The Memphis Redbirds displayed inconsistent offense at home against the Iowa Cubs but were able to take two out of three final games to split the four-game set. Redbirds batters were then almost completely shut down in Round Rock (Texas Rangers) as the club scored just one run in three out of four games to drop the series three games to one.
This past week, the pitching staff was led by a gem from Brandon Dickson on Wednesday night and a solid, yet somewhat short outing from Shelby Miller in Round Rock. The Redbirds were greeted with the return of both Mark Hamilton and Steven Hill, which should help the team's power deficit going forward.
Memphis remains in second place of the American Northern Division, ahead of the Iowa Cubs and Nashville Sounds (Milwaukee Brewers) but remain a staggering 8.5 games out of first place behind the Omaha Storm Chasers (Kansas City Royals) with a total record of 13-18. The Redbirds failed to build upon their winning record last week with a 3-4 record this period, which saw Omaha increase its already large lead by two additional games.
The team earned-run average increased to 4.25 on the year, which actually improved to sixth best in the Pacific Coast League. On the other hand, the Redbirds offense now ranks as worst in the league with a league-low batting average of .237 and slugging percentage of .343. To put that into perspective, the league leading Las Vegas 51s (Toronto Blue Jays) are hitting with a batting average of .311 with an impressive .465 slugging percentage. What may be the most embarrassing issue of the Redbirds offense is that they have four of the lowest 19 qualifying hitters in OPS (on-base percentage + slugging percentage) in the Pacific Coast League in Pete Kozma, Zack Cox, Amaury Cazana and Bryan Anderson.
Tuesday, May 1st: Iowa 13 at Memphis 4
Nick Additon put the Redbirds in an early 6-0 hole in the first inning by floating 85-88 mph fastballs up in the zone and hanging his curveball. In the first inning, the left-hander gave up eight total hits (two doubles in the inning to Brett Jackson alone) and threw 37 pitches that elicited just two swinging strikes. The offense wasn't able to make up the first-inning deficit by scoring just four runs on the night. Matt Adams drilled two doubles, one a pulled groundball down the right-field line and another a ball hit to the deepest part of the park in left center. Maikel Cleto inherited a bases loaded situation in the sixth and struck out two batters on a fastball that was hitting between 98-99 mph.
Wednesday, May 2nd: Memphis 2, Iowa 1
Brandon Dickson was the star of the night as he struck out 10 and walked none over eight innings of three-hit ball, while giving up just one run, a solo-shot off the bat of Luis Valbuena. The dominant start was the best of the season for Dickson who has been one of the Redbirds most consistent starters. The runs were driven in by Zack Cox and Bryan Anderson, both of whom went hitless on the night. Eduardo Sanchez finished out the game with a perfect ninth to earn his sixth save.
Thursday, May 3rd: Memphis 7, Iowa 6
An exciting game didn't start that way when Brian Broderick staked the Redbirds to a 6-2 deficit in the third inning, but the Redbirds offense stormed its way back to finish with a game-winning single off the bat of Eugenio Velez in the ninth inning. Steven Hill hit a no-doubter out of the park to left field in his first at-bat since returning from the disabled list to put the Redbirds on top in the first inning. He finished 2-for-4 with three RBI. Ryan Jackson lined his second double of the year and continued his hot streak by going 2-for-3 in the second spot of the lineup.
Friday, May 4th: Round Rock 8, Memphis 1
Memphis was routed in its first game of the year in Round Rock as Joe Kelly suffered his worst start of the season. The ground-ball specialist gave up seven hits and showed iffy control with four walks in five innings that led to four runs. Pete Kozma went 2-for-4 and Zack Cox went 3-for-4 (two doubles) in the eight and nine spots of the order as they were the only Redbirds batters to record more than one hit. The team combined to go 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and left eight men on-base, adding to their inconsistencies on the season in those categories.
Saturday, May 5th: Memphis 5 at Round Rock 1 (10 innings)
Memphis pitching returned the favor Saturday night led by Shelby Miller who struck out eight batters over 5.1 innings and gave up one run off five hits and three walks. Miller has failed to go six full innings in a start this season but racked up the strikeouts yet again. Adam Reifer, Barret Browning, and Eduardo Sanchez combined to strike out five batters over 4.2 scoreless innings. Memphis offense came around in the tenth inning that began with four straight batters reaching base on way to a four-run inning that Round Rock was unable to match in the bottom half. Matt Adams finished 3-for-5 on the night (all singles), while Cedric Hunter and Mark Hamilton (his second game since coming off the disabled list) both went 2-for-4.
