With a 25-13 record, the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats have an identical record to last year's club at the same point, matching the best start in franchise history.
The River Cats' three walk-off victories this season have all come on the most recent homestand against Omaha and Iowa, with Josh Donaldson and Derek Norris connecting on walk-off homers on May 5 and 6, and Grant Green collecting the decisive base hit Saturday.
"[We have] good players. Guys are working hard. They show up every day, they play hard, they hold themselves accountable. They're doing a great job," Sacramento manager Darren Bush said.
Donaldson and Graham Godfrey earned the Pacific Coast League Player and Pitcher of the Week awards, respectively, for their play during the first week of May. Both players were members of the A's Opening Day roster who earned the PCL awards after being demoted back to Sacramento from the big leagues.
Donaldson went 3-for-32 with the A's in April, then came back to his familiar stomping grounds of Sacramento and found his groove. During the week for which he won the award, the third baseman/catcher went 11-for-19 in six games and drove in nine runs. For his entire 13-game stint with Sacramento, Donaldson hit .447/.509/.830 with five long balls and 14 RBI before getting the call to return to the A's Saturday.
"He was much more consistent with his routines," Bush said.
"He was much more confident in his routines. He didn't alter away and change anything when he had a slow start. He stuck to a plan, an approach, which is good. It's what he needed to do in his short time he was with us."
Donaldson seemed over-matched in his time with the A's, struggling at the plate and letting those struggles carry over to his defense.
"Obviously they weren't my best 30 at-bats. But I know I'm not that player and I know I can perform at the major league level. It's just a matter of doing it," Donaldson said after his demotion.
Godfrey made two starts to earn the award, tossing 13 innings while yielding just a single run. He seems to have taken his demotion from Oakland in stride, going 3-0 with a 0.45 ERA in his three starts since.
In May, Sacramento got off to an 8-3 start, allowing opponents an average of 3.91 runs per game while putting up 7.27. The team is hitting .273/.343/.457, with 12 homers and an 800 OPS thus far this month.
Coming and Going
The River Cats have made 14 moves since the calendar changed to May. Most notably, the team lost and added Michael Taylor to and from Oakland from May 4 and May 11, and lost Donaldson May 12.
Infielder Luke Hughes was added to the roster after the A's signed Brandon Inge on May 4. Outfielder Jeff Fiorentino returned from the disabled list on May 8. Right-handed starter A.J. Griffin was promoted from Double-A Midland on May 11, the same day Collin Cowgill was recalled by Oakland. Andrew Carignan replaced Jim Miller for the A's the same day.
On Saturday, the A's placed centerfielder Yoenis Cespedes on the 15-day DL, retroactive to May 7, with a strain in his left hand. The A's initially looked to recall Taylor in Cespedes' stead, but a rule prohibited it. Because Taylor was on Oakland's roster the day Cespedes was retroactively disabled, the A's would be forced to wait 10 days to bring him back up. Therefore, the A's promoted Donaldson and his hot bat instead.
Infielder Wes Timmons was put on the DL with an undisclosed injury on May 6. Timmons had been struggling with the bat in the early going, hitting .150 in 18 games with only one of his nine hits going for extra-bases.
Before being promoted last Friday, Collin Cowgill was starting to turn things on in May after slow start with the River Cats. In April, the speedy outfielder hit .250 in 10 games, but he then went on to hit .316 with a 945 OPS before being promoted to the big leagues. He had two homers and nine RBI in as many games in May.
Grant Green was another one of the few Sacramento players who didn't come out of the gates on fire when April began – he hit just .256 for the month. But in nine games in May, Green got hot with a .361/.378/.667 slash line with two homers and three stolen bases.
The River Cats bullpen has been very effective in 2012 despite the losing some of its talented arms to the A's early on. Relievers have an 11-4 record on the year with a 3.59 ERA and have allowed just two inherited runners to score all year.
"They're all open to anything we ask them to do," Bush said of the versatility of his relievers.
"We've asked some of these guys to go multiple innings consistently. We've asked a number of these guys to close. All of them are responsive to everything we've asked of them. It's been a lot of fun getting to watch them work in different situations."
Evan Scribner, Rich Thompson and Erick Threets have stood out during May out of the bullpen. Scribner has allowed just one earned run over his last 9.2 innings, holding hitters to five hits while striking out 11.Since his demotion from Oakland on April 27, Thompson has allowed one run and three hits in five appearances, striking out four. Threets has been good for Sacramento all season (3-0, 2.08 ERA), but has gotten even better in May, allowing just a run in seven innings in five appearances with a 0.83 WHIP.