Koji Sasahara, Associated Press
Oakland closer Alan Embree (41) celebrates with catcher Kurt Suzuki after beating Boston 5-1.

TOKYO — Emil Brown found a safe way home: hit the ball over the fence.

One day after Brown made a costly base-running mistake, his three-run homer in the third inning led Oakland over the Boston Red Sox 5-1 Wednesday night and gave the Athletics a split of their opening two-game series.

Following Major League Baseball's third season-opening series in Japan, the teams were to head back to the United States on 10-hour flights across the Pacific with a split. The Chicago Cubs and New York Mets split their Japanese series in 2000, as did the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 2004.

Boston began its World Series title defense with a 6-5, 10-inning victory Tuesday night, boosted by Manny Ramirez' tiebreaking, two-run double. The game might have lasted longer had Brown not been tagged between second and third on his RBI double in the bottom of the 10th.

Ramirez kept hitting Wednesday night with a solo homer in the sixth, although he struck out three times. He could afford to stand and watch this one, a sure home-run deep into the left-field seats that moved him within nine of joining the 500-home run club.

BASEBALL UNION, OWNERS CLOSE TO DEAL: Lawyers for baseball players and owners were close to an agreement Wednesday on changes to toughen their drug rules, and the sides hoped to strike a deal by Sunday.

An agreement likely would lead to the elimination of 15-day suspensions imposed in December on Kansas City's Jose Guillen and Baltimore's Jay Gibbons after they were linked to performance-enhancing drugs.

OTHER BASEBALL NOTES:

Gerald Laird beat out Jarrod Saltalamacchia for the job as Texas' starting catcher. Saltalamacchia was optioned to minor league camp.

• Reliever Chris Reitsma left Mariners camp after learning he would not make Seattle's roster for the start of the season.

• The Colorado Rockies sent several players to minor league camp on Wednesday, including Seth Smith, who helped fuel the team's first pennant drive with a series of key pinch hits last September. The Rockies also released former All-Star Marcus Giles, who lost out to rookie Jayson Nix for the starting job at second base.

• The Cincinnati Reds sent their former first-round draft pick Homer Bailey to Triple-A Louisville on Wednesday, settling the last question about their rotation. Right-hander Josh Fogg will get the final open spot.

• Right-hander Ramon Ramirez was acquired by the Kansas City Royals from the Colorado Rockies for a player to be named on Wednesday.

• The Royals also traded outfielder-first baseman Justin Huber to San Diego for a player to be named, and assigned right-handers Roman Colon and Chin-hui Tsao and catcher Ken Huckaby to minor league camp.

Kelvim Escobar, an 18-game winner for the Los Angeles Angels last season, told reporters Wednesday he has a tear in his pitching shoulder and might need surgery.