Memphis Redbirds Notebook: 2015 Week 19

St. Louis’ Triple-A ball club dropped six out of seven during a crucial Week 19. Hitting has been the Achilles heel all season while the Redbirds’ pitching is starting to show some regression.

The Memphis Redbirds (63-63) suffered their worst week all season after dropping six of their last seven games while scoring 11 runs and allowing 39 runs. The Redbirds, which at one point were just three games out and were pushing division leader Round Rock (68-58) for first, are now on the outside looking in, trying to get back into that groove.

Here’s how the 1-6 week unfolded:

Friday, August 14: Memphis (STL) 2 at Omaha (KC) 4

The Redbirds suffered their third consecutive loss in a 4-2 defeat on the road against the Omaha Storm Chasers.

Greg Garcia (3-for-4) was the leader in hits while Dan Johnson (1-for-3) and Dean Anna (2-for-3) each plated a run; but the Storm Chasers were able to ride on a three-run rally in the fifth and score another in the seventh to temper Memphis’ hopes.

Starter Nick Greenwood (11-4, 4.99) suffered his first loss since July 1 in six innings of duty. Greenwood struck out three and allowed three runs on five hits.

Saturday, August 15: Albuquerque (COL) 8 at Memphis (STL) 1

Memphis lost four straight games for the first time since July 19 after an 8-1 home defeat to the Albuquerque Isotopes.

The Redbirds recorded 11 hits but, surprisingly, were unable to plate more than one runner (an Anna line drive RBI in the second). Albuquerque, on the other hand, scored eight runs from their 12 hits. Xavier Scruggs, Alex Mejia and Anna gave Memphis multi-hit games while Travis Tartamella, Arturo Reyes and Garcia recorded one hit each.

Starter Reyes (0-1, 12.46) fanned three, walked two and allowed six runs on eight hits in 4 1/3 innings after being assigned to Memphis from Springfield on Aug. 14.

Sunday, August 16: Albuquerque (COL) 6 at Memphis (STL) 1

The Redbirds’ losing streak increased to five games as the club dropped a 6-1 game to the visiting Isotopes.

The Redbirds recorded a lowly five hits and plated only one runner, via a Rafael Ortega (1-for-4 with one RBI) ground ball in the third. Memphis held the deficit at 2-1 until the sixth, when the Isotopes scored four runs in four innings to put the game out of reach.

Starter Marco Gonzales (0-4, 5.50) pitched 4 1/3 innings with a line of two strikeouts, one walk and two runs on nine hits.

Monday, August 17: Albuquerque (COL) 4 at Memphis (STL) 2 (10 innings)

Memphis extended its losing streak to six games in heartbreaking fashion. After rallying from two down and sending the game into extra innings, Albuquerque’s Angelys Nina two-RBI single gave the Isotopes the lead and the 4-2 win.

Jacob Wilson (1-for-3 with one RBI), Ortega (1-for-3) and Scruggs (1-for-4 with one HR and one RBI) were the only Redbirds to record a hit with Wilson and Scruggs plating a runner each.

Zach Petrick got the start for the Redbirds, but reliever Mitch Harris (0-3, 3.32) recorded the loss. Petrick struck out five, walked one and allowed two runs on five hits in six innings of duty while Harris fanned three, walked one and allowed two runs (zero earned) on two hits in two innings.

Tuesday, August 18: Albuquerque (COL) 4 at Memphis (STL) 5

The Redbirds snapped their six-game losing streak and avoided being swept in a 5-4 victory over Albuquerque.

Memphis plated all five of runs in a span of three innings that included a two-RBI double from Garcia (2-for-4), a sac fly from Cody Stanley (0-for-3), a Wilson RBI single (2-for-3) and a Hazelbaker RBI single (1-for-4).

Starter John Gast (6-9, 5.00) earned his first win since July 7 with a five inning, four strikeout, one walk and three runs on nine hit performance. After holds from relievers Tyler Waldron and Miguel Socolovich, Sam Tuivailala recorded his team-leading 16th save of the season.

Wednesday, August 19: El Paso (SD) 8 at Memphis (STL) 1

The Redbirds suffered their seventh defeat in eight games as the club dropped the, home series opener vs. the El Paso Chihuahuas, 8-1.

