OAK@SF: A's put up a four-spot in the fifth inning

SAN FRANCISCO -- There's a reason the A's have one of the best records in the American League despite carrying around one of the lowest team averages.

Oakland's .246 clip entering Thursday, which comes in at fourth lowest in the AL, is offset by the club's ability to find different ways to get on base by way of patience.

The A's have long been tied to a Moneyball approach that advocates walks, and lots of them. They entered Thursday's series finale in San Francisco with a Major League-leading 224, putting them on pace for 672. That's more than 100 more than the 550 they tallied last year, which ranked fourth best in the AL.

"They're not as sexy as big hits, but you start putting a little bit of pressure on pitchers and make them throw a lot of pitches and make them work hard and all of a sudden they have nowhere to go," said manager Bob Melvin. "It's been a big weapon for us this year. The amount of walks we've had has been a big part of our game."

On Wednesday night, the A's knocked a starter out of the game before the fifth inning ended for the fourth time in the last nine games. They're getting to bullpens earlier, and they've plated 74 runs in the seventh inning or later, fourth most in the AL.

No matter the inning, the A's are seeing a lot of pitches -- more than any other team, in fact.

Coming into Thursday, the A's had seen 8,496 pitches spanning 2,123 plate appearances. The Red Sox have seen slightly fewer (8,483) than Oakland but in just 2,078 plate appearances, for an average of 4.08 pitches per plate appearance, best in the Majors. The A's rank second to them with 4.00. But no other team really comes close.

"That's what the organization profiles players coming in," Melvin said. "Not all but most have that attribute.

"If you can get to bullpens in the fifth or sixth inning, it's usually not the guys teams finish games out with. You have better chances against bullpens when you're not always facing the eighth- or ninth-inning guy."

Freiman making the most of opportunities

OAK@SF: Freiman singles home Donaldson in the ninth

SAN FRANCISCO -- This isn't a role any baseball player imagines having. But facing the occasional lefty every few days is something Nate Freiman's doing pretty well.

Freiman made just his 18th start in Oakland's 55th game Thursday, with Giants lefty Barry Zito on the mound. Seventeen have come against southpaws, while regular first baseman Brandon Moss typically gets the nod against right-handers and even a few lefties. Freiman's taken advantage of the scant playing time, batting .279 with four doubles, two home runs and 14 RBIs, to go along with seven walks, in that span.

That includes a .364 clip (16-for-44) against left-handers. Freiman was hitless in 16 at-bats with a right-hander on the mound until Wednesday night, when he stroked an RBI base hit to right field off Giants righty Jean Machi in the ninth inning.

"He hadn't been getting too many hits off right-handers, but that was an impressive at-bat," manager Bob Melvin said. "Went from 3-0 all the way to 3-2. Didn't try to do too much. Just poked the ball into right field.

"Here's a guy that's used to playing every day in Double-A, and now he's in a situation where he's in new roles, doing something he's not used to doing. To not only get a big hit but work the count and not try to do too much, it's impressive."

The rookie Freiman figures to land a couple of more starts this weekend, as the visiting White Sox are slated to throw two southpaws in the three-game set.

Worth noting

• Josh Reddick (wrist) was scheduled to play in his fourth Minor League rehab game Thursday. Barring any setbacks, Oakland's right fielder is expected to be activated in time for Friday's series opener against the White Sox at home.

• With heavy traffic making for a tough commute to and from San Francisco, Melvin said Thursday morning that "this is literally the Bay Bridge Series."

"I was on the bridge for an hour last night and an hour this morning," said Melvin, who lives in Berkeley.

• Wednesday's 9-6 win over the Giants marked the A's 54th game of the season, which is the one-third mark of the schedule. They have 116 doubles and are on pace for 348, which would break the Oakland record of 336 set in 2004.

Moreover, the pitching staff has 395 strikeouts, putting it on pace for 1,185. The Oakland record is 1,160, set in 2011.