The big picture
This report covers the opening week of the season, from Thursday, April 7 through Wednesday, April 13.
Manager Chris Maloney's Pacific Coast League club had its first two four-game series at home. After an opening night loss, the Redbirds took three from Oklahoma City (Houston) before absorbing three straight losses from New Orleans (Florida).
Memphis was in every game, having absorbed those four losses by a total deficit of just five runs. New Orleans pitching has bested Memphis hitting as the Redbirds offense scored just three runs total during their current three-game losing skid.
The team is 3-4, tied for second place in the American North Division, two games behind first-place Nashville (Milwaukee).
Regulars are Mark Hamilton at first, Donovan Solano at second, shortstop Pete Kozma, third baseman Matt Carpenter, centerfielder Adron Chambers and right fielder Nick Stavinoha. Despite the latter having been listed as a catcher on the opening roster, Stavinoha has yet to be given a start wearing the tools of ignorance.
A typical batting order has Kozma leading off, followed by Carpenter, Stavinoha and Hamilton at cleanup. The left fielder bats fifth, followed by the catcher sixth with Solano seventh, Chambers eighth and the pitcher ninth. With only home games to date, the Redbirds have not yet deployed the designated hitter in 2011.
Thursday, April 7: Oklahoma City 8 at Memphis 7
P.J. Walters took the loss in the opener, giving up five runs, allowing seven hits and two walks while fanning five in four innings. Shane Robinson had four singles and a double in six at-bats, driving in three and scoring twice.
Friday, April 8: Memphis 3, Oklahoma City 2
The Redbirds picked up their first win of the season though starter Brandon Dickson received a no decision, allowing only two runs on five hits while striking out five. Eduardo Sanchez was awarded the win tossing two scoreless innings of relief and fanning two batters before Fernando Salas picked up his first save. Tony Cruz' seventh-inning bases-loaded RBI single plated Nick Stavinoha with the winning run. Stavinoha led the offense, going 2-for-4 with one RBI.
Saturday, April 9: Memphis 6, Oklahoma City 2
Starting pitcher Raul Valdes was sharp in his Redbirds debut, going 5 1/3 innings allowing one run on six hits while striking out nine. Salas added his second save. Andrew Brown was on base three times with a walk, a single and the club's first triple of the season.
Sunday, April 10: Memphis 7, Oklahoma City 1
Lance Lynn picked up his first win of the season pitching seven innings allowing only one run on six hits while striking out three. From the leadoff spot, Pete Kozma had two singles, a double and scored twice. Ramon Vazquez plated a pair.
Monday, April 11: New Orleans 2 at Memphis 0
Three Redbirds errors led to both Zephyrs' runs after Adam Ottavino took a one-hitter into the sixth inning. Memphis absorbed its first shutout of the season.
Tuesday, April 12: New Orleans 3 at Memphis 2
P.J. Walters allowed a three-run home run in the fourth inning. The Redbirds struggled to get runners home, going 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position while leaving eight men stranded on base. Shane Robinson and Bryan Anderson had the RBIs.
Wednesday, April 13: New Orleans 2 at Memphis 1
Brandon Dickson fanned nine batters despite suffering the loss after giving up two runs on five hits and walking two. The Redbirds' lone run came via an RBI double from Andrew Brown, as the offense went 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position while stranding 14.
Mark Hamilton. Opponents seem to be ducking the cleanup hitter, who with seven walks in seven games has a robust on-base mark of .467. However, Hamilton has no extra-base hits and just one RBI despite a .304 batting average.
Lance Lynn. Our third-ranked Cardinals prospect has a 1.29 ERA after yielding just one run in his seven-inning debut. Lynn allowed six hits and did not walk a batter.
The long ball. Through seven games, the Redbirds have yet to celebrate a home run.
Run conversion. Memphis hitters have been the recipients of 33 bases on balls, or almost five per game, yet only two of the 33 have crossed the plate.
Donovan Solano. The second baseman is just 3-for-18 (.167) on the young season.
Matt Carpenter. The major league spring sensation has begun his Triple-A career in a 5-for-26 (.192) funk. Carpenter is still looking for his first PCL extra-base hit.
Pete Kozma. The shortstop is perched on the Mendoza Line, batting .200 (6-for-30) in his Memphis debut week. With Kozma and Carpenter at the top of the lineup and opponents avoiding Hamilton, it is easy to understand the run-scoring drought.
P.J. Walters. After two starts, both losses, the right-hander has an ERA of 8.00.
On the Move
The Redbirds roster (always kept up to date at TheCardinalNation.com) underwent considerable change during the first week of the season.
The Tuesday night injuries to St. Louis relievers Brian Tallet and Bryan Augenstein enabled Eduardo Sanchez and Fernando Salas to join St. Louis. Salas, 25, had tossed three scoreless innings and picked up two saves for the Redbirds after saving 19 games for them in 2010. Sanchez, 22, made his big league debut for St. Louis on Wednesday night. The Venezuelan is The Cardinal Nation's fourth-ranked prospect.
To shore up the Redbirds' bullpen, Cory Rauschenberger was promoted from Springfield to Memphis, where he last pitched in 2008. The Cardinals organization acquired 30-year-old reliever Victor Marte from Kansas City's Triple-A Omaha club in return for future considerations. The right-hander made his Redbirds debut with a scoreless inning on Wednesday night.
Once again in 2011, outfielder Amaury Cazana is on loan to Minatitlan of the Mexican League.
On the Mend
Team stats and rankings – Season to date
The numbers tell the story. The offense is among the slowest-starting in the league while the pitching staff ranks among the PCL leaders.
|Memphis||Season||PCL rank||Memphis||Season||PCL rank|
|Offense||#||of 16||Pitching||#||of 16|
|Doubles||9||14th||HR allow||4||T4th fewest|
The 144-game PCL schedule consists almost entirely of four-game series, typically paired together for eight games at home followed by eight away.
The final game of the home set against New Orleans is Thursday afternoon before the Redbirds head out on their first road trip of the season. They play four against the Iowa Cubs before motoring west on Interstate 80 to take on the Omaha Storm Chasers (Royals) for four more starting next Tuesday.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at email@example.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Look for his weekly minor league column on Thursdays at FOXSportsMidwest.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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