El Paso plated eight straight in eight innings before Memphis scored one run in the ninth via a Stanley (0-for-4) ground out. In all, the Redbirds recorded five hits, one each from Anthony Garcia, Ortega, Johnson, Scruggs and Greg Garcia.

Starter Greenwood (11-5, 5.14) suffered consecutive defeats for the first time this season after fanning three, walking one and allowing six runs (five earned) on nine hits in 5 2/3 innings.

Thursday, August 20: El Paso (SD) 7 at Memphis (STL) 5

The Redbirds lost their second straight to the visiting Chihuahuas, 7-4. Memphis scored three runs in the ninth to cut El Paso’s 7-2 lead, but Chihuahuas reliever Frank Garces struck out Johnson and Garcia with a man on third and second to end the game.

Anna (3-for-4), Johnson (2-for-5) and Anthony Garcia (2-for-4 with one RBI) gave Memphis multi-hit games while Scruggs (1-for-4) blasted his 13th homer of the season, a solo shot in the fourth; but the club came up short in the ninth after scoring three runners with one out.

Reyes made his second start of the week, and reliever Justin Wright (1-1, 3.67) took the loss. Reyes fanned five, walked four and scattered six with four runs in five innings while Wright struck out three and allowed two runs on two hits in 1 1/3 innings.

Who’s Hot

Greg Garcia: Garcia has certainly stepped up for a Redbirds offense that stagnated during the week. The #14 prospect in The Cardinal Nation’s top 40 prospect list went 10-for-26 with two RBI during the week and was one of Memphis’ few bright spots at the plate. With Tommy Pham with St. Louis, Garcia will be looked toward to put the team on his back.

Xavier Scruggs: Scruggs had one of his best weeks as a Redbird as the infielder went 7-for-21 with two HR and two RBI. The #31 prospect in The Cardinal Nation’s top 40 prospect list, who is second on the team in home runs at 12, is one of the Redbirds’ premier sluggers and needs to bring this sort of consistency week-in-and-week-out if Memphis wants to make the playoffs.

Dean Anna: Although Anna went through a three-game drought, the infielder overall had an excellent week at the plate for the Redbirds. Anna went 9-for-27 with two RBI and has been one of Memphis’ most reliable hitters from Day 1.

Who’s Not

Jeremy Hazelbaker: The consistent Hazelbaker had one of his worst weeks as a Redbird during Week 19. The outfielder, who is usually a rock at the plate for Memphis, went 2-for-21 with one RBI at a time when Memphis really needed his hitting. Since Aug. 12, his batting average has dropped from .352 to .313.

Cody Stanley: Stanley, who never seems to shake off the inconsistency at the plate, had a well below average Week 19 during which the catcher went 1-for-18 (although he recorded three RBI the last three games). The #33 ranked prospect in St. Louis’ system, according to The Cardinal Nation’s top 40 prospect list, needs to perform much better.

Ed Easley: Easley was one of many Redbirds’ batters who only recorded a single hit for the week. The veteran, who went 1-for-15 with one RBI, continues to be a great leader but needs to have a better Week 20 to give Garcia, Anna, etc. help at the plate.

Redbirds’ starters: Although the offense didn’t help provide any cover, Memphis’ pitchers gave up 39 runs during Week 19. Nick Greenwood dropped both of his games this week while allowing nine runs (eight earned). Marco Gonzales has yet to win a game this season while the #2 prospect in The Cardinal Nation’s top 40 prospect list walked four and allowed two runs. Arturo Reyes, who was recently assigned from Springfield, went 0-1 this week while allowing eight runs.

Transactions

Week 19’s Memphis Redbirds transactions were slower than normal. The biggest news was outfielder Tommy Pham getting called back up for his second stint in St. Louis this season. Pham, 27, is batting .327 for Memphis with six HR and 39 RBI in only 48 games. In other news, Memphis added a starting pitcher and an outfielder from Springfield.

