Memphis Redbirds Notebook: 2010 Week 23

The Redbirds return to the Pacific Coast League finals representing the American Conference. They face Tacoma starting Tuesday night.

Recap

 

This report covers the period from Wednesday, September 8 through Monday, September 13.

 

Manager Chris Maloney's defending Pacific Coast League champion club built upon their tie for first place in the American North Division and league-best 82 wins to sweep the South Division-winning Oklahoma City RedHawks (Texas Rangers) in the best-of-five series for the Conference championship. Memphis held a 9-7 regular season advantage over OKC in each of the last two years.

 

Up Next

 

The Redbirds welcome National conference champion Tacoma (Seattle Mariners) to AutoZone Park for the PCL championship series starting on Tuesday night. Game 1 matchup is Evan MacLane (8-7, 4.45) vs. Blake Beavan (2-2, 6.47).

 

The defending National conference winner Sacramento River Cats (Oakland), fell to Tacoma in the deciding Game 5 in Seattle on Sunday night. Former Redbirds pitcher Clayton Mortensen started that game for Sacramento. The series-winning run scored in a bizarre circumstance, a two-base error charged to the River Cats' Tommy Everidge. The first baseman tossed the ball into the crowd thinking an inning-ending double play had been executed. He had not seen that one runner had been ruled safe.

 

Due to reconstruction, the Rainiers' home field, Cheney Stadium, is unavailable for use and the nearby Seattle Mariners are playing at home, meaning Safeco Field is also tied up. As a result, Memphis has been awarded all finals series contests.

 

Memphis owns a perfect 4-0 regular season edge over Tacoma in 2010. Those games were held at AutoZone Park in mid-May. In the regular season, the Rainiers won the Pacific North by 1 ½ games over Salt Lake, posting a 74-69 record.

 

Finals Games 1 and 2 are scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday nights at 7:05 p.m. CT with the Redbirds as the "away" team. After a day off on Thursday, Games 3, 4 and 5 of the best-of-five series (as needed) will be held with Memphis as the "home" team on Friday night (7:05) and Saturday (3:05) and Sunday (1:35) afternoons.

 

Though it is clearly getting ahead of matters, the annual one-game Triple-A National Championship, formerly known as the Brickyard Showdown, held between the PCL and International League champs, is scheduled in Oklahoma City on Tuesday, September 21. The game will be televised on the Versus network nationally.

 

In the 2009 game, the Redbirds lost to the Durham Bulls (Tampa Bay), 5-4 in 11 innings. Durham finished 2010 with the best record in the IL (88-55) and is facing the Columbus Clippers (Cleveland) in the IL finals, also getting underway on Tuesday night.

 

The Games

 

American Conference Championship Game 1: Wednesday 9/8: Memphis 7, Oklahoma City 5

 

In game one of the best-of-five series, the visiting Hawks took the early 1-0 lead on a pair of doubles, but the Redbirds moved ahead in the third inning en route to their eighth consecutive playoff win. Joe Mather hit a solo home run and Donovan Solano followed with a two-run single.

 

OKC tied it up after a bases-empty home runs in the fourth and fifth. Allen Craig and Joe Mather answered in the bottom of the frame with a pair of two-run long-balls to open up a 7-3 lead. Mather became the first Memphis player to ever hit two home runs in a playoff game.

 

Brandon Dickson earned the win allowing all five runs, four earned, on eight hits. He departed after 5 1/3 innings as OKC plated their final two runs in the sixth. Josh Kinney worked around a leadoff double in the ninth to earn the save. Box

 

Game 2: Thursday 9/9: Memphis 3, Oklahoma City 2

 

With the score tied 2-2 in the sixth inning, the Redbirds claimed their first lead of the night when Ruben Gotay's double to right field scored Joe Mather.

 

The Memphis bullpen shut down the RedHawks over the final three innings to preserve the one-run victory. Rich Rundles, Adam Reifer and Josh Kinney combined for 2 1/3 scoreless innings of relief as Kinney notched his second save in as many nights.

 

P.J. Walters earned the win allowing two runs on seven hits with five walks and seven strikeouts over 6 2/3 innings. Jim Rapoport and Donovan Solano led Memphis with two hits each. Box

 

Game 3: Friday 9/10: Memphis 6 at Oklahoma City 2

 

The Redbirds defeated Oklahoma City in three games, Memphis' third consecutive post-season sweep.

 

Memphis was paced by an impressive 16-strikeout performance over seven innings by Lance Lynn, setting a team record in the process. The right-hander retired his final 20 in a row and had just one out made in the outfield.

 

Donovan Solano had three hits and scored twice while Mark Hamilton plated a pair. Jim Rapoport reached base all four times while Daniel Descalso and Ruben Gotay were on base three times on the evening. Box

 

Roster changes

 

On September 7, the Cardinals released infielder Kevin Howard. He had been placed on the suspended list three days earlier. In his only season in the Cardinals organization, the 29-year-old journeyman had a .242/.294/.355 line in 273 at-bats over 97 games. Howard hit six home runs and drove in 26.

 

Oddly, on Thursday the 9th, pitcher Oneli Perez was activated off the temporary inactive list, though the club had never announced when he had gone onto it.

 

The stats

 

Three hitters batted over .500 while three others were at .273 or below, but drove in a total of 10 runs over the three games. The final hot hitter, second baseman Daniel Descalso, batted just .200, but got on base at a .385 clip. As a team, the Redbirds batted .320 in the first round.

 

Leadoff man, centerfielder Jim Rapoport, was on base nine times in 13 plate appearances for a .692 OBP, yet surprisingly crossed home plate only once in the three games.

 

First-round hot hitters

 

Ruben Gotay: 5-for-9, .556, 3 2B, 3 BB, 2 R, RBI

Jim Rapoport: 7-for-11, .636, R, 2 BB, 2 RBI

Donovan Solano: 6-for-11, .545, 2B, 3 R, 3 RBI

 

Allen Craig: 3-for-12, .250, 2B, 2 BB, R, 4 RBI, 3 K

Mark Hamilton: 3-for-11, .273, 2 2B, 2 BB, R, 2 RBI, 5 K

Joe Mather: 3-for-13, .231, 3 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 2 K

 

Daniel Descalso: 2-for-10, .200, 3 BB, 3 R, 3 K

 

First-round not hitters

 

Amaury Cazana: 2-for-13, .154, 2B, R, 3 K

Tony Cruz: 1-for-10, .100, 2B, BB, R, 2 K

 

The pitching staff had an aggregate 2.67 ERA over the three games, a very fine showing, indeed.

 

First-round hot pitchers

 

Josh Kinney: 2 IP, 2 H, 0 R/ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 2 saves, ERA 0.00

Eduardo Sanchez: 3 IP: 0 H, 0 R/ER, 1 BB, 3 K, hold, ERA 0.00

 

Lance Lynn: 7 IP, 3 H, 1 R/ER, 0 BB, 16 K, ERA 1.29

P.J. Walters: 6 2/3 IP, 7 H, 2 R/ER, 5 BB, 7 K, win, ERA 2.70

 

First-round not pitcher

 

Brandon Dickson: 5 IP, 8 H, 5 R/4 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 2 HR, win, ERA 6.75

 

 

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog.

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