The Memphis Redbirds finally concluded their monster 15-game road trip, and returned to AutoZone Park for the first time since July 24 for a victory against New Orleans (MIA) that capped off an even 4-4 week.
Despite remaining on an even keel, the Redbirds made up some ground in their division, as they now trail the Nashville Sounds (MIL) by only a half game for the division lead.
August 1: Memphis at Omaha, Omaha wins 4-3
The Redbirds’ ninth inning comeback attempt fell short as the Omaha Storm Chasers (KC) took the final game of the series, 4-3.
Tim Cooney surrendered a run in the opening inning, but Memphis came roaring back in the second with RBI from Audry Perez and Jermaine Curtis to give the Redbirds a 2-1 lead. Like Omaha’s early lead, this one did not last long either. The Storm Chasers added a run in the third and two more in the fourth.
After the electric start for both sides, the scoring died down until the ninth when Stephen Piscotty fired a solo shot to left field with no outs in an attempt to rally the Redbirds. Xavier Scruggs and Jermaine Curtis both walked, but Luis Mateo struck out swinging for the final out.
Greg Garcia and Scott Moore each went 2-for-4 at the plate, accounting for half of Memphis’ eight hits. The Storm Chasers nearly doubled up the Redbirds in that category, with 15. On the mound Cooney struggled, yielding 13 hits and four earned runs over 5 2/3 innings.
August 2: Memphis at Round Rock, Round Rock wins 5-2
Memphis allowed their opponent to rack up double-digit hits for the second game in a row, and as a result dropped the series opener at Round Rock (TEX) 5-2.
The Redbirds were first on the scoreboard in the fourth inning when Scott Moore came home following a wild pitch. Memphis held the 1-0 lead until the seventh when starter Marco Gonzalez gave up an RBI double that tied the score at one.
In the next frame, Randal Grichuk hit an RBI double of his own to put the Redbirds back in the driver’s seat. However, in the bottom of the inning, relievers Dean Kiekhefer and Jorge Rondon coughed up four runs, including a three-run homer that doomed Memphis to a 5-2 defeat.
The Redbirds were out-hit 10-5 and had no multi-hit batters in the contest. Gonzalez put in a solid 6 1/3 innings of work on the rubber, allowing seven hits, one earned run and striking out seven while receiving a no-decision. The relievers struggled, however, as Rondon took the loss after giving up two earned runs and one hit in one inning pitched, and Kiekhefer surrendered two earned runs and two hits in just 2/3 of an inning.
August 3, Game 1: Memphis at Round Rock, Memphis wins 4-0
Memphis finally got its pitching back in order, as Tyler Lyons pitched a complete game shutout while holding the Express to four hits in a 4-0 victory.
The Redbirds wasted no time getting the offense going. Tommy Pham blasted a leadoff home run, and then Xavier Scruggs plated Randal Grichuk with an RBI single that gave Memphis a 2-0 advantage by the end of the first inning. The ‘Birds kept it rolling in the second, with Grichuk and Pete Kozma each driving in a run to push the lead to four. It was all Lyons from there, as the Memphis starter kept the Express at bay en route to the victory.
Grichuk led the Redbirds offensively with two doubles in four appearances at the plate, while Pham added a single in addition to a solo homer. Lyons struck out six in the shutout and improved his record to an impressive 6-1.
August 3, Game 2: Memphis at Round Rock, Memphis wins 7-6
Memphis choked away an early four-run lead, but pulled back into the lead in the final inning for a 7-6 victory and a doubleheader sweep over the Express.
The Redbirds piled on four runs in the contest’s opening inning. An Ed Easley double plated both Randal Grichuk and Scott Moore, and then Greg Garcia singled to score Easley and Xavier Scruggs. Round Rock added one in the third, then pulled ahead with a four-run fourth inning capped off by a go-ahead three-run homer off the bat of Michael Choice given up by Angel Castro.
Memphis fired back with a Garcia solo homer to even up the game in the sixth, then a Randal Grichuk RBI single later in the inning to regain the lead. But the teams continued to swap runs, as Eric Fornataro allowed a solo homer in the bottom of the inning that knotted the game. Jermaine Curtis saved the day for the Redbirds in the game’s final inning, cracking a line drive single to center field that scored Scruggs for the game-winning run.
Garcia carried the torch on offense with a three hit, three RBI game. Grichuk and Curtis each added two hits apiece.
Starter Boone Whiting lasted only three innings after giving up six hits, three earned runs and walking three batters. Castro also struggled in relief, yielding three hits and two earned runs in an inning pitched. Fornataro was credited with the win, allowing one hit and one earned run in the game’s final two innings.
August 4, Game 1: Memphis at Round Rock, Round Rock wins 5-4
For the second contest in a row, the Redbirds took a 4-0 advantage in the first inning which they eventually blew, but this time were unable to come back before falling in walkoff fashion in extra innings.
Memphis kicked off the game with a pair of long-balls, the first a three-run bomb from Scott Moore, and then a solo shot from Audry Perez that gave the ‘Birds a 4-0 lead after one inning. The advantage held until the sixth inning of the seven-inning contest, when the Express put two runs on the board by way of two RBI doubles off Jorge Rondon. Eric Fornataro took over duties on the mound for the seventh inning, but gave up an RBI single that plated two runners to send the game into extras.
The Redbirds were unable to score in the top of the eighth inning, but in the bottom of the frame, the Express walked off with the win following a Geovany Soto solo homer to left field, hit off Pedro Feliciano.
Perez, Pete Kozma and Stephen Piscotty each had two hits for Memphis in the loss. Carlos Martinez started his first game back with Memphis, allowing no runs and three hits in 4 1/3 innings pitched, earning a no-decision.
