Memphis Redbirds Notebook: 2014 Week 21

Pacific Coast League Redbirds’ magic number is two. Tim Cooney set the new franchise win record.

The Memphis Redbirds continued their hot streak toward the season finish with a strong 5-2 week. The team improved its record to 77-62 and increased its lead in the American Southern Division to three games.

Memphis split the final two home games against Sacramento (OAK), and then swept the Fresno Grizzlies (SF) in the Redbirds’ final home series before heading to New Orleans (MIA) to kick off the final regular-season set.

August 22: Sacramento at Memphis, Memphis wins 4-1

The Redbirds fell behind at the start, but scored four unanswered runs to take a second straight victory from the River Cats.

Memphis starter Tim Cooney gave up two quick singles to start the contest, and then former Springfield outfielder Shane Peterson popped a sacrifice fly that gave Sacramento a 1-0 lead. The advantage did not last long, however, as Randal Grichuk hit a sac-fly of his own in the bottom of the inning to even up the score.

The teams played scoreless baseball until the bottom of the fifth, when Luis Mateo lined a double to left field, scoring Pete Kozma and propelling Memphis into the lead. The Redbirds’ final two runs came courtesy of catcher Ed Easley, who drove in a run on a sacrifice fly in the sixth inning and delivered a solo homer in the eighth.

Memphis out-hit Sacramento 10-4 in the win. The Redbirds had four doubles, including two from Mateo. Mateo, Kozma, and Xavier Scruggs each came through with two hits.

The Redbirds received yet another gem from Cooney, who threw six strikeouts in seven innings, allowing only four hits and one earned run. The win was Cooney’s 13th of the season.

August 23: Sacramento at Memphis, Sacramento wins 6-3

Memphis received neither reliable pitching nor hitting as the team dropped the series finale against Sacramento, 6-3.

In a repeat of the previous night, Shane Peterson hit a sacrifice fly in the first, and the 1-0 River Kings lead remained until the sixth inning. That’s when Sacramento added two runs by way of a pair of RBI singles hit against Redbirds reliever Dean Kiekhefer.

The Memphis offense finally began to pick up steam late in the game. In the seventh, Randal Grichuk fired a solo homer, a line drive that just snuck over the left field wall. The score was 4-2 entering the ninth when the River Kings extended the lead to four with two sacrifice flies against Justin Wright. Xavier Scruggs fired a solo shot in the bottom of the ninth, but it was too little too late for the Redbirds.

Scruggs was 2-for-4, the only Memphis batter recording multiple hits. All four Memphis pitchers surrendered runs. Jonathan Cornelius walked three batters and yielded two earned runs and five hits in 5 1/3 innings while taking the loss in his Triple-A debut. Kiekhefer and David Aardsma each allowed one earned run in relief, while Wright gave up two.

August 24: Fresno at Memphis, Memphis wins 8-0

The Redbirds took complete control in the series opener against Fresno, lighting up the Grizzlies for 13 hits while the pitchers dominated in the 8-0 victory.

Tommy Pham opened up the scoring in the third with a solo homer to left field, and in the following inning Pete Kozma launched a dinger of his own, a three-run shot that extended the Memphis lead to four.

The Redbirds kept the long-balls coming in the seventh inning, with solo home runs from Xavier Scruggs and Ed Easley, as well as a Luis Mateo RBI single to take the Memphis advantage up to seven. The Redbirds capped off the scoring in the eighth inning, with a Stephen Piscotty RBI single to plate Pham.

Easley was a perfect 3-for-3 at the plate, while Kozma went 3-for-4 with a double, a home run and three RBI. Marco Gonzales was unstoppable at the rubber, registering six strikeouts and giving up only three hits in six innings pitched. In relief, Heath Wyatt allowed two hits in two innings of work, and Jorge Rondon closed the contest with a perfect inning.

August 25: Fresno at Memphis, Memphis wins 1-0

Memphis’ hitting prowess from the previous night did not make a return, but the pitching was better than ever as the Grizzlies were held to two hits in another Redbirds shutout win.

The lone score of the game came in the bottom of the fourth, when Ed Easley drove a two-out double to right field to bring home Xavier Scruggs.

The Redbirds logged just six hits, with both Easley and Pete Kozma collecting two. Scruggs and Scott Moore were the only other Redbirds with hits, as each went 1-for-4.

Zach Petrick earned his seventh win of the season, striking out seven batters and giving up just one hit in five innings. Kevin Siegrist allowed one hit in two innings of relief, and Eric Fornataro was perfect in the final two innings.

August 26: Fresno at Memphis, Memphis wins 9-6

The Redbirds fell behind early, but out-scored Fresno 7-0 from the seventh inning onward to notch the comeback victory.

Boone Whiting had a rough start for Memphis, allowing eight hits and six earned runs in 4 1/3 innings, allowing the Grizzlies to jump out to a 6-2 lead by the end of the fifth inning.

Starting in the sixth, the Redbirds began their comeback, as Luis Mateo grounded a double to left field to score both Stephen Piscotty and Xavier Scruggs and chop the four-run Fresno lead in half. With two outs in the bottom of the frame, Memphis kept the runs coming. Mike O’Neill drove in catcher Audry Perez on a groundball, and Rafael Ortega lined a single to left field to plate Luis Mateo and tie up the score at six.

