Memphis Redbirds Notebook: 2013 Week 10

The first-place Redbirds had nine home games this past week, but won just four. Outfielder Justin Christian and reliever Marc Rzepczynski are among streaking players.

This week in Memphis: 4-5 (35-32 overall)

The Redbirds lost three of four to start the week against the Nashville Sounds and finished with a three-game win streak against the New Orleans Zephyrs. This was a busy week for Memphis, as there were nine games played in seven days, all at home, including a suspended game and a make-up.

Overall, it was a disappointing outcome to the week (4-5). Nashville has not played that well this year (19-39 prior to Memphis series), which seemed to offer a good opportunity to grab two or three wins. The Redbirds remain in the division lead, four games ahead of Iowa.

June 6 vs. Nashville, Loss 1-2

The Redbirds could not score the tying run from second after shortstop Greg Garcia hit a lead-off double to start a ninth-inning rally. 24-year-old prospect Richard Castillo took the loss despite a good performance on the mound. He only yielded one run in six frames. The Sounds' run was scored in the fourth with two outs on a softly-hit ball into left field. Castillo has not won a game yet in Memphis, but has never allowed more than two runs in a game.

Nashville added another run to their lead in the eighth against Marc Rzepczynski. Although the Redbirds' pitchers did well, so did the Sounds' pitchers. Adron Chambers scored on Ryan Jackson's double for the only Memphis score.

June 7 vs. Nashville, Win 2-1

Carlos Martinez allowed his first run as a member of the Redbirds in his 4 1/3 frame start. The run came in the fifth when a runner scored from second on a single that was smacked right up the middle to bring the Sounds within one. The 21-year-old prospect's fastball was hitting 94 mph frequently and he struck out a couple of hitters with pitches as fast as 96 mph.

Martinez left the game with runners on first and second with one out in the fifth. Sam Freeman relieved him and collected the last two outs. Jorge Rondon came on in the seventh and did not allow a run in his two frames. Closer Victor Marte pitched for the first time after his nine-day stint in St. Louis and earned his 45th career save, establishing the franchise record for saves.

Both Memphis runs were scored in the second due to Nashville's fielding mistakes. Jermaine Curtis smacked a groundball right to the third baseman, who was not able to handle it as it ricocheted towards the stands. Curtis reached second on the play and scored on Justin Christian's single. Three batters later and with the bases loaded, Adron Chambers softly hit a grounder toward the pitcher, who was unable to throw out the runner at home as the eventual winning run crossed the plate.

June 8 vs. Nashville, Loss 1-7

Mitchell Boggs got the nod for his second start this season. The reliever-convert had his longest outing of the year with four frames, but allowed a run in each of the first three. With two outs in the first, an attempted pick-off throw to third was out of Curtis' reach and scored the runner. Boggs' second run allowed was a result of hitting Khris Davis on the first pitch with the bases full. The third run Boggs yielded was via an RBI-double on a 1-2 offering left hanging over the middle of the plate.

Starter Nick Additon relieved Boggs to save the bullpen, but ended up blowing the game. Additon walked six, served up two home runs, and four runs total in 4 1/3 frames.

June 9 vs. Nashville, Loss 3-5

Despite jumping out to an early one-run lead in the third frame, the Redbirds could not hold on. Scott McGregor struggled, allowing all five runs for the Sounds, and has yielded four or more runs in his last three starts. Nashville's five runs came on two swings. A two-shot home run in the third tied the game and a three-run blast put the lead at two in the fifth. Both were served up by McGregor. Reliever Freeman threw two scoreless frames and Blazek pitched through the ninth.

The scoring started in the second after Curtis battled for a seven-pitch at-bat and launched a two-run shot over the left-field wall. One more tally scored for Memphis in the third on Christian's RBI double in the right-center gap.

