Memphis Redbirds Notebook: 2015 Week 9

St. Louis’ Triple-A ball club continues its winning ways as they inch closer to first place in the Pacific Coast League American Southern Division. The Redbirds’ pitching staff has been consistently good since May with one starter in particular winning the PCL Pitcher of the Week award.

The Memphis Redbirds (33-28) have been in terrific form as St. Louis’ Triple-A affiliate has won eight of their last 10 and 20 of their last 26. The team started this Pacific Coast League season on the rough side as several players were finding it difficult to produce, but certainly the club has turned up the heat as they are aiming to reach the top spot in the American Southern Division.

Memphis is in second place, three games behind Round Rock but has jumped to 6.5 games ahead of New Orleans and 7.0 games ahead of Nashville. The club completed their four-game sweep over Las Vegas June 5, traveled to Iowa and split their away series with the Cubs before earning their first win of the four-game home series vs. Round Rock.

Here’s how the week unfolded:

Friday, June 5: Las Vegas (NYM) 0 at Memphis (STL) 1

Memphis concluded the club’s second four-game series sweep of the season in a rain-shortened 1-0 victory over Las Vegas.

Dean Anna hit a solo home run in the fifth to score the only run in the game before the heavy rain poured down at approximately 8:45 p.m. in the bottom of the seventh. That delayed the game for 54 minutes before officials ended the game at 9:39 p.m. The solo blast, which came off Las Vegas starter and Mets top pitching prospect Steven Matz (6-4), was Anna’s first since July 19, 2014 as a member of the Indianapolis Indians.

Redbirds starter John Gast (2-3, 4.56) allowed four hits in seven shutout innings in the complete game while fanning five. The Redbirds defense was also lively as they turned a season-best four double plays.

Saturday, June 6: Memphis (STL) 7 at Iowa (CHC) 2

The Redbirds rode a five-run third inning to defeat the Iowa Cubs 7-2 on the road to record a season-high and tie a team franchise record eight-game win streak.

Rafael Ortega plated the first run of the game in the second via a sac fly. The Redbirds scored five one inning later which included a Greg Garcia two-RBI single to right, a Dan Johnson run off an Iowa fielding error, a Cody Stanley sac fly and a bases loaded walk with Anna at the plate. Iowa allowed 10 walks to a team that is currently atop the PCL with 272 bases on balls. Jacob Wilson scored the Redbirds’ last run on a fourth-inning fielder’s choice.

Memphis starter Tyler Lyons (5-2, 2.61) notched his fifth win of the season as he struck out eight while walking one in six innings. Dean Kiekhefer, Keith Butler and Heath Wyatt completed the game for the Redbirds.

Sunday, June 7: Memphis (STL) 2 at Iowa (CHC) 3

The Iowa Cubs snapped the Redbirds’ eight-game win streak due to a Taylor Teagarden walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth.

Teagarden opened the scoring in the bottom of the second with a solo home run. The Redbirds were able to respond in the top of the third when comeback kid Tommy Pham plated Travis Tartamella on an RBI single. It was Pham’s first hit and RBI of the 2015 season after the 27-year-old missed the beginning of the season due to a quad injury in Spring Training.

At the plate, Redbirds starter Tim Cooney battled Iowa pitcher Armando Rivero in a 13 pitch-at bat which ended in an RBI single, giving Memphis the 2-1 lead in the seventh. Unfortunately, the Cubs tied the game in the next frame on a Teagarden RBI single.

Teagarden struck again, this time against Redbirds reliever Marcus Hatley (3-2, 1.53) for his third RBI – a walk-off single. Cooney pitched eight strong innings before Hatley relieved the southpaw in the ninth.

Monday, June 8: Memphis (STL) 1 at Iowa (CHC) 2

Defensive problems early in the game and an eighth inning run helped give the Iowa Cubs a close 2-1 win over the visiting Redbirds.

The Cubs scored in the first on a passed ball from Tartamella and a fielding error by Ty Kelly. After four scoreless innings, the Redbirds were able to even the score at one when Piscotty – the outfielder was the first runner in scoring position of the night for Memphis – came home on a line drive RBI double from Xavier Scruggs.

Redbirds starter Zach Petrick threw seven innings of two-hit baseball while allowing one unearned run and one walk. The right-hander also retired 15 of the last 16 batters he faced. Miguel Socolovich (1-1, 0.54), who had not yet surrendered a run for the Redbirds in 2015, relieved Petrick in the eighth. His scoreless streak came to an end at 16 innings when Rubi Silva scored on a Rafel Lopez RBI single.

Greg Garcia and Ty Kelly both reached base on walks in the ninth, but Cubs reliever Brian Schlitter was able to close the game out to earn the Cubs’ second straight victory over the Redbirds. The loss was the Redbirds’ first consecutive-game losing streak since May 28 and May 29.

Tuesday, June 9: Memphis (STL) 11 at Iowa (CHC) 3

Pham blasted two home runs and knocked in five runs – a career high – as the Redbirds recorded a season-high 13 hits. Memphis split their four-game away series with Iowa with a comfortable 11-3 win.

Jonathan Mota’s RBI fielder’s choice started the scoring for the Cubs in the first to give Iowa an early 1-0 lead. The Redbirds responded in the third when Pham crossed home on Rafael Lopez’s throwing error before Scruggs’ sac fly scored Piscotty. Wilson capped off the three-run inning with an RBI double that plated Garcia.

