The Memphis Redbirds went on a tear this week, going 7-1 with all the games coming on the road.
The Redbirds started off with the first five-game sweep in franchise history against the Iowa Cubs, then took two of the first three contests in a four-game series at Omaha (KC). The successful week saw the Redbirds vault out of the cellar of the American Southern Division and into second place, only a game and a half behind the Nashville Sounds (MIL).
July 25: Memphis at Iowa, Memphis wins 3-2
The Redbirds scored all three of their runs in the fifth inning and withstood a ninth inning scare on their way to one-run victory in the series opener in Iowa.
Shane Robinson struck first in the fifth with a line drive, two-out RBI single that plated Luis Mateo. Despite the two outs, Memphis was not done yet, with Randal Grichuk stepping up to the plate and launching his 19th homer of the season to put the ‘Birds up 3-0.
A sacrifice fly in the following frame allowed the Cubs to pull one back, and then things were quiet until the bottom of the ninth. Angel Castro took the mound to attempt to close the game out for Memphis. The right-hander downed the first batter, but then allowed a double and an RBI single to make it a one-score game. Throwing errors by Pete Kozma and Xavier Scruggs put the runner on third with only a single out until a fielder’s choice in the next at bat saw the Cub ruled out at the plate. The drama was not over yet with a single and a walk loading the bases, but Castro came through with a clutch strikeout that sealed the win for Memphis.
Mateo led the Redbirds at the plate with three hits and two doubles, while Grichuk had two hits with two RBI. John Gast earned the win, striking out six in six in innings while giving up only two hits and one earned run. Nick Greenwood and Dean Kiekhefer each pitched a perfect inning in relief while Castro surrendered three hits, an earned run and a walk in the ninth.
July 26 Game 1: Memphis at Iowa, Memphis wins 5-4
Memphis fell behind early in its first of two doubleheaders in Iowa, but rallied behind home runs from Shane Robinson and Xavier Scruggs to take the first game of the twinbill 5-4.
Tim Cooney gave up a three-run shot in the first inning to get the Cubs on the board early. The Redbirds responded swiftly however, with Scruggs smacking a solo dinger in the second inning before Robinson evened it up with a two-run homer in the third. Memphis kept on piling on the runs, scoring two more in the fourth inning to open up a two-run advantage. A Ryan Kalish RBI single brought Iowa within a run in the sixth, but the Redbirds were able to hold on for the victory.
Scruggs led the charge offensively, making the most of a two-hit day with a double and a home run. Audry Perez also had a multi-hit game, going 2-for-3 with an RBI. The win was Tim Cooney’s team-leading 10th of the season. The lefty struck out seven while allowing nine hits and four runs.
July 26 Game 2: Memphis at Iowa, Memphis wins 6-4
The second game of the doubleheader went much like the first, as the Redbirds overcame a three-run first inning from the Cubs on their way to the win.
Memphis scored first when Tommy Pham came home on a fielding error in the top of the first, but in the bottom of the frame the Cubs once again hit an opening-inning three-run shot, this time off of Boone Whiting. Again the ‘Birds came back quickly, tying the game at three in the second when both Greg Garcia and Boone Whiting scored following an Iowa throwing error.
Whiting surrendered another long-ball in the bottom of the inning to give the Cubs the lead, this one a solo homer. Fortunately for the Redbirds, that was the last time Iowa scored. Memphis got two more runs by way of RBI base hits from Pham and Ed Easley to take a third game in two days from the Cubs in their own ballpark.
Pham and Easley each hit twice for the Redbirds in the win, while Xavier Scruggs reached base three times with a double and two walks. Boone Whiting struck out nine batters in five innings of work, giving up six hits and four earned runs. In relief, Pedro Feliciano walked a batter and give up a hit in one inning pitched, and Jorge Rondon hurled a perfect inning to close out the contest.
July 27 Game 1: Memphis at Iowa, Memphis wins 4-2
The Memphis offense notched only three hits in the opening game of the Sunday doubleheader, but still managed to put four runs on the board in yet another victory against the Iowa Cubs.
Scott Moore grounded an RBI single through to center field in the first inning to kick off the scoring, then in the second he drew a bases loaded walk to give the Redbirds a 2-0 lead. Stephen Piscotty doubled that advantage later on in the inning with a line drive single that plated both Shane Robinson and Randal Grichuk. In the sixth, Jorge Soler homered off Marco Gonzales to cut the Memphis lead back down to two, but the Cubs were unable to fight all the way back in the seven-inning contest.
The Redbirds had only three hits, but drew a total of six walks, including two each from Moore and Grichuk. Marco Gonzales improved his Triple-A record to 2-1, allowing two earned runs and four hits in 5 1/3 innings pitched. Eric Fornataro secured the win with a solid relief effort, giving up only one hit in the remaining 1 2/3 innings.
July 27 Game 2: Memphis at Iowa, Memphis wins 2-0
Just like in the first game of the doubleheader, the Redbirds were out-hit by the Cubs, but made their few chances count as they took a 2-0 victory that gave Memphis its first five-game sweep in franchise history.
