Memphis Redbirds Notebook: 2012 Week 9

Memphis endured a scoreless inning streak to rival parent St. Louis, but still went 4-3 on the week.

Overview

After ending May with a 9-21 overall record, the Memphis Redbirds bounced back this week with a winning record for just the second time this season. Though nothing to get excited about, their 4-3 record over this week included two wins against the top-ranked Omaha Storm Chasers (Kansas City Royals).

Including being shut out two games in a row at home against Round Rock (Texas Rangers) and on the road at Omaha, the Redbirds endured a 25-inning scoreless streak. The offensive struggles included hitting just 9-for-62 all week with runners in scoring position, a dismal .145 batting average. In troubling news, Zack Cox was hit in head Wednesday night from a fastball that ricocheted so far off his helmet that it nearly went over the netting behind him. Though not seriously hurt, Cox was placed on the 7-day disabled list.

While hitting poorly with runners in scoring position, the Redbirds batting average stayed the same this week with a team overall batting average of .244 but saw an increase in their OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) by 12 points. The Redbirds' team ERA of 4.50 remained flat and is sixth in the Pacific Coast League.

Having just their second winning streak of any Redbirds report thus far, the Redbirds overall record increased to 21-37. They remain 12.5 games behind the Omaha Storm Chasers in the American Northern Division standings.

Game Summaries

Tuesday, May 29th: Memphis 9, Round Rock 8
Memphis took an early commanding lead through the first two innings led by a Eugenio Velez grand slam (his fifth home run) in the first and a Mark Hamilton two-run blast (third of the year) in the second. John Gast sailed through the first three innings without surrendering a run off two walks and a single but lasted just two more innings after his command faltered to the tune of three walks, six total hits, one homer, and five runs. A bases-loaded walk to Zack Cox brought home a much needed insurance run, as Nick Greenwood failed to retire a batter in the seventh inning and served up a three-run dinger to Joey Butler to bring the game within one run. Adam Reifer and Fernando Salas closed out the game with three scoreless innings.

Redbirds batters walked a total of 10 times throughout the game, led the way by Lou Montanez in the leadoff spot with a 2-for-3 day (one double) and two walks. Pete Kozma added his fifth double of the year, while Jamie Romak went 0-for-5 in the cleanup spot with two strikeouts.

Wednesday, May 30th: Memphis 4, Round Rock 3
The Redbirds took the second game of the series with another solid performance by Joe Kelly, who was sitting 92-94 mph with his sinking fastball throughout his entire seven-inning outing. The sink on his fastball was also extremely effective as he recorded 12 groundouts compared to three in the air. Kelly allowed two runs to cross the plate (one earned) off four singles, one triple, three walks, and two strikeouts. Fernando Salas preserved the tied game in the ninth with two strikeouts in a perfect inning to win his first game for Memphis once they scored what became the winning run in the bottom half of the inning.

Eugenio Velez once again went deep in what proved to be an important run with a solo-shot in the seventh inning. No crooked numbers went up on the scoreboard, as the Redbirds answered back each inning from the sixth through the ninth with a run to tie the game each time and then eventually win in walk-off fashion on a Bryan Anderson single that drove in Pete Kozma, who at second with a double. Zack Cox was nailed in the head by a fastball in the fifth inning and replaced by Eugenio Velez at third base. Cox walked to first base under his own power but was then taken out of the game.

Thursday, May 31st: Round Rock 9 at Memphis 3
Shelby Miller continued his struggles Thursday night in a performance that lasted just three innings. Miller got through the first without any troubles and retired the first batter of the second, only to see his command severely waver by walking the next three batters on just 13 pitches (How can guys lay off pitches that close?). A runner scored on a force out, and Miller walked another batter before he served up a grand slam on a monster shot to right field (Too high! Too high!). Shelby's final line was five runs surrendered off four walks, two hits, and three strikeouts through three innings.

Eugenio Velez drove in all three runs of the night with a bases-loaded double in the third inning. Velez added another double (his eighth), while Jamie Romak was the only other Redbirds batter to record two hits. Pete Kozma, Bryan Anderson, Aaron Bates, and Cedric Hunter went a combined 0-for-15 in the six through nine spots in the order.

