Memphis Redbirds Notebook: 2013 Week 6

The first-place Redbirds head on a West Coast road trip with Ryan Jackson among the hottest hitters.

Memphis Redbirds (2-4 this week, 20-17 overall)

This week, Memphis did not take advantage of the home stand but still managed to move a game ahead of Omaha for the American Northern Division lead. Although suffering four losses, Memphis hitters found some power at the plate, hitting seven home runs. The Redbirds won the close-out games of the series against Sacramento and Fresno to avoid a series sweep against Fresno.

May 9 vs. Sacramento, Loss 3-5

John Gast made his last start in Memphis before his major league call-up on Sunday, and it was his worst start of the year. In the third frame, Gast yielded three of the five runs, one from his own throwing error, a sacrifice fly, and a single to right that scored a runner. The River Cats plated two more in the fourth on a two-out, two-run double to put five on Gast, who was pulled after the fourth. Four earned runs were more than he had allowed in his seven starts this season in total.

Relief pitchers Sam Freeman, Jorge Rondon, and Mitchell Boggs combined to throw five scoreless innings to keep Sacramento in check, but the home team could not string a rally together. Memphis scored one run in the sixth on Jamie Romak's solo shot, his sixth home run of the year. Adron Chambers tripled in the third and scored on a throwing error. Oscar Taveras drove Justin Christian home on a sacrifice fly in the ninth, but the Redbirds came up short in the only loss against Sacramento in the series.

May 10 vs. Sacramento, Win 10-3

Friday night's game was all about the long ball, as four different Redbirds stroked a home run. In the first frame, Taveras pulled a high-and-away fastball just over the right field fence for a solo shot. For his own 25th birthday present, third baseman Ryan Jackson drove the first pitch he saw down the left field line with a runner on that put the score at 3-1.

Starting pitcher Michael Wacha made another solid start and kept his pitch count low. He threw 86 pitches, only 30 of them balls, in his six innings of work. Last year's first-round pick did yield a solo home run in the second, and allowed another run to score on a sacrifice fly in the third frame.

In the bottom of the sixth, the Redbirds extended the two-run lead with back-to-back home runs. With Jermaine Curtis on first, J.R. Towles lofted the ball just over the left field wall to round the bases. Christian smoked the next pitch halfway up the bluff in left field to put the lead at five. Taveras drove two more runs in with a double in the eighth, and scored from third on Jackson's double to push the lead to eight before Sacramento added one against Fornataro in the ninth.

May 11 vs. Fresno, Loss 5-6

Fresno won the first game of the series and the reason was their six-run sixth inning. Starter Tyler Lyons made it into the sixth and allowed a two-RBI double with no outs, and a throwing error by Curtis scored another run. With runners at the corners, Rondon was brought on, and Grizzlies third baseman Chris Dominguez drove both in with a home run.

The Redbirds scored five in the first three innings, but could not convert the tying run from third base in the sixth with two outs. Romak doubled in the first to score two runs, both Lyons and Chambers drove a run apiece in the second, and Jackson scored in the third. This loss was unusual for the Redbirds, as the team is 15-3 when scoring the first run.

May 12 vs. Fresno, Loss 4-7 (11 innings)

Nick Additon started and threw five good innings after a rough two-run first. A lead-off single was brought home by a double and another scored on a single. After the three hits in the first, the imposing six-foot-five left-hander only allowed two singles in the rest of his six innings, including striking out the side in the fifth.

Ryan Jackson tied the game at two with a ground-rule double in the third that scored Taveras. Outfielder Christian scored Jackson on a double to give the Redbirds the lead. In the sixth, Chad Huffman was called on to pinch-hit for Additon, and he delivered a solo home run to give Memphis a two-run cushion.

That lead did not last for long. Eduardo Sanchez served his first pitch of the evening to Dominguez, who struck his second home run in the second game of the series. From there, Sanchez walked two and a single scored another before Freeman was called upon to finish the inning.

Eric Fornataro, Victor Marte, and Marc Rzepczynski pitched the Redbirds into the 11th without allowing a run, before Barret Browning came on. In a rough outing, Browning allowed a walk and three straight singles to score two runs, then a two-out single to score the third tally.

A three-run 11th inning by the Grizzlies was too much for the Redbirds to overcome as they dropped their fifth extra-innings decision in six attempts.

May 13 vs. Fresno, Loss 3-4

Maikel Cleto toed the rubber for Memphis, and his fastball was scary, reaching the upper 90s frequently. In the second, he yielded a home run to Dominguez, his third against the Redbirds in three games. Cleto was pulled after he loaded the bases with no outs in the sixth, and those three scored, Cleto was attributed with four earned runs on the day and the loss.

It was close, however, as Memphis scored two in the third, as the Redbirds filled up the bases with no outs. Christian was walked in, and Huffman singled Kolten Wong home with two outs, but Fresno pulled ahead with a three-run sixth inning.

Jackson extended his hitting streak to seven games, and drove in a runner in the seventh with a single. However, none of the next seven Redbirds reached base to threaten the one-run Grizzlies' lead.