Randal Grichuk got things going in the first inning with a solo dinger to center to give the Redbirds the early lead. The only other score came in the fourth when Ed Easley came home following an Iowa fielding error.
Luis Mateo was the lone Redbird with a multi-hit game, going 2-for-3 with two singles. Nick Greenwood made the start for Memphis, going three innings and allowing three hits. Angel Castro was credited with the win after pitching 1 1/3 innings with two strikeouts and no hits.
July 28: Off day
July 29: Memphis at Omaha, Memphis wins 4-1
The Redbirds kept on rolling in the series opener at Omaha with a 4-1 victory that pushed their season-best winning streak to six games.
All runs were scored in the fifth inning. Pete Kozma doubled to left field to open up a two-run Memphis lead, and then RBI singles from Shane Robinson and Scott Moore ballooned the lead to four. Omaha pulled one back in the bottom of the inning with a sacrifice fly to center field, but the Redbirds were able to keep the Storm Chasers at bay over the duration of the contest to lock up the win.
Xavier Scruggs went 3-for-4, while Tommy Pham and Ed Easley each had two hits. Tyler Lyons went the distance for the first time this season, giving up one earned run and four hits in the lights-out performance.
July 30: Memphis at Omaha, Omaha wins 5-0
The six-game win streak came to a screeching halt in the Redbirds’ second game in Omaha, as the visitors totaled just one hit in the 5-0 loss.
After two scoreless innings, Omaha broke through in the third when Johnny Giavotella grounded to third with one out. Scott Moore tried to turn the double play to end the inning, but Giavotella was safe at first after a runner came home. The Storm Chasers added another in the fourth following a Pete Kozma throwing error before capping off the scoring with three runs in the seventh inning.
Tommy Pham was responsible for the lone Memphis hit of the evening, a second-inning single. Randal Grichuk and Xavier Scruggs drew a walk. Zach Petrick surrendered three earned runs and nine hits in 6 1/3 innings as his record dropped to 6-5. In relief, Heath Wyatt walked one batter and allowed one hit for one earned run.
July 31: Memphis at Omaha, Memphis wins 6-4
After a short detour the night before, the Redbirds got back to their winning ways with a two-run win against the Storm Chasers. Randal Grichuk gave Memphis the early lead in the opening inning with an RBI double to left field, and then later in the inning Xavier Scruggs popped a sacrifice fly to deep center that brought Grichuk home. The ‘Birds went back to work in the second with an Audry Perez RBI single, and two innings later Perez struck again with a solo homer that extended the Memphis lead to four.
In the bottom of the inning, the Storm Chasers sliced the four-run deficit in half, but the Redbirds scored two more in the sixth and Omaha was unable to climb all the way back as the home team fell 6-4.
Perez was key offensively, going 3-for-4 while knocking in two. Pete Kozma also had a big night, with a hit and a walk that allowed him to score twice. Starter John Gast received a no-decision after pitching only four innings, allowing two earned runs and four hits. Nick Greenwood picked up the win in relief, but gave up two earned and two hits in just 1 1/3.
Luis Mateo: The Memphis shortstop is hitting only .216 on the season, but has caught fire in recent contests. Over his last six contests, Mateo is hitting 7-for-18 with three doubles.
Audry Perez: Perez has wasted no time since returning from the restricted list on July 25. The catcher has played three games since his return, hitting 5-for-10.
Ed Easley: Perez is not the only Memphis catcher on a hot streak. Over his last 10 games Easley is hitting a blistering .333 with an on-base percentage of .405.
John Gast: Gast has been delivering solid performance after solid performance for nearly the entire month of July. Over his last 27 2/3 innings the lefty has yielded 14 hits and only five earned runs.
Stephen Piscotty: The Redbirds have been able to depend on Piscotty for hits for much of the season, but in recent games the outfielder has cooled off considerably. Piscotty is hitless in his last four contests and over his last 10, he is batting .118.
Scott Moore: Moore has been unable to find the sweet spot as of late. The left-handed batter is hitting just 5-for-31 over his last 10 contests.
(Still) Striking First
Last week, the Redbirds scored first in six of their eight games, and this week the team did the exact same thing. Memphis struck even quicker this week, putting runs on the board in the first inning in four of those eight contests. In the last two weeks, that is 12 games in which the Redbirds scored first, leading to a 10-2 record.
July 25 — Memphis Redbirds activated C Audry Perez from the restricted list
July 25 — C Dante Rosenberg assigned to Palm Beach Cardinals from Memphis Redbirds
The Redbirds’ season-longest road trip will finally come to a close later this week. On Friday, Memphis will wrap up the series at Omaha, and then will head to Texas for six games in four days against the Round Rock Express, with doubleheaders played on Sunday and Monday. The Redbirds will be off on Wednesday before finally coming home to AutoZone Park to kick off a five-game series against division rival New Orleans on Thursday.
Follow Austin Reynolds on Twitter @ReynoldsRant.
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