The Memphis Redbirds finished with four wins and two losses over the past week and had their first winning record of these reports. It was bound to happen sooner or later. Other than a blowout against the Omaha Storm Chasers (Kansas City Royals), the pitching staff did not allow more than four runs in any game. The offense remained improved over the first two weeks (helped in part by a rehab stint by Allen Craig) but still have a ways to go.
April saw its end with a shuffle in the American Northern standings as the Redbirds pushed past the Iowa Cubs on Monday night after taking the first game of the series. Memphis' record stands at 10-14, 6.5 games behind Omaha for first place, so they have work to do to chase down (no pun intended) Omaha for the division crown.
The Redbirds team earned-run average lowered to 3.98, which ranks seventh in the Pacific Coast League. Hitting still hasn't picked up to where it needs to be for consistently winning baseball as the Redbirds are still fifth from the bottom in batting average and OPS with a total line of .244/.310/357.
Tuesday, April 24th: Memphis 4, Iowa 0
Redbirds pitching earned their second shutout of the season, led by top pitching prospect Shelby Miller. The Texan made his second straight good start as he struck out six batters over five innings (60 strikes, 31 balls). Miller gave up five hits (four singles), walked two batters, and hit another. Maikel Cleto, Barret Browning, Chuckie Fick, and Nick Greenwood finished with a scoreless inning each.
Ryan Jackson, who is off to a hot start, and Zack Cox led the offense with two doubles apiece, while Bryan Anderson, who wishes he had Jackson‘s batting line, had his first multi-hit game with two singles and a double.
Wednesday, April 25th: Off-Day
Thursday, April 26th: Omaha 3 at Memphis 2
Eugenio Velez hit his second home run of the year in the seventh inning off Will Smith (not of Men in Black), an opposite field shot that tied the game. Allen Craig, who made his 2012 Memphis Redbirds debut rehabbing off of knee surgery, was placed in the designated-hitter spot and had two singles on the night.
Nick Additon kept the game close by pitching six innings of two-run ball as he yielded his fifth home run and scattered three doubles. The lefty struck out seven but has been bit by the extra-base bug this season, despite having a 3.52 earned-run average. Eduardo Sanchez tried to keep the game in check in the ninth inning but gave up an inside-the-park home run that hit the top of the right-field wall facing center field over the reach of the jumping Eugenio Velez.
Friday, April 27th: Memphis 5, Omaha 4
The Redbirds were held to just three hits until the eighth inning in what proved to be the most exciting finish of the season. Jermaine Curtis walked to lead off the inning, followed by Mitch Canham being hit by a pitch to put runners at first and second with no outs. With two outs and runners on second and third, Allen Craig lined a base hit up the middle to tie the game at three apiece. Matt Adams, who was making his second start after missing three games with a hyper extended elbow, hit an opposite-field, two-run shot (his fourth on the season) that cleared the fence on its way to the fans in the Bluff.
Brandon Dickson was hitting 87-90 mph on his fastball and was locating his curve well on the way to giving up three runs (two earned) in six innings. The right-hander struck out two and walked none. Eduardo Sanchez was sitting at 91-94 mph with his fastball but left the ball up in the zone that led to a run being scored off three singles in the ninth. Sanchez preserved the lead on the way to his fourth save of the season.
Saturday, April 28th: Omaha 12 at Memphis 4
The only fireworks for the Redbirds were after the game when both teams had left the field for fireworks night at the ballpark. Brian Broderick had one of the worst pitching lines of the year as he gave up six runs (four earned) off nine hits, two homers, and two walks in three innings. The bullpen didn't fare better outside of Jess Todd who pitched 2.2 shutout innings and struck out two batters.
Zack Cox hit his second home run of the year, Adron Chambers had four hits (one double), and the team put up 12 total hits, but they left 10 runners on base. The pitching also wasn't helped out by three errors made by Ryan Jackson (his third), Pete Kozma (his first), and Chris Swauger (his second), which led to three unearned runs.
Sunday, April 29th: Memphis 5, Omaha 4
Sunday's finish took the place over Friday's game against Omaha as the most exciting finish of the season. Pete Kozma launched a walk-off, three-run home run to left field to end the game and split the home series against the Storm Chasers.
Joe Kelly continued posting superb numbers and limiting runs with a groundout-to-flyout ratio of 10:3. Kelly gave up just one run over six dominant innings off seven hits (all singles) and two walks (one intentional). Allen Craig played the field for the first time as he took his spot at first base and went hitless in four at-bats.
Monday, April 30th: Memphis 5, Iowa 4
The Redbirds capped off April with a win over the Iowa Cubs in the first of a four-game set. Allen Craig played first base in his last rehab start in Memphis as he belted two home runs, driving in all five runs.