Audry Perez dropped a two-run bomb over the left field wall in the following inning to put the ‘Birds up two, and then Tommy Pham hit an RBI single to seal the deal for Memphis.

Perez, Mateo and Xavier Scruggs each went 2-for-4 with two RBI to lead the offensive charge. Stephen Piscotty went 1-for-3, drew two walks and crossed home plate three times.

August 27: Fresno at Memphis, Memphis wins 5-4

Memphis withstood a ninth-inning scare to hold on for a narrow 5-4 win in the team’s final home game of the regular season. The victory gave the Redbirds a four-game sweep over the Grizzlies.

Tim Cooney gave up a Brandon Hicks solo homer in the game’s second inning, but the Redbirds answered in the third with a Scott Moore RBI single to score two and give Memphis the lead. The Redbirds kept it rolling in the fourth with a Tim Cooney RBI double to plate Rafael Ortega, and a Jermaine Curtis single in the sixth put two more runs on the board and pushed the Memphis lead to four.

The 5-1 score held until the eighth inning, when Justin Wright surrendered an RBI groundout that cut the lead to three, and Fresno’s momentum carried over into the contest’s final inning. Eric Fornataro allowed three hits and walked one batter while only recording one out, and Trevor Brown grounded an RBI single to center field that scored two runners and put another on second. Kevin Siegrist entered, striking out his first batter faced and forcing the second into a fly out to preserve the sweep.

The Redbirds got the win despite only five hits, and got a lift from their starting pitcher as Cooney went 2-for-2 at the plate with a double and an RBI. On the mound, Cooney gave up one earned run and five hits across six innings, earning his 14th victory of the season.

August 28: Memphis at New Orleans, New Orleans wins 6-1

Left-hander Jonathan Cornelius struggled in his second start for the Redbirds, and the offense failed to put runs on the board as Memphis dropped the series opener in New Orleans, 6-1.

The Zephyrs took a two-run lead in the first inning by way of a Kyle Jensen RBI single to left field. Pete Kozma chopped the New Orleans lead to one run in the top of the fourth with a line drive RBI double that brought home Stephen Piscotty. But Cornelius coughed up a pair of Zephyr home runs that produced three runs in the bottom of the inning, and Juan Diaz added another dinger in the sixth that wrapped up the victory for New Orleans.

For the second night in a row, the Memphis offense was held to just five hits. Xavier Scruggs and Tommy Pham were the only Redbirds to reach base twice. Scruggs went 1-for-2 with a walk while Pham reached base on free passes twice.

Cornelius went six innings in the loss, yielding six hits and six earned runs while walking two batters and striking out four. Dean Kiekhefer tossed two hitless innings in relief.

Who’s Hot

Tim Cooney: Cooney has been a star on the mound all season, and especially so in recent contests. In his last three starts the lefty holds a 3-0 record, and has given up only four earned runs in 18 innings pitched.

Ed Easley: Easley’s 10-game hitting streak come to a halt this week, but the catcher is still batting an astounding .432 over his last 10 games, and had a perfect 3-for-3 outing at the plate on August 24 against Fresno.

Pete Kozma: Kozma has kept up his hot hitting, and has been a critical cog in the Redbirds offense as of late. In his last 36 at bats, the Memphis shortstop has 14 hits and five RBI.

Who’s Not

Stephen Piscotty: Piscotty is hitting .284 on the season, but has struggled to get anything going lately. The outfielder has just four hits in his last 10 games, for a dreadful batting average of .121.

Jonathan Cornelius: Cornelius has struggled in his first two games for the Redbirds, receiving a loss in each. The left-hander has thrown 11 1/3 innings, giving up 11 hits and eight earned runs while walking five batters.

Cooney Sets Franchise Record

In the 5-4 victory against Fresno on August 27, Memphis starter Tim Cooney improved his record to 14-6, becoming the first Redbird pitcher to ever reach the 14-win mark. The previous record of 13 wins was set by Larry Luebbers in 1999 and matched by Lance Lynn in 2010. Cooney’s 14 victories are the most in the Pacific Coast League, and his ERA of 3.47 ranks fourth.


August 22 — Jonathan Cornelius assigned to Memphis Redbirds from Springfield Cardinals
August 22 — LHP Ryan Sherriff assigned to Springfield Cardinals from Memphis Redbirds
August 24 — Memphis Redbirds placed LHP John Gast on the 7-day disabled list retroactive to August 14, 2014
August 24 — 2B Greg Miclat assigned to Memphis Redbirds from Springfield Cardinals
August 25 — St. Louis Cardinals recalled LHP Tyler Lyons from Memphis Redbirds
August 26 — St. Louis Cardinals recalled Randal Grichuk from Memphis Redbirds
August 26 — CF Rafael Ortega assigned to Memphis Redbirds from Springfield Cardinals

Up Next

The Redbirds have just four games remaining in the regular season, all of which are at division rival New Orleans. Memphis holds a three-game lead over the Nashville Sounds for the division lead, and if the Redbirds hold on, their first playoff game is slated for September 3.

Follow Austin Reynolds on Twitter @ReynoldsRant.

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