Flopping Lowrie, Donaldson in order pays off for A’s

Jed Lowrie has been helping set the table for Josh Donaldson and A's offense.

Jed Lowrie has been helping set the table for Josh Donaldson and A’s offense.

The season began with Josh Donaldson batting second and Jed Lowrie batting third for the A’s.

The logic was sound. It lasted a week. Since the first homestand of the season, it’s been Lowrie second and Donaldson third, and the logic is sounder. And, it should be pointed out, more productive.

Manager Bob Melvin’s idea going in was that Donaldson, a more selective hitter, would be the ideal man to hit second behind Coco Crisp, taking more pitches and assuring Crisp would have more time to select the proper pitch with which to steal a base.

Lowrie, the manager reasoned, was a more aggressive hitter, and could drive in runs from the third spot with Crisp and Donaldson likely to be on base frequently.

That ended after a week. Donaldson was hitting .115 and had only drawn one walk. Crisp, meanwhile, was going to sit out the better part of a week after getting a cortisone shot, and Melvin wanted to be proactive.

He swapped the two spots, at least when the A’s are facing right-handed pitchers, and it’s worked. Donaldson has hit in 12 of 13 games, averaging .357 since the switch, a space of time that contains all four of his homers, all seven of his doubles and 12 of his 13 RBIs.

Lowrie’s average has actually dipped from the .316 he was hitting when the move was made, but his on-base percentage has ticked up to .467 during that stretch and he’s scored 10 of his team-leading (tied with Donaldson) 14 runs in those games. Four of his five doubles have come in that stretch.

“He gets on base a lot,’’ Donaldson said approvingly. “And he hits a lot of doubles to where he gets in scoring position, which is nice.’’

And Donaldson likes to hit with men on base. He led the A’s last year with 93 RBIs and with 13 so far he isn’t far behind current team leader Brandon Moss (15).

Melvin is a man who believes that roles will change and evolve over time, and that’s exactly what’s happening now.

“Lowrie’s been getting on base a lot and Donaldson’s been knocking him in,’’ Melvin said, breaking the game down to its simplest components. “At different times we’ll try to look at whose on-base percentage over a period of time is good and who are your guys you want to knock them in.

“There will be times when Jed will be knocking runs in and we’ll be doing things a little bit differently, but so far so good.’’

John Hickey

A longtime baseball writer three years into in his second go-round covering to the Oakland A's beat after a dozen years covering the Seattle Mariners. Covered the A's through the late 1980s and 1990s.