Not long ago, the Memphis Redbirds (41-40) were the hottest team in the Pacific Coast League, riding a high-powered offense and a stingy bullpen. Over the last three weeks, however, the ball club has gone 9-12, and is one game away from .500.
Memphis started the week on a good note with a 9-0 rout vs. Colorado Springs June 26 and won their series with the Sky Sox, but were unable to finish games later in the week vs. Oklahoma City as the ball club has lost three consecutive contests against the Dodgers and is danger of being swept at home.
Memphis’ bats have cooled off, and the club isn’t plating runners like they were a month ago while the Redbirds’ pitching staff has been inconsistent.
Here’s how the week unfolded:
Friday, June 26: Colorado Springs (MIL) 0 at Memphis (STL) 9
Jacob Wilson (3-for-4 with one home run and two RBI) led Memphis’ offense, which had a field day. The Redbirds scored nine runs on 12 hits in their 9-0 rout over the visiting Colorado Springs Sky Sox.
Memphis started the contest with a three-run first inning that included a Stephen Piscotty RBI double and a two-run blast from Wilson – his eighth of the season. The Redbirds would strike again in a five-run seventh inning highlighted by a Nick Greenwood sac bunt, a Dan Johnson two-RBI double and a two-run homer from Tommy Pham – his third long ball so far this year. Memphis added one more insurance run in the eighth with a Dean Anna sac fly to put the game way out of reach.
Greenwood (6-2, 5.93) produced another quality start for the Redbirds as the lefty tossed 8 1/3 shutout innings while fanning four, walking one and allowing six hits. Marcus Hatley relieved Greenwood with one out in the ninth but only needed two pitches to secure a double play to finish the contest.
Saturday, June 27: Colorado Springs (MIL) 2 at Memphis (STL) 0
The Redbirds’ offense was stifled by a stingy Sky Sox defense led by starting pitcher Hiram Burgos that allowed Memphis only three hits in the 2-0 defeat.
The visitors’ Nevin Ashley’s two-RBI double scored the only runs of the game in the top of the fourth. Ty Kelly tripled in the bottom of the fifth and was close to making things interesting for the Redbirds, but Burgos was able to strand the outfielder and sit down two of the next three batters.
John Gast (4-5, 4.14) threw seven innings of quality pitching, but the two earned runs in the fourth and Memphis’ lack of any offensive output gave Gast the unfortunate loss. The 26-year-old struck out seven, walked two and allowed four hits.
Sunday, June 28: Colorado Springs (MIL) 3 at Memphis (STL) 4
Pinch-hitter Travis Tartamella’s RBI single in extra innings gave the Redbirds a 4-3 win over the Colorado Springs Sky Sox in a nail-biter.
Colorado Springs and Memphis went through four innings of scoreless baseball before Memphis’ Alex Mejia’s two-run homer – his first since joining the Redbirds – gave his club a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the fifth. It seemed like Memphis had the game in the bag until Yadiel Rivera’s two-RBI single in the top of the ninth knotted the game at 2-2 and sent the game into extra innings.
Logan Schafer, the man who scored the tying run for the Sky Sox in the ninth, walked and came all-around to third in the eleventh via a sac bunt from Rivera and a line drive from Elian Herrera before giving the Sky Sox a 3-2 lead off a Pete Orr sac fly; but the Redbirds would not give up.
Anna plated Pham on a RBI ground ball to right in the next frame to tie the game at 3-3 and coming up to bat was Tartamella who was pinch hitting for Hatley. With one out in the bottom of the eleventh, Tartamella rode the momentum and turned hero for the Redbirds as the backup catcher plated the winning run.
Cooney fanned two and sat down all six batters he faced, but was pulled early and relieved by Justin Wright after two innings. Aside from Mitch Harris’ two earned runs and blown save in the ninth, the Redbirds pitching staff provided a quality day on the mound; but it was Hatley (4-2, 1.69) who recorded the win in 1 2/3 innings of work.
Monday, June 29: Colorado Springs (MIL) 0 at Memphis (STL) 1
Matt Williams and the Redbirds earned another walk-off win, this one in the bottom of the ninth with the bases loaded in a 1-0 game that involved limited offense.
