Several A's starting pitchers have exceeded expectations in 2014. Sonny Gray looks like an ace in his first full season. Scott Kazmir is having a career year at age 30. Jesse Chavez, a reliever until this year, boasts a sub-3.00 ERA.
But perhaps the unsung hero for Oakland is left-hander Tommy Milone, who will get the ball Saturday night when the A's host the Angels for the middle game of a three-game AL West showdown.
After winning 25 games between 2012-13, Milone got off to a slow start this year and at one point appeared to be on the chopping block. But the A's chose to demote Dan Straily instead, and Milone has proven they made the right choice.
In four starts since Straily's demotion, Milone has gone 3-0 with a 1.03 ERA.
"I knew something needed to change because I knew, even though I wasn't throwing terribly before that, it still wasn't the pitcher that I knew I was," Milone said.
The 27-year-old southpaw decided to make some minor tweaks to his delivery.
"Just shortened my stride a little bit," he said. "It made me a little bit taller, working downhill. It's helped with my command, being able to spot my fastball, which is what I need to do."
Milone previously faced the Angels on April 16, allowing two earned runs over six innings and taking a no-decision.
In that game, Milone took on Tyler Skaggs, who gave up four runs in six innings and got the win.
The two southpaws will square off once again on Saturday, with Skaggs looking to bring down his 4.70 ERA during an up-and-down month of May.
"Me personally, I feel like I've had a great month," Skaggs said. "It's one of those things where I feel like I'm throwing the ball well, throwing the ball down in the zone, throwing it for strikes.
"I know I've had some games where I've let some innings balloon up, but that's part of learning. I'm 22-years-old, trying to figure it out out there. Slowly but surely figuring it out."
Angels: Green back in Oakland and surging
Infielder Grant Green is back in Oakland, 10 months after being acquired by the Angels in the one-for-one trade that sent Alberto Callaspo to the A's.
With the A's, Green -- the 13th overall selection from the University of Southern California in 2009 -- couldn't get much time in the big leagues. With the Angels, Green is proving he belongs in the Majors, posting a .377/.393/.491 slash line heading into Friday's series opener while playing primarily left field. Green, who also returned to the Coliseum as a visitor in September last year, believes he has grown as a player since he left.
"I was happy to see some of the guys in BP, catch up with them," he said. "Hopefully we can do well in this series."
A's: Johnson hearing boo birds at home
Jim Johnson, who the A's signed for $10 million in the offseason to be their closer, has had a nightmare start in Oakland. In particular, the right-hander has performed terribly at home.
At the Coliseum, Johnson has posted a 14.04 ERA and a .465 opponents' average. On the road, those numbers are 1.98 and .208, respectively.
After allowing two runs to the Tigers in the seventh inning on Thursday, Johnson heard plenty of boos from the home crowd. Several of his teammates have expressed their disapproval of the gesture.
"There was a time when we were all kind of one, which made it so special," Josh Donaldson said of the team's relationship with the fans. "We fed off them, they fed off us. Now what?"
"The very first sign of trouble, they were jumping down his throat and booing him off the field," said Sean Doolittle, who was named the A's new closer on May 20. "We were looking at each other going, 'What?' We don't do this here.
"I can understand that they're frustrated. He's replacing another closer with a great track record [Grant Balfour], who was a fan favorite. I get it. It just seems uncharacteristic."
• The A's are 35-26 against the Angels over the last four seasons, including 29-3 when scoring four runs or more.
• Opponents are batting .225 against Angels pitching, a mark that ranked second in the American League heading into the weekend series.
Aaron Leibowitz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.