This report covers the period from Tuesday, June 5 through Monday, June 11, during which the Memphis Redbirds played six games and had a day off.
Manager Pop Warner's club opened the period with the final game of four at Omaha (Royals). After a travel day, the Redbirds played four at Albuquerque (Dodgers) before returning to AutoZone Park for the first of a three-game set against Nashville (Brewers). The Sounds came into Tuesday 15 games under .500 (25-40).
During this period, the defeats continued to pile up as Memphis went 1-5 and is currently in the midst of a four-game losing skid.
The Redbirds' current record has them 20 games below .500 at 22-42 (.344). In some unfortunate symmetry, their home and road records are identical at 11-21. Memphis is in last place in the four-team Pacific Coast League American North Division, 17.5 games behind first-place Omaha.
Tuesday, June 5: Omaha 5, Memphis 4
With the score tied 4-4 heading into the bottom of the eighth, Omaha took the lead and the game as reliever Chuckie Fick gave up a solo home run. The clubs split the four-game series. Jamie Romak and Eugenio Velez went 3-for-5 for the Redbirds.
Thursday, June 7: Memphis 12 at Albuquerque 6
Memphis scored seven runs in the final two innings to pull away. Eugenio Velez and Cedric Hunter each drove in four runs with two hits and two runs scored. Velez hit a three-run home run and a double. Garrett Wittels' first Triple-A at-bat was a pinch-hit triple that drove in two in the ninth.
Starter Nick Additon picked up just his second win in 12 starts by allowing three runs on seven hits and two walks in 5 2/3 innings.
Friday, June 8: Albuquerque 12, Memphis 0
The long ball did the Redbirds in. Nine of the home team's runs came via a trio of three-run homers. Andy Van Slyke's son Scott had one and former Cardinal Aaron Miles another.
In his return from St. Louis, Brandon Dickson took the loss. He allowed four runs, though only one was earned, on seven hits while walking one and striking out four in five innings. Lefty reliever Clay Zavada surrendered another eight runs, seven earned, on five hits in only one inning of work. The Redbirds collected just seven hits.
It was the sixth time the Redbirds have been shut out this season while their pitching staff has just three of their own.
Saturday, June 9: Albuquerque 2, Memphis 1
Albuquerque struck first against John Gast with an RBI single in the second. The Redbirds answered back when Eugenio Velez launched a solo home run in the third. In the sixth, the Isotopes scored what became the winning run on a force out.
Velez went 3-for-4 to lead the offense. Gast took his first loss for the Redbirds, giving up two runs on six hits in six innings while fanning a season-high eight batters.
Sunday, June 10: Albuquerque 17, Memphis 11
The Isotopes rallied in the eighth inning against reliever Jess Todd and took the series three games to one. Tied 11-11 heading into the bottom of the eighth, Todd could retire only one of the eight batters he faced, giving up six runs on three hits and a season-high four walks.
Albuquerque pounded out 19 hits and the Redbirds added 14 of their own. Eugenio Velez went 4-for-5 at the plate and Mark Hamilton hit his fifth home run of the season.
Monday, June 11: Nashville 10 at Memphis 4
Shelby Miller struggled again as Nashville jumped on Memphis' starter for four runs in the fourth inning via a pair of with two-run home runs. The Redbirds picked up two runs in the bottom of the frame off Eugenio Velez's double to left field.
After leaving the mound with two on and no outs in the fifth, Miller was charged with two more runs as Barret Browning allow both inherited runners to score. Pete Kozma drove in the Redbirds' final two runs in the seventh with a double to left field, but the Sounds took them right back via single tallies in the eighth and ninth innings.
Despite drawing 10 walks, the Redbirds couldn't get the key hit, going just 3-for-11 with runners in scoring position and stranded 14 men on base. Both the walk and runners stranded totals tied the team high this season.
On the Move
It was a very busy week for the roster with seven players coming and going.
