Memphis Redbirds Notebook: 2015 Week 8

The Cardinals’ Triple-A ball club is one of the hottest teams in the PCL, going 15-3 in their last 18 games and passing New Orleans this week to take second in the division, 4.5 games behind Round Rock. The club’s pitching staff has been phenomenal during Memphis’ hot streak while the lineup is starting to produce in games consistently.

Are the Memphis Redbirds (29-26) the hottest team in the Pacific Coast League? After fourth place Nashville Sounds (OAK) lost Thursday night, the Redbirds have the longest win streak in the league at six games. The ball club is 16-5 since May 15, has placed some of the hottest pitchers on the mound (Petrick, Cooney and others) and have gradually increased their batting average to .246 while relying on hitters including Greg Garcia, Stephen Piscotty, Dean Anna and Jacob Wilson to produce consistently.

Memphis is now in second place in their division, 4.5 games behind Round Rock, 2.0 games ahead of New Orleans, and 3.5 games ahead of Nashville. They went 3-1 in their home series against Salt Lake and are looking to complete a four-game home sweep on Friday, June 5 vs. Las Vegas.

Here’s how the week unfolded:

Friday, May 29: Salt Lake (LAA) 5 at Memphis (STL) 3

After 11 hard-fought innings, Salt Lake’s Kyle Kubitza hit a two-run blast off Keith Butler in the top of the 12th to give the Bees a 5-3 win over the Redbirds. With the loss, Memphis falls to 23-26 this year and 1-2 in extra-inning games.

Salt Lake took the lead in the first after consecutive one-out doubles by Efren Navarro and C.J. Cron gave the Bees a 1-0 lead. Memphis later knotted the game at 1-1 in the fourth as Piscotty scored on Greg Garcia’s double. In the sixth, Scruggs’ plated the Redbirds outfielder again to give the Redbirds a brief 2-1 lead.

After Salt Lake took a 3-2 lead off a double by Jett Bandy, with Rafael Ortega on third, Memphis DH Mike O’Neill dropped a flawless bunt down the third base line to tie the game with two outs in the ninth.

Redbirds starter Zach Petrick provided a solid pitching outing as the right-hander gave up one run on seven hits while striking out four in six innings.

Saturday, May 30: Salt Lake (LAA) 2 at Memphis (STL) 6

The Memphis Redbirds’ clutch hitting – eight of the nine Redbirds starters recorded a hit – gave them a 6-2 win over the Salt Lake Bees at AutoZone Park.

The Memphis offense delivered 12 hits and went 6-for-12 with runners in scoring position while Stephen Piscotty – who extended his hitting streak to seven games – Dan Johnson, Rafael Ortega and Travis Tartamella recorded two hits each.

Salt Lake threw the first punch of the contest off a Daniel Robertson double that plated Kyle Kubitza on a fielder’s choice in the top of the first. Memphis responded in the second with consecutive RBI doubles by Jacob Wilson and Alex Mejia and an Ortega RBI single.

The Redbirds increased their lead in the fourth with three consecutive two-out hits by Tartamella, Dean Anna and Piscotty. Kubitza recorded Salt Lake’s final run of the game in the fifth when he plated former Redbird Gary Brown before the Redbirds scored the final run of the game in the seventh on Johnson’s RBI base hit.

Redbirds lefty Nick Greenwood allowed only one run on four hits in four innings of duty in his fifth start of the season. Tyler Waldron (2-3, 4.20) relieved Greenwood in the fifth and threw three frames, allowing one run and earning the win. Marcus Hatley and Sam Tuivailala closed the game out and threw a scoreless inning each.

Sunday, May 31: Salt Lake (LAA) 0 at Memphis (STL) 2

Redbirds starter Tyler Lyons (4-2, 2.98) tossed a three-hit, seven-inning complete-game shutout in a convincing 2-0 win at AutoZone Park against the Bees. Lyons threw only 74 pitches (52 for strikes) as he recorded his Redbirds franchise record seventh career complete game. The lefty allowed only three hits, fanned four and walked none to drop his ERA to 2.98.

Piscotty recorded two hits to extend his hitting streak to a season-best eight games while Alex Mejia also chimed in with two hits and an RBI.

