Memphis Redbirds Notebook: 2015 Week 6

St. Louis’ Triple-A Club, stuck in third place in the division for the third consecutive week, has combined smart offense and stingy pitching to put in their best weekly performance all season.

What a turnaround for the Memphis Redbirds! The club finished Week 6 of the Pacific Coast League on a 5-2 high-note after a shaky performance last week.

The team started the period by dropping their final game in the away series against Colorado Springs (MIL) before returning to AutoZone Park and taking their home series against Omaha (KC), four games to one. The club finished the week in Sacramento (SF) as they took the first of a four-game away set.

The third-place Redbirds are eight games back of Round Rock (TEX) and increased their edge over last-place Nashville (OAK) to 2 ½ games as the Birds improved to an 18-23 record for the season.

Here is how the week unfolded:

Friday, May 15: Memphis (STL) 2 at Colorado Springs (MIL) 6

The Redbirds ended their four-game series in Colorado Springs on a sour note as the Redbirds pitching staff walked nine batters – prior to Friday, the Redbirds had not allowed more than six walks in a game this season.

Memphis was able to jump out to an early two run lead in the second following a Ty Kelly single that brought in Greg Garcia and a run batted in from starting pitcher Boone Whiting due to a fielder’s choice.

However, the Sky Sox sprung to life in the bottom of third as they scored four runs against Whiting. Whiting walked three straight in the inning as the Sky Sox took the lead and never looked back. Colorado Springs scored a run each in the fifth and the eighth.

Whiting (0-2) earned the loss with a line of four runs on four hits, two strikeouts, and a season-high seven walks.

The Redbirds fell to 13-22 on the year and 3-4 against the Sky Sox.

Saturday, May 16: Omaha (KC) 0 at Memphis (STL) 5

The Redbirds rebounded from Friday night’s loss with a stellar performance from the pitching staff as they shut out the Storm Chasers in the opener of their home series.

Tim Cooney (2-3) turned in a 7 2/3 inning one-hit performance with a line of two walks, a hit batter, and six strikeouts. Marcus Hatley relieved Cooney and threw a perfect 1 1/3 scoreless innings to earn Memphis’ 10th combined one-hitter in franchise history.

Ed Easley’s third homer of the season gave the Redbirds an early 1-0 in the first. Memphis added two more runs in the fourth after Mike O’Neill, with the bases loaded, hit a two-run single to center.

Dan Johnson was directly responsible for Memphis’ final two runs as his sac fly in the fifth brought home Ty Kelly and his solo home run that landed on the right field picnic pavilion, his second blast of the season.

The Redbirds improved to 14-22 this year and 2-2 against the Storm Chasers.

Sunday, May 17: Omaha (KC) 2 at Memphis (STL) 1; Omaha (KC) 1 at Memphis (STL) 4

The Redbirds split their doubleheader with the Storm Chasers on Sunday as they lost the opener 2-1, but they closed the day with a 4-1 win.

Redbirds starting pitcher John Gast (1-3) recorded the loss after throwing four strikeouts and allowing two runs on seven hits. Gast’s two runs were due to Storm Chasers third baseman Orlando Calixte’s two-run homer in the top of the second. The Redbirds’ only run came from Stephen Piscotty’s double into to center that drove Easley in from second.

Memphis rebounded in the second game of the day with a three-run rally in the fourth after both teams scored a run in the third.

Xavier Scruggs launched a line drive to center field to bring home Matt Williams and Piscotty in the top of the fourth. Ty Kelly walked later in the inning to bring Scruggs home.

Redbirds relief pitcher Tyler Waldron (1-3) recorded his first win of the season as he tossed 2 1/3 scoreless innings in relief of Nick Greenwood. Hatley relieved Waldron in the seventh and recorded his third save of the season.

The Redbirds ended the day with a 15-23 record on the season and a 3-3 record against the Storm Chasers.

Monday, May 18: Omaha (KC) 1 at Memphis (STL) 5

Jacob Wilson, the Bartlett High and Memphis Tiger alum in his Triple-A debut, went 1-for-2 with a home run, two RBI, and a pair of runs scored as the Redbirds clinched their second winning series this season.

The 24-year-old was promoted from Double-A Springfield Cardinals earlier this week while batting .225 (27-for-120) with a team-leading seven home runs and 21 RBI in 34 games. Wilson first came home on Kelly’s two run blast in the fifth after working a two-out bat. Wilson later launched a two-run homer in the seventh just beyond the left field wall. Williams added an insurance run from an Easley sac fly in the eighth.

Redbirds starter Zach Petrick (2-3) recorded his second consecutive win while allowing one run on four hits in seven innings. Former Redbirds pitcher Clayton Mortensen (2-4) absorbed the loss for Omaha, pitching six innings and allowing three runs.

The Redbirds improved to 16-23 this season and 4-3 against the Storm Chasers.

Tuesday, May 19: Omaha (KC) 2 at Memphis (STL) 3

Greg Garcia played the role of hero as he hammered a walkoff RBI single off Omaha first baseman Cheslor Cuthbert in the finale of the home series. It was the Redbirds’ fourth last-bat win of the season, all in the month of May.

Memphis starter Marco Gonzales turned in a performance that shows why he is rated as one of the Cards’ top prospects. Gonzales put in six innings of work with seven strikeouts, two walks, and one run on five hits.

Memphis took the lead first in the bottom of the fourth after Dean Anna knocked in a runner via a sac fly with the bases loaded. Two innings later, Storm Chasers designated hitter Jose Martinez tied the game at 1-1 with a solo homer, his fourth of the season, to left off Gonzales.

