Memphis Redbirds Notebook: 2014 Week 14

The Pacific Coast League Redbirds had a strong week, but still have ground to make up. Tim Cooney is pitching very well.

The Memphis Redbirds rebounded from their worst week of the season with what was perhaps their best of the year. The Redbirds went 6-1 as they wrapped up a homestand against division rivals New Orleans (MIA) and Nashville (MIL).

Despite that, the Redbirds still sit in last place in the American Southern Division of the Pacific Coast League, with a record of 45-47. But the division is still anybody’s for the taking, with Memphis only two and a half games back of first-place Nashville.

July 4: New Orleans at Memphis, Memphis wins 3-2

Three third inning runs and a season-high crowd of 12,617 propelled the Redbirds to a 3-2 Independence Day victory over the New Orleans Zephyrs.

Stephen Piscotty’s double brought home two Redbirds to give Memphis a 2-0 lead in the third, then Xavier Scruggs singled to plate Piscotty and extend the lead to three. The Zephyrs added two runs of their own in the following inning, but were unable to overcome the deficit as Memphis starter Tim Cooney pitched yet another gem.

Cooney went eight innings, striking out five and allowing six hits and two earned runs. Piscotty and Kolten Wong carried the load offensively for the Redbirds, totaling three hits and two hits, respectively.

July 5: New Orleans at Memphis, Memphis wins 6-3

Memphis scored the first six runs, and the Redbirds held on for their third straight win.

Grichuk got things going with his team-leading 14th home run of the season, a two-run bomb in the game’s opening inning. It was all Redbirds in the early going as the home team jumped out to a 6-0 lead, before a Juan Diaz RBI single off of Boone Whiting finally put the Zephyrs on the board.

New Orleans had its chances, but Memphis pitchers did a good job of keeping things under control. The Zephyrs hit only 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position.

Whiting pitched a solid game, striking out seven and giving up only five hits and one earned run in his first win of the season. It was a group effort from the plate for the Redbirds. The team had eight hits with Xavier Scruggs’ two singles making him the only Redbird with multiple hits.

July 6: New Orleans at Memphis, Memphis wins 5-2

Just like in every other game of the series, the Redbirds took an early lead en route to the victory. The 5-2 win capped off the three-game sweep of the Zephyrs, Memphis’ first sweep of the season.

The Redbirds put on a show offensively, racking up twelve hits and stealing a season-high four bases. Greg Garcia carried the torch with three hits in four at-bats and one RBI. Tommy Pham, Ed Easley and Randal Grichuk each added two hits.

Memphis held a 4-0 advantage until the Zephyrs finally scored with an RBI off Joe Kelly in the fifth inning, but ultimately New Orleans did not have enough firepower to mount a comeback.

The rehab start was Kelly’s third with the Redbirds. In 4 1/3 innings, the St. Louis pitcher gave up one earned run on only three hits.

July 7: Nashville at Memphis, Memphis wins 2-1

With Memphis trailing 1-0 entering the ninth inning, the Redbirds’ four-game winning streak appeared to be coming to an end. But Memphis rallied in the final inning, with RBI singles from Jermaine Curtis and Luis Mateo driving the Redbirds’ walk off for their fifth consecutive victory.

The contest was a pitchers duel between Zach Petrick and PCL All-Star Jimmy Nelson. Each earned no-decisions after pitching seven full innings. Petrick struck out six with six hits and one earned run, while Nelson allowed four hits and no runs.

Despite the game being dominated by pitching, Randal Grichuk had a dominant performance at the plate, going 3-for-4. Fellow outfielder Shane Robinson added two hits including a double.

July 8: Nashville at Memphis, Nashville wins 4-2

John Gast pitched 5 2/3 perfect innings to start the game, but it was not enough as the Sounds came back for a 4-2 win that snapped the Redbirds’ five-game win streak.

Memphis continued its recent trend of striking first, as Shane Robinson scored in the first inning to give the Redbirds a 1-0 lead. Stephen Piscotty’s RBI in the fifth inning made it 2-0 Redbirds, but things fell apart after the second rain delay of the evening in the sixth inning.

Gast was removed from the game following the delay, and Angel Castro took the mound for the Redbirds. Castro had a rough seventh inning, allowing four hits and three earned runs, including a two-run shot to left field that gave the Sounds the lead.

Nashville added another run by way of a homer off Redbird reliever Seth Blair in the eighth.

Piscotty led the Redbirds with two hits and two RBI. Robinson and Tommy Pham each had two hits, with Pham smacking his fourth triple of the season.

