Memphis Redbirds Notebook: 2014 Week 20

11 games to go and the Pacific Coast League Redbirds are tied for first place. Pete Kozma is swinging a hot bat.

The Memphis Redbirds stayed hot, winning the first three games of the week before their nine-game winning streak was finally snapped by El Paso (SD) on Tuesday. The Redbirds went 4-2 on the week, as their record on the season improved to 72-60. Memphis is now tied at the top of the American Southern Division with the Nashville Sounds (MIL).

August 15: Memphis at Albuquerque, Canceled

The series finale in Albuquerque (LAD) was canceled due to rain and unplayable field conditions. The series was the only meeting of the season between the two clubs, so the game will not be made up.

August 16: Memphis at El Paso, Memphis wins 2-1

Memphis struggled offensively for most of the evening, but put two runs on the board across the final two innings for a 2-1 win in the series opener against El Paso.

The two sides were scoreless for seven innings until the Redbirds finally broke through in the eighth. Xavier Scruggs was on third with one out when Pete Kozma lobbed a sacrifice fly to center field to score Scruggs and give Memphis the 1-0 lead. But in the bottom of the inning, the Chihuahuas equalized by scoring in the same manner, with Jeff Francoeur popping the sac-fly off Jorge Rondon to tie the contest.

Tommy Pham kicked off the ninth inning with a double, and then advanced to third when Randal Grichuk grounded out. Scott Moore stepped to the plate and hit yet another sacrifice fly, scoring Pham and giving Memphis the 2-1 lead. El Paso was unable to respond in the bottom of the inning, as Rondon struck out all three batters to end the game and record the win.

Pham led the Redbirds at the plate, going 2-for-4 with a double. Greg Garcia also logged two hits in three at-bats. Boone Whiting made the start for Memphis, going four innings and allowing three hits and no runs while earning a no-decision. Heath Wyatt pitched two perfect innings as part of the relief effort.

August 17: Memphis at El Paso, Memphis wins 7-5

The Redbirds exploded for six runs in the fifth inning, then held on tight for a 7-5 win over El Paso.

The Chihuahuas opened the scoring in the bottom of the first as Tim Cooney gave up a two-out solo homer to Jonathan Galvez. The El Paso 1-0 lead held until the fifth, when the Memphis offense came alive. With one out, Randal Grichuk fired a three-run shot to right field, and Xavier Scruggs tripled to clear the bases and score both Scott Moore and Stephen Piscotty. Greg Garcia capped off the run, scoring Scruggs on a ground ball single.

El Paso slowly chipped away at the 6-1 deficit, plating one run in the fifth, one in the sixth, and two in the seventh, but Pete Kozma scored an insurance run on a wild pitch in the eighth and the Redbirds secured the victory.

Scruggs did it all offensively, going 3-for-4 with two RBI. The first baseman finished a home run short of the cycle, as he totaled one single, a double, and a triple in the contest. Grichuk put the most runs on the board for Memphis, with three RBI in a 2-for-5 performance. Tim Cooney picked up his 12th win of the season, allowing eight hits and two earned runs in five innings pitched.

August 18: Memphis at El Paso, Memphis wins 7-4

The Redbirds rode a big game from catcher Ed Easley and defeated El Paso on the road for the third straight night.

Memphis kicked off the scoring in the second inning with an Easley two-out, two-run homer that scored Greg Garcia, and in the following frame, Scott Moore was the one striking with two outs, with a double that plated Tommy Pham and extended the lead to three runs.

Redbirds starter Marco Gonzales yielded a Cody Decker triple in the sixth that scored two and brought the Chihuahuas within one, but Easley answered in the seventh with an RBI double. El Paso pulled another one back in the seventh, but it was once again Easley answering the call, doubling in the ninth to bring home both Garcia and Xavier Scruggs. A Mike O’Neill RBI single capped off the top of the inning and extended the Memphis lead to four.

Dean Kiekhefer allowed El Paso to pull one back by way of a Cameron Maybin RBI single, but the Chihuahuas were unable to complete the comeback as the Redbirds came away with the win.

Easley had three hits in four at bats, including two doubles, a home run and four RBI. Stephen Piscotty was the only other Redbird recording multiple hits, going 2-for-4. Marco Gonzales improved his Memphis record to 3-1, allowing eight hits and two earned runs through six innings in the win.

August 19: Memphis at El Paso, El Paso wins 6-2

The Redbirds nine-game winning streak finally came to a halt in their final game of the road trip in a 6-2 loss.

Tyler Lyons surrendered a Tyler Greene solo homer in the first inning to give El Paso an early advantage, but Tommy Pham tied the score in the second by drawing a bases loaded walk. However, the Redbirds were unable to take tack on any more runs in the inning.

The 1-1 score remained until the fifth when Lyons walked Jason Lane when the Chihuahuas loaded the bases. El Paso was able to take advantage, and ex-Redbird Greene drove in three runs with a double that extended the Chihuahua lead to four runs.

In the seventh, Pham came home on a fielding error, but the Redbirds were unable to generate enough offense to mount the comeback. El Paso scored another run in the eighth and took the win.

