Memphis Redbirds Notebook: 2013 Week 4

The Cards' Triple-A affiliate is in the midst of a tough road trip, but maintains a winning record.

Memphis Redbirds (2-5 this week, 13-12 overall)

The Redbirds started their 12-game road trip this week with a series in Nashville and Albuquerque. Offensively, Memphis struggled this week, scoring two runs or less in five games. The pitching staff did well, limiting the Nashville Sounds to eight runs in four games and holding Albuquerque to two runs in the first game.

The Saturday, April 27 game with Nashville was postponed and made up with a double-header on Sunday night with the road team winning both games. Left-hander John Gast (3-0) extended his Redbirds record for scoreless innings to 29 2/3, and has not allowed a run his six starts this season. Cardinals' 2012 first-round pick Michael Wacha allowed one earned run in his six innings this week and lowered his ERA to 1.86.

Two Redbirds were called up to St. Louis this week, Jermaine Curtis and Seth Maness, while relief pitcher Marc Rzepczynski was optioned to Memphis from St. Louis and had a not-so-stellar debut in Albuquerque.

April 25 at Nashville, 2-5 loss

Tyler Lyons made two starts this week, with his first one on Thursday night lasting a solid five and 2/3 innings. In the 6-foot-4 lefthander's fourth start, he struck out nine, and left a runner on second with two outs for Maikel Cleto. Cleto allowed that runner to score on a single and then walked three batters to yield another run. Giving up another run in the seventh, Cleto allowed three in 1 1/3 innings, and was replaced by Sam Freeman in the eighth. Freeman struggled as well, allowing two to score on a triple.

Offense was hard to come by as the Redbirds struggled. Memphis hitters drew four walks in the first four frames but never got past second until Adron Chambers scored from second on Oscar Taveras' single with two outs in the fifth. The Redbirds only added one more run as Jermaine Curtis sacrificed to get Brock Peterson home.

April 26 at Nashville, 1-2 loss

Game two of the Tennessee Lottery I-40 Cup was low-scoring like the first. Memphis lost on a controversial ninth-inning balk by Jorge Rondon. Starter Nick Additon allowed one run in five innings and struck out six. Additon turned the game over tied at one for Barret Browning. The lefty pitched a solid sixth inning, but was pulled in the seventh with two runners on and no outs. Keith Butler made his fifth consecutive scoreless appearance and got the Redbirds three quick outs with a force out and a double play.

Rondon came on in the eighth and retired four of his first five faced leading into the ninth with the game still tied. A one-out double followed by a groundout put the winning run at third for the Sounds. The next at-bat was the controversial balk call. Rondon delivered the pitch, and Cole Garner flied out to Oscar Taveras for the final out. Umpire Kellen Levy signaled the runner home, saying that the pitcher did not come to a stop in his delivery, as Nashville first baseman Sean Halton scored on the balk.

April 28 at Nashville, 1-0 win (game one, seven innings)

Because of rain, Saturday night's game was postponed for a double-header on Sunday. The overcast weather report damped the offense, as the two teams combined for just four runs in a 14-inning night. John Gast, who would be named The Cardinal Nation April Pitcher of the Month, staked his final claim by striking out seven in five frames. His changeup kept a lot of hitters off balance, as only four reached base (two walks, one single, one double).

The only offense Memphis generated was by centerfielder Taveras, who hit a solo shot against Mike Fiers in the third .Memphis threatened again in the fourth with one out and the bases loaded. Gast flied out, unable to get an insurance run for himself.

In the sixth, manager Pop Warner called on Victor Marte to relieve Gast and brought in Jamie Romak to play third, moving Ryan Jackson to short and replacing Greg Garcia. Marte allowed a single in the seventh, but retired six of seven for his fifth consecutive save.

April 28 at Nashville, 2-1 win (game two, seven innings)

Starting for the Redbirds in a pinch, Nick Greenwood contributed a solid three innings and did not allow a runner past second base. The Redbirds provided their first run of support for Greenwood in the third, when Travis Tartamella scored from second on a Justin Christian single with one out. After the third, nine of ten Redbirds were retired (one walk), and the club held onto a slim one-run lead into the final inning. After two straight fly outs to left field, the third time was the charm. Chad Huffman struck a home run deep into left field halfway up the Sounds' guitar in left field to extend the lead to 2-0.

Eric Fornataro received the save opportunity in the seventh, but got into trouble with runners at the corners and one out. A balk scored one, bringing back memories of Friday's loss. Fornataro retained his composure and kept the next two batters from hitting it out of the infield. The Redbirds win wrapped up the Tennessee Lottery I-40 Cup Series at 2-2.

April 29 at Albuquerque, 1-2 loss

For the fifth game in a row, the Redbirds hitting struggled, scoring only two runs. In the first six frames, hitters reached base three times, but each rally was killed by double plays. In the seventh, Kolten Wong and Taveras singled but were stranded. In the eighth, Greg Garcia stole second and scored on pinch-hitter Huffman's two-out double, but Huffman was left on second after a pitching change. In the ninth, Memphis had runners at the corners with one out but left those runners stranded as well with the score tied at one. The story of the game was the inability to drive in runners on base, as Memphis went 1-for-9 and Albuquerque went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position.

Wacha did a good job of minimizing damage after he faced bases loaded jams in the second and sixth innings. After allowing a solo shot and a triple in the sixth, Wacha got three outs and only surrendered one run. On the day, he yielded one earned run in six innings with three strikeouts.