Both teams recorded a run in the eighth as Omaha took advantage of a costly Redbirds fielding error. Omaha reliever Louis Coleman intentionally walked Anna in the next frame and Easley knocked a two-out, game-tying single to center that brought home O’Neill.

Keith Butler (1-2) tossed a scoreless ninth inning with two walks and two strikeouts for his first win of the year.

The Redbirds improved to 17-23 on the year and 5-3 against the Storm Chasers.

Thursday, May 21: Memphis (STL) 4 at Sacramento (SF) 2

The Redbirds used a three-run top of the sixth and a complete game from Lyons to start their four game away series with the River Cats with a win.

Lyons (3-1), in his first start since being returned by St. Louis, continues his hot season as he fanned a season-high 12 and allowed two runs on seven hits. This game marked the second nine-inning complete game of Lyons’ career with July 29, 2014 in Round Rock being his first.

The River Cats jumped out to a 2-0 lead after three due to Ehire Adrianza’s double bringing a player home in the first and Darren Ford’s homer in the third. The Redbirds responded with a three-run sixth inning that included Anna’s ground rule double to right field that brought home Kelly and Lyons. Johnson knocked a sac fly later in the inning to score Anna.

Memphis scored an insurance run in the top of the ninth when Lyons reached on a fielding error that plated Garcia. The win Thursday night marked a season-high four game-winning streak for the Redbirds.

The Redbirds improved to an 18-23 record on the season and 1-0 against the River Cats.

Who’s Hot

Redbirds Pitching Staff: What a turnaround for a pitching staff that had played way below par last week! After allowing 48 runs in seven games, the pitching staff produced at a very high level, only allowing 14 runs during this past week.

Tyler Lyons: The veteran is playing phenomenal baseball, as he is 3-1 so far this season with a 2.64 ERA in 30 2/3 innings. Lyons threw a complete game Thursday night in Sacramento along with 12 strikeouts.

Marco Gonzales: The top prospect lefty bounced back from a shaky week after recovering from left shoulder tightness and threw six innings with seven strikeouts Tuesday vs. Omaha.

Ball clubs ride or die by the pitching staff; if the Redbirds’ staff can perform this consistently, they have a real possibility of reaching the playoffs.

Jacob Wilson: The infielder is a former Bartlett High School and University of Memphis star who was drafted in the 10th round of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft. Wilson, 24, was promoted from Double-A Springfield earlier this week after hitting .225 with a team-leading seven home runs and 21 RBI. The right-handed hitter also knocked in a two-run homer in his debut as a Memphis Redbird.

Last season, Wilson split time between Class A Advanced Palm Beach and Double A-Springfield, but he suffered a season-ending knee injury last June. That and having to compete with veterans like Greg Garcia and Ty Kelly this spring were a few of the reasons he was returned to Springfield to open the season.

The 13th ranked prospect in the Cards’ system can play second or third base. Wilson ended the week hitting .375 (3-for-8) with one homer and two RBI.

Who’s Not

Xavier Scruggs: After starting out the season on a hot streak and being called up by the Cardinals, Scruggs was optioned back to Memphis, where his batting average has sunk to the low .200s. Scruggs was 1-for-15 this week with seven strikeouts.

Scott Moore: Before Moore was given his release by the Cardinals, the 31-year-old third baseman was hitting .175 (20-for-114) in the PCL. He had batted 2-for-10 in Week 6 for the Birds before being cut to make room for the newly-promoted Jacob Wilson.

Transactions

Several transactions occurred during Week 6 of the Redbirds’ season. The most notable was Wilson being promoted from the Springfield Cardinals as the 24-year-old had a terrific debut for the Redbirds.

05/16: St. Louis Cardinals option 1B Xavier Scruggs to Memphis Redbirds.
05/17: St. Louis Cardinals recall RHP Sam Tuivailala from Memphis Redbirds.
05/17: St. Louis Cardinals option LHP Tyler Lyons to Memphis Redbirds.
05/18: Memphis Redbirds release 3B Scott Moore.
05/18: Jacob Wilson promoted to Memphis Redbirds from Springfield Cardinals.
05/21: St. Louis Cardinals option RHP Sam Tuivailala to Memphis Redbirds.

2nd Best Minor League Ballpark in America

AutoZone Park came in second place in Baseball America’s list of the nation’s Best Ballparks in the minors. The list was published with the opinions of more than 100 general managers, announcers and other minor league insiders and observers.

Baseball America raved about the improvements to the ballpark after a $6.5 million project last season that included new video boards, a BBQ pit and bar area, an open-air club behind home plate and new berm seating in the outfield. AutoZone Park finished behind Charlotte’s BB&T Ballpark, which premiered in 2014.

What’s Next

The Redbirds continue their California road trip as the finish their series in Sacramento (SF) before traveling to Fresno (HOU) for another four-game set. Fresno will be Memphis’ toughest opponent yet as they are on top of their division with a 23-17 record.

Fresno also fields the #3 prospect in baseball shortstop Carlos Correa and the #66 prospect outfielder Domingo Santana. Correa is hitting .326 with two homers and seven RBI while he rarely strikes out (only seven strikeouts all season). Santana is Fresno’s power-hitting outfielder that is hitting .311 with 10 homers and 12 RBI.

The Redbirds will need another big week from their pitching staff if the club wants to win in Fresno.



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