Memphis Redbirds Notebook: 2014 Week 22

The Pacific Coast League Redbirds are tied 1-1 in their first-round playoff series against Omaha. Newcomer Rafael Ortega has fit right in.

The Memphis Redbirds split their final four games of the regular season against New Orleans (MIA), but clinched their division. They then split the opening two games of their of the best-of-five playoff series against Omaha (KC) to round out a 3-3 week.

The Redbirds finished the regular season as the American Southern Division leader with a record of 79-64. They had finished below .500 in each of the last two seasons and most recently reached the postseason in 2010 with their most recent title in 2009.

With the home field advantage, Memphis will host the final three games (as needed) of their playoff set against the Storm Chasers as each team makes a run at the Pacific Coast League Championship.

August 29: Memphis at New Orleans, Memphis wins 11-6

The Redbirds lit up the Zephyrs for 11 runs and 15 hits in an offensively charged 11-6 Memphis victory in New Orleans.

The Zephyrs got off to a quick start, scoring in both the first and second innings to take an early 2-0 advantage. Memphis broke through in the third inning, when Stephen Piscotty came home on a fielding error and then a Luis Mateo double to centerfield put two more runs on the board to give the Redbirds a 3-2 lead.

The teams traded blows over the next two innings, as the Redbirds emerged with a 7-5 lead at the end of the fifth. Tommy Pham drilled a two-out RBI triple in the seventh inning, and another New Orleans error plated another Memphis run to up the advantage to four. The Redbirds kept their foot on the gas with two more runs in the eighth inning to finish off the victory.

Mateo led the Memphis offense with a 3-for-4 day, including a double, a home run and five RBI. Piscotty also went 3-for-4, while Pham, Xavier Scruggs and Audry Perez each hit twice.

A quintet of Redbird relievers combined to allow nine hits and six earned runs. David Aardsma was credited with the win after striking out three batters and giving up no hits in 1 1/3 innings.

August 30: Memphis at New Orleans, New Orleans wins 5-4

Both teams recorded double-digit hits in a tight game, but a late home run pushed New Orleans over the top in a 5-4 Redbirds loss.

Memphis took the early lead in the top of the first with an Ed Easley RBI double to right field that scored Tommy Pham. The score held until the bottom of the third when Redbirds starter Zach Petrick gave up a two-out, two-run homer to Mark Canha that pushed the Zephyrs ahead.

Each side scored a run in the fifth inning, and following the sixth the contest was put on hold due to a rain. The game was ultimately postponed to August 31.

When play resumed in the seventh the following day, Pham lined an RBI single to center to knot the contest at three before Easley followed up with an RBI single of his own to give Memphis a 4-3 edge. The Zephyrs tied the contest once more in the bottom of the inning with an RBI grounder off David Aardsma.

It looked as if the game would be decided in the ninth inning or in extras, but with two outs in the bottom of the eighth Zack Cox blasted a solo dinger off of Eric Fornataro that gave New Orleans the win.

Easley led the Memphis offense with two hits and an RBI, while Rafael Ortega went 2-for-4 and crossed home plate twice.

On the mound, Petrick received a no-decision in four innings of work, striking out six batters while giving up five hits and three runs. Fornataro took the loss, yielding one earned run and one hit in one inning pitched.

August 31: Memphis at New Orleans, New Orleans wins 4-1

After two high-scoring games, the Memphis offense finally sputtered out in a 4-1 loss to New Orleans in a seven-inning contest.

The two sides played four and a half innings of scoreless baseball until former Redbird Zack Cox blasted an RBI triple in the bottom of the fifth to give the Zephyrs a 1-0 lead. New Orleans continued piling on the runs with three more in the sixth inning, and an Audry Perez home run in the seventh gave the Redbirds their lone run of the ballgame.

Memphis notched just six hits in the loss, with Mike O’Neill the only batter with multiple hits, going 2-for-3. Boone Whiting took his seventh loss of the season, surrendering eight hits and four earned runs in 5 2/3 innings.

September 1: Memphis at New Orleans, Memphis wins 7-6

The Redbirds’ final game of the season went to extra innings, and a 10th inning RBI line drive from Ed Easley gave Memphis the victory.

The Zephyrs scored the first two runs in the first and second innings, but back-to-back homers from Stephen Piscotty and Xavier Scruggs in the fourth tied the contest at two. Mike Mayers gave up a sacrifice fly in the fourth and a two-run homer in the fifth to push the New Orleans lead to three runs.

The Redbirds pulled a run back following a wild pitch in the seventh, and then poured on three more runs in the inning by way of a Stephen Piscotty double and Luis Mateo single to take a 6-5 advantage.

Jorge Rondon blew the save in the ninth inning when Juan Diaz struck an RBI double to right field to even the contest at six. The two teams went to extras, and in the top of the 10th, Easley fired an RBI line drive to give Memphis the lead and the win.

Scruggs led the offensive attack, going 3-for-5 with an RBI. Piscotty drove in three runs, going 2-for-5. Mike Mayers struggled in his Triple-A debut, allowing nine hits and four earned runs in five innings pitched. Despite the blown save, Jorge Rondon picked up the win after giving up two hits and one earned run in two innings of work.

September 2: Off day

September 3: Memphis at Omaha, Omaha wins 7-0

The Redbirds did not kick off their playoff series against the Storm Chasers how they hoped, as Memphis dropped a 7-0 contest in Omaha in game one.

