The Memphis Redbirds generated more offense in the past seven days than they've had all year, which bodes well for the future. They couldn't seem to put it together in consecutive days, but it was enough for a 3-3 record on the week. Friday's game was the first rainout of the season that ended the series with the Zephyrs a day early.
The increased offense was due in a large part to hitting .353 with runners in scoring position (.118 the week prior) and combining for nearly twice the extra-base hits from last week. Memphis received some bad news when Matt Adams hyper extended his elbow on a swing Saturday night that kept him out through Monday. However, the injury isn't expected to be serious, and the first baseman is currently listed as day-to-day.
The Redbirds still rank in the bottom of the ranks in the Pacific Coast League in hitting, but the last six days have been a positive sign of the team breaking out. The team no longer resides in the cellar of the American Northern Division, moving ahead of the Nashville Sounds in the standings with a 6-12 record.
Tuesday, April 17th: New Orleans 3 at Memphis 1
Joe Kelly pitched six innings in a relatively uneventful game Tuesday night. Kelly gave up just one run off five hits and one walk. The right-hander was humming his fastball between 93-96 mph the entire game and hit 97 occasionally on the gun. Kelly mixed in a good curveball that he started to have a harder time locating more consistently in the last inning he pitched. Matt Adams managed one of the team's three hits and only RBI in the game.
Wednesday, April 18th: Memphis 7, New Orleans 5
Shelby Miller pitched like an ace (for the most part) for the first time this season as he struck out nine over five innings and gave up only one run. The Cardinals top prospect did have some command issues with four walks and a hit batsman, but the nine strikeouts are a huge plus. The offense finally came alive as Ryan Jackson, Amaury Cazana, and Skip Schumaker (rehabbing in CF) all had two singles, while Matt Adams added his fifth double of the year and Zack Cox his first.
Thursday, April 19th: New Orleans 3 at Memphis 2
A day after the Redbirds put up seven runs and nine hits, they managed just two runs off only one extra-base hit (a double by Pete Kozma that could have easily been called an error due to a misplay by the left fielder). The one through five hitters in the order went 0-for-14 and failed to establish any run scoring possibilities. Nick Additon had an inconsistent day on the mound as he walked just one in 6.2 innings, but he left a few pitches up in the zone that were hammered to the tune of three solo-home runs. Though going 0-for-4 at the plate, Matt Adams did come within a few feet of hitting his fourth home run on the year to right field.
Friday, April 20th: New Orleans at Memphis: Rainout
Saturday, April 21st: Memphis 12 at Iowa 7
The Redbirds pounded out 14 hits and scored 12 runs, nine of which came in the eighth inning, in what was their biggest offensive night of the season to date. The team fell two runs short of matching their full run total from last week's report. Adron Chambers had a long ball (his first) and double in the leadoff spot, while Zack Cox hit his second double, and Eugenio Velez was the star of the day with two doubles and a home run of his own. Every starting position player outside of Brandon Dickson reached base with a walk or hit. Dickson had his worst start of the season, lasting just four innings, as R.J. Swindle had the best pitching line with three strikeouts in two perfect innings.
Sunday, April 22nd: Iowa 2, Memphis 1
The Redbirds' offense just can't seem to manage two good days in a row. With Matt Adams out of the lineup, the Redbirds combined for just one run off three hits. The team struck out 10 times, and their only threat came in the ninth inning when Adron Chambers walked, moved to second on a passed ball, and then scored off a single by Cedric Hunter. Brian Broderick had a fairly solid outing on the hill after he went six innings and gave up two runs off six hits and two walks.
Monday, April 23rd: Memphis 6 at Iowa 2
Alas, the Redbirds on-again, off-again offense came alive again with four extra-base hits and 13 total hits. Ryan Jackson had the best night with four hits, one of which was a double. Adron Chambers, Pete Kozma, and Chris Swauger all had two hits. Joe Kelly continued his impressive start to the season by giving up two runs off seven hits and just one walk in seven innings. Kelly struck out three batters, recorded eight groundball outs, and picked off Josh Vitters at first base.
Ryan Jackson: The slick-fielding shortstop went 8-for-17 on the week with a double and two walks. Known for his defense, Jackson has put together enough offense over the past two seasons between Palm Beach and Springfield to be an interesting possibility as the next shortstop whenever Rafael Furcal's time is up with the Cardinals. Jackson is off to a good start this season.
Joe Kelly: Kelly combined for 12 total innings, nine strikeouts, two walks, and three earned runs for his two starts on the week. The former third rounder has been the best pitcher in Memphis and looks to make an impression with the Cardinals as he continues to post superb groundball numbers and a good strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Zack Cox: Cox has shown signs of breaking out of his slump by hitting safely in four of his five starts this week. Though he was just 4-for-19 during that stretch, he managed three doubles. Cox has also looked relatively good defensively at third so far this season.