Here’s how the week unfolded:

08/14/2015: Springfield Cardinals assign RHP Arturo Reyes to Memphis Redbirds.
08/17/2015: St. Louis Cardinals recall OF Tommy Pham from Memphis Redbirds.
08/18/2015: Springfield Cardinals assign OF Anthony Garcia to Memphis Redbirds.

Top Prospects

In The Cardinal Nation’s monthly top 40 prospect list for August, eight current Redbirds were listed. Here is how they have performed recently:

2. Marco Gonzales: One spot behind top prospect Alex Reyes, Gonzales is still searching for his first win this season. The lefty, who progressed to Memphis from Springfield and Palm Beach while recovering from injuries, has an ERA of 5.50 in Triple-A. Gonzales has dropped two games in his last three for the Redbirds with eight earned runs and five walks in 14 1/3 innings pitched.

5. Tim Cooney: Cooney is currently on the 7-day disabled list after suffering appendicitis during his call up to St. Louis. The lefty has not started a game for the Redbirds since June 28.

6. Sam Tuivailala: Tuivailala has been Memphis’ most reliable closer all season after recording his team-leading 16th save of the season Aug. 18 vs. Albuquerque. The right-hander’s ERA dropped from 1.93 to 1.85 in August with 11 strikeouts in seven innings.

9. Tommy Pham: Pham has been one of the Redbirds’ most reliable hitters all season, batting .327 with six home runs and 39 RBI in half the games of the rest of his teammates. Just before his promotion, the outfielder had skidded with only two hits (2-for-23) and one RBI in six games. Pham was called up to St. Louis on Aug. 17 to help replace injured Randal Grichuk.

12. Jacob Wilson: The Bartlett, TN native has cooled off recently with only three hits (3-for-15) and two RBI in six games.

14. Greg Garcia: After a difficult end to his July, Garcia has seemed to find his groove again. The 26-year-old has recorded seven multi-hit games in 12 games in August while recording three RBI.

31. Xavier Scruggs: Second on the team in home runs, Scruggs has recorded at least one hit in five of the last six games. The 27-year-old went 7-for-21 with two home runs and two RBI during Week 19.

35. Cody Stanley: Stanley has been one of Memphis’ most inconsistent batters. The catcher, who can collect 13 hits in four games like he did between July 4 and July 9, has recorded only one hit since Aug. 11 (although he has recorded three RBI during that time.)

Memphis Stats

After rising to third to last in batting average in Week 19 at .259, Memphis dropped back down to tied for last with New Orleans at .256. The club also fell to 11th in RBI at 528.

On the mound, the Redbirds are still league leaders in walks (league-low 302) and are one shutout (12) behind league-leaders New Orleans (13), but have dropped to fifth in the league in WHIP (1.33) and seventh in ERA (3.96).

Standings

The Redbirds (63-63) have been in second place in the American Southern Division for 12 straight weeks and are at .500 after losing six out of seven games this week. The Redbirds’ deficit to division leader Round Rock (68-58) is five games. Meanwhile, third-place Nashville (56-70) has cut Memphis’ edge to seven games while New Orleans (51-74) has dropped to 12 games behind the Redbirds.

Playoff Procedures

To qualify for the Pacific Coast League playoffs, the Redbirds must finish in first place in the American Southern Division. The American Southern Champion will play the American Northern Champion in a Best-of-5 series. The American Conference Champion will then take on the Pacific Conference Champion for the PCL title in a Best-of-5 series. Although Round Rock’s lead is still just five games, the Redbirds can’t keep losing six of seven and expect to make the playoffs.

What’s Next

The Redbirds open Week 20 with the final two games of their four-game home series vs. the El Paso Chihuahuas (68-57) on Friday and Saturday. The Redbirds then begin an eight-game roadtrip against the Tacoma Rainers (59-67) and the Reno Aces (61-64).

With 2 1/2 weeks remaining in the regular season, time is running out for the Redbirds. Tacoma and Reno are both teams the Redbirds have yet to face this season (as was Albuquerque and El Paso against whom Memphis went 1-5 during Week 18). Both teams have struggled to keep teams from scoring, but without Pham in the lineup and Hazelbaker and Wilson coasting towards the end of the season, Memphis has to hope the hitters can capitalize on weaker bullpens.



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