The contest went through 8 ½ scoreless innings as the Sky Sox and Redbirds matched each other defensively. In the bottom of the ninth with Cody Stanley, Mejia and Rafael Ortega on base, Colorado’s David Goforth walked his third batter of the inning (two intentional) and Williams plated Stanley on a walk-off walk.
Zach Petrick had hardly any trouble on the mound in eight innings of duty; Petrick struck out two and scattered four with no runs. Tuivailala (3-0, 1.95) earned the win for the Redbirds in the ninth.
Tuesday, June 30: Oklahoma City (LAD) 2 at Memphis (STL) 1
Solo home runs from Oklahoma City’s Kyle Jensen and Darnell Sweeney were enough to keep Memphis at bay as the Redbirds dropped a close one to the PCL-leading Dodgers 2-1.
Johnson gave Memphis an early 1-0 lead in the first when the first baseman sent his eighth home run of the year to right. The lead was short-lived as Oklahoma City responded with solo blasts in the second and third from Jensen and Sweeney to give the LAD affiliate a 2-1 lead and the eventual win.
Tyler Lyons (5-4, 3.10) lost his second consecutive game. Lyons was able to put in a quality start (excluding the two solo shots) as the lefty fanned seven and scattered seven hits in 6 2/3 innings, but unfortunately recorded the loss due to Memphis’ inability to get their offense going. Tyler Waldron threw 2 1/3 innings of relief while allowing three hits and striking out a batter.
Wednesday, July 1: Oklahoma City (LAD) 3 at Memphis (STL) 2
Oklahoma City stranded Memphis’ tying run on third in the bottom of the ninth to take their second consecutive win against the Redbirds 3-2. Memphis has now dropped five of their last six against the American Northern Division-leading Dodgers.
Oklahoma City blasted three solo homers – Sweeney in the top of the third and Wilkins and Jensen in the top of the fifth – to go up 3-0. Memphis responded with a Piscotty sac fly in the bottom of the fifth and a Pham solo blast (his fourth on the season) in the bottom of the eighth to bring the game within one at 3-2. Dodgers reliever Rudy Owens stranded Williams on third in the ninth as Ortega grounded out to end the game.
Greenwood (6-3, 5.72) took the loss for Memphis as he struck out two and allowed a career high three home runs. Wyatt and Kiekhefer keep the visitors off the board in the eighth and ninth respectively but the Redbirds offense was unable to come back.
Thursday, July 2: Oklahoma City (LAD) 8 at Memphis (STL) 4
The Redbirds lost their third consecutive game to the Dodgers after giving up three homers in an 8-4 defeat. With the three blasts, the Dodgers have now gone deep eight times in three games this series.
Oklahoma City opened the scoring with a run in the first and two runs in the second to take an early 3-0 lead. Memphis responded with two runs in the bottom of the second via a Wilson RBI base hit and Williams RBI double to cut the lead to 3-2.
Sweeney and Oklahoma City extended their lead to 4-2 in the top of the fifth before Pham went yard with a two-run blast - his second day in a row with a homer and fifth of the season - to tie the game at 4-4. That was the closest Memphis would come to taking the lead as the Dodgers scored four more, highlighted by a Scott Schebler solo blast in the sixth and back-to-back-jacks from Darwin Barney and Corey Seager to put the game out of reach in the seventh.
Gast (4-6, 4.38) had an unlucky day on the mound as the 26-year-old allowed eight runs (five earned), including a season-high three homers, on nine hits and struck out three.
Tommy Pham: Pham has been one of the Redbirds hottest batters since joining the team June 6. The outfielder is 25-for-76 (.329) in 23 games with four home runs and 19 RBI and 12 of the 27-year-old’s 25 hits have gone for extra bases. The Redbirds offense stalled this week with few contributors, but without Pham in the lineup, the club would have found this week even more difficult to get through.
Rafael Ortega: Ortega had a very good week as the Venezuelan did what he does best: get on base and run. The 24-year-old is first on the team in stolen bases (10), third on the team in hits (55) and sixth on the team in walks (27). That is exactly what the outfielder did, as Ortega went 6-for-24 with three stolen bases and three walks.
