Memphis Redbirds Notebook: 2015 Week 14

St. Louis’ Triple-A ball club enjoyed a 3-1 week with a three-game win streak, a series win over a divisional rival, an All-Star and a newcomer winning a weekly award.

The Memphis Redbirds (48-44) finally had a week that seemed to click. Memphis was unstoppable at the beginning of the week, starting with three wins over cross state and divisional rivals Nashville to earn a five-game series win. There was a three-day break Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday due to the All-Star game before the Redbirds traveled to Iowa and was on the wrong end of a late game rally to drop the first of a four-game road series.

In other news, Dean Kiekhefer pitched in the Triple-A All-Star Game and a certain Memphis Redbirds newcomer received a bit of recognition. In a shortened week, Memphis showed a lot of promise to perhaps make a playoff run in the second half. Here’s how the week unfolded:

Friday, July 10: Nashville (OAK) 1 at Memphis (STL) 9

The Redbirds rebounded from consecutive defeats to the Nashville Sounds with nine runs in the first three innings at AutoZone Park.

Jeremy Hazelbaker continued his hot hitting as he went 2-for-4 with a solo homer in the second (his second of the year) and two RBI. Hazelbaker is hitting .517 since joining from Springfield. Ed Easley, Rafael Ortega and Stephen Piscotty recorded multi-hit games as well, but it was Cody Stanley who was the star of the night as he went 1-for-3 with a sac fly in the first and a three-run home run in the second.

Thomas Lee (2-1, 2.50), who was called up from Springfield, had a good day on the mound as he threw six innings with two strikeouts and one earned run on five hits.

Saturday, July 11: Nashville (OAK) at Memphis (STL)

Memphis used the first three innings to score all of its runs for the second consecutive game as the club took a 5-4 win against visiting Nashville.

Dean Anna helped lift the Redbirds over the Sounds as his third-inning solo blast gave Memphis its fifth run of the game and the win. The 28-year-old was 2-for-4 with two RBI while Ortega and Stanley had multi-hit games as well. Hazelbaker was hitless at the plate for the first time since July 3 vs. Oklahoma City.

Chris Thomas (1-0, 0.00) got the win on the mound after replacing Tyler Waldron in the third inning with one out. Thomas pitched four innings of quality baseball while fanning three batters. Kiekhefer came in with two outs in the ninth and struck out former Memphis catcher Bryan Anderson for the save.

Sunday, July 12: Nashville (OAK) 3 at Memphis (STL) 12

After allowing two runs in the top of the second, the Redbirds scored 12 unanswered off 13 hits to take a 12-2 lead and secure the sweep over cross state rival Nashville.

Every Redbird batter recorded at least one hit, highlighted by a three-run homer from Hazelbaker in the third (his third of the season), a Travis Tartamella two-RBI single in the fourth and a two-run shot from Piscotty in the eighth (his 11th of the season).

Tyler Lyons (6-4, 3.05) gave the Redbirds another very good start with seven innings pitched with six strikeouts, one walk and two earned runs on five hits.

Thursday, July 16: Iowa (CHC) 4 at Memphis (STL) 1

The Redbirds started their eight-day road trip with a 4-1 loss in the first game of their four-game away series against the Iowa Cubs.

The Cubs gave up only six hits to the Redbirds during the game as the Iowa bullpen shut down the Redbirds offense. Memphis’ only opportunity came in the fifth when Hazelbaker scored off an Anna single; only four Redbirds’ batters recorded hits during the contest.

Lee threw seven innings of quality baseball in his second start of the week. Waldron (2-5, 4.22) took the loss after he walked one, fanned one and allowed three hits for three earned runs.

Who’s Hot

Jeremy Hazelbaker: Hazelbaker continued his hot run with a terrific Week 14. The outfielder, who joined Memphis from Springfield on July 3, went 6-for-16 with five RBI, two home runs and the lone run in Thursday night’s loss to Iowa. The 27-year-old has knocked in at least one run in all but three of his games played for Memphis.

Cody Stanley: Stanley answered last week’s Hot List with another nomination as the catcher was 4-for-12, including a 1-for-3, one home run and a four-RBI game on July 10 vs. Nashville. The 26-year-old is starting to catch fire and is looking like a solid option in the dugout to come on when Ed Easley is hurt or serving as the DH.