April 30 at Albuquerque, 7-13 loss

Despite digging out of their offensive rut with a three home runs, the Redbirds could not keep up with the Isotopes after a six-run eighth. Lyons made his second road start of the week but did not repeat last Thursday's results. With two outs in the fourth, the Isotopes started a rally with a walk and a single to station runners at the corners. After a double and an inside-the-park home run, the Dodgers' Triple-A Affiliate had scored four. Another run off Lyons in the fifth put their lead at 5-0.

In the sixth, the Redbirds scored four to respond. Three were off Jamie Romak's home run, with a RBI single by Wong improving the score to 5-4. Two of Memphis' three home runs came in the seventh, a two-run blast by Huffman and a solo shot by Travis Tartamella.

In Rzepczynski's Redbirds debut, the lefty got through the sixth cleanly, but left two on in the seventh as Butler took over. The home team regained the lead and kept it with a six-run effort, led by a three-run home run, one of three for the Isotopes. Two runs were charged to Rzepczynski, four to Butler and two more to Sam Freeman, who finished up.

May 1 at Albuquerque, 6-4 loss (10 innings)

Nick Additon started against the Dodgers Triple-A Affiliate on Wednesday night. The lefty was scored on in three in the first four innings, one in the first off an RBI double, a second in the third with a home run deep over the left field wall, and a third run in the fourth that scored via a fielder's choice.

In the third, the Redbirds responded as Christian scored on a Romak ground out. In the sixth, Rob Johnson's single brought home Huffman, and put runners at first and second with one out. Chambers was hit by a pitch, and Additon was pulled for pinch hitter Taveras. With the bases loaded, Taveras hit his second pitch hit single of the season and scored two runners.

Browning relieved Additon and allowed a runner to score off catcher Tim Federowicz' double that tied the game at 4-4. Federowicz advanced to third on a grounder, but was left on base.

In extra innings, the dangerous catcher came up big, striking a towering, two-run home run into left center field on a 1-0 offering from Jorge Rondon. On the night, Federowicz was 3-for-4 with four runs batted in. It was the Redbirds' third extra innings loss in as many attempts.

Heating Up

Kolten Wong – The Hawaiian native leads the club with 29 hits, and has gone 13-for-30 against left-handed pitchers. With runners in scoring position, Wong has safely hit in nine of 20 at-bats (.429). The first-round selection from 2011 is 3-for-21 (.143) in the first inning of games, and then 26-for-78 (.333) from the second inning on.

Oscar Taveras - On the road trip, the centerfielder has nine hits in 24 attempts (.375) and hit a home run in Sunday's first game. A clutch two-RBI single as a pinch hitter in Wednesday's contest gave the Redbirds a lead. The top prospect has reached base safely in seven of his last eight games, while hitting in ten of 27 plate appearances (.370).

Chad Huffman – The February signee has performed well in his first season with the Redbirds, hitting 18-for-53 (.340) in his 21 games played, and 6-for-17 (.353) with runners in scoring position. On his 28th birthday (April 29), Huffman struck a pinch-hit double that was Memphis' only offense. Since April 28, Huffman has gone 5-for-11 with two home runs and a double.

Pitching Staff – Prior to Tuesday's game, Memphis held the third lowest ERA in the PCL with 3.60. After Albuquerque's 13-run outburst and Wednesday's ¬¬six-run contest, the team ERA rose to 4.03. In 14 games this season, the Redbirds have held opponents to four runs or less. Memphis has allowed 112 runs total and the fewest home runs in the PCL with 15.

Gast, The Cardinal Nation's April Pitcher of the Month, leads the staff and has not allowed a run this year. Wacha has the PCL's third-best ERA at 1.86.

Getting Cold

Jorge Rondon – The eighth-year pro was solid prior to this week, but lost three decisions this week. The Venezuela native has allowed four earned runs in last three appearances. Rondon gave up the balk on April 26, left the bases full before being pulled in the ninth on April 29, and yielded the two run home run to Federowicz on May 1.

Brock Peterson – The first baseman has no RBI since April 20th, and has struck out eight times in last 14 at-bats. On the road trip, Peterson is 1-for-17 with a double, three walks and eight strikeouts. After such a hot start at the plate, he has not hit well lately.

Team hitting – Over the last 12 games, the club has scored two or less nine times. In fairness, the Redbirds' last three opponents have given up the fewest hits in the PCL (Nashville is first, New Orleans is second, Albuquerque is third). Memphis' team average is .258.

Position Shuffling Update

With Curtis leaving for St. Louis, the infield situation has become a lot clearer. Ryan Jackson has started four of six games at third since Curtis' departure. Greg Garcia has split time between third base and shortstop with Jackson. This week, Romak played at left field twice and first base twice.

Warner has three catchers available with J.R. Towles' return, but only played Springfield call-up Tartamella and veteran Rob Johnson this week. The outfield situation is a puzzle as well. With Huffman hitting well lately, he has started three of the last four in left field, with a couple of pinch-hit appearances. Justin Christian has also started five of the last seven games, and played all three outfield spots this week.

Transactions

April 26: Third baseman Jermaine Curtis promoted to St. Louis
April 29: Catcher J.R. Towles taken off the D.L.
April 29: Pitcher Seth Maness promoted to St. Louis
April 29: Pitcher Marc Rzepczynski optioned to Memphis

Injuries

April 29: J.R. Towles taken off the D.L.

Looking Forward

The Redbirds will finish their series against Albuquerque on Thursday night and then complete their 12-game road trip with four in Omaha. The Storm Chasers have the third lowest ERA in the PCL. So far, this road trip has been marked by low-scoring by the Redbirds while facing three of the four teams with the fewest earned runs given up in the league. After the road trip, the Redbirds return to AutoZone Park to play Sacramento for four games.



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