The Memphis Redbirds (57-49), barring a slip up in the series finale against the Iowa Cubs, had a flawless 6-1 week during which the ball club seemed to capitalize on all opportunities. The Iowa Cubs (55-50) and Oklahoma City Dodgers (62-42), both teams above .500 and Oklahoma City at the top of the league, ran into a Redbirds team on a mission that was led by clutch performers like Greg Garcia, Marcus Hatley and Nick Greenwood. Here’s how the week unfolded:
Friday, July 24: Iowa (CHC) 3 at Memphis (STL) 5
The Redbirds opened their eight-game homestand with a four-game series-opening win over the Iowa Cubs, 5-3.
Memphis used a three-run sixth inning – highlighted by Rafael Ortega’s RBI single and Tommy Pham’s two RBI single – to take control of a game that went back and forth. Pham and starter Tyler Lyons (4-5, 4.07) kept the Redbirds offense going with two hits apiece while Greg Garcia and Cody Stanley plated a runner each to knot the game at 2-2 in the third.
Lyons had an average day on the mound as the lefty gave up all three runs in the first five innings (two earned). The 27-year-old also fanned two and walked another in his 5 1/3 inning outing. Hatley came on in relief in the ninth and recorded a strikeout to earn the save.
Saturday, July 25: Iowa (CHC) 5 at Memphis (STL) 7
Memphis reliever Hatley struck out Iowa Cubs’ Junior Lake with two outs and the bases loaded to earn the save for the club in a 7-5 win.
The Redbirds had seven batters reach home in the first two innings to give them a comfortable 7-2 lead, but the club had to stave off the hungry Cubs from a rally as Iowa plated three more to cut the lead. Hatley’s heroics preserved the win for his fifth save of the season. Jeremy Hazelbaker and Travis Tartamella recorded two RBI apiece while Dean Anna’s three-run double in the first started Memphis’ offensive surge.
Starter Greenwood (9-3, 5.30) had a rough day on the mound as he gave up all of Iowa’s five runs in five innings of duty. The lefty sat down two batters and walked another.
Sunday, July 26: Iowa (CHC) 1 at Memphis (STL) 2
The Redbirds needed a Garcia walk-off two RBI double in the bottom of the ninth to give the club a third consecutive win over the visiting Iowa Cubs, 2-1.
After Mike Olt’s solo shot in the second, Memphis had to wait seven innings before getting a chance for the lead. The Redbirds recorded three hits as a team, but Garcia put the club on his back and plated Tommy Pham and Anna for the win.
Monday, July 27: Iowa (CHC) 8 at Memphis (STL) 3
The Redbirds’ bid for a sweep was turned down as the Cubs’ four-run eighth inning put the game out of reach as they defeated Memphis 8-3.
In his first start for the Redbirds since May 19 vs. Omaha, Marco Gonzales (0-2, 6.42) scattered four hits with four runs, three strikeouts and one walk in 5 1/3 innings of duty.
Tuesday, July 28: Oklahoma City (LAD) 6 at Memphis (STL) 7
After Oklahoma City took a 3-1 lead in the third, Memphis scored six unanswered from the fourth to the seventh to jump out to a comfortable lead at 7-3. Xavier Scruggs plated two while Nick Martini, Cody Stanley, Anna and Garcia scored one each.
Starter Zach Petrick (6-5, 4.28) fanned six batters in a solid six innings of duty. Dean Kiekhefer arrived in the bottom of the eighth, but Kiekhefer suffered Oklahoma City’s three-run ninth inning rally. Tuivailala relieved Kiekhefer and recorded his team-leading 13th save of the season to preserve the win.
Wednesday, July 29: Oklahoma City (LAD) 2 at Memphis (STL) 3
The Redbirds used a three-run fifth inning to earn their second consecutive win over the visiting Dodgers, 3-2.
Andy Wilkins’ solo shot gave Oklahoma City a 1-0 lead in the fourth, but Mejia’s two-run homer and Easley’s sac ground out gave the Redbirds a 3-1 lead. Oklahoma City scored one more in the seventh but was unable to knot the score.
Starter Tyler Lyons (7-5, 3.27) gave Memphis a good seven innings as the lefty struck out two and allowed two runs on four hits. Mitch Harris came on in the eighth and earned his third save of the year in 1 1/3 innings.
Thursday, July 30: Oklahoma City (LAD) 0 at Memphis (STL) 9
In perhaps one of their best performances all season, the Redbirds shut out the league-leading Dodgers 9-0 and set up a chance to sweep them for the first time this year.