Dean Anna: Anna had a solid week at the plate, going 6-for-14 with one homer and three RBI. Anna drove in Hazelbaker in for the lone run at Iowa and has been a consistent performer on the defensive side and on the bases.

Who’s Not

Tyler Waldron: Waldron showed some promise throughout the season with a couple of strikeouts in a couple innings, but these last two appearances were not pleasant. The 26-year-old went 0-1 during the week while allowing seven runs on eight hits and two walks. The right-hander has a 5.82 ERA and needs a pick me up next week after a below-par display on the mound.

Ty Kelly: Kelly has now gone three consecutive games without recording a hit including two hitless games against Nashville. The Redbirds’ second baseman is batting .208 in 77 games this season and just doesn’t seem to be showing any signs of improvement.

Transactions

The Redbirds were very busy at the start of Week 14’s transactions with players moving between St. Louis and its minor league affiliates.

The biggest news may be Marco Gonzales, one of St. Louis’ best prospects in their system, being assigned to the A-Advanced Palm Beach Cardinals. Gonzales, who has been dealing with a shoulder impingement and a pectoral injury, pitched 4 2/3 shutout innings on five hits as the Fort Collins, CO native looks continue to rehab his shoulder and chest next with Springfield.

Here’s how the week unfolded:

07/10/2015: LHP Jimmy Reed assigned to Springfield Cardinals from Memphis Redbirds.
07/10/2015: LHP Marco Gonzales assigned to Palm Beach Cardinals from Memphis Redbirds.
07/10/2015: RHP Thomas Lee assigned to Memphis Redbirds from Springfield Cardinals.
07/11/2015: RHP Sam Tuivailala recalled to St. Louis Cardinals from Memphis Redbirds.
07/11/2015: LHP Nick Greenwood recalled to St. Louis Cardinals from Memphis Redbirds.
07/11/2015: 1B Xavier Scruggs optioned to Memphis Redbirds from St. Louis Cardinals.
07/11/2015: RHP Chris Thomas assigned to Memphis Redbirds from Springfield Cardinals.

Triple-A All-Star Game Recap

Kiekhefer, who was selected as a reserve on Sunday by the PCL office, was added after several All-Stars were called up to the big leagues including Memphis’ Sam Tuivailala and Tim Cooney. The left-hander worked a perfect top of the fourth on 10 pitches (seven for strikes). Kiekhefer retired Jesus Aguilar and Matt Davidson on groundouts, but the PCL dropped the contest to the International League 4-3 via a three run rally in the top of the ninth.

PCL Player of the Week

Memphis Redbirds outfielder Hazelbaker was named PCL Player of the Week for the July 6-July 12 period after batting .429 (12-for-28) with two home runs, five doubles, one triple and a league-leading 13 RBI in seven games. The former Springfield Cardinal also led the league in extra-base hits (8) and total bases (25) and ranked third in slugging percentage (.893) and on base plus slugging (1.341).

Hazelbaker is the third recipient of the weekly award this season, joining starting pitchers Tim Cooney (May 11-May17) and Tyler Lyons (June 1-June 7). It is also the fourth time in the Muncie, Indiana native’s seven-year career to win a weekly award and his first at the Triple-A level.

Standings

The Redbirds remain in second place, 6.0 games behind division leader Round Rock Express (53-37) while keeping an 11.5 game lead over New Orleans Zephyrs (42-29) and a 13.0 game lead over Nashville Sounds (41-51).

What’s Next

The Redbirds continue with a rough schedule that includes the final three games of the four-game away series against the Iowa Cubs (48-43) before a four-game road series against American Southern Division rival New Orleans Zephyrs (42-49). So far this season, Memphis is 4-5 against Iowa and 1-6 against New Orleans.

Both Iowa and New Orleans are towards the bottom in batting average (Iowa at .265 and New Orleans at .261) with Memphis below New Orleans at .257. New Orleans leads the league in ERA (3.29) and Iowa is two spots behind third place Memphis (Memphis at 3.75 and Iowa at 3.87).

Many of Iowa’s top assets, including Kris Bryant, have been called up to the big leagues so the Redbirds should have a chance. New Orleans may be a bit of a challenge, as Memphis can’t seem to get a win over the Zephyrs. The New Orleans bullpen has been stifling against the Redbirds, but Memphis has a good bullpen of its own and now has a secret offensive weapon in Hazelbaker.



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