Shelby Miller made his fifth start of the year and picked up the win, despite walking four batters, giving up seven hits (one homer), and allowing four runs to cross the plate. Eduardo Sanchez struck out the side in the ninth to nab his fifth save.
Eugenio Velez: Velez has proven his resourcefulness by splitting time between second, third, and right field and has excelled at the plate as well. The utility-man went 8-for-21 on the week, went deep once, had two doubles, and struck out just twice. Velez has been one of the only consistent hitters in the lineup so far this year.
Adron Chambers: The centerfielder went 8-for-20 in the leadoff spot and walked three times, which helped to improve the offense over the past week. The speed still hasn't shown up in the box score in steals, but he's gotten on base at a nice clip.
Performance of Top Opposing Prospects (selected from Scout.com's Top 10 of each team)
April 24th, Chicago Cubs
1) Brett Jackson (center field, five-tool player, solid gap power, strikes out too often): 0-for-3, two walks, two strikeouts
3) Anthony Rizzo (first base, plus power to the pull side, good patience, good defense, struggles against lefties): 1-for-4
7) Welington Castillo (catcher, solid power, limited patience, average at best defensive skills): 2-for-4, one strikeout
8) Josh Vitters (third base, underperforming prospect, makes consistent contact but rarely walks, average power, fringe defense): 1-for-4, one strikeout
April 26th – 29th, Kansas City Royals
April 30th, Chicago Cubs
1) Brett Jackson: 1-for-3, two walks, one strikeout
3) Anthony Rizzo: 2-for-4, two RBI, one strikeout
8) Josh Vitters: 1-for-4
The Cardinal Nation Top 40
1) Shelby Miller: Miller went from good start to bad start this week and has an earned-run average of 5.09 due in large part to spotty control (12 walks in 23 innings) and giving up the long ball (five home runs). He has struck out 29 batters in 23 innings, so Shelby will look to May for improvement.
5) Zack Cox: The former Razorback has lowered his high strikeout rate, but he's still batting under .200 with a batting average of .195. With the decreasing strikeouts and higher slugging percentage over the past week, Cox will start to see more of his hits fall.
7) Eduardo Sanchez: The closer has five saves on the season but is still trying to find his control with eight walks and four hit batsmen on the season. His fastball velocity has been humming around 91-94 and the strikeouts are there (11 in 9.1 innings), but the wildness is still a concern.
9) Matt Adams: Though Matt has only hit one home run since the huge four-game stretch to start the season, the first baseman dealt with a hyper extended elbow that sidelined him for a few games. Adams remains the best hitter on the team.
13) Ryan Jackson: Jackson has flashed the glove and the bat this season, which bodes well for his future in this organization. The slick-fielding shortstop continues to prove that his hitting will play with a line of .294/.358/.388 this season.
14) Maikel Cleto: Cleto isn't hitting 100 mph, but he has been sitting in the mid-90s with a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 12:4 this season. His 7.71 earned-run average in his first 10 appearances aside, Cleto seems to have tamed some of his control problems.
17) Adron Chambers: Chambers has resembled a true leadoff hitter, despite only stealing one base on the season. His .372 on-base percentage has allowed the offense more opportunities to score over the past week.
18) Joe Kelly: Kelly remains the best Redbirds starter in 2012 as he lowered his earned-run average to 2.17 in five starts with a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 22:7 and has continued to post solid groundball numbers.
19) Adam Reifer: Reifer has been reasonably effective out of the pen with an earned-run average of 4.38 and nine strikeouts in 21.1 innings.
25) Bryan Anderson: Anderson has pulled his batting average over .100 but is still struggling with the bat. The catcher hasn't looked too bad behind the plate but has been one of the Redbirds' least productive hitters.
31) Jermaine Curtis: Curtis has posted solid numbers off of the bench (.280/.438/.320) but has yet to hit for power this season.
32) Brandon Dickson: Dickson hasn't been too far behind Joe Kelly this season with an earned-run average of 3.29 in five starts, though he has given up a large amount of hits (39 in 27.1 innings pitched)
35) Pete Kozma: Pete Kozma has a .640 OPS in 73 at-bats, which ranks third worst for players on the Redbirds with 20+ games on the season.
40) Chuckie Fick: Fick has continued his Redbirds success from last season to this as one of the most consistent pitchers out of the pen. Fick has saved one game on the season with a 2.53 earned-run average in 11 appearances.
4/26/12: Allen Craig assigned to Memphis Redbirds. Craig played three games in Palm Beach before making his way to the Memphis Redbirds in his last rehab stop before heading home to join the World Series Champions on Tuesday.
Memphis finishes off the final three games of the homestand against the Cubs before departing for Round Rock (Texas Rangers) in their first meetings of the season starting on Friday. Three of the next seven days will feature matinee games as the weather holds up before the onset of summer.
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