6/7: RHP Fernando Salas recalled to St. Louis
6/10: RHP Joe Kelly's contract purchased by St. Louis
6/10: C Steven Hill optioned to Memphis
6/11: C Steven Hill placed on temporary inactive list
6/11: LHP Tyler Lyons transferred from Springfield
6/11: LHP John Gaub claimed off waivers from Texas
6/12: C Mitch Canham unconditionally released
6/12: 3B Zack Cox activated from disabled list
Salas rejoins St. Louis' bullpen and in so doing, the identity of the Redbirds' closer is up in the air. Until they create some opportunities, it may remain unclear. Kelly stepped in for Jaime Garcia in St. Louis and may not be back for awhile. Though the Redbirds still have five starters without him, Lyons was added from Springfield. Though not announced yet, Lyons could make his debut in the second game of Friday's double-header. John Gaub becomes the new fourth lefty in the pen, but has a leg up on the other three as he is on the 40-man roster.
On the position player side, catcher Steven Hill was optioned out from St. Louis, but went on the temporary inactive list before appearing in any game action. Third baseman Zack Cox was ready to come off the disabled list, making third catcher Mitch Canham expendable. Hitting .136 and throwing out just one of 12 potential base stealers didn't help, either.
Cedric Hunter. The outfielder is working an eight-game hitting streak, going 13-for-29 (.448) with 12 RBI during that stretch.
Pete Kozma. The infielder also has a current eight-gamer, though his totals are bit more modest – 10-for-32 (.313) with six runs scored.
Barret Browning. Though the lefty allowed two inherited runners to score on Monday, Browning has made 10 consecutive scoreless relief appearances, allowing just six hits in 11 2/3 innings. He has yet to give up a home run this season in 31 2/3 innings of work.
Shelby Miller. In his last five starts, the system's #1 prospect has really struggled. The right-hander has given up 22 earned runs, including nine home runs, in 21 innings.
Clay Zavada. The veteran lefty has not been fooling PCL hitters. He has allowed a whopping 16 runs, 15 earned, on 12 hits and five walks in his last 5 2/3 innings pitched (five games).
Aaron Bates. Also a veteran free agent signed after the season started, the first baseman just hasn't been getting it done. In 16 games as a Redbird, Bates has just one RBI and a line of .159/.213/.227/.440.
Bryan Anderson. The catcher is just 4-for-22 (.182) with no RBI in June and is lugging a .201 average for the season.
Team Who's Not
Lack of clutch hitting. This season, the Redbirds are hitting .231 with runners in scoring position and .197 with runners in scoring position and two outs.
The defense. The Redbirds lead the Pacific Coast League in errors with 63 on the season.
Serving meatballs. The pitching staff has yielded 68 home runs in 2012, tied for most in the PCL.
Pitching inside or wildness? The Redbirds lead the 16-team PCL in hit by pitches with 34. Only one other team has more than 26.
Not finishing what you start. In 64 games, the Memphis starters have yet to throw a complete game, one of just four teams in the PCL without any.
The closers. Memphis has just 10 saves on the season, tied for second-fewest in the league. Eduardo Sanchez had six during his demotion from St. Louis with the team's last save on May 29. That was collected by Fernando Salas, now also back with the Cardinals.
Pacific Coast League individual leaders
Velez is tied for ninth in the league with 14 stolen bases (in 19 attempts). The club has no other players in the PCL top ten in key offensive categories.
With his 2.86 ERA, Kelly led the PCL at the time of his promotion to St. Louis. Brandon Dickson at 3.14 is fourth. Shelby Miller is tied for fourth in the league with 70 strikeouts (in 61 1/3 innings) but is also tied for the most home runs served up with 14.
Team stats and rankings – Season to date
Memphis' team ERA of 4.78 is tenth among the 16 PCL clubs. They are right in the middle, eighth, in strikeouts and ninth in free passes issued.
The offense remains at the bottom of the heap. Its .249 batting average, 24 stolen bases and 108 doubles are last, its runs scored total is second to last and home runs are third to bottom in the league.
The Redbirds will complete their three-game set against Nashville (Brewers) on Wednesday before New Orleans (Marlins) returns to town for five games in four days. Friday will feature a double-header as a make up game for the April 20 rainout.
After a day off on Monday, June 18, the Redbirds travel right back to Omaha. In a scheduling oddity, it will be Memphis' second four-game series in the Nebraska city in the last three weeks. This time, they will be competing for fan eyeballs with the College World Series, being played across town.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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