The Memphis Redbirds continued to slide down the standings with a 2-4 record this past week that plummeted them into last place in the American Southern Division of the Pacific Coast League.
Memphis closed out Salt Lake (LAA) with a win, but then struggled in Las Vegas against the league-leading 51s (NYM), dropping the final three of four games. At 38-42 overall, the Redbirds now sit five games out of first place, and a game and a half behind third-place Nashville (MIL).
June 20: Memphis at Salt Lake, Memphis wins 13-4
The Redbirds piled on six runs in the top of the ninth inning to cap off a high-scoring victory in the series finale at Salt Lake.
Much like the rest of the series, pitching was at a premium with both offenses erupting for a combined 27 hits. Salt Lake had 12 hits, but unlike Memphis was unable to capitalize with runners in scoring position — the Bees were 1-for-12 in those situations while the Redbirds were an outstanding 8-for-16.
Memphis was in control from the start, with Xavier Scruggs driving home two runners in the top of the first inning with the lead ballooning to five runs by the end of the second inning.
Randal Grichuk had a 4-for-5 performance, and fellow outfielder Shane Robinson tallied three hits and four runs scored. Despite the offensive nature of the contest, Memphis starting pitcher Angel Castro was terrific in his six innings, giving up five hits and one earned run.
June 21: Memphis at Las Vegas, Las Vegas wins 11-5
The Redbirds took an early three-run lead in their series-opener against the Pacific Coast League-leading Las Vegas 51s, but ultimately fell 11-5.
Memphis held the lead until the third inning, when Tim Cooney's struggles resulted the 51s adding five runs to the scoreboard. Pete Kozma fired a two-run shot in the seventh to pull Memphis back within three, but the Redbirds were unable to get over the early deficit.
Stephen Piscotty was the only Redbird to have two hits, with Memphis only totaling seven hits for the game. Cooney lasted just four innings on the mound in a rough start in which he walked five batters and allowed eight earned runs. The usually reliable Dean Kiekhefer struggled in relief, giving up five hits and three earned runs in two innings pitched.
June 22: Memphis at Las Vegas, Memphis wins 7-5 (11 innings)
It took 11 innings, but the Redbirds picked up a 7-5 victory at Las Vegas after getting 12 hits from the offense and a solid pitching performance from Boone Whiting.
Whiting, in his second start since returning from injury, gave up one earned run and five hits in 5 1/3 innings. Infielder Scott Moore homered twice for Memphis, and gave the Redbirds a 5-0 lead following a two-run blast in the sixth inning. That edge was squandered, however, after Las Vegas scored five straight runs.
Memphis reliever Justin Wright in particular struggled, walking four and giving up two earned runs in only 2/3 of an inning. But the Redbirds survived the run by Las Vegas, and the two teams played three straight scoreless innings until Randal Grichuk finally broke through with a two-run double in the 11th. The 51s were unable to score in the backend of the inning, and Memphis won its first game of the series.
Greg Garcia and Scott Moore led Memphis at the plate. Garcia went 3-for-4 while Moore added four RBI from his two home runs.
June 23: Memphis at Las Vegas, Las Vegas wins 8-5 (10 innings)
Memphis and Las Vegas went to extra innings for the second night in a row, but this time it was Las Vegas walking off with the victory.
Oscar Taveras kicked off the scoring with an RBI double in the fourth inning, and the Redbirds extended the lead to two before the 51s knotted things up with a two-run RBI single against Zach Petrick in the sixth. Memphis regained the lead in the top of the ninth when Scott Moore launched his 10th homer of the season to put the Redbirds up two, but a Jorge Rondon wild pitch in the bottom of the inning allowed Las Vegas to score twice and send the contest to extra innings.
Pedro Feliciano took the mound for Memphis in the 10th inning, but gave up a three-run shot to Matt den Dekker to give Las Vegas is the win.
Taveras chalked up two of the Redbirds' six hits, but Moore provided most of the scoring with his home run putting three runs on the board. Petrick pitched 5 2/3 innings, allowing two earned runs and four hits.
June 24: Memphis at Las Vegas, Las Vegas wins 10-8
The Redbirds held a commanding 8-3 lead through four innings, but could not hold on as Las Vegas made a roaring comeback in the final game of the series.
Randal Grichuk's 12th long-ball of the season put Memphis up 5-2 in the second inning, and then RBI base hits from Scott Moore and Jermaine Curtis inflated the lead to 8-3. But the Memphis bullpen was unable to hang on, allowing the 51s to score the final seven runs of the ballgame.
