Coming off the Triple-A All-Star break, the Memphis Redbirds were ice cold, spanked four straight by the Iowa Cubs in Des Moines, while being outscored 27-14. Though they were 2-6 against New Orleans this season coming into their road series, the Redbirds took three of four over the Zephyrs (MIA) to complete the 3-4 week.
Here’s how the week from Friday, July 17 through Thursday, July 23 unfolded:
Friday, July 17: Iowa 9, Memphis 7
Memphis scored first, but the Cubs pounced on the pitching of Zach Petrick, plating eight runs in three innings. The Cubs added another run in the fourth against Chris Thomas, but were stopped by the Memphis relief trio of Keith Butler, Heath Wyatt and Justin Wright. The damage was already done, however. Losing pitcher Petrick just didn’t have it, giving up eight hits, including two home runs.
Memphis attempted a comeback in the eighth, scoring four runs. Jeremy Hazelbaker led the way, blasting a three-run home run over the right field wall. Cody Stanley drove in two runs in the first inning on a double to right. Xavier Scruggs was 2-for-4 with an RBI. Dean Anna was 2-for-4, including a triple.
Saturday, July 18: Iowa 10, Memphis 4
Starter John Gast couldn’t miss bats, surrendering seven runs, six earned, on eight hits. Two hits in the first inning were long balls. Gast was out after four innings, and reliever Joey Donofrio gave up three more runs in his three innings of work. Marcus Hatley pitched a scoreless eighth.
Alex Mejia, double-switched in for Ty Kelly in the fifth, had Memphis’ big hit, a two-run shot in the eighth inning. Dean Anna drove in a run on a fifth inning single, and Nick Martini plated one in the eighth. Greg Garcia and Jeremy Hazelbaker were each 2-for-3.
Sunday, July 19: Iowa 4, Memphis 2
On Sunday, the Cubs completed the four-game sweep of the Redbirds in long-ball fashion. Tyler Lyons yielded all four Iowa runs via home runs, a solo shot in the third, and a three-run blast in the sixth. Lyons went 5 1/3, giving up 11 hits total, striking out five and handing three free passes. Dean Kiekhefer and Heath Wyatt pitched 2 2/3 scoreless innings in relief to keep the game close.
The Redbirds’ bats scored two runs on just four hits. Rafael Ortega’s double and Stephen Piscotty’s triple in the fifth inning drove in both runs. Xavier Scruggs and Dean Anna singled, but that was the sum total of the offense.
Monday, July 20: Memphis 7 at New Orleans 1
In his first outing since returning from St. Louis, Nick Greenwood helped Memphis break its four-game losing streak. The lefty picked up the win with seven strong innings, surrendering one run on four hits, striking out two and walking one. The only blemish was a seventh inning solo home run. Tyler Waldron and Justin Wright each pitched a scoreless, hitless inning.
Greenwood helped himself offensively, driving in two runs on a second-inning double. Rafael Ortega plated two as well, on a single in the eighth inning. Jeremy Hazelbaker hit his fifth home run, a solo shot. Dean Anna and Cody Stanley both drove in one. Alex Mejia was 2-for-5 and Nick Martini was 3-for-3. Mejia, Martini and Hazelbaker each scored twice.
Tuesday, July 21: Memphis 9 at New Orleans 0
The Redbirds offense was efficient, scoring nine runs on six hits, and five runs in just two at-bats. Jacob Wilson blasted a grand slam in the fourth inning, while Cody Stanley hit a solo home run in the fifth. The remaining four runs scored on a double play, two walks, and a fielding error. Stanley was 2-for-3 on the night and scored three runs. Xavier Scruggs went 2-for-3.
Starter Thomas Lee pitched seven scoreless innings, surrendering five hits, striking out five and walking one. Mitch Harris, starting his rehab assignment, pitched one scoreless inning in relief, allowing no hits and striking out two. Keith Butler finished with a no hit, scoreless inning. Lee earned the win.
Wednesday, July 22: Memphis 9 at New Orleans 5
This game was tied up twice, but Memphis finally put it away in the eighth, scoring four runs to take the lead for good. The offense scored nine runs on 12 hits. Xavier Scruggs, Jeremy Hazelbaker and Dean Anna each had three hits, with Hazelbaker and Anna driving in two runs each. Cody Stanley plated a run on a fourth-inning double. Jacob Wilson and Tommy Pham each had a ground out RBI.
Starter Zach Petrick pitched 4 1/3 innings, giving up two runs on four hits. The right-hander struck out two and handed out four free passes. Heath Wyatt, Dean Kiekhefer, Tyler Waldron, and Marcus Hatley pitched in relief. Waldron was tagged with a blown save, though the runs that scored, two unearned, were charged to Kiekhefer. Thanks to the comeback, Waldron was given the win as well.
Thursday, July 23: New Orleans 8, Memphis 5
Pitching did the Redbirds in on Thursday night. Starter John Gast was out after 3 2/3 innings in which he gave up two runs on four hits, but walked a whopping seven batters. Joey Donofrio got out of the inning, but walked the bases loaded in the fifth. Heath Wyatt allowed two of them to score on a single, which tied the game. Mitch Harris gave up a run in the eighth to put the Zephyrs in the lead. In the ninth, Keith Butler surrendered three more runs.
The Redbirds offense tried to rally in the bottom half of the ninth. Nick Martini hit a solo home run, but the rally ended on a ground out by Rafael Ortega. On the night, Jacob Wilson was 2-for-4, both doubles. Dean Anna and Nick Martini each had two hits, with Martini adding a triple to the home run. Anna and Martini drove in four of the five runs with the other run scoring on a Xavier Scruggs single.
Dean Anna: The infielder has hit safely in nine of his last 10 games at a .432 clip (16-for-37) while registering five walks over that span, good for a .500 on-base percentage. This hot stretch raised Anna’s season average to .258.
