It was a busy week at AutoZone Park full of rain delays and doubleheaders, but the Memphis Redbirds emerged holding a 4-3 record for the week.
The Redbirds dropped three of their first four games to the Oklahoma City Redhawks (HOU), but finished strong by winning three straight over the Iowa Cubs, including both games of a late-night doubleheader Wednesday and a nationally televised Thursday contest featuring a one-hitter by Memphis' Tim Cooney.
The Redbirds' record is now an even 27-27 on the season, tied with New Orleans (MIA) for second place in the American Southern Division of the Pacific Coast League. The Nashville Sounds (MIL) hold the division lead with a record of 29-26.
May 23: Oklahoma City at Memphis, Oklahoma City wins 12-10
The Redbirds scored eight runs in the eighth, but were unable to overcome an 11-0 deficit as they fell 12-10 in a high-scoring Friday night contest at AutoZone Park.
Tim Cooney was taken out after giving up six earned runs and 12 hits in four innings pitched, but it was to no avail as reliever Justin Wright stepped to the rubber and allowed four earned and five hits in 1 2/3 innings.
A right field homer from Domingo Santana capped off the Oklahoma City run at 11 in the top of the seventh, then Memphis finally got on the board with a Greg Garcia RBI single and a wild pitch that scored Tommy Pham. The Redbirds exploded for eight runs in an eighth inning that featured a three-run bomb from Oscar Taveras that brought Memphis within one, but OKC added another in the ninth and the Redbirds were unable to complete the comeback.
Pete Kozma led Memphis in hitting, going 3-for-4 with an RBI. Garcia and Taveras each hit twice and brought home two and three runners, respectively.
May 24: Oklahoma City at Memphis, Oklahoma City wins 10-4
For the second game in a row, Memphis' pitchers struggled to slow the Oklahoma City offense. As a result, the RedHawks took away a 10-4 victory in the second game of the series.
The Redbirds had a productive first inning with Oscar Taveras firing a line drive right through the middle to score Greg Garcia and give Memphis an early lead, but a pair of solo homers from Domingo Santana and Adron Chambers in the second gave OKC a lead they would refuse to relinquish. The RedHawks' lead ballooned to 10-2 until the eighth when Xavier Scruggs lined a single to right field to plate both Stephen Piscotty and Scott Moore.
The Redbirds were unable to attempt a ninth inning rally after the game was called in the top of the final inning due to heavy rain.
Scruggs was dominant offensively, going 3-for-3, walking once, and leading Memphis with two RBI. Domingo Santana crushed two home runs on the evening for Oklahoma City. Zach Petrick took the loss, giving up five earned runs and 11 hits in 5 2/3 innings pitched. Jorge Rondon struggled in relief, allowing three earned, four runs, and three hits in 1 1/3 innings on the mound.
May 25: Oklahoma City at Memphis, Memphis wins 3-2
The Redbirds racked up all three of their runs in the third inning as they downed the RedHawks 3-2 for their first win of the series.
Randal Grichuk doubled to score Ed Easley and Luis Mateo, then Stephen Piscotty followed with a grounder to center to bring home Grichuk and give the Redbirds a 3-0 lead. OKC added a run in the fourth and another in the seventh, but finished the contest going 0-for-2 with runners in scoring position as they were unable to topple the Redbirds for a third consecutive game.
Scott McGregor finally notched his first victory of the season for Memphis, giving up one earned run and five hits in six innings pitched. Piscotty and Scott Moore each had two hits in the win.
May 26: Oklahoma City at Memphis, Oklahoma City 6-4
Oklahoma City scored the first six runs of the contest and held on for a 6-4 series-closing win at AutoZone Park.
Things did not get going for Memphis until one out into the eighth inning when an Oscar Taveras sac-fly plated Audry Perez and advanced Pete Kozma to third. That was followed up by a Gregorio Petit fielding error that brought Kozma home and put Stephen Piscotty on first base. The Redbirds' final runs came by way of two bases loaded walks that scored Piscotty and Greg Garcia.
It was a disastrous outing for Redbirds starter Kurt Heyer, who gave up six earned runs and nine hits in his six innings on the rubber. Dean Kiekhefer was solid in relief, striking out four and allowing one hit in two innings pitched.
May 27: Iowa at Memphis, postponed
The series-opener between the Iowa Cubs and Memphis Redbirds was postponed due to rain. The game was rescheduled for a Friday evening doubleheader.