Sunday, May 6th: Round Rock 5, Memphis 1
Redbirds offense was held to one run for the second time in three games in Round Rock. The offensive highlights of the night were a solo-shot that amounted for the only run off the bat of Matt Adams (his 5th), a single by Ryan Jackson, and a single and three walks from Pete Kozma. Nick Additon started the game and while not walking a batter, was still pounded for four extra-base hits, a problem that has plagued him throughout the season, and five earned runs. Jess Todd finished out the game with three strikeouts over two perfect innings.
Monday, May 7th: Round Rock 7, Memphis 1
Alas, the Redbirds were once again held to one run in Round Rock and surely couldn't wait to get back home. Brandon Dickson suffered his worst loss of the season by giving up five runs (three earned) off four hits (one homer) and two walks. 33-year old Amaury Cazana was the only Redbirds batter with more than one hit, while Adron Chambers and Steven Hill both had doubles as their sole hit of the day. Five Memphis batters went hitless on the way to the team hitting 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position.
Matt Adams: The power-hitting first baseman was at it again this week as he hit .318 in 22 at bats, walked four times, and added his fifth home run of the year. This was his first full week back since hyper extending his elbow. Adams sits atop the Redbirds batters in OPS by just over 100 points ahead of the speedy leadoff hitter Adron Chambers.
Adron Chambers: Chambers makes this list two weeks in a row and has excelled in the leadoff spot during that time period. This week, he amassed a .333 batting average with a .500 on-base percentage and stole his second base of the year.
Bryan Anderson: One can sense the growing frustration out of Anderson who is in the midst of his fifth season in Memphis. The former fourth-round pick of the 2005 draft is off to the worst start of his career and went 1-for-14 in the last week of play (four starts behind the plate).
Nick Additon: The left-hander gave up a staggering 13 runs in 9.2 total innings over two starts the past week. He walked just two and struck out seven batters, but he was drilled for eight extra-base hits, which has been a theme for him this year. The two starts bumped his earned-run average on the year to 6.06, which is now worst among the starting rotation.
Performance of Top Opposing Prospects (selected from Scout.com's Top 10 of each team)
May 1st, Chicago Cubs
1) Brett Jackson (center field, five-tool player, solid gap power, strikes out too often): 4-for-5, two doubles, two RBI, one strikeout
3) Anthony Rizzo (first base, plus power to the pull side, good patience, good defense, struggles against lefties): 1-for-5, one RBI, one walk, two strikeouts
8) Josh Vitters (third base, underperforming prospect, makes consistent contact but rarely walks, average power, fringe defense): 2-for-5
May 2nd, Chicago Cubs
1) Brett Jackson: 0-for-4
3) Anthony Rizzo: 1-for-3, one double, one strikeout
8) Josh Vitters: 0-for-3, two strikeouts
May 3rd, Chicago Cubs
1) Brett Jackson: 1-for-5, one RBI, two strikeouts
3) Anthony Rizzo: 1-for-4
8) Josh Vitters: 1-for-4, home run, two RBI, one strikeout
May 4th, Texas Rangers
May 5th, Texas Rangers
8) Tanner Scheppers (RHP, former starter whose injuries forced him to bullpen, straight 95-98 mph fastball, plus curveball, inconsistent control): 0.1 IP, one hit, zero runs, walks, and strikeouts
May 6th, Texas Rangers
May 7th, Texas Rangers
2) Martin Perez (LHP, low-to-mid-90s sinking fastball, plus-plus changeup, above-average curve, inconsistent control with secondary pitches): 7 IP, four hits, one earned run, one walk, four strikeouts
The Cardinal Nation Top 40
1) Shelby Miller: The Texan continued to strike out batters and had what actually was his longest start of the season this week. The bad news is that his longest start lasted just 5.1 innings as he dealt with inconsistent command again. His 4.45 earned-run average isn't that of an ace so far this year, but it is way too early in the season to start worrying.