Jeremy Hazelbaker: Since joining the Redbirds from Springfield on July 3, the outfielder is batting .433 (29-for-67) with five home runs, six doubles, three triples, and 22 RBI in 18 games. The 27-year-old has also compiled 11 multiple-hit efforts, including a four-hit performance on July 7.
Thomas Lee: In his three starts since returning from Springfield, the right-hander has been fantastic, allowing just two runs in 20 innings (0.90 ERA) on 18 hits and just one walk. Lee fanned 11.
Dean Kiekhefer: The PCL All-Star reliever continues to produce. Since June 1, the left-hander has yielded just two runs in 18 innings (1.00 ERA) on 14 hits, three walks and 10 strikeouts.
Tyler Waldron: The reliever may not get a shot at St. Louis anytime soon unless he can pull himself out of his funk. Waldron has been scored upon in three of his six outings this month, with eight earned runs yielded in nine innings, including three long balls. The right-hander has had an inconsistent season, with a strong May and June, but a bad April and July.
John Gast: There is no way to put it politely. The veteran left-handed starter is struggling badly. In his four July starts, Gast has been hammered for 16 runs on 29 hits in 19 innings (7.58 ERA). His control has departed him with 12 free passes issued this month.
Rafael Ortega: Another Redbird who cooled off during the break is Ortega. Since play resumed, the outfielder is just 5-for-30 (.167). Further, with the return of Tommy Pham, his every-day spot in centerfield is likely gone.
Pinch hitters: In pinch-hitting opportunities this season, Memphis is just 9-for-61 (.148) with six RBI and seven walks. Catchers Cody Stanley (2-for-10, .200) and Ed Easley (2-for-7, .286) each have two of Memphis’ eight hits.
For the first time this season, Memphis has no players on its disabled list. In a major oddity, neither does Double-A Springfield. However, St. Louis has seven players on its DL>
The big news was the long-awaited promotion of outfielder (and recently, first baseman) Stephen Piscotty to St. Louis. For the Redbirds, the 24-year-old had hit safely in 35 of his last 45 games at a .307 clip (54-for-176). Piscotty was fourth in the Pacific Coast League with 28 doubles and with 46 walks. The Redbirds received outfielder Tommy Pham back in return.
Struggling infielder Ty Kelly was designated for assignment and was claimed by Toronto off waivers. Given the Blue Jays’ history in roster management, I would not be surprised to see Kelly back on the waiver wire in a few weeks.
In other notes, rehabbing Marco Gonzales moved up twice last week - to Springfield last weekend and to Memphis on Thursday. The lefty remains on target to be ready for regular duty by the end of the month. The only question remains whether it will be at Memphis or St. Louis.
Fri. 7/17: LHP Nick Greenwood optioned to Memphis from St. Louis.
Sat. 7/18: IF Matt Williams sent down to Double-A Springfield.
Mon. 7/20: IF Jacob Wilson activated off the temporarily inactive list.
Mon. 7/20: OF Tommy Pham optioned to Memphis from St. Louis.
Tue. 7/21: OF Stephen Piscotty added to 40-man roster, promoted to St. Louis.
Tue 7/21: RHR Mitch Harris joined Memphis on rehab from St. Louis.
Tue. 7/21: IF Ty Kelly designated for assignment and claimed by Toronto on Wednesday.
Thu. 7/23: LHS Marco Gonzales to Memphis from Springfield.
In The Cardinal Nation’s monthly top 40 prospect list for June, five current Redbirds were listed. Here is how they have performed recently.
10. Tommy Pham. It looks like the outfielder is going to take some time to recapture his stroke after 2 1/2 weeks with St. Louis. In the three games since his return, Pham has just one hit in 13 at-bats to go with four strikeouts.
13. Jacob Wilson. The infielder played second base for silver medal-winning Team USA in the Pan American Games in Canada last week. Wilson finished the games 9-for-31 (.290) with a double, two home runs, seven runs scored and four RBI. In the three contests, since his return, Wilson is 3-for-13 with a home run and five RBI.
17. Xavier Scruggs. After spending a month with St. Louis, the first baseman-outfielder has nine hits in 33 at-bats (.273) with no home runs and two RBI over the eight-game roadtrip.
18. Greg Garcia. The All-Star break was not good for the infielder, who closed the road trip on an 0-for-13 skid. Garcia is batting just .147 over his last 10 games (5-for-34), but did coax nine walks during that time.
30. Cody Stanley. During the month of July, the catcher is hitting .400 (22-for-55) with two home runs and seven doubles, to go with 17 RBI. Stanley, who is now hitting .255 (50-for-196) on the year, entered July batting just .199 (28-for-141).
In the 16-team Pacific Coast League, Memphis is last in batting average at .256 but is better in runs scored, eighth. On the pitching side, though last in strikeouts by a considerable margin, the Redbirds also have issued the fewest walks. The result is the fifth-lowest team ERA at 3.85.
The 51-48 Redbirds lost no ground last week despite the 3-4 record. They remain in second place, six games behind division leader Round Rock Express (TEX, 56-41) with Nashville Sounds (OAK, 45-54) 12 back, and New Orleans Zephyrs (MIA, 43-55) 13.5 behind the leader.
The Redbirds have an immediate golden opportunity to turn the tables on Iowa, with the Cubs coming into AutoZone Park for four starting on Friday. The eight-game homestand continues with the arrival of the Oklahoma City Dodgers next Tuesday.
Looking around the corner at the first two weeks of August, Memphis is heading right into a 14-day, 13-game roadtrip grinder that will take them from Texas (Round Rock) to Tennessee (Nashville) to Nebraska (Omaha).
TCN staffer Marilyn Green contributed to this report.
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