The Memphis Redbirds (59-54), after a fantastic Week 16 that saw the club sniffing first place in the Pacific Coast League American Southern Division, hit another obstacle on their road to the playoffs. The St. Louis Triple-A affiliate saw PCL-leading Oklahoma City (67-45) avoid the sweep at AutoZone Park, knotted a four-game road series with division leaders Round Rock (63-48) and dropped the first two games of a five-game road trip to the Nashville Sounds (51-62).
Here’s how the 2-5 week unfolded:
Friday, July 31: Oklahoma City (LAD) 6 at Memphis (STL) 1
The Redbirds lost their chance to sweep the league-leading Oklahoma City Dodgers in a 6-1 loss at AutoZone Park.
Xavier Scruggs (2-for-3 with 1 RBI) gave the Redbirds their first (and only) run of the game in the first via an RBI line drive double to plate Dean Anna, but Oklahoma City’s bats were hot all game as the club scored six unanswered. Jeremy Hazelbaker, Rafael Ortega, Anna and Nick Martini also had a hit apiece, but the rest of Memphis’ offense stalled.
Starter John Gast (5-8, 5.08) survived only five innings on the mound as the lefty allowed five runs on eight hits. Gast struck out four and walked two.
Saturday, August 1: Memphis (STL) 4 at Round Rock (TEX) 5 (11 innings)
Memphis allowed a walk-off solo shot in extra innings to drop their first of four in Texas against the division leader Round Rock Express, 5-4.
Tommy Pham (3-for-5 with an RBI double in the fifth), Scruggs (0-for-5 with a sac ground out in the fifth) and Ortega (2-for-6 with an RBI double in the sixth with another runner scoring on a fielding error) knotted the game up for the Redbirds at 4-4 and sent the game into extra innings. Ed Easley put in two hits as well to try and give Memphis a chance to win, but Michael Choice’s solo homer in the 11th off Sam Tuivailala sunk Memphis’ hopes.
Marco Gonzales made the start, but it was Tuivailala (3-1, 1.93) who took the loss. Gonzales pitched six innings with five strikeouts, two walks and four runs (three earned) on five hits. Tuivailala tossed 1 2/3 innings with three strikeouts and one run on one hit.
Sunday, August 2: Memphis (STL) 8 at Round Rock (TEX) 9
The Redbirds suffered another heartbreaker in Texas as the club lost a six-run lead late to drop a second consecutive game at Round Rock.
Pham, Anna and Alex Mejia enjoyed multiple-hit games with Pham (3-for-5 with one HR and four RBI) leading Memphis’ 11-hit attack. The 11 hits weren’t enough, unfortunately, as Round Rock’s seven-run rally in the sixth and seventh (five in the seventh) gave the Express the 9-8 lead and the win.
Zach Petrick made the start, but it was Marcus Hatley (4-4, 2.72) who absorbed the loss. Petrick had a solid night as the right-hander struck out eight and walked three while allowing three runs on seven hits in 5 2/3 innings. Hatley pitched only 1/3 inning while allowing four runs (three earned) on five hits.
Monday, August 3: Memphis (STL) 7 at Round Rock (TEX) 3
The Redbirds rebounded from a two-game skid and defeated the Round Rock Express in Texas 7-3.
Pham (2-for-4 with two RBI) and Jacob Wilson (1-for-4 with one HR and three RBI) gave the Redbirds scoring opportunities while wild pitches from Ross Wolf and Anthony Bass plated two more Memphis runners. Eight of Memphis’ nine batters recorded at least one hit.
Starter Tyler Lyons (8-5, 3.21) had a solid seven innings of duty as the lefty fanned eight and scattered nine hits with two runs allowed.
Tuesday, August 4: Memphis (STL) 9 at Round Rock (TEX) 7
Memphis earned another much-needed win to even their four-game road series against the division-leading Round Rock Express.
Memphis scored nine runs in four consecutive innings – highlighted by Anna (3-for-5 with one RBI), Pham (1-for-4 with two RBI) and Jeremy Hazelbaker (1-for-4 with one HR and two RBI). Eight of Memphis’ nine batters recorded at least one hit for the second consecutive game to give them 14 hits.
Nick Greenwood made the start for Memphis, but reliever Miguel Socolovich (2-1, 0.89) got the win. Greenwood pitched 4 2/3 innings with four strikeouts, one walk and five runs on nine hits. Socolovich fanned two and scattered one with one run while Tuivailala worked his 14th save of the season with three strikeouts and one walk.
Thursday, August 6: Memphis (STL) 3 at Nashville (OAK) 8
The Redbirds dropped their first of five in Nashville as nasty weather suspended play on Wednesday night and the Nashville Sounds took advantage of the delay for an 8-3 win.