August 4, Game 2: Memphis at Round Rock, Round Rock wins 6-3
Round Rock completed the doubleheader sweep of Memphis with a 6-3 victory, gaining revenge on the Redbirds for the doubleheader sweep the day before.
The Express scored the first four runs of the before the Redbirds finally broke through in the fifth with a Tommy Pham solo homer. Then Zach Petrick gave up two more runs in the bottom of the inning to put Memphis in a 6-1 hole. Nevertheless, the Redbirds attempted a seventh-inning rally with consecutive singles from Pham, Randal Grichuk and Scott Moore to kick off the inning.
Xavier Scruggs then singled to right field to score two runners and cut the deficit to three, but Ed Easley grounded into a double play, and Greg Garcia grounded out to end the game and the comeback attempt.
Scruggs led Memphis with a 3-for-4 game, including a double and two RBI. Pham and Jermaine Curtis were both rock solid as well, going 2-for-3 and 2-for-2, respectively.
Nick Greenwood started and took the loss, giving up three earned runs and four hits in three innings pitched. Petrick also struggled in a new role out of the bullpen, allowing three earned runs and six hits in three innings.
August 5: Memphis at Round Rock, Memphis wins 5-4
The Redbirds closed out the six-game series at Round Rock with an extra innings, 5-4 win over the Express.
In what became somewhat of a trend over the course of the series, the ‘Birds took a 4-0 lead in the early going before allowing their opponent to come back. Stephen Piscotty got things going in the first with a two-out RBI double to score Scott Moore, then Xavier Scruggs followed it up with his 13th homer of the season, a two-run shot to left field that gave Memphis a 3-0 edge.
That score line held until the third, when Randal Grichuk launched a solo home run to left field to push the advantage to four. The Express pulled three back in the bottom of the inning. Memphis held on to the narrow lead until the eighth inning, when the Express struck again with a solo homer off Dean Kiekhefer.
The two teams went to extras, when Greg Garcia put the Redbirds over the top with a game-winning RBI single to right field that brought home Jermaine Curtis.
Moore had two hits, a single and a double, while Grichuk and Scruggs accounted for three of the team’s five runs by way of the long-ball.
John Gast received a no-decision after yielding three earned runs and six hits in 5 2/3 innings. In relief, Angel Castro picked up his ninth win of the season, allowing only one hit and no runs in two innings on the mound.
August 6: Off day
August 7: New Orleans at Memphis, Memphis wins 4-3
The Redbirds finally returned from their 15-game road trip, and took the series opener 4-3 in front of the home crowd at AutoZone Park.
Memphis fell behind early when Tim Cooney gave up a two-run homer in the first inning, but the Redbirds answered with a Pete Kozma RBI double and a Tommy Pham line drive RBI single in the second inning to give the Redbirds a 3-2 lead. Memphis added another run in the fourth when Cooney grounded out, but plated Kozma.
Things were quiet until the seventh inning when a sacrifice fly to right field off Nick Greenwood pulled the Zephyrs within a run. But neither team was able to cross home plate again for the duration of the contest, as the Redbirds took the one-run victory.
Pham put together a great game offensively, going 2-for-3 with two RBI and a walk. Kozma added two hits and an RBI of his own in four at bats, and scored twice.
Cooney added to his win total, striking out six and allowing three runs and four hits across six innings on his way to a Pacific Coast League-leading 11th victory. In relief, Greenwood, Jorge Rondon and Eric Fornataro each pitched one inning, with none allowing a hit.
Greg Garcia: Garcia has strung together some great games over the past week or two, including a three hit, three RBI outing against Round Rock in the backend of the August 3 doubleheader. Over his last 10 games, the left-handed batter is hitting .303.
Tyler Lyons: Lyons has been unstoppable in his last four starts. In that stretch, the lefty is 4-0, and has given up four earned runs and 23 hits over 28 innings. On August 4, Lyons was named Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Week for his recent efforts.
Jermaine Curtis: Curtis has stepped up big-time at the plate in recent contests. In his last 10 games, the third baseman has an on-base percentage of .455 to go along with a .308 batting average.
Jorge Rondon: Rondon made relief appearances in three games this week, allowing at least two earned runs in two of them. In total, the right-hander threw 3 2/3 innings, allowing four earned runs on three hits.
Dean Kiekhefer: With an ERA of 2.66, Kiekhefer has been one of the most reliable arms on the Memphis pitching staff this season. Despite that, the left-hander struggled in his two appearances against Round Rock this week. In total, Kiekhefer pitched three innings, yielding four hits and three earned runs.
Pitching Becoming Key
Over the last couple of weeks, the Redbirds have surged from last place in the American Southern division to a half game out of first place, and a primary reason is the team’s pitching staff.
Tim Cooney leads the Pacific Coast League in wins with 11 and was named the Cardinals organization’s Pitcher of the Month for July. Fellow starter Tyler Lyons was named the PCL Pitcher of the Week this Monday.
The Redbirds’ team ERA of 4.02 is good for third in the 16-team league.
August 1 — St. Louis Cardinals optioned RHP Carlos Martinez to Memphis Redbirds
August 1 — St. Louis Cardinals recalled Shane Robinson from Memphis Redbirds
August 7 — Memphis Redbirds released LHP Pedro Feliciano
August 7 — Mike O’Neill assigned to Memphis Redbirds from Springfield Cardinals
The Redbirds continue the homestand, playing four more games against the New Orleans Zephyrs before the series wraps up Monday night. After that, it’s back to the road for a four-game series at Albuquerque (LAD).
Follow Austin Reynolds on Twitter @ReynoldsRant.
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