June 10 vs. New Orleans, Loss 2-7 (Make-up of suspended game April 10)

(We begin with a recap of the April 10 action, including a number of players no longer on the team.) The windy conditions affected the flight of the ball, making some long fly balls even longer. The forecasted rain picked up and was coming down hard by the eighth. Players had to adjust to a soaked, slower infield and outfield grass. After the Zephrys scored four in the top of the 12th, the game was stopped due to the rain.

The Redbirds held a 2-0 lead going into the ninth, but Marte blew his third save of the year. Earlier, John Gast turned in another solid scoreless effort, going six innings and striking out five. Gast's off-speed pitches kept hitters off balance and resulted in a lot of groundballs.

Eduardo Sanchez relieved Marte and pitched two hitless extra innings, registering as fast as 94 mph on the radar gun. Nick Greenwood had another rough outing and got the loss, allowing three hits and four earned runs and only getting one batter out. After Greenwood walked a player intentionally to load the bases, Nick Green struck a triple to center field to score all three.

Memphis scored two runs in regulation, in the third and seventh innings. Taveras drove in the first runner on an RBI single and then catcher J.R. Towles stroked a solo shot that carried over the bluff in left field.

As the game was resumed on June 10, the Zephyrs added one more run on a sacrifice fly, but the Redbirds could not do any damage, as they were retired in order to conclude the loss.

June 10 vs. New Orleans, Loss 4-5

Three home runs were not enough for the Redbirds to catch up to the Zephyrs, and Memphis lost its second one-run ballgame this week. Brock Peterson drove a home run to the opposite field to tally two runs in the first and Kolten Wong hit one to right-center in the fifth to cut the lead to one. Chambers' one-out solo shot in the ninth put Memphis one run behind again, but Wong and Taveras were retired to prevent the comeback.

Maikel Cleto made the start for Memphis, and came into the ball game with five straight starts with at least five frames. This time, the converted reliever lasted six innings and yielded four runs.

In the first, Cleto was in trouble with runners at the corners and nobody out. Two straight singles tallied two runs, but Cleto retired the next three including two strikeouts. With the score tied headed into the fourth, Cleto's lack of control hurt him as a wild pitch allowed a runner to score from third. In the fifth frame, the New Orleans' third baseman took advantage of a meatball pitch and launched a solo shot over the left field wall.

Rondon relieved Cleto and allowed his first run in June after yielding a lead-off triple that would score on the subsequent single. Ultimately, Cleto struggled with his control, but registered seven strikeouts. When the Dominican Republic native finds a way to sacrifice some of that upper-90's velocity to pinpoint pitches, he could become a solid starter.

June 11 vs. New Orleans (game one), Win 9-2

Boone Whiting pitched a complete game in the opening game of the doubleheader and received nine runs of support in the first two frames. The Redbirds scored four runs in the first inning, two from Oscar Taveras' double, one from Garcia's double, and Curtis scored from third on a fielding error.

The second inning only got worse for Zephyrs' starter Doug Mathis, as Memphis scored five runs on the pitcher who had not allowed a run in his previous three starts. Chad Huffman opened the inning with a solo home run, and the Redbirds scored four more with two outs. Garcia had another RBI double to score Taveras, and Rob Johnson went yard with two runners on for his second home run in three nights.

Whiting only allowed two runs to score, both in the second frame, via a two-out RBI double deep into center field. The 23-year-old has pitched 12 frames in his two June starts with 11 strikeouts and three earned runs.

June 11 vs. New Orleans (game two), Win 5-4

Backup catcher Travis Tartamella came up big in the twinbill finale with a game-winning RBI single in the seventh. With two outs and the bases loaded, Tartamella struck the first pitch right back up the middle, enough for Peterson to score for the win.

Memphis built an early three-run lead in the third, tallying two in the first and two in the third. In the first, Huffman hit a two-out RBI single and a ball passed by the catcher to allow Jamie Romak to score. In the third, Romak lofted the 2-1 offering onto the bluff past left field to score Peterson. The home run marked the Redbirds' eighth in the past five games.