Memphis started off hot as Hazelbaker (2-for-3 with one RBI), Dan Johnson (1-for-5 with one RBI) and Cody Stanley (1-for-5 with one RBI) scored three in the first, but the game was suspended in the middle of the first. On Thursday, Nashville took advantage of the delay and answered with eight straight runs.
Gast, the scheduled starter for Wednesday night, did not throw a pitch during Thursday’s game due to weather and was replaced by Gonzales. Gonzales (0-3) had another unlucky day on the mound with three strikeouts, one walk and four runs on seven hits in four innings.
Thursday, August 6: Memphis (STL) 0 at Nashville (OAK) 8
Memphis dropped the second contest of the night as the club was shut out by the Sounds in seven innings, 8-0.
Pham and Williams had two hits apiece to lead the Redbirds’ eight-hit attack, but Memphis was unable to capitalize on scoring opportunities. The Redbirds had the bases loaded in the sixth and a runner on third in the seventh, but the Sounds’ bullpen shut down any chances for the Redbirds.
Starter Tyler Waldron (4-6, 4.21) had a rough 1 2/3 inning night with three walks, four strikeouts and four runs on five hits.
Tommy Pham: St. Louis’ #10 prospect according to The Cardinal Nation’s top-40 prospect list was on his A-game again this week. Pham recorded multi-hit games four of six times this week – including a 3-for-5 one home run and four RBI night on August 3 at Round Rock – and was consistently Memphis’ best option at the plate.
Tyler Lyons: Lyons was terrific on the mound on August 3 at Round Rock. The lefty sat down eight Express hitters and only allowed two runs on nine hits. After two average starts, the veteran is showing how he can be counted upon for strikeouts and wins.
Dean Anna: Anna’s six-game hit streak came to an end on August 5 at Nashville, but the infielder had a terrific week nonetheless. Anna has been inconsistent all season, but the 28-year-old still has what it takes to provide the offensive spark when Memphis needs it. His best night was on August 2 at Round Rock when Anna went 3-for-4 with two RBI.
Marco Gonzales: Still looking for his first win of the season, Gonzales put in two dull performances during Week 17 at Round Rock and at Nashville. Gonzales gave up eight runs (seven earned) during only 10 innings of duty during the week while striking out eight and walking three. The lefty’s ERA is still a below-par 6.39 as he is still struggling to find his top form after suffering injury setbacks earlier this season.
Alex Mejia: Mejia saw limited game-time, and the 24-year-old struggled when called upon. The infielder went 3-for-12 during the week with on RBI and one strikeout – although he did have a good August 2 when he recorded two hits and stole two bases. Mejia is great when running the bases, but his mechanics at the plate aren’t up to par to consistently produce.
There was not a lot of big news from transactions during Week 17. Miguel Socolovich was optioned down from St. Louis while Marcus Hatley and Dan Johnson were outrighted from St. Louis. Nick Martini was sent back down to Springfield after being called in July.
Here’s how the week unfolded:
07/31/2015: St. Louis Cardinals option RHP Miguel Socolovich to the Memphis Redbirds.
08/02/2015: St. Louis Cardinals send RHP Marcus Hatley outright to the Memphis Redbirds.
08/02/2015: St. Louis Cardinals send 1B Dan Johnson outright to the Memphis Redbirds.
08/05/2015: Memphis Redbirds assign RF Nick Martini to the Springfield Cardinals.
Memphis is still at near the bottom of the PCL in batting average, second to last at .257; but the club is much better at runs batted in with 487, good for eighth in the league. On the mound, the Redbirds have 11 shutouts, second place in the league, a fifth-place 3.94 ERA and a fourth-place 1.33 WHIP.
The 59-54 Redbirds sit in second place for the 10th consecutive week, but fell to five games behind division leaders Round Rock after going 2-5 during the week. The Redbirds have an eight-game cushion over third-place Nashville while New Orleans is nine back of Memphis.
To qualify for the Pacific Coast League playoffs, the Redbirds must finish in first place in the American Southern Division. Currently sitting five behind Round Rock, the Redbirds will need to go on a hot streak to reach the Conference Championship round. The American Southern Champion will play the American Northern Champion in a Best-of-5 series. If the Redbirds qualify for the playoffs and defeat the American Northern Champion, Memphis would take on the Pacific Conference Champion for the PCL title in a Best-of-5 series.
The Redbirds open their Week 18 with a chance to rebound against cross state rival Nashville in the final three of their five-game road series. The Redbirds will then take a one-game break on Monday before traveling to Omaha on Tuesday to begin a four-game road series against the two-time defending league champion Omaha Storm Chasers (63-50).
Memphis started a little on the rough side against Omaha, but have enjoyed a 6-5 record against the Storm Chasers in 2015. The Redbirds haven’t played the Storm Chasers since May 19, though. The Redbirds will need to be fully prepared for a foe they haven’t seen in almost three months if the club hopes to make a playoff run.
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