July 9: Nashville at Memphis, Memphis wins 8-1

Ed Easley and Randal Grichuk both went yard as the Memphis offense overpowered the Sounds for an 8-1 victory.

Xavier Scruggs kicked things off in the first inning with an RBI double, then the Redbirds poured on four more in the fifth inning with RBI base hits from Scruggs, Greg Garcia and Shane Robinson. Sean Halton hit a solo homer against Tim Cooney in the seventh inning, but that was the only run Nashville was able to score for the duration of the contest.

For Cooney, that home run was the lone hiccup in an otherwise terrific effort. The Memphis lefty went eight full innings with eight strikeouts, one earned run and three hits. The Redbirds had a balanced offensive attack with four batters recording two hits in the win.

July 10: Nashville at Memphis, Memphis wins 1-0

Offense was hard to come by in the series finale between Memphis and Nashville, and a Shane Robinson RBI sacrifice fly in the fifth inning was all it took for the Redbirds to come out on top.

The Memphis pitching staff held the Sounds to only four runs for the contest, with Boone Whiting taking the win after giving up two hits and striking out seven in five innings. Dean Kiekhefer and Eric Fornataro each allowed one hit in two innings pitched in relief.

At the plate, the Redbirds did not fare much better than their cross-state counterparts. Memphis had just five hits total, with no batters having more than one. Xavier Scruggs had the only extra-base hit of the game for either side, a double in the fourth inning.

Who’s Hot

Tommy Pham: Pham is on fire yet again, hitting .414 with a homer and two triples in his last 10 games. The Memphis outfielder is hitting .322 for the season with a team-high slugging percentage of .529.

Ed Easley: Easley has been one of the Redbirds’ most consistent hitters as of late. The Memphis native is riding a 10-game hitting streak and has 14 hits and two homers in his last 33 at bats.

Tim Cooney: Cooney has gone eight innings in each of his last two starts, and in those 16 innings the lefty has given up only 10 hits and three earned runs while throwing an impressive 13 strikeouts.

Boone Whiting: Whiting started the season 0-6 on the mound for the Redbirds, but has hit his groove in his last two starts, earning a win in each. In those two contests, Whiting has struck out 14 batters and allowed seven hits and one earned run in 11 innings.

Who’s Not

Jermaine Curtis: Curtis had a critical pinch-hit RBI single to tie the game in the ninth inning of the Redbirds’ July 7 walk-off victory over Nashville, but his overall body of work in the last 10 contests has not been up to par. In that time, the right-handed hitter is just 3-for-18.

Pete Kozma: In his last 10 games, Kozma has only five hits, all singles, in 31 chances at the plate.

Cooney Shines

With five wins in his last six decisions and a one-hitter earlier in the season, Memphis’ Tim Cooney has emerged as one of the elite pitchers in the Pacific Coast League. Cooney holds a 9-5 record for the year, and only Nashville’s Jimmy Nelson and the Iowa Cubs’ Kyle Hendricks have more wins, with 10 each. Cooney is 12th in the PCL and leads the Redbirds with 81 strikeouts on the season.

Down to the Wire

There are still nearly two full months left in the season, but the race for first place in the American Southern Division appears as if it will come down to the final days of competition. Nashville leads the division at 49-46, with Round Rock (TEX) a game behind in second, New Orleans two games behind in third, and the Redbirds two and a half games back in last place.

For perspective, the second most tightly packed division in the PCL is the American Northern, which has last-place Colorado Springs (COL) seven and a half games back of the lead.

Transactions

July 6 — St. Louis Cardinals optioned OF Shane Robinson to Memphis Redbirds
July 7 — St. Louis Cardinals optioned LHP Marco Gonzalez to Memphis Redbirds
July 7 — St. Louis Cardinals recalled LHP Tyler Lyons from Memphis Redbirds
July 10 — Memphis Redbirds placed RHP Jorge Rondon on the temporarily inactive list
July 10 — C Travis Tartamella assigned to Memphis Redbirds from Springfield Cardinals
July 10 — St. Louis Cardinals recalled C Audry Perez from Memphis Redbirds

Up Next

The Redbirds travel to New Orleans for a short three-game series against the Zephyrs that wraps up Sunday afternoon, then have Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday off for the PCL All-Star Break. Memphis outfielder Stephen Piscotty will play in the All-Star Game Wednesday night. After that it’s back to work for the Redbirds, as they kick off a four-game home series against Colorado Springs.



Follow Austin Reynolds on Twitter @ReynoldsRant.

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