May 14 vs. Fresno, Win 4-3

Boone Whiting made his Triple-A debut for Tuesday afternoon's game in the vacant spot in rotation that Gast left behind. Nerves were clearly an issue for the 24-year-old as he walked the first two batters, but a familiar face from Springfield helped him out of the inning. Catcher Travis Tartamella had a conference with the pitcher, and Whiting regained his control. Two fly-outs later, a run scored, but that is all the damage the Grizzlies would do against Whiting. After five frames of service, Whiting gave a 4-1 lead to Rzepczynski in the sixth.

Recently returned from Springfield, Vance Albitz drove in a run with a single in the second. In the third, Jackson brought Kolten Wong home from first with a double, then Brock Peterson drove in his first home run since April 20 to score two more runs.

Scrabble took over in the sixth, but yielded a solo shot to Cole Gillespie with one out. Fornataro pitched two scoreless innings to give Marte the save opportunity. Marte allowed three straight singles and one run to score before he struck out two of the next three to get the save.

Heating Up

Ryan Jackson – The fifth-year pro is riding an eight-game hitting streak. If it were not for a change in the scoring from a single to an error in the May 5 game, Jackson would be on a 14-game hit streak. Since May began, Jackson has hit 23-for-50 (.460) with seven doubles, a home run, seven RBI and scored eight times. He has raised his team-leading batting average from .337 to .372 over this week to the fifth-highest in the PCL.

Victor Marte – Before allowing a run Tuesday afternoon, Marte had pitched 13 scoreless innings in his previous 12 appearances. In May, Marte has seven frames pitched for a 1.29 ERA, converted all three save opportunities, on just five hits (three on Tuesday) and 13 strikeouts.

Kolten Wong – The second baseman has extended his current hit streak to eight games, and over the entire season has already had four five-game hitting streaks. The Hawaiian native co-leads the team in runs at 22, stolen bases with five, and has the most hits with 47. Wong is solid at the plate and also at second base, as he has not committed an error this season.

Sam Freeman - After early-season struggles, the left-hander has strung together some solid outings. Freeman has not allowed a run in May. In five appearances, he has pitched 7.2 innings and only allowed two hits.

Former Cardinals in the bullpen – Marc Rzepczynski and Mitchell Boggs have pitched well since being optioned to Memphis. Aside from a bad pitch left hanging over the plate for a home run by a hot hitter, Scrabble has not allowed a run in May. He has pitched in six games for 8 1/3 innings with one run and seven hits (three in one game). In five appearances, Boggs has pitched five innings without yielding a run.

Getting Cold

Jermaine Curtis – Since he returned from St. Louis on May 5, the third baseman has struggled from the plate, going 6-for-28 (.214) with two RBI and no extra-base hits. On Sunday, California native Curtis committed a throwing error for his third this year, only trailing Greg Garcia's four.

Extra-innings focus - The Redbirds have lost five of six games that went into extra innings after giving up a three run 11th to the Grizzlies on May 12.

Fielding – Four errors were committed this week with two by pitchers. The Redbirds have 21 on the year and still lead the PCL for fewest.

Roster Updates

Because Gast was moved to St. Louis, Whiting moved up from Springfield to take his spot in rotation. Infielder Vance Albitz moved up from Springfield to fill Garcia's spot because he went on the 7-day disabled list. With Chambers' injury, Romak should play some right field this week, as well as the Huffman, Taveras and Christian combination in outfield. Tartamella and Towles have been splitting time due to Rob Johnson's concussion.

Transactions

May 11: Catcher Travis Tartamella transferred to Memphis from Springfield
May 12: Infielder Vance Albitz transferred to Memphis from Springfield
May 13: Pitcher John Gast's contract was purchased by St. Louis
May 13: Pitcher Boone Whiting transferred to Memphis from Springfield

Injuries

May 8: Catcher Geoff Klein was promoted from Class A Peoria, but placed on the disabled list before ever playing
May 10: Catcher Rob Johnson was hit in the head by the follow-thru of a swing and was pulled in the sixth with concussion-like symptoms.
May 11: Shortstop Greg Garcia placed on 7-day disabled list.
May 13: Outfielder Oscar Taveras hurt his right ankle sliding into second on a steal attempt; he is listed as day-to-day and can play on the upcoming road trip.
May 14: Outfielder Adron Chambers was hit by a pitch on the outside of his right knee in the bottom of the first and was helped off the field.

Looking Forward

After a day off on Wednesday, Memphis goes on the road to play in Tacoma and Salt Lake. Tacoma collectively has a big swing, with the second most home runs this season in PCL with 44, but has also struck out nearly 80 more times than any other team. The first series will be a good pitching match-up, Tacoma is also a solid pitching staff, with the lowest ERA 3.59, beating Memphis' 3.76.

Salt Lake does not have the strongest pitching staff, as they are one of the five teams in the PCL with an ERA about 5.00, and have allowed the fourth-most runs in the league.



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