Friday, June 1st: Round Rock 3 at Memphis 0
Round Rock split the four-game series on Friday night by shutting down the Redbirds and scoring three runs off just three hits. Nick Additon was Jekyll and Hyde in that he yielded just one hit but walked five total batters. Additon gave up the only two runs through his seven innings in the second via a sacrifice fly and a bases-loaded walk.

Lou Montanez and Cedric Hunter combined for six singles in the leadoff and ninth spot respectively but were failed to be driven home. No other batter recorded more than one hit, though Eugenio Velez drilled his ninth double and Bryan Anderson walked three times.

Saturday, June 2nd: Omaha 3, Memphis 0
The Redbirds were shut out for the second straight night and extended their scoreless streak to 24 straight innings. In Omaha, Memphis combined for only five hits, three of which came off Lou Montanez for the second straight day in the leadoff spot. Bryan Anderson, Eugenio Velez, Aaron Bates, Cedric Hunter, and Pete Kozma went a combined 0-for-17 in the five through nine spots in the order.

Brandon Dickson pitched a solid game after being sent down from St. Louis, though he fell short of the quality start by one inning. Dickson went five innings and saw one run cross home plate off three hits, two walks, and one strikeout. Brandon also recorded 12 of his 13 outs in the field via the groundball.

Sunday, June 3rd: Memphis 7 at Omaha 5
Memphis broke a three-game losing streak and 25 inning scoreless streak to best Omaha Sunday afternoon. The seven runs Memphis scored through four innings was more than enough to take the second game of a four-game set. Mark Hamilton blasted a solo-homer and Cedric Hunter added a three-run shot in the second inning, while Ryan Jackson belted his third bomb of the year to account for five runs scored. Jackson was surprisingly the only Redbirds batter to record more than one hit, as he had two singles in addition to his home run.

John Gast came back off Tuesday's poor outing to pitch 5.2 innings, as he surrendered two runs off eight hits, two walks, and one strikeout. Chuckie Fick and Nick Greenwood threw 2.1 scoreless innings, despite allowing six base runners, while Fernando Salas gave up a two-run home run to top prospect Wil Myers and three total runs in his inning of work.

Monday, June 4th: Memphis 5 at Omaha 1
Joe Kelly once again turned out a dominant outing, this time against the top team in the division. The groundball machine created 11 groundball outs compared to two in the air, while giving up only one run off seven hits, zero walks, two hit batsmen, and three strikeouts. Adam Reifer preserved the win with a perfect ninth inning.

Ryan Jackson belted his fourth home run in the third inning to give the Redbirds a 2-0 lead, which turned out to be all they need to best Omaha. Cedric Hunter legged out a triple, Pete Kozma drilled a double, but no Redbirds batter delivered more than one hit.

Montanez
Who's Hot

Joe Kelly: As solid as Kelly has been this season, no week matched this as the right-hander went 15 total innings and surrendered just two earned runs, walked four batters, and had a groundout-to-flyout ratio of 23:5.

Lou Montanez: After an initial sluggish start, Montanez responded by going 11-for-27 for a .407 batting average and six walks. Though the Puerto Rico native didn't hit for power with only one going for extra bases (a double), Montanez had the best batting average of any Redbirds batter this week.

Performance of Top Opposing Prospects (selected from Scout.com's Top 10 of each team)

May 29th: Texas Rangers
5) Neil Ramirez (RHP, 92-94 mph fastball, plus curveball, developing potential plus changeup, inconsistent command): 2.1 innings pitched, six hits, eight runs, four walks, two strikeouts

May 30th: Texas Rangers
2) Martin Perez (LHP, low-to-mid 90s sinking fastball, plus-plus changeup, above-average curveball, inconsistent control with secondary pitches): 5.2 innings pitched, five hits, one run, two walks, four strikeouts

May 31st: Texas Rangers
8) Tanner Scheppers (RHP, former starter, straight 95-98 mph fastball, plus curveball, inconsistent control): one perfect inning, no strikeouts

June 1st: Texas Rangers
8) Scheppers: 1.2 scoreless innings pitched, two hits, no strikeouts

June 2nd: Kansas City Royals
1) Wil Myers (outfield, good power, hits for solid average, very good patience, good speed, plus-plus arm): 0-for-4, strikeout

3) Jake Odorizzi (RHP, low-90s sinking fastball, average curveball, slider, and changeup, average-to-slightly-above average command, mid-rotation starter): five innings pitched, two hits, zero runs, four walks, four strikeouts