Ed Easley: Easley has found life at the plate tough since returning from a stint in St. Louis. The 29-year-old, who was performing as Memphis’ most-clutch hitter and one of their most consistent offensive performers, has gone 4-for-29 since June 19 with one RBI and 10 strikeouts.
Cody Stanley: Stanley has really struggled this year on offense. Aside from a run June 29 and a hit July 1, the 26-year-old went 1-for-17 (.058) with one walk and five strikeouts this past week.
John Gast: Gast dropped two games this week (June 27 vs. Colorado Springs and July 2 vs. Oklahoma City). The 26-year-old allowed ten runs (seven earned) on 12 hits and raised his ERA to 4.38. The Florida State product has shown promise in a few outings this season, including a May 12 outing at Colorado Springs when Gast struck out eight and allowed one run on five hits; but this week highlighted his inconsistency on the mound.
Sam Tuivailala and Tim Cooney have been selected to the Pacific Coast League All-Star team and will participate in the 2015 Triple-A All-Star Game vs. the International League All-Stars on Wednesday, July 15 at Werner Park in Omaha, Nebraska.
Tuivailala (3-0, 1.95) was selected as a relief pitcher for his first All-Star recognition in his four-year professional career. The reliever, who was drafted as a shortstop by St. Louis in the third round in the June, 2010 First-Year Player Draft out of Aragon (Calif.) High School, converted to pitcher during the 2012 season and made the jump from Rookie-level Johnson City to St. Louis in three seasons (87 appearances).
Cooney, with his second All-Star honor in his professional career (he was named to the Texas League Mid-Season All-Star team with Double-A Springfield in 2013), leads the league in WHIP (0.87) and average against (.195), is sixth in ERA and is allowing the fewest baserunners per nine innings (8.22) among all starting pitchers.
The 2015 Triple-A All-Star Game will be broadcasted nationally live on MLB Network.
Redbirds infielder and local Bartlett High and Memphis Tiger product Jacob Wilson was selected to the Team USA roster to compete in the 2015 Pan American Games. The former 2012 C-USA Player of the Year and Louisville Slugger All-American joins 22 professional baseball players not currently on MLB 40-man rosters.
The 24-year-old has been a consistent performer for Memphis since being called up from Springfield. In 40 games this season, Wilson is batting .255 with eight home runs and 26 RBI.
The Pan Am Team will gather in Cary, North Carolina to train at the USA Baseball National Training Complex from July 4 to July 8 before traveling to Toronto, where the team will look to win its first Pan Am gold medal since 1967. In their most recent Pan Am outing, the 2011 club won silver after falling to Canada in the gold-medal game with a 3-2 record. First round action starts July 11 against Puerto Rico.
The biggest news out of this week’s transactions is Redbirds starter Cooney getting his second call-up to St. Louis. Cooney, who leads the PCL in WHIP (0.87) and average against (.195), was promoted to the big-leagues earlier this year after Adam Wainwright went on the DL.
The 24-year-old allowed three runs on seven hits in 2 1/3 innings vs. Philadelphia in his MLB debut April 30. Cooney was pulled after 26 pitches in Sunday’s Colorado Springs contest to keep the lefty available if Cardinals’ starter Jaime Garcia remained injured, which turned out to be the case.
06/30/2015: St. Louis Cardinals select the contract of RHP Marcus Hatley from Memphis Redbirds.
07/01/2015: Springfield Cardinals assign RHP Joey Donofrio to Memphis Redbirds.
07/02/2015: St. Louis Cardinals recall LHP Tim Cooney from Memphis Redbirds.
07/02/2015: Springfield Cardinals assign LHP Jimmy Reed to Memphis Redbirds.
The Redbirds will try to avoid their first four-game series sweep since June 14-17 (at Albuquerque) when they take on the Oklahoma City Dodgers on Friday, July 3. The Redbirds then travel to Colorado Springs to participate in a four-game road series July 4 to 7 before coming back home to start a five-game home series vs. cross state rivals Nashville Sounds July 8 to 12.
Memphis has won seven of 12 meetings against Colorado this season and will hope to continue their solid form against a struggling Sky Sox team (32-46); but do not count out Nashville (36-45), which currently sits last in the American Southern Division of the PCL. Memphis is 3-3 so far this season vs. the Sound with many of the contests being offensive shootouts.
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