Memphis jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first – highlighted by Matt Williams’ three-RBI double and Mejia’s RBI single – before getting hot in the seventh and scoring five more insurance runs – highlighted by Hazelbaker’s grand slam – to give the Redbirds the win.
Starter Greenwood (10-3, 4.90) earned his second win of the week as the lefty shut out the Dodgers in seven innings.
Nick Greenwood: Greenwood, who leads the Redbirds pitching staff in wins (10), earned two wins this week against two very good teams (Iowa Cubs and league-leading Oklahoma City Dodgers). The lefty has enjoyed four consecutive wins in the month of July with his July 30 shutout performance vs. league-leader Oklahoma City being his highlight moment of the month if not all season.
Tommy Pham: Pham may have needed a few days to get back into a groove after his trip to St. Louis because, after being on last week’s Not list, the 27-year-old went 7-for-18 with three RBI, highlighted by a beginning of the week 2-for-3 two RBI performance vs. Iowa on July 24. Pham, ranked #10 in The Cardinal Nation’s top 40-prospect list, is a confident and powerful hitter; with weeks like Week 16, it’s easy to see.
Dean Anna: Anna is on the Hot list for the third consecutive week after a solid performance at the plate. The 28-year-old was 7-for-18 during the week with four RBI, including a 1-for-4 three RBI game vs. Iowa on July 25. The infielder has also hit safely in 14 of his last 17 games.
Marco Gonzales: Gonzales is still having trouble producing for the Redbirds this season. In his first start for Memphis since May 19, the 23-year-old gave up four runs on seven hits in Memphis’ lone loss of the week vs. Iowa on July 27. The lefty with a 6.42 ERA pitched well for Palm Beach and Springfield in four rehab appearances, but St. Louis’ top prospect is still struggling to perform at Triple-A level.
Cody Stanley: After hitting .400 with two home runs and seven doubles with 17 RBI in the first three weeks of July, Stanley knocked only one hit in ten at bats last week. The catcher was ranked #30 in The Cardinal Nation’s monthly top 40-prospect list for June; but with performances like Week 16, Stanley could resort to his pre-July ways when the 26-year-old hit just .199 (28-for-141).
Memphis got good news in this week’s transactions as Tim Cooney and Sam Tuivailala both returned to the Redbirds. Cooney is the starter with the lowest ERA at 2.74 and Tuivailala leads the team with 13 saves. In case you’ve forgotten, both Cooney and Tuivailala were chosen as PCL All-Stars, but had to miss All-Star game due to St. Louis call-ups.
In other news, Greg Garcia got the orders to return to St. Louis while Matt Williams returned to the Redbirds lineup from Springfield and had a great game in his July 30 return vs. Oklahoma City with a 1-for-2, three-RBI performance.
07/25/2015: St. Louis Cardinals option LHP Tim Cooney to Memphis Redbirds.
07/27/2015: St. Louis Cardinals option RHP Mitch Harris to Memphis Redbirds.
07/27/2015: Memphis Redbirds assign RHP Thomas Lee to Springfield Cardinals.
07/28/2015: St. Louis Cardinals option RHP Sam Tuivailala to Memphis Redbirds.
07/28/2015: Memphis Redbirds assign RHP Joey Donofrio to Springfield Cardinals.
07/29/2015: St. Louis Cardinals send RHP Jordan Walden on a rehab assignment to Memphis Redbirds.
07/30/2015: St. Louis Cardinals recall 2B Greg Garcia from Memphis Redbirds.
07/30/2015: Springfield Cardinals assign SS Matt Williams to Memphis Redbirds.
Memphis is still at near the bottom of the PCL in batting average, tied with cross state rivals Nashville for second to last at .257; but the club is much better at runs batted in with 458, good for eighth in the league. The Redbirds are strong on the mound with a fifth-place 3.81 ERA and a third-place 1.31 WHIP.
The Redbirds (57-49) are sniffing first place in the American Southern Division as the ball club sit three games behind first place Round Rock Express (59-45) after a very hot week. Round Rock has a comfortable 10.0 game lead over the New Orleans Zephyrs (49-55) and a 14.0 game lead over the Nashville Sounds (46-60).
The Redbirds open their Week 17 with a chance to sweep league-leading Oklahoma City. Memphis will begin a 13-day, 12-game road trip right after which includes a four-game series against division leader Round Rock and a five-game series against cross state rival Nashville.
The Round Rock and Nashville series are especially crucial as Memphis move towards the closing weeks of the season facing a team that has proven to be good in the PCL and another which has consistently given Memphis trouble all season (Memphis owns 7-5 record Nashville, which is in last place in the American Southern).
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