Memphis Redbirds Notebook: 2015 Week 10

St. Louis’ Triple-A ball club had 3-4 week as Memphis dropped to five games behind Pacific Coast League American Southern Division leader Round Rock. The Redbirds dropped a few close ones during the week but remain above .500.

The Memphis Redbirds (36-32) had a steady Week 10 as the ball club ran into some of the toughest teams in the Pacific Coast League, Round Rock and Oklahoma City. The good news is that excluding a 7-1 shocker against Nashville, Memphis fought tooth and nail against these playoff-caliber teams, but the team dropped a couple close ones as the Redbirds went 3-4 during the week.

In the American Southern Division, the Redbirds are 10 games ahead of New Orleans and 11 games ahead of Nashville. Memphis split their four-game series with Round Rock, traveled to Nashville to take the 2-1 series win over the Sounds and dropped the opener of a four-game away series vs. Oklahoma City.

Here’s how the week unfolded:

Friday, June 12: Round Rock (TEX) 4 at Memphis (STL) 2

The Redbirds’ eight-game home win streak screeched to a halt as they fell to division rival Round Rock, 4-2.

Xavier Scruggs got things rolling for the Redbirds as the first baseman blasted a two-run home run – his team-leading ninth of the season – in the bottom of the second; but Round Rock tied the game at 2-2 in the next frame. The Express scored again in the top of the sixth as Rougned Odor hit an RBI triple before coming home via an infield groundout to score the last run of the game and increase the lead to 4-2.

Redbirds starter Tim Cooney (5-3, 2.80) recorded the loss for the Redbirds as the lefty surrendered four funs over six innings of duty. The 24-year-old walked one and struck out four.

Saturday, June 13: Round Rock (TEX) 5 at Memphis (STL) 4

The Redbirds absorbed their second straight home loss to the division-leading Express 5-4 in front of a season-high 7,661 fans.

The Express jumped to an early 1-0 lead as Brett Nicholas’ single plated Tyler Pastomicky in the top of the first. Scruggs helped the Redbirds respond in the bottom of the third with a two-run blast – his team-leading 10th home run of the year – to give Memphis a 2-1 lead.

Round Rock’s Michael Choice’s double and Jared Hoying’s two-run homer highlighted a four run fourth inning that gave the Express a 5-2 lead. Dan Johnson and the Redbirds kept the game close with a solo blast to right – Johnson’s seven home runs have all come at AutoZone Park this season – in the seventh and an RBI single that plated Dean Anna in the ninth. However, the Redbirds stranded the potential tying run on first base to end the game at 5-4.

Redbirds starter Zach Petrick (4-4, 3.91) ended a four-game win streak as the right-hander gave up five runs on eight hits and three strikeouts over five innings. Tyler Waldron, Dean Kiekhefer and Heath Wyatt combined for four scoreless innings in relief.

Sunday, June 14: Round Rock (TEX) 0 at Memphis (STL) 2

The Redbirds split their four-game home series with the Express with a 2-0 victory.

Memphis scored first in the bottom of the first as Scruggs plated Tommy Pham on a sac fly to center. Scruggs plated Pham again two innings later via a single up the middle to increase the lead to 2-0.

In his Triple-A debut, Redbirds starter Thomas Lee (1-0, 0.00) allowed five hits while fanning four and walking one in seven shutout innings. Marcus Hatley worked around a hit for a scoreless eighth before Sam Tuivailala recorded his team-leading ninth save of the season.

Monday, June 15: Memphis (STL) 5 at Nashville (OAK) 2

The Redbirds opened their three-game away series against cross-state rivals Nashville Sounds with a 5-2 win.

Memphis jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the top of the first as Pham’s single scored Anna and Stephen Piscotty. Memphis scored again in the top of the second as Rafael Ortega crossed home due to a Chris Bassitt wild pitch to give Memphis a 3-0 lead.

Ortega came close to recording an inside-the-park home run in the top of the third before being tagged out inches away by Sounds catcher Luke Carlin. The Redbirds outfielder did score Scruggs with the triple. Memphis added another run in the eighth via a Jacob Wilson RBI single to end the game at 5-0.

Redbirds starter Nick Greenwood (5-1, 6.85) threw 6 1/3 innings of shutout baseball while matching a career-high of seven strikeouts, including the first six outs of the game. Tuivailala closed the game out in the ninth to earn his 10th save of the season.

Tuesday, June 16: Memphis (STL) 1 at Nashville (OAK) 7

The Redbirds were unable to slow down the Sounds offense as Memphis fell 7-1.

Nashville opened the scoring with three runs in the first three innings highlighted by a two-run RBI double in the bottom of the first by Jason Pridie and a fielder’s choice that plated Matt Carson in the bottom of the third.

Memphis responded in the top of the seventh when Piscotty’s ground out scored Ortega, but Nashville struck again in the next frame as Oakland’s Triple-A club sent nine batters to the plate and scored the last four runs of the game.

Redbirds starter John Gast (3-4, 4.37) had a rough day on the mound as he ended his night with three strikeouts, four walks and three earned runs on five hits in 4 1/3 innings. Reliever Justin Wright ran into trouble as well as the lefty was responsible for the four-run seventh inning while walking another two batters. In total, Redbirds pitchers allowed seven runs and eight walks to a strong Sounds offense.