In relief, Heath Wyatt did not give up any hits but his four walked batters resulted in three Las Vegas runs in only 2/3 of an inning. Justin Wright finished the final third of the fifth inning, giving up three hits. Things continued to go south for Joey Donofrio and Dean Kiekhefer, who each allowed two earned runs over the final three innings.
Jermaine Curtis led Memphis at the plate, going 2-for-4, while Grichuk and Moore chipped in three and two RBI, respectively.
June 25: Off day
June 26: Round Rock at Memphis, Round Rock wins 9-1
After playing their last eight games out west it was a less than ideal return to AutoZone Park for the Redbirds, as they dropped the series opener to Round Rock (TEX) 9-1.
Memphis fell behind early with the Express scoring all of their runs in the first four innings. Starting pitcher John Gast was lit up for 10 hits and nine earned runs in 3 1/3 innings, requiring the Redbirds to call upon another starter in Angel Castro. In relief, Castro, Seth Blair and Pedro Feliciano held Round Rock without another hit for the rest of the ballgame, but Memphis was only able to put one run on the board despite having 13 hits in the contest.
Oscar Taveras exploded for four hits in five plate appearances, and Stephen Piscotty and Greg Garcia added two hits apiece. Every Memphis batter had at least one hit except for Grichuk, who had a rough night, going 0-for-5 with four strikeouts.
Xavier Scruggs: The first baseman has been on a tear since the Salt Lake series began, holding an eight-game hitting streak dating back to June 18. Scruggs is batting .382 over his last 10 games.
Scott Moore: Moore has been swinging for the fences lately, with four home runs coming in his previous eight contests, including two June 22 at Las Vegas. Over his last 10 games, the third baseman's batting average is up to .256 from .241.
Angel Castro: Castro pitched in two games this week, picking up one win and delivering a solid performance in both. The right-hander threw a combined 9 2/3 innings, giving up five hits and one earned run.
Randal Grichuk: The last two weeks have been perhaps the best of the season for the Memphis offense as a whole, but Grichuk has not been enjoying the same success. Over his last 10 games, the outfielder is hitting .217, compared to .289 for the year.
Dean Kiekhefer: Up until this week, Kiekhefer was easily the most reliable reliever in the Memphis bullpen, but in Las Vegas the lefty made his worst two appearances in a Redbirds uniform. Kiekhefer pitched four innings across three games this week, allowing eight hits and five earned runs.
Heath Wyatt: Runs seemed to pile up for the opposition every time Wyatt took the mound this week, with the right-hander giving up eight earned runs and eight hits across four innings pitched.
John Gast: Gast made a solid 2014 debut in Memphis on June 7, but it's been all downhill from there. In four games for Memphis this season, the left-hander is 1-2 with a 10.13 ERA.
The Redbirds have been one of the best pitching teams in the Pacific Coast League this season, but this past week was an atrocious one for the bullpen. Dean Kiekhefer and Heath Wyatt each appeared on the "Who's Not" list this week for their struggles in multiple games, but other Memphis relievers struggled as well.
On June 23, Pedro Feliciano took a loss, walking two batters and giving up the game-winning three-run homer in extra innings, and in the same game a wild pitch from Jorge Rondon allowed Las Vegas to tie it up in the ninth inning.
July 22 — St. Louis Cardinals recalled OF Shane Robinson from Memphis Redbirds
July 23 — St. Louis Cardinals recalled SS Pete Kozma from Memphis Redbirds
July 23 — RHR Seth Blair assigned to Memphis Redbirds from Springfield Cardinals
July 23 — RHR Joe Donofrio assigned to Memphis Redbirds from Springfield Cardinals
July 23 — IF Luis Mateo assigned to Memphis Redbirds from Springfield Cardinals
July 23 — St. Louis Cardinals recalled RHR Eric Fornataro from Memphis Redbirds
July 25 — St. Louis Cardinals optioned SS Pete Kozma to Memphis Redbirds
July 23 — Memphis Redbirds placed RHR Jose Almarante on the 7-day disabled list retroactive to June 21
The Redbirds will finish up their home series against Round Rock on Sunday night, then Memphis gets a shot to make up some ground on a division rival with a four-game series at Nashville (MIL).
Follow Austin Reynolds on Twitter @ReynoldsRant.
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