Memphis scored its first run in the top of the second as Xavier Scruggs came in from third as Mejia grounded out to second. Two frames later, Jacob Wilson scored on a flair by Tartamella to secure the last run of the game.

Monday, June 1: Salt Lake (LAA) 2 at Memphis (STL) 8

The Redbirds used a hot first inning en route to an 8-2 win over the visiting Salt Lake Bees at AutoZone Park. Outfielder Piscotty went 2-for-4 and an RBI to extend his hitting streak to a season-best nine games.

Memphis starter Heath Wyatt put in 2 2/3 innings of work while striking out two, walking three and allowing one hit for one run. Keith Butler relieved Wyatt in the end of the top of the third before Dean Kiekhefer (1-1, 2.52) took over in the fifth and recorded the win. Kiekhefer struck out two while allowing one hit in 2 2/3 innings.

The Redbirds started the first inning barrage with a Piscotty RBI double to left. In the same frame, Johnson blasted a two-run homer to right field to plate Piscotty. The Redbirds scored their fourth run of the inning off a Wilson RBI single to third before Ty Kelly’s sac fly to right plated Garcia for the Redbirds’ fifth run of the game.

The Bees knocked their first run in the top of the third, but Wilson responded with a deep home run to center to give the Redbirds a 6-1 lead. Wilson contributed again in the bottom of the fourth with a two-out line drive single to center to score Anna and Ortega. Salt Lake added a consolation run in the fifth to bring the score to an 8-2 Redbirds lead.

Tuesday, June 2: Las Vegas (NYM) 0 at Memphis (STL) 6

Red-hot Redbirds starter Tim Cooney (5-2, 2.55) threw a four-hit complete-game shutout to lead the Memphis Redbirds to a 6-0 win over the Las Vegas 51s.

The shutout was Cooney’s second of his career as the lefty walked two, scattered four hits and fanned four with 108 pitches (69 strikes). Piscotty also continued his hot hitting as he extended his season-best hitting streak to 10 games with his fifth consecutive two-hit game. The outfielder also made an outstanding, home run-saving catch in the fourth to rob Las Vegas outfielder Jayce Boyd.

Memphis took charge in the fifth as Jacob Wilson crushed a two-run blast – his fourth of the season – to give the Redbirds a 2-0 lead. Dan Johnson extended the lead later in the frame to 4-0 with a two-run base hit; the hit was Johnson’s 1,300th of his 14-year professional career.

Memphis scored the last two runs of the game in the eighth on a fielding error by Las Vegas second baseman Wilfredo Tovar.

Wednesday, June 3: Las Vegas (NYM) 3 at Memphis (STL) 4

The Redbirds scored four unanswered runs in a come-from-behind 4-3 win over the visiting Las Vegas 51s at AutoZone Park. The Redbirds enjoy a five-game win streak and are 14-3 in their last 17 games to improve to 28-26 on the season.

Redbirds starter Petrick (4-3, 3.94) allowed a Matt Reynolds three-run homer in the first inning, but shut down Las Vegas the next six frames to earn his fourth win of the year. The right-hander allowed seven hits for three runs (two earned) while fanning seven.

Memphis responded in the bottom of the second as Xavier Scruggs’ base hit plated Greg Garcia. Two innings later, the ball club scored its next run with three consecutive two-out singles by Garcia, Wilson and Cody Stanley. In the bottom of the fifth, first baseman Dan Johnson brought in Memphis’ last two runs with a go-ahead two-run blast.

Miguel Socolovich and Sam Tuivailala each threw scoreless outings in relief to finish the game; Tuivailala earned his sixth save of the season. Piscotty went 0-for-4 to end his season-best 10-game hitting streak.

Thursday, June 4: Las Vegas (NYM) 9 at Memphis (STL) 10

The Redbirds rallied from an early five-run deficit to record their sixth consecutive win in a comeback 10-9 win over the visiting Las Vegas 51s at AutoZone Park. Johnson was the star of the night as he went 3-for-4 with a pair of home runs and four RBIs – Johnson is the third Redbird to homer twice this season as he joins Scruggs (April 15 vs. Omaha) and Stanley (April 19 at Round Rock).