Wednesday, June 17: Memphis (STL) 7 at Nashville (OAK) 5

The Redbirds enjoyed a 7-5 victory over their cross-state rivals from Nashville in the finale of a three-game away series.

Memphis jumped out to a 1-0 lead over former AL Cy Young Award winner Barry Zito in the top of the first as Johnson scored Piscotty with a single. Piscotty came through again in the top of the third via a two-run blast before Scruggs hit a solo blast two batters later to increase the lead to 4-0.

Nashville cut the lead to 4-3 after a solo home run from Craig Gentry in the fourth and back-to-back RBI groundouts in the sixth from Joey Wendle and Ike Davis. The Redbirds responded in the eighth with a Greg Garcia RBI single that scored Piscotty before Wilson’s two-run double to center gave Memphis a 7-3 lead.

Redbirds starter Cooney (6-3, 2.90) collected his team-leading sixth win of the year while matching a season-best eight strikeouts, scattering four hits and walking one in 6 2/3 innings. Nashville added runs in the eighth and ninth, but Redbirds closer Tuivailala earned his 11th save of the season.

Thursday, June 18: Memphis (STL) 5 at Oklahoma City (LAD) 6

A five-run lead was just not enough as the Oklahoma City Dodgers overcame the early deficit to take down the visiting Redbirds, 6-5.

Memphis opened the scoring with a five-run third inning highlighted by an Anna RBI single, a Johnson two-RBI single, a Wilson sac fly that plated Johnson and a Ty Kelly RBI triple. The Redbirds sent nine batters to the plate during the inning, but would fail to register another hit until the top of the eighth.

The Dodgers scored in the bottom of the third, added three in the sixth and one in the seventh to knot the game up at 5-5 – the five-run comeback marks the biggest blown lead of the year for the Redbirds. Reliever Tyler Waldron recorded two outs on the first two pitches in the bottom of the ninth, but the right-hander’s third pitch of the frame was blasted over the wall by Scott Schebler to end the game at 6-5.

Redbirds starter Petrick allowed four runs on 12 hits in six innings. The right-hander also issued his first walk in his last four starts while striking out four. Waldron (2-4, 3.99) took the loss.

Who’s Hot

Xavier Scruggs: The 27-year-old recorded a hit in every game this week (excluding the Oklahoma City game when Scruggs was not included in the lineup.) The first baseman also knocked two balls out of the park to lead the Redbirds with 11 homers in the 2015 season while plating seven runners during the period. After a couple of weeks of average hitting, Scruggs found his early season form this week and helped give the Redbirds several scoring opportunities. (Editor’s note: According to a Thursday report from Rob Rains, Scruggs and Greg Garcia will likely be called up to St. Louis on Friday.)

Stephen Piscotty: Piscotty continues to show why he is the top hitting prospect in St. Louis’ farm system and so important to Memphis’ offense. The outfielder sent one ball out the park while driving in another three runners this week and stealing two bases. The 24-year-old is leading the team in doubles (20) this season.

Sam Tuivailala: Tuivailala has developed into Memphis’ most trusted relief pitcher. The right-hander earned a save in all three games in which he appeared this week. The 22-year-old has only blown one save in his last seven games while allowing just two runs and striking out eight.

Who’s Not

Travis Tartamella: Tartamella continues to find it difficult to consistently produce at the plate. Despite a 3-for-4 showing vs. Nashville, the 27-year-old catcher is last in Memphis’ batting average at .172.

John Gast: A week prior, Gast had allowed one earned run and struck out another nine in what looked like a turnaround of his fortunes. The 26-year-old followed it up with a 4 1/3 inning performance on June 16 during which the lefty allowed three earned on five hits. That raised Gast’s season ERA to 4.37.

Transactions

The biggest news in transactions between St. Louis and its top minor league affiliate this week is Tyler Lyons. The lefty had been one of the hottest pitchers in the Cardinals’ farm system the past few weeks after going 3-1 with a 2.36 ERA in four starts for Triple-A Memphis.

The 27-year-old was called up by St. Louis to replace Lance Lynn, after the 28-year-old who was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a forearm strain on June 12. Thomas Lee was assigned to Memphis from Springfield to step in for the absent Lyons.

06/12/2015: St. Louis Cardinals recall LHP Tyler Lyons from Memphis Redbirds.
06/12/2015: RHP Thomas Lee assigned to Memphis Redbirds from Springfield Cardinals.
06/12/2015: Memphis Redbirds activate SS Matt Williams from the 7-day disabled list.

What’s Next

The Redbirds continue their four-game series in Oklahoma City, then take a one day break on June 22. They will return home to open an 11-game homestand which kicks off with a three-game set against cross-state rivals Nashville on Tuesday, June 23.

If the Oklahoma City opener was any indication, the rest of the series will be very interesting as these two ball clubs – who pride themselves on their bullpen (Oklahoma City is third in the league in ERA at 3.76 while Memphis is just behind at 3.93) – will hopefully put on a show.



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