Performance of Top Opposing Prospects (selected from Scout.com's Top 10 of each team)
April 17th, Miami Marlins
April 18th, Miami Marlins
3) Matt Dominguez (third base, great fielder, underperforming hitter with potential for average hitting and power): 1-for 3, one home run, one strikeout
April 19th, Miami Marlins
3) Matt Dominguez: 1-for-4
April 21st, Chicago Cubs
1) Brett Jackson (center field, five-tool player, solid gap power, strikes out too often): 2-for-5, one double, one strikeout
3) Anthony Rizzo (first base, plus power to the pull side, good patience, good defense, struggles against lefties): 2-for-5, three RBI, one strikeout
7) Welington Castillo (catcher, solid power, limited patience, average at best defensive skills): 0-for-1
8) Josh Vitters (third base, underperforming prospect, makes consistent contact but rarely walks, average power, fringe defense): 0-for-3, one strikeout, one walk
April 22nd, Chicago Cubs
1) Brett Jackson: 2-for-4
3) Anthony Rizzo: 2-for-3, double, walk
7) Welington Castillo: 1-for-4, RBI
8) Josh Vitters: 1-for-3, one strikeout
The Cardinal Nation Top 40
1) Shelby Miller: The best prospect of the system finally looked like an ace this week, despite a few command issues. Miller has struck out an impressive 25 batters in 18 innings but has walked eight batters and given up four long balls on the year.
5) Zack Cox: The former Razorback's batting line isn't pretty (.177/.227/.306) and has 19 strikeouts on the season, but he did manage three doubles over the past few games. No stranger to slow starts, the next home stand should be a good indicator if he's ready to break out.
7) Eduardo Sanchez: Sanchez has been as inconsistent as anybody on the team. After failing to make the Opening Day roster for the Cardinals, Sanchez has walked seven batters and hit four others in seven relief appearances. There are times that he's looked great, but one has to wonder if his shoulder is still bothering him with his command issues thus far.
9) Matt Adams: Adams got off to as good of a start as any in the Pacific Coast League but hyper extended his elbow this past Saturday. Though not expected to be a serious injury, Adams has sat out since that game. His .959 OPS leads the team by a comfortable margin.
13) Ryan Jackson: Already known for his slick fielding, Jackson is off to a good start in Memphis .318 batting average and six extra-base hits. Rafael Furcal lays claim to shortstop with the Cardinals, but Jackson isn't far away from being ready to contribute with the big club.
14) Maikel Cleto: Cleto has been another inconsistent relief pitcher with a 9.82 earned-run average in eight appearances. He maintains a solid 10:3 strikeout-to-walk ratio, so he looks to right the ship.
17) Adron Chambers: The speedy leadoff hitter hasn't shown his speed (1 stolen base, 1 caught stealing) but has shown solid patience with eight walks in 65 at bats.
18) Joe Kelly: Kelly has been the most consistent pitcher thus far in the season with an earned-run average of 2.35 and a very solid strikeout-to-walk ratio of 19:5 in four starts.
19) Adam Reifer: The right-hander has been an interesting player to watch throughout his minor league career. He sports a 5.40 earned-run average out of the pen and has flashed low 90s velocity with his fastball.
25) Bryan Anderson: The catcher was 1-for-37 last week and has a .125 batting average early this year. It's important to note that Anderson had a solid spring in trying to win the backup job, but he is off to an awful start offensively.
31) Jermaine Curtis: Jermaine has posted a very solid batting line of .318/.384/.439 with five walks in 19 at bats.
32) Brandon Dickson: The Alabaman has looked fairly solid on the hill with a 3.38 earned-run average in four starts this season. Dickson may be the first option should a starting pitcher go down in St. Louis.
35) Pete Kozma: Kozma has seen time at both second and shortstop this season and is off to a rough start. He maintains a .601 OPS with 16 strikeouts in 19 starts.
40) Chuckie Fick: The set-up man has a 1.80 earned-run average in 10 relief appearances and has been one of the more consistent pitchers out of the pen.
4/20: Skip Schumaker recalled to St. Louis. With Jon Jay injuring his shoulder, the Cardinals recalled Schumaker in what proved to be a short rehab stint in Memphis.
The Redbirds finished up the series in Iowa on Tuesday with Shelby Miller on the mound before returning to Memphis to begin their first 2012 series with the Omaha Storm Chasers (Royals). The Iowa Cubs will come into town following Omaha to begin a four-game set to finish off the homestand.
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