Johnson knocked his first ball out of the park with a solo blast onto the right field picnic pavilion in the bottom of the first to give Memphis a 1-0 lead. Las Vegas responded with six runs in the top of the third, highlighted by a Brooks Conrad grand slam off Greenwood and a Matt Reynolds’ two-RBI single up the middle.

Johnson helped Memphis respond in the bottom of the third with an RBI to plate Kelly to cut the deficit to 6-2. Las Vegas scored two more in the top of the fourth before Memphis answered with two more in the next two frames on RBI hits from Kelly and Scruggs to cut the lead to 8-4.

Memphis got some more help from Johnson as he blasted a two-run shot over the right field wall before Kelly and Stanley knocked in RBI singles off Mets rehabber Vic Black knot the game at 8-8. Las Vegas scored again in the top of the eighth, but Memphis responded with a Garcia RBI single that plated Johnson and a Wilson sac fly that scored Scruggs to eventually win the game.

Marcus Hatley (3-1, 1.26) notched the win for the Redbirds after coming on in the eighth before Tuivailala recorded his seventh save of the season.

Who’s Hot

Tim Cooney: The lefty leads the league in WHIP (0.087), average against (.197) and is sixth in the league in ERA (2.55) while also leading his team with 16 innings without allowing a run. The Cardinals’ No. 10 prospect also threw his second career nine-inning shutout on June 2.

Zach Petrick: Did you know that Petrick is 4-0 with a 2.25 ERA and 35 strikeouts since May 1? After a rough start to the year – he was 0-2 with an 8.66 ERA – Petrick has really turned it around to be one of the hottest pitchers on one of the hottest teams in the PCL.

Tyler Lyons: Lyons threw his franchise-record seventh complete game as he helped Memphis shut out Salt Lake (LAA). The lefty (4-2, 2.98) fanned five and scattered three hits in seven as he has been another one of Memphis’ reliable starters this year – excluding the start of the season.

Stephen Piscotty: At one point this week, Piscotty had a season-best 10-game hitting streak. Although the streak ended Wednesday when he went 0-for-4, the Redbirds’ No. 1 prospect had five multiple hit games with two RBI and one stolen base.

Jacob Wilson: Wilson has been one of Memphis’ most consistent hitters since joining from Springfield in mid-May. He went 10-for-26 (.385) with two homers and eight RBI, including a 3-for-4, one blast and four RBI night on June 1 against Salt Lake (LAA). Since being called up to Memphis from Springfield, the infielder is fourth on the team in batting average (.283) while also recording 13 RBI and four home runs.

Greg Garcia: While Wilson has been one of Memphis’ hottest hitting players since joining the team mid-May, Garcia has been Memphis’ most consistent hitter leading the team in batting average (.313). The infielder has been 12-for-35 in his last 10 starts and has hit .346 in the last 30 days for the ball club, good enough to be named the organization’s May Player of the Month.

Who’s Not

Nick Greenwood: Although the lefty is 3-1 this season, his ERA is at 8.25 while the swingman has walked 11 and fanned nine. In his last 10 games, Greenwood has allowed 26 earned runs while scattering 48 hits.

Travis Tartamella: Although he has only played 10 games this year as a reserve catcher behind Cody Stanley, the 27-year-old has had a difficult time this season. In his last 10 games, he has gone 5-for-27 with three RBI and six strikeouts.

Transactions

This week had only a few Redbirds transactions between Springfield and St. Louis, respectively, with both occurring on May 29, as the club added another hitter.

05/29/2015: RHP Kurt Heyer assigned to Springfield Cardinals from Memphis Redbirds.
05/29/2015: SS Alex Mejia assigned to Memphis Redbirds from Springfield Cardinals.

What’s Next

This upcoming week will be one of the Memphis Redbirds’ toughest yet as they look to finish the four-game home sweep against the Las Vegas 51s (NYM) before traveling to Iowa to take on the PCL American Northern’s second-place Iowa Cubs (CHC). The Cubs (28-25) are in fourth place in the league in batting (.279) and feature Javier Baez, who is ninth in the league in batting at .325.

After Memphis’ four-game series in Iowa, the Redbirds take a one day break before coming home to face divisional foes Round Rock Express (TEX). Round Rock (32-20), which lead its division as well, lead the league in batting at .283 while also hitting the third most homers in the league (51). Memphis should be up to the challenge as they are one of the hottest teams in the minors right now.



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