That was just the beginning as Pham sent his first home run of the game over the right center-field wall that scored Alberto Rosario in the fourth – Pham’s last home run was on August 24, 2014. Iowa cut the lead to 5-3 in the fifth as the club scored two runs against Redbirds starter Nick Greenwood.

Memphis responded in the top of the sixth when Pham knocked his second home run of the game, which brought Ortega and Alex Mejia home and gave the Redbirds an 8-3 lead. Memphis scored again in the seventh on an Ortega RBI double before scoring two more in the eighth as Garcia and Scruggs each delivered RBI singles to increase the lead to 11-3.

Redbirds starter Greenwood (4-1, 7.90) earned the win as he allowed three earned on five hits while walking one and fanning a season-high four in five innings of work. Waldron, Wyatt and Sam Tuivailala relieved Greenwood to shut out the Cubs for the game’s final four innings, combining to allow just one hit.

Thursday, June 11: Round Rock (TEX) 2 at Memphis (STL) 3

The Redbirds recorded their eighth win in a row at home as the club opened their four-game home series with a 3-2 win over division-rival Round Rock Express.

Memphis opened the scoring when Pham’s sac fly plated Piscotty in the bottom of the fourth. Round Rock responded in the next frame thanks to a Tyler Pastornicky RBI double to knot the score.

Memphis’ Wilson helped the Redbirds take the lead back with a solo blast in the fifth. Piscotty batted in a run in the same frame to give Memphis a 3-1 lead. After several scoreless innings, the Express made it interesting with a Ryan Strausborger double in the ninth; but Tuivailala was able to earn his team-leading eighth save of the season.

Redbirds starter John Gast (3-3, 4.23) struck out four, walked two and allowed one run on six hits over six innings to earn the win. The left-hander is 2-0 with a 0.69 ERA in a pair of starts this month.

Big News

Memphis Redbirds starter Tyler Lyons was named the PCL Pitcher of the Week during June 1 – June 7.

Lyons went 2-0 with a league-leading 0.00 ERA over 13 innings pitched and a .136 average against (6-for-144) in starts vs. the Salt Lake Bees and Iowa Cubs. The southpaw also fanned 13 – good for second-most in the league – while his 0.54 WHIP ranked third. Lyons has also thrown four shutouts and has a 2.61 ERA this season.

The 27-year-old has now been named as PCL Pitcher of the Week three times in his career, receiving the honor in 2013 and 2014. Lyons also holds the record for most Pitcher of the Week performances in Redbirds’ history – Tim Cooney, Shelby Miller, Brandon Dickson, Anthony Reyes, Clint Weibl, Clint Sodowsky and Brady Raggio all received the recognition twice as Redbirds.

Who’s Hot

John Gast: The Redbirds lefty is 2-0 with a 0.69 ERA in a pair of starts in June. While guys like Cooney, Petrick and Lyons have been turning in outstanding performances, the 26-year-old has taken a little longer to adjust. These last two performances could help bring Gast’s confidence back up.

Greg Garcia: The red-hot second baseman has been consistent all season for the Redbirds. The 25-year-old from El Cajon, CA has knocked at least one hit in his last 10 games while bringing home five runners. Garcia also stole two and had eight walks vs. seven strikeouts in his last 10 contests and is batting .321 this year.

Tommy Pham: Pham, who was optioned down from St. Louis earlier this week, had a very good week including a two home run, five RBI night against the Iowa Cubs. The 27-year-old outfielder is coming back from a quad tear he suffered during Spring Training, but the Las Vegas resident is showing everyone why the Cardinals called him up in the first place.

Who’s Not

Travis Tartamella: Tartamella replaced Cody Stanley, who was placed on the 7-day disabled list June 7, and is continuing to have trouble at the plate. The 27-year-old is last in the team in batting average at .186 and has found it difficult offensively to replace Stanley and Ed Easley, who is with St. Louis.

Transactions

The biggest news during this week’s transactions was St. Louis’ Tommy Pham being optioned to Memphis after being activated from the 60-day disabled list. Pham went down with a quad injury that turned out to be a tear during spring training, causing the outfielder to miss nearly three months of action. The 27-year-old went 7-for-17 (.412) in spring training before suffering the injury.

06/05/2015: St. Louis Cardinals option LF Tommy Pham to Memphis Redbirds.
06/07/2015: Memphis Redbirds place C Cody Stanley on the 7-day disabled list.
06/08/2015: Alberto Rosario assigned to Memphis Redbirds from Springfield Cardinals.
06/09/2015: St. Louis Cardinals recall RHP Miguel Socolovich from Memphis Redbirds.

What’s Next

The Redbirds continue to try and conquer a tough week that includes finishing a four-game homestand against the Round Rock Express (35-24), a three-game away series against the Nashville Sounds (29-32) starting June 15 and ending with the beginning of a four-game away series with league-leading Oklahoma City Dodgers (38-21).

The Los Angeles Dodgers have one of the best farm systems in baseball, and Oklahoma City fields shortstop Corey Seager (.297), the #5 prospect in all of baseball. Although the club is last in the PCL in batting (.237), the Dodgers have one of the best bullpens in the PCL with a league-leading record of 38-21 and a third-place 3.78 ERA; but the Redbirds aren’t far behind in pitching with a 3.91 ERA, good for fourth in the league behind Oklahoma City.



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