Memphis Redbirds Notebook: 2015 Week 11

St. Louis’ Triple-A ball club had its roughest week since Week 5 as several star players were called up to St. Louis. The club currently sits in second place of the Pacific Coast League (PCL) American Southern Division, six games behind Round Rock, 9.5 games ahead of New Orleans and 12.0 games ahead of Nashville.

Did the Memphis Redbirds forget how to compete at a very high level? Does the ball club lose offensive chemistry without Greg Garcia at the plate? Do the Redbirds still field one of the most dangerous bullpens in the PCL? Did Memphis just run out of luck?

After a 3-4 Week 10, the Redbirds dropped two consecutive series in Week 11 against Oklahoma City and Nashville while going 2-4. The Redbirds lineup could not find any consistency offensively as they were unable to plate more than four runners in any of their four losses. The Redbirds’ bullpen – usually the club’s strongest advantage – could not stifle the opposing teams as they allowed five or more runs in five of the six games.

As long as key hitters like Garcia are out of the lineup, the Redbirds will continue to look for someone to step up. Tommy Pham and Stephen Piscotty are two players who can be that type of player, but can they do it consistently?

Here’s how the week unfolded:

Friday, June 19: Memphis (STL) 3 at Oklahoma City (LAD) 6

The Redbirds dropped their second consecutive game as the club fell to the league-leading Oklahoma City Dodgers 6-3.

Oklahoma City jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first before Memphis scored a run in the top of the second and third to knot the game at 2-2. Memphis took its first lead of the game at 3-2 in the top of the fifth via a Pham RBI double, but Oklahoma City responded with a Hector Olivera homer and an Austin Barnes RBI single in the next frame. The Dodgers plated one in the bottom of the seventh and eighth while throwing four scoreless innings to end the game.

Thomas Lee’s (1-1, 3.00) night ended after five innings, having allowed four runs on ten hits. He was relieved by Justin Wright and Mitch Harris, who gave up a run each during the contest.

Saturday, June 20: Memphis (STL) 3 at Oklahoma City (LAD) 8

The Redbirds dropped to 0-3 in their four-game road series against Oklahoma City as the Dodgers used a four-run sixth inning to get past the Redbirds, 8-3.

The Dodgers struck first, plating two runners in the bottom of the second inning, but the Redbirds relied on a Jacob Wilson solo-blast (his sixth of the year) in the top of the fourth and a Pham sac fly in the top of the fifth to tie the game at 2-2.

Oklahoma City’s offense kicked back into gear with a four-run sixth which included an Austin Barnes two-RBI double, a Scott Schebler RBI single and an Eric Surkamp RBI single. The Redbirds added a run in the next frame via a Ty Kelly double to bring the score to 6-3, but Oklahoma City added two more to close out the Redbirds.

Nick Greenwood (5-2, 6.88) took the loss as the lefty fanned five, walked one but allowed six runs (four earned) on seven hits. Tyler Waldron, Keith Butler and Heath Wyatt tried to slow down the Dodgers offense, but the damage had already been done.

Sunday, June 21: Memphis (STL) 7 at Oklahoma City (LAD) 3

The Redbirds avoided a sweep by the Dodgers as St. Louis’ Triple-A ball club scored six unanswered runs in the sixth and seventh in a 7-3 win.

Oklahoma City jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second before Memphis responded with a Pham RBI double in the top of the fourth to tie the game. Oklahoma City scored again in the bottom of the fifth to reclaim a 2-1 lead.

The Redbirds’ bats were red-hot in the sixth and seventh as Wilson knocked a two-out two-run homer (his seventh of the season), Piscotty blasted a three-run homer (his ninth of the year) and Pham plated Dan Johnson via an RBI single. Oklahoma City scored their last run of the contest in the bottom of the seventh.

John Gast (4-4, 4.31) earned the win for Memphis as the 26-year-old scattered six hits, allowed two runs, walked three and struck out two. Marcus Hatley, Sam Tuivailala and Mitch Harris combined for four quality innings to close the game out.

Tuesday, June 23: Nashville (OAK) 6 at Memphis (STL) 4

The Nashville Sounds stranded two in the bottom of the ninth as the Redbirds were defeated by their cross state rivals 6-4 on Tuesday night at AutoZone Park.

Nashville scored the first four runs in the top of the fourth and fifth before Memphis responded with a Pham RBI single in the bottom of the fifth, a Rafael Ortega RBI single in the bottom of the seventh and a Pham RBI groundout in the seventh to cut the Nashville lead to 4-3.

The Sounds plated two more in the top of the eighth to increase their lead to 6-3. Memphis threatened in the bottom of the ninth after Cody Stanley’s double play brought Dean Anna home and put two in scoring position; but the Sounds stranded Alex Mejia on third and Ortega on second after striking out Pham on a foul tip.

Tim Cooney (6-4, 2.80) lost the second of his last three games as the lefty fanned four, walked one and allowed four runs (one earned) on six hits in six innings. Wright, Butler and Waldron came in for relief but, unfortunately, came up short.