May 28 Game 1: Iowa at Memphis, Memphis wins 1-0
The first seven-inning game of Wednesday's doubleheader was delayed due to rain, but after the weather cleared up the Redbirds eked out a 1-0 win thanks to a walk-off homer to left field from Xavier Scruggs.
The two squads combined for only eight hits in the shortened contest, with Memphis' Greg Garcia the only batter on either side recording two hits.
May 28 Game 2: Iowa at Memphis, Memphis wins 2-1
Just like in the first game of the doubleheader, strong pitching from the Redbirds powered them to a low-scoring victory over the Iowa Cubs.
Greg Garcia fired a leadoff dinger to left center field to give Memphis a 1-0 lead early, but an RBI triple from Arismendy Alcantara tied the score in the top of the third. The 1-1 draw remained until the bottom of the sixth, when Luis Mateo shot a liner to right field, scoring Jermaine Curtis for the game-winning run.
The contest started late because of the rain delay before game one of the doubleheader, and as a result the seventh inning was rescheduled for Thursday afternoon in accordance with the Pacific Coast League's curfew rule. The sixth inning ended just before 1 a.m. Thursday morning.
When the game resumed, David Aardsma pitched a perfect inning with two strikeouts, earning his eighth save of the season.
May 29: Iowa at Memphis, Memphis wins 4-0
The game was broadcast on CBS Sports Network as the MiLB Game of the Week, and the national audience was in for a treat with Memphis pitcher Tim Cooney tossing the fourth one-hitter in Memphis Redbirds history.
Memphis got on the scoreboard in the first inning when Randal Grichuk's team-leading tenth home run of the season gave the Redbirds an early 1-0 lead. A pair of Tommy Pham doubles drove in Memphis' final three runs in the fourth and the sixth.
Cooney's no-hitter was still alive one out into the ninth inning. Jonathan Mota launched what appeared to be a single to right field, but Stephen Piscotty made a diving grab to preserve the no-hitter. Unfortunately for Cooney, it was not meant to be, with Arismendy Alcantara singling to left field on a ground ball that halted the no-hit bid with only one out to go.
At the plate, the Redbirds logged five doubles, including a pair from Pete Kozma that contributed to the shortstop's three-hit day.
Oscar Taveras: Over his last 10 games, Taveras is batting .462, and that is not a typo. The lefty really is a blazing hot 18-for-39 for his last 10, and has nine RBI, four doubles and an absurd 1.129 OPS over that stretch as well.
Tommy Pham: Pham is finally seeing regular playing time after the departures of fellow outfielders Joey Butler and Shane Robinson, and the 26-year-old prospect has flourished as a result. Pham boasts a batting average of .370 in his last 27 at bats, and has three doubles, a triple and a homer in that timeframe.
Luis Mateo: Mateo has struggled at the plate since the very start of the season, but it appears that the shortstop may finally be finding a rhythm. The right-handed batter is 5-for-8 over his last three games and is hitting .333 for his last 10.
David Aardsma: The right-handed reliever has pitched nine innings across his last nine games. In that stretch, the veteran has 10 strikeouts and has given up only two hits and no runs while notching five saves.
Ed Easley: The Memphis native's batting average for the season has fallen to .204, and has managed just six hits in his last 33 at bats. The only Redbird with a lower seasonal batting average is Mateo at .181.
Kurt Heyer: Heyer has pitched in 9 2/3 innings across two games since being assigned to Memphis from Springfield a little more than a week ago, but has failed to make much of a positive impact since. In those two games, the right-hander has allowed 13 hits and eight runs for an ERA of 7.45 while also walking six batters.
If Tim Cooney's one-hitter against Iowa Thursday night was not impressive enough, it is even more so when considering how the lefty bounced back from his previous two starts. In those two contests against Omaha and Oklahoma City, Cooney lasted only four innings in each, giving up a combined 12 earned runs and 17 hits.
May 24 — St. Louis Cardinals recalled Sam Freeman from Memphis Redbirds
May 27 — Pedro Feliciano signed by Cardinals, assigned to Memphis Redbirds
May 27 — Justin Wright assigned to Springfield Cardinals from Memphis Redbirds
May 27 — Memphis Redbirds activated Jose Almarante from the 7-day disabled list
The Redbirds will play their fourth and fifth games in three days against Iowa at AutoZone Park as part of a doubleheader Friday evening. It's then back on the road for the ‘Birds as they will play a four-game series at Oklahoma City before a league-wide off-day Wednesday.
Follow Austin Reynolds on Twitter @ReynoldsRant.
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