The Storm Chasers took the lead early, when Paulo Orlando singled on a ground ball to left that plated one runner in the first. The score held until the fourth, when Tim Cooney gave up a solo homer that doubled the Omaha lead. The Storm Chasers struck again in the following frame with a Matt Fields three-run bomb to push the advantage to five runs. Whit Merrifield capped off the scoring for Omaha in the seventh inning, blasting a two-run homer off David Aardsma.

The Redbirds totaled only five hits in the contest, and struggled to create any real scoring opportunities. When they did get those few chances, they were unable to take advantage, going 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position.

Scott Moore and Luis Mateo combined for nearly all of Memphis’ offense, going 2-for-4 and 2-for-3, respectively. Cooney took the loss on the mound, yielding six hits and four earned runs in 4 1/3 innings pitched. Aardsma struggled in relief, giving up two earned runs in one inning of work, while Heath Wyatt surrendered one earned run in 1 2/3 innings and Justin Wright was perfect in the game’s final inning.

September 4: Memphis at Omaha, Memphis wins 4-3

After giving up an early lead, Memphis scored in the ninth inning to take the critical game two in Omaha and knot the playoff series at one game apiece.

Tommy Pham drew a walk to lead off the contest, and later in the inning Scott Moore launched a two-run homer to get the Redbirds on the board first. Memphis extended the lead to 3-0 in the fourth inning with a Rafael Ortega RBI triple, but Zach Petrick surrendered two runs in the bottom of the inning as the Storm Chasers pulled within a run.

Omaha equalized in the seventh by way of a Whit Merrifield homer hit off Eric Fornataro. The game headed to the ninth inning with the score still tied at three. With one out in the top of the inning, Greg Garcia singled on a fly ball to center. Garcia then proceeded to steal second base and advance to third on a throwing error by Omaha catcher Brett Hayes. The Storm Chasers followed up with another blunder, a wild pitch from ex-Redbird Clayton Mortensen that enabled Garcia to score.

Jorge Rondon took the mound to close the game for Memphis, and retired the first batter with a fly out. However, Rondon walked the next batter and surrendered a double that put runners on second and third. An intentional walk then loaded the bases for Omaha, as the Storm Chasers looked to rally and take a commanding 2-0 series lead over the Redbirds. But Rondon came through in the clutch, striking out the next batter and getting the final hitter to ground into a force out as Memphis took the game and evened the series.

Garcia and Ortega each went 2-for-4 at the plate to lead the Redbirds. Zach Petrick received a no-decision in the start, giving up two unearned runs and six hits in six innings pitched. Fornataro was credited with the win after yielding one earned run and two hits.

Who’s Hot

Rafael Ortega: Ortega has been consistent at the plate since coming to Memphis, and has hits in five consecutive games. In those five contests, the outfielder is batting .368 with a double and a triple.

Xavier Scruggs: Scruggs was in prime form before departing for St. Louis September 4, hitting in 10 of his last 11 games. The first baseman was recorded multiple hits in six of those contests, and went 17-for-42.

Jorge Rondon: Rondon was clutch in game two of the Redbirds playoff series, getting out of a bases loaded jam in the final inning to give Memphis the much-needed victory. The right-hander has been reliable on the mound in his last 10 contests, giving up just two earned runs and nine hits across 14 innings.

Who’s Not

Tommy Pham: With a batting average of .324, Pham has been arguably the Redbirds’ best offensive option this season. But in recent games his production has dropped off significantly, as he has totaled just seven hits in his last 37 plate appearances (.189). The outfielder is still finding ways to get on base, however, as he has drawn nine walks over the stretch.

Eric Fornataro: Fornataro was credited with the win in the Redbirds’ most recent playoff victory over the Storm Chasers, but the reliever has struggled in recent appearances. The right-hander has allowed earned runs in each of his last three games, giving up four in 3 1/3 innings.

Evenly Matched

The Memphis Redbirds and Omaha Storm Chasers met 16 times during the regular season, and each team came away with an 8-8 record. Neither team was able to win even a single series, with the two sides splitting all four, 2-2. With the playoff series tied 1-1, the final three games will be played in Memphis, but given the teams’ recent history it should be no surprise if the outcome is decided in the fifth and final contest.


August 30 — St. Louis recalled LHP Marco Gonzales from Memphis
August 31 — RHP Mitch Harris assigned to Memphis from Springfield
August 31 — RHP Sam Tuivailala assigned to Memphis from Springfield
August 31 — 2B Greg Garcia assigned to Memphis from Springfield
August 31 — RHP Mike Mayers assigned to Memphis from Springfield
August 31 — LHP Jonathan Cornelius assigned to Springfield from Memphis
August 31 — St. Louis recalled SS Pete Kozma from Memphis
August 31 — St. Louis recalled LHP Kevin Siegrist from Memphis
September 2 — RHP Sam Gaviglio assigned to Memphis from Springfield
September 4 — 1B Jonathan Rodriguez assigned to Memphis from Springfield
September 4 — St. Louis selected the contract of 1B Xavier Scruggs from Memphis

Up Next

The Redbirds continue their playoff series against Omaha with games three and four being played in Memphis on Friday and Saturday. If necessary, a game five will be played Sunday night in AutoZone Park. Should the Redbirds advance, they will play the winner of the series between Reno and Las Vegas in the PCL Championship, starting Tuesday.

Follow Austin Reynolds on Twitter @ReynoldsRant.

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