Pham and Pete Kozma led Memphis offensively, each going 2-for-4. The Redbirds logged eight hits for the game, but went just 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position as they struggled to put runs on the scoreboard.

Lyons took just his second loss of the season as his record fell to 8-2. The left-hander gave up five earned runs and eight hits in six innings pitched. Ryan Sherriff struggled in relief, allowing three hits and an earned run in 1 1/3 innings, and Justin Wright finished out the contest by throwing 2/3 of an inning without giving up a hit.

August 20: Sacramento at Memphis, Sacramento wins 6-3

The Redbirds were unable to recover from an early onslaught of runs from Sacramento (OAK) as the River Cats took a 6-3 win in the opener of Memphis’ final homestand of the season.

It was a nightmare start for Zach Petrick, who gave up five earned runs, four hits, and three walks before recording a single out in the first inning. Petrick was replaced by Heath Wyatt, as five Memphis relievers combined to record all 27 outs.

Wyatt closed out the first inning, but in the second allowed an RBI single that gave Sacramento a 6-0 lead. The Redbirds finally scored in the sixth inning when Stephen Piscotty popped a sacrifice fly to right field to bring home Tommy Pham, and Audry Perez lined an two-run RBI single to center to pull the Redbirds within three.

Randal Grichuk was the only Redbird with multiple hits, going 2-for-4 with a double. Wyatt pitched four innings for Memphis, allowing one earned run and two hits. David Aardsma returned from injury to pitch in his first Triple-A game since June 16. The right-hander threw one inning, allowing one hit, walking one batter and striking out two.

August 21: Sacramento at Memphis, Memphis wins 7-1

After a brief two-game slide, the Redbirds returned to their winning ways, rebounding with a 7-1 victory at AutoZone Park on Thursday night.

The teams were scoreless until the bottom of the fourth when Pete Kozma drove in Stephen Piscotty to give Memphis a one-run lead, then shortstop Luis Mateo plated two more runners on a groundball to center. Sacramento scored its lone run of the game in the fifth inning, when former Cardinals farmhand Jose Martinez singled off Boone Whiting to bring home one runner and cut Redbird lead to two.

Memphis struck back with a Randal Grichuk solo homer and a two-run shot by Luis Mateo to push the lead to five, and a Mike O’Neill sacrifice fly in the eighth scored Ed Easley to finish off the scoring in the Redbirds’ win.

Easley was a perfect 3-for-3 at the plate with a walk, while Mateo and Grichuk each added two hits. Whiting allowed five hits, one earned run, and walked four batters across 4 2/3 innings in a no-decision. Justin Wright was credited with the win after pitching a perfect 2 1/3 innings with two strikeouts.

Who’s Hot

Pete Kozma: Kozma is hitting a blazing .333 over his last 10 games, a significant uptick from the .239 he is hitting on the season. The Memphis shortstop also has nine RBI over the stretch.

Ed Easley: Easley appeared in only three games this week, but continued his recent trend of hot hitting with two three-hit games. This week, Easley went 7-for-11 at the plate, and over his last 10 games he boasts a batting average of .459.

Eric Fornataro: Fornataro has been one of the Redbirds’ most reliable relievers lately, giving up three hits and no runs in six innings of work across his last five games. The right-hander last surrendered a run on August 8 against New Orleans.

Who’s Not

Xavier Scruggs: On August 18, Scruggs was named the PCL Player of the Week, but since that time the first baseman has turned ice cold. In his last four games, Scruggs has failed to record a hit in 13 at bats.

Jermaine Curtis: Curtis has mostly been used as a pinch hitter in recent contests, but has failed to make much of an impact. In his last 10 games, Curtis is 2-for-13 with five strikeouts, and has failed to draw a single walk.

Playoff Push

Just 11 games remain in the regular season, and the Memphis Redbirds and Nashville Sounds are deadlocked in a battle for the American Southern Division’s lone playoff spot. Both teams hold a 72-60 record, and have no remaining games against each other.

Both squads are currently in the midst of their final homestand of the season, and coincidentally both teams play series against Sacramento and Fresno. The Redbirds close the season on the road at 65-67 New Orleans while the Sounds travel to 65-66 Round Rock, so neither team seems to hold a scheduling advantage.

Transactions

August 15 — Memphis Redbirds sent RHP David Aardsma on a rehab assignment to GCL Cardinals
August 17 — St. Louis Cardinals recalled RHP Carlos Martinez from Memphis Redbirds
August 17 — St. Louis Cardinals optioned LHP Kevin Siegrist to Memphis Redbirds
August 19 — St. Louis Cardinals recalled 2B Greg Garcia from Memphis Redbirds
August 20 — Memphis Redbirds activated RHP David Aardsma from the 7-day disabled list

Up Next

The Redbirds will play two more games against Sacramento, and then start their final home series of the season against Fresno (SF) on Sunday. On Thursday, the Redbirds will travel to New Orleans (MIA) to close out the season with five games against the Zephyrs.



Follow Austin Reynolds on Twitter @ReynoldsRant.

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