inning with a catch up against the right-field wall.
"Milton played during that 10-game win streak of ours," Macha said, "and I told him before he went out there at the start of the game, 'Your defense alone is gonna be a huge help.' And then he goes and does that. Just tremendous."
Said Bradley: "He hit it. I caught it. Pretty simple."
Bradley was robbed of extra bases himself when Boston first baseman Kevin Youkilis made a diving stop of his smash in the top of the second, but the baseball gods gave one back to him with a broken-bat single to center in the fourth, and his two-run double in the fifth chased Beckett and broke the game open.
"He really came out to play today," Zito said. "It was really impressive to see his determination."
Bradley came around to score when Ellis banged reliever Craig Breslow's second pitch high off the Monster, and he added an RBI single before scoring on an Ellis double off the Monster during the eight-run eighth inning that sent the sellout crowd slinking toward the exits.
"He means a lot to our team," Ellis said of Bradley. "It's always better to hit with guys on base, and it seemed like he was on base every time I got up tonight."
The eighth was Oakland's biggest offensive inning of the season, aided by two Red Sox errors that made all eight runs unearned.
Jay Payton gave Zito an early lead by poking a two-out single into center in the first, and two innings later -- after Mark Kotsay drew a walk and stole second base -- Frank Thomas doubled the lead with one of his patented double-if-he-had-two-good-legs singles.
An inning after that, Ellis doubled the lead again by following Bradley's single with a rocket over the Green Monster in left field for his first homer since May 7.
"He was playing pepper with that left-field wall," Bradley said of Ellis, who entered the game in a 6-for-36 (.167) funk. "It was good to see him swinging the bat like we know he can."
Meanwhile, Zito kept finding ways to keep the Red Sox off the scoreboard despite allowing four hits, three walks and a hit batsman in the first five innings.
"I just kept digging my own holes," Zito said.
The Red Sox finally broke through with two runs in the sixth, but it was clearly Oakland's night. The 15 runs represented a season high, and Bradley and Ellis were far from alone in having productive evenings.
Kotsay went 3-for-5 with a double and two RBIs, Nick Swisher went 2-for-5 with a double, Payton also had two hits, and every A's starter save Antonio Perez reached base at least twice.
Oakland's 16 hits matched a season high, but the output raised the team batting average just a point, from .244 to .245 -- still the lowest in the Majors.
"We've been pretty much playing at half-power all year," Bradley said. "We're not a .240-something hitting team, and we showed that tonight."
Mychael Urban is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.