5) Zack Cox: The third baseman's batting average dropped just one point from last week, so he's displaying some consistency. However, the consistency he's showing is a lack of hits and power with a batting average of .194 and slugging percentage of .327. As has been mentioned in earlier reports, Cox is no stranger to slow starts, but he's going to have to pick it up if he doesn't want to see his stock drop. Cox also totaled four errors over the past week.
7) Eduardo Sanchez: The closer threw two perfect innings over the last week and has shown better control. If he continues posting solid strikeout numbers and limiting his walks, the big club's confidence in him will grow for a possible promotion in the future.
9) Matt Adams: The Texas League MVP continues to be the Redbirds best hitter with another solid week. Adams leads the team by nearly 100 points behind second-place leadoff hitter Adron Chambers. Adams continues to gain acclaim as a prospect from other outlets and could battle for time with Allen Craig next season at first base with St. Louis.
13) Ryan Jackson: The former fifth-round pick saw his batting average dip to .277, but Jackson is still hitting well at a position that the Cardinals haven't been able to develop for a number of years. Jackson could see playing time with the Cardinals in 2013 with a chance at being called up this season.
14) Maikel Cleto: Cleto flashed upper-90s on the gun this week with good movement on his curveball when he utilized it out of the bullpen. The set-up man was scored upon in two of his three relief appearances this month, but he continues to post an above-average strikeout-to-walk ratio.
17) Adron Chambers: Chambers has been behind Matt Adams as the most consistent hitter in the lineup and has done it at a very important spot in the leadoff position. Chambers leads all current Redbirds hitters with an on-base percentage of .388.
18) Joe Kelly: Though he didn't turn out such an impressive performance this week by giving up three runs in five innings, Kelly maintains the best numbers of any Redbirds starter. Kelly kept up his impressive groundball percentage this week and is an intriguing option for the St. Louis Cardinals should something happen with one of their starters (knock on wood).
19) Adam Reifer: The right-hander lowered his earned-run average this past week to 3.60 and maintains a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 11:4. Reifer has been used 13 times out of the pen and could be utilized in St. Louis at some point this season.
20) Mark Hamilton: Blocked at first base by Matt Adams, Hamilton saw his first action of the season in left field and struggled by going 2-for-13 with four strikeouts.
25) Bryan Anderson: The catcher's struggles have continued over the past week as he remains the Redbirds least productive hitter. One can't help but feel for him as Anderson has not hit well since failing to make the 25-man roster as a backup to Yadier Molina.
31) Jermaine Curtis: Mark Hamilton was taken off the 7-day disabled list, which led to Curtis being demoted to the Springfield Cardinals.
32) Brandon Dickson: Dickson put up the best start of any Redbirds pitcher on May 2nd and rivals Joe Kelly as the best pitcher on the roster through early May. Despite failing to follow up his May 2nd game with a quality start, Dickson still boasts a 3.12 earned-run average and win-loss record of 2-2.
35) Pete Kozma: Spending the majority of time at second base this season, Kozma has struggled out of the gate offensively. Remarkably, his .623 OPS is fourth from the bottom of qualifying players on the Redbirds roster, which is indicative of how bad the offense has been. On the plus side, his defense has been rather good thus far.
40) Chuckie Fick: Fick has the most appearances of anyone out of the pen at 14 and has shown why with the reliability of a 2.63 earned-run average. Though he's struck out just seven batters in 13.1 innings, his control has been good with just three walks.
5/3: Chris Swauger assigned to Springfield Cardinals and Steven Hill brought off 7-day disabled list. Hill, who was out with plantar fasciitis, will spend time in a variety of infield and outfield corner positions in a utility role for the Redbirds.
5/4: Jermaine Curtis assigned to Springfield Cardinals and Mark Hamilton brought off 7-day disabled list. Hamilton will be used at DH when applicable, will play in left field, and will spell Matt Adams at first when he needs a day off.
Aaron Luna: As reported by Brian Walton, Luna could be back in action by mid-June if all goes well in his rehab from surgery to remove a bone in his right foot after he suffered a fracture last season. Luna should give the struggling Redbirds offense a boost upon returning.
The Redbirds will play the next seven games at home beginning with a four-game set against the Reno Aces (Arizona Diamondbacks). Memphis will then host the Colorado Springs Sky Sox (Colorado Rockies) in a weekend which will feature the best attendance of the year at AutoZone Park. These are the first games against both Colorado and Reno all season, so the Redbirds hope that they can turn their fortunes around against new competition.
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