Richard Castillo started and turned in 5 1/3 frames with two runs scored against him. A double in the second tallied a runner and he was charged with one in the sixth after he left the game with a runner on first. Reliever Michael Blazek yielded three singles in the inning to score three runners to tie the game at four apiece. Marte earned the win for pitching in the seventh and retiring the side to keep the Redbirds in position to win.

June 12 vs. New Orleans, Win 9-3

The Redbirds beat the Zephyrs for the third straight time, winning behind seven doubles and a solid six frames from Carlos Martinez, who picked up the win and only yielded two runs.

New Orleans scored first to start the game after the speedy lead-off hitter Gorkys Hernandez scored from third on a single. Martinez retired 16 of the next 19 batters before plunking a batter, then yielding back-to-back singles with two outs to score one more run.

Eric Fornataro replaced the prospect in the seventh, but allowed Hernandez to score again on a solo home run. Freeman relieved Fornataro and struck out four in two frames to finish the game.

Seven different Memphis hitters scored on Wednesday night for a great team effort. Christian crossed the plate after back-to-back doubles in the second inning. Two runs tallied in the third - one on a bases-loaded walk and another on a one-out groundout. Two runs were scored in the fifth, sixth, and seventh innings to put the Redbirds ahead by six.

Heating Up

Justin Christian – Four multiple-hit games this week out of five starts means Christian is batting .447 and has 17 hits in 38 at-bats since June 1. Prior to June, the 2012 free-agent signee was batting .269, but has raised his average to .299.

Sam Freeman – Allowed one run in his last eight appearances over 13 frames. In three games this week, the lefty has struck out seven in 4 2/3 innings, with no hits allowed (last was on May 30).

Marc Rzepczynski - Allowed one run in his last ten appearances in 10 1/3 frames. The 27-year-old has only yielded two earned runs at home this season in 11 home games, but has allowed five runs in 9 1/3 road frames.

Out-scoring opponents early - Throughout the season, the Redbirds have outscored opponents 133-60 in the first three frames. When the Redbirds score first, their record is 27-12 and that increases to 29-5 if the Redbirds have the lead going into the sixth frame.

Getting Cold

Brock Peterson – Six hits in 24 at-bats this week with only three RBIs and ten strikeouts. His high strikeout total may be an indication of swinging for the fences, but Peterson has been solid most of the year and is a safe bet to produce runs.

Jamie Romak – Normally an extra-base hit machine, Romak had only one this week - his June 11 home run. This week, the veteran outfielder had five hits in 19 at-bats with nine strikeouts.

Roster Updates

The outfield has returned to its opening-day status with the return of Taveras and Huffman. The starting rotation is still in St. Louis, where they have performed well. Starters from Springfield (McGregor, Castillo, Whiting) improved over last week and the relievers converted to starters (Cleto and Boggs) both are pitching for more innings in their starts to relieve some pressure from the bullpen.


Oscar Taveras got his first action since May 12 on June 7.
Chad Huffman played on June 9 after missing 12 straight games.


June 6: Pitcher Kevin Siegrist promoted to St. Louis
June 6: Pitcher Maikel Cleto optioned to Memphis
June 7: Pitcher Ramon Delgado placed on disabled list (retroactive to June 5)
June 8: Outfielder Oscar Taveras activated from disabled list
June 9: Outfielder Chris Swauger sent to Springfield
June 9: Outfielder Chad Huffman activated from disabled list
June 10: Infielder Vance Albitz sent to Springfield
June 10: Pitcher Eric Fornataro activated from disabled list

Looking Ahead

Memphis finishes the series with New Orleans on Thursday afternoon before heading on the road for back-to-back series against Albuquerque and Round Rock. The Redbirds have struggled against Albuquerque, dropping seven of nine games. Memphis split its series with Round Rock in AutoZone Park this year.

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