Wednesday, June 24: Nashville (OAK) 4 at Memphis (STL) 9

The Redbirds recorded 14 hits in their 9-4 rout of the Sounds on Wednesday afternoon at AutoZone Park.

Nashville opened the scoring with two runs in the top of the first. Piscotty answered with his tenth home run of the season in the bottom of the inning. Nashville scored their final runs with a pair of go-ahead RBI doubles by Joey Wendle in the top of the second and fourth.

Memphis went through a four inning stretch in which they brought home eight runners highlighted by Piscotty’s and Johnson’s two-RBI singles. Reliever Dean Kiekhefer (2-1, 2.32) fanned two over two scoreless innings while stranding three inherited runners for the win.

Thursday, June 25: Nashville (OAK) 5 at Memphis (STL) 0

Brad Mills and the Sounds shut out the Redbirds 5-0 on Thursday night at AutoZone Park. The Redbirds have lost two consecutive series for the first time since the May 8-11 series vs. New Orleans and the May 12-15 series vs. Colorado.

Nashville scored five runs in four innings, highlighted by Craig Gentry, who went 3-3 through the first four innings with a solo home run in the first and an RBI single in the second. The Redbirds were shut down at the plate as starter Mills threw eight innings, allowing only four hits.

Tyler Lyons (5-3, 3.16) had a tough day back on the mound after his return from St. Louis as the lefty threw three innings, allowing four runs on eight hits.

Who’s Hot

Tommy Pham: Pham had recorded a hit in every game this week before going 0-for-4 on Thursday vs. Nashville. The 27-year-old, who is on St. Louis’ 40-man roster, went 10-for-20 with 7 RBI before Thursday night and looks to have recovered from his pre-season injury very well.

Stephen Piscotty: With Xavier Scruggs called up to St. Louis, Piscotty is the active team leader in home runs (10). If the outfielder can emulate his Week 11 going forward, Piscotty will easily pass Scruggs’ 11 blasts. This week, the 24-year-old went 7-for-24, including a 2-for-4 game in Oklahoma City – in which where the outfielder added a home run and three RBI – and a 3-for-5 game vs. Nashville – where Piscotty recorded another home run and two driven in.

Rafael Ortega: Ortega had a tremendous end to Week 11 as the outfielder went 7-for-24 since June 21 with two RBI and one stolen base. The speedster from Venezuela is currently first on the team in steals with seven and second in batting average at .273 (minimum of 30 games.)

Who’s Not

Pitching Staff: The Redbirds’ bullpen had a very rough Week 11 as the hurlers were knocked around for 36 runs on 69 hits – the 36 runs were the most the bullpen has given up since Week 5 (48 runs allowed). Lyons, Petrick and Cooney – starters who have been nearly unstoppable on the mound – have lost a bit of their touch and will be looking to begin a fresh week.

Ed Easley: Easley did not have an easy week back in Memphis. The 29-year-old, who returned from St. Louis on June 19, went 2-for-16 with one RBI and four strikeouts. Easley has the talent to rebound (the Memphis native was the Redbirds’ best catcher when he was called up to St. Louis); so it may just take some time for him to get back into a groove again.

Transactions

The biggest news coming out of this week’s transactions is Garcia, Memphis’ star 2B, getting a call-up to St. Louis and Easley being optioned to Memphis.

Garcia was leading the Redbirds in batting at .313, on-base percentage at .405 and stolen bases with nine (minimum of 30 games). In two at-bats in St. Louis, Easley recorded one RBI – a sac fly in a June 8 game vs. Colorado – but no hits.

06/19/2015: St. Louis Cardinals recall 2B Greg Garcia from Memphis Redbirds.
06/19/2015: St. Louis Cardinals recall 1B Xavier Scruggs from Memphis Redbirds.
06/19/2015: St. Louis Cardinals option RHP Mitch Harris to Memphis Redbirds.
06/19/2015: St. Louis Cardinals option C Ed Easley to Memphis Redbirds.
06/19/2015: Memphis Redbirds activate C Cody Stanley from the 7-day DL.
06/25/2015: St. Louis Cardinals option LHP Tyler Lyons to Memphis Redbirds.
06/25/2015: Memphis Redbirds assign Thomas Lee to Springfield Cardinals.

What’s Next

The Redbirds will try to rebound from their rough Week 11 as St. Louis’ Triple-A affiliate continues their 11-game homestand with a four-game series against the Colorado Springs Sky Sox (29-42) and a four-game set against the PCL-leading Oklahoma City Dodgers (48-24). Memphis won its last series vs. Colorado Springs from May 4–7, so the ball club will hope to repeat.

Current course and speed, Memphis will still be without two of its best hitters in Scruggs and Garcia; so their home series against Oklahoma City may prove to be difficult against a team that fields one of the best bullpens in the PCL (48-24, 3.49 ERA).

Perhaps contributors like Easley and Lyons can shake off the rust as they attempt to return to their winning form prior to being called up to St. Louis. Easley was one of Memphis’ most clutch hitters while Lyons was arguably one of Memphis’ best starters.



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