San Francisco Giants

A’s nursing two-game lead over Angels entering weekend series

OAKLAND -- The A’s reached the one-third mark of the season Thursday, and while turned that corner with a 5-4 loss to the Tigers, some of their numbers through their 32-22 start are pretty impressive.

From the team’s game notes: Josh Donaldson is on pace to score 132 runs, which would break the record of 123 set by Reggie Jackson in 1969. Brandon Moss is on pace to drive in 126, which would be the third-highest total in Oakland history. The A’s pitching staff has a 2.89 ERA, which if it held for the whole season would be the second-lowest in the Oakland era behind the 1972 team’s 2.58 mark. And the A’s pitchers are on pace to strike out 1,224 batters -- last year’s staff set a franchise record with 1,183.

Obviously there’s a lot of time to fall off that pace. But it’s a good snapshot of why the A’s are tied for the most wins in the American League and still hold a two-game lead in the West over the Los Angeles Angels, who arrive tonight for a three-game series. The Angels come in hot, having won 11 of their last 14 games and 14 of 20. The A’s, meanwhile, have lost six of eight, but are still 13-7 in their last 20 games to maintain that narrow lead.

The A’s lineup tonight looks like this, with the Angels starting right-hander Garrett Richards:

CF Crisp

DH Jaso

3B Donaldson

1B Moss

LF Cespedes

SS Lowrie

RF Reddick

C Norris

2B Callaspo

And the Angels’ lineup against A’s left-hander Drew Pomeranz:

SS Aybar

CF Trout

1B Pujols

3B Freese

2B Kendrick

DH Cron

C Iannetta

LF Green

RF Cowgill

* With the A’s facing a right-hander, this would typically be a start for Eric Sogard at second base. But Sogard is slumping, batting .158 in May, and manager Bob Melvin said he felt Sogard might benefit from a day off, so it’s Alberto Callaspo at second tonight.

Sogard’s defense often keeps him in the lineup when he isn’t hitting -- he has not made an error at second this season -- but Callaspo is swinging the bat better right now and Melvin said a break might help Sogard clear his head.

"It’s not like he’s striking out a ton," Melvin said of Sogard. "He’s just not getting good contact right now. But we’ve seen him get hot before, and the feeling is sometimes you start pressing a little bit, so an off-day’s probably a good thing from time to time."

* Reliever Eric O’Flaherty threw to hitters in a simulated game in Sacramento on Thursday, and Melvin said he was told the session went "really well. He threw all his pitches, good movement, good velocity, felt great afterward."

So far, O’Flaherty has progressed as well as the A’s could have hoped on his recovery from Tommy John surgery, and his body’s reaction to the simulated game was another box to check off. "That’s the most important thing here early on, when he has these outings, is that he feels good the next day," Melvin said.

* Those are former A’s Grant Green and Collin Cowgill at the bottom of the Angels lineup. While Cowgill wasn’t in the organization for long, Green was a highly touted prospect after the A’s drafted him in the first round in 2009, spent significant time at Triple-A Sacramento and debuted briefly with the A’s last season before Oakland dealt him to Los Angeles in July for Callaspo.

Green played in 40 games for the Angels in the second half last year, batting .280, and is off to a good start in limited time this season, hitting .377 (20-for-53) in 19 games. Melvin said he isn’t surprised to see Green, who bounced between the infield and outfield in the A’s system and never got an extended big-league look, having some success.

"You have to give up some quality guys at times to get the piece you need," Melvin said. "In this time, our organization’s trying to make the big-league team better and the focus is more on the big-league team.

"You wish them the best," Melvin said, referencing Green and Michael Choice, another former prospect the A’s recently traded to Texas for Craig Gentry. "You hope they’re not in your division like both those guys are, but they were drafted where they were drafted for a reason."

* The A’s this weekend are marking the 40th anniversary of their 1974 World Series title team with a reunion and a ceremony before Saturday’s game. That team won the third of three consecutive Oakland World Series championships in the mid-70s, defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers in five games.

Melvin, who grew up in the Bay Area, said those title teams "kind of laid the foundation for what we have now.

"A lot of the things that those teams embodied and were about you try to embrace still, whether it’s the individuality, the long hair, the mustaches, the white shoes. All this is part of our past as a team and organization. So it’s important that we do reflect and bring these guys out."