June 3rd: Kansas City Royals
1) Myers: 3-for-5, double, home run, two RBI

June 4th: Kansas City Royals
1) Myers: 1-for-3, home run, two RBI, strikeout

5) Mike Montgomery (LHP, low-90s fastball that he has trouble commanding, plus changeup, inconsistent curve): 4.2 IP, six hits, four runs, three earned runs, three walks, four strikeouts

The Cardinal Nation Top 40

1) Shelby Miller: The Texas native labored in his only start this week by walking four batters and giving up a grand slam. Miller lasted just three innings and continued struggling in a year he's trying to turn around, as he's walked 26 batters in 57.1 innings.

5) Zack Cox: After being belted in the head with a fastball that ricocheted off his helmet and nearly went over the top of the net, Cox only played one full game. His batting line stands at .209/.257/.349.

13) Ryan Jackson: The shortstop remained somewhat steady this week going 6-for-25 and being one of the few consistent batters the Redbirds have this season.

14) Maikel Cleto: Cleto made one last appearance against Round Rock in which he allowed one run in an inning before being called up to the St. Louis Cardinals. Cleto's 2.70 earned-run average in May will be missed in the Redbirds bullpen.

18) Joe Kelly: See "Who's Hot."

19) Adam Reifer: The California native gave up a solo-home run in one of his three appearances this week, which was his only earned run through five innings pitched. Reifer has been extremely effective against lefties this season to the tune of a 0.63 earned-run average over 14.1 innings compared to 7.04 against right-handers with three home runs surrendered.

20) Mark Hamilton: Though Hamilton hit his fourth home run of the year, he's still struggling, batting below .200.

21) John Gast: The southpaw was inconsistent in both starts this week and sees his earned-run average stand at 4.37 through four starts in the Pacific Coast League. His first two starts being quality starts, Gast will look to bounce back this next week.

25) Bryan Anderson: In what could turn out to be a lost season for Anderson, the backstop was limited to four starts this week and may see his playing time continue to diminish if his battling line of .200/.288/.258 doesn't improve.

32) Brandon Dickson: After a cup of coffee in the bigs, Dickson returned to the rotation to throw a solid start. His 3.27 earned-run average through nine starts will be welcome back to a pitching staff that has seem some struggles.

35) Pete Kozma: Though he belted three doubles, Kozma went 5-for-26 in seven starts this week. While looking good in the field, the middle infielder has struggled with the bat.

40) Chuckie Fick: Back with the ‘Birds, Chuckie Fick made three appearances this week and gave up three runs over 2.2 innings. Despite missing a few games while with the Cardinals, Fick is tied with Reifer with the most appearances out of the Redbirds bullpen with 24.

Transactions

5/31: Maikel Cleto promoted to St. Louis. Though he gave up a run in each of his last three appearances for Memphis, Cleto was extremely effective in May with a 2.70 earned-run average and strikeout-to-walk ratio of 22:5 in 16.2 innings, while hitting 94-97 mph on the radar.

5/31: Brandon Dickson returned from St. Louis. After appearing in two games for St. Louis, Dickson will once again join the rotation in Memphis.

5/31: Chuckie Fick returned from St. Louis. Also making two appearances out of the St. Louis pen, Fick will resume his set up role in Memphis.

6/1: Sam Freeman promoted to St. Louis. It didn't take long for Freeman to adjust himself to Triple-A baseball before being promoted for the first time to the Major Leagues. The southpaw posted a 4.50 earned-run average in six innings and allowed a .300 batting average against lefties in limited time. Freeman will try to help solve the bullpen woes in St. Louis.

6/4: Zack Cox placed on 7-day disabled list. After being struck in the head by a fastball earlier in the week, Cox was placed on the disabled list.

6/4: Garrett Wittels promoted from Springfield. After hitting just .208 in 77 at-bats for Quad Cities earlier, Wittels replaces Zack Cox until the latter is ready to come off the disabled list.

Upcoming

After finishing off their four-game set Tuesday afternoon with Shelby Miller on the mound, the Redbirds will travel to Albuquerque to face the Isotopes (Los Angeles Dodgers) for the first and only time this season before heading home to welcome their cross-state rival Nashville Sounds (Milwaukee Brewers).



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