Memphis Redbirds Notebook: 2015 Week 20

St. Louis’ Triple-A ball club improved from last week’s nightmare but still need to make up five games with 1 1/2 weeks left in the regular season. The Redbirds averaged 10.3 hits and 6.9 runs per game during Week 20, led by Xavier Scruggs and Dan Johnson.

The Memphis Redbirds (66-67) improved from last week’s 1-6 debacle by going 3-4 against El Paso (70-62), Tacoma (63-70) and Reno (64-68) and sit five games behind division leaders Round Rock (71-62). The Redbirds, who recently were just three back and pushing for first, are running out of time as they just cannot seem to capitalize on Round Rock’s poor August.

Here’s how the 3-4 week unfolded:

Friday, August 21: El Paso (SD) 0 at Memphis (STL) 7

The Redbirds grabbed a 7-0 win after dropping their first two at home to the El Paso Chihuahuas.

A trio of hitters – Xavier Scruggs, Anthony Garcia and Dean Anna – each knocked two hits during the game, with Scruggs (2 RBI) and Garcia (3) plating runners. Jacob Wilson (1-for-4 with one RBI) and Marco Gonzales (1-for-1 with one RBI) capitalized on scoring opportunities as well to give Memphis a comfortable early lead.

Starter Gonzales (1-4, 5.03) finally showed again the potential he has been oozing since being drafted in the first round of 2013. The lefty, although walking three batters, struck out five and allowed zero runs in five innings. The 23-year-old also scattered six hits.

Saturday, August 22: El Paso (SD) 9 at Memphis (STL) 3

Memphis allowed 15 hits and nine runs and dropped their third in four decisions to the visiting Chihuahuas.

The Redbirds score three thanks to a Dan Johnson (1-for-4 with one RBI) grounder and a two-run homer from the red-hot Scruggs (1-for-2 with one HR and two RBI) in the third.

El Paso’s lineup proved to be too strong for Memphis Saturday night, though, as eight of the Chihuahuas’ lineup recorded at least one hit (five had multi-hit games, including starting pitcher Jason Lane). They used a six-run second inning to build a solid cushion before scoring three more in the sixth to put the game out of reach.

Starter Zach Petrick (7-6, 4.47) had a nightmarish night on the mound as the right-hander fanned five but allowed nine runs (six earned) on 13 hits in 5 1/3 innings.

Sunday, August 23: Memphis (STL) 8 at Tacoma (SEA) 2

The Redbirds opened their roadtrip to Tacoma with an 8-2 win over the Rainiers.

Led by Alex Mejia (4-for-5 with one RBI), Rafael Ortega (3-for-4 with two RBI) and Wilson (2-for-3 with three RBI), Memphis put on a 12-hit, eight-run performance to outgun the Rainiers. The only downside was the end of Scruggs’ six-game hit-streak.

Starter John Gast (7-9, 4.85) earned the win in a seven-inning performance. Gast struck out six, walked two and allowed two runs (one HR) on four hits.

Monday, August 24: Memphis (STL) 6 at Tacoma (SEA) 10

In an offensive shootout that saw both clubs record a total of 29 hits and 16 runs, the Redbirds lost 10-6 at Tacoma.

Aside from Alex Mejia (0-for-3), eight of Memphis’ lineup recorded at least one hit (including Cody Stanley, Aledmys Diaz, Scruggs, Anna and Wilson each recording a multi-hit game). Tacoma had all nine of their lineup record at least one hit and were able to plate their runners and leave Memphis’ runners on base.

Starter Nick Greenwood (11-6, 5.69) dropped his third consecutive start in only three innings of duty. The lefty allowed nine runs (four HR) on 12 hits while fanning only one batter.

Tuesday, August 25: Memphis (STL) 8 at Tacoma (SEA) 2

Memphis scored all eight runs in the first three innings to build a good cushion in an 8-2 win over the Rainiers. The Redbirds have recorded at least 12 hits in their last three games in Tacoma.

The Redbirds’ entire lineup recorded at least one hit with Johnson (2-for-3 with two HR and five RBI), who is enjoying an eight-game hit-streak, leading the way. Anna (2-for-4 with two RBI) and Wilson (1-for-5 with one RBI) also scored a total of three runners to provide an eight-run lead by the middle of the third.

Tyler Lyons (9-5, 3.14), in his first start since Aug. 3 at Round Rock, put in a solid outing of five innings. After returning from St. Louis on Aug. 23, the lefty struck out six, walked one and allowed one run on three hits.

Wednesday, August 26: Memphis (STL) 7 at Tacoma (SEA) 13

In a series that was back and forth, Memphis dropped the final game of the stop in Tacoma with a 13-7 loss to the Rainiers.

After recording at least 12 team hits in each of the first three games in Tacoma, the Redbirds were able to only muster five hits in the finale. If not for Jeremy Hazelbaker’s (1-for-4 with one HR and three RBI) three-run homer and a five-walk the top of the third, Memphis would never have been able to plate seven runners. In other upsetting news, Johnson’s eight-game hit-streak ended after the veteran went 0-for-4 at the plate.

Starter Arturo Reyes (0-2, 11.48) took the loss for Memphis in four innings of duty. Reyes struck out four, walked four and allowed nine runs on nine hits.

Thursday, August 27: Memphis (STL) 9 at Reno (ARI) 10

After playing hero and hitting a grand slam with two-outs and the bases loaded to tie the game in the top of the ninth, Stanley (1-for-5 with one HR and four RBI) failed to catch Mitch Harris’ pitch in the very next frame in a heartbreaking 10-9 loss to the Reno Aces.

The Redbirds recorded 10 hits, led by Ortega (2-for-4) while Johnson, Scruggs and Stanley were the lone batters to plate runners. In the top of the ninth with bases loaded and two outs, Stanley stepped up and hit a clutch grand slam and possibly put the game in extra innings; unfortunately, the catcher mishandled Harris’ pitch with the bases loaded in the next frame as the game-winning run scored on the passed ball.

Harris (0-4, 3.16) took the loss after Miguel Socolovich recorded his third blown save. Starter Gonzales fanned two, walked three and allowed four runs on eight hits in five innings.

Socolovich arrived in the seventh and struck out two, but walked one and allowed four runs on two hits in 1 1/3 innings to blow the save. Harris relieved in the eighth with one out, walked one and allowed two runs (one earned) on two hits in one inning of duty.

Who’s Hot

Xavier Scruggs: The #31 prospect in The Cardinal Nation’s top 40 prospect list followed up last week with another excellent week. Scruggs is enjoying a four game hitting streak while going 9-for-29. The slugger is also second on the team behind Dan Johnson in home runs (14) and plated another eight runners during Week 20 for second on the team (55).

Dan Johnson: The veteran, who leads the Redbirds in home runs (15) and RBI (56), tore up Week 20. Although he had an eight-game hit streak that ended Aug. 26 at Tacoma, Johnson went 7-for-29 with two home runs and nine RBI, including a 2-for-3 two homer and five RBI performance Aug. 25 at Tacoma.

Jacob Wilson: The #12 prospect according to The Cardinal Nation’s top 40 prospect list has finally found the hit streak (five games) he has been searching for. During Week 20, the Bartlett, TN native went 8-for-23 with five RBI. Although he’s still looking for his first homer since Aug. 12 at Omaha, the infielder is still one of Memphis’ most dangerous batters.

Dean Anna: The team-leader in walks (66 – Scruggs is next at 52), Anna has been one of Memphis’ most reliable and calm batters all season long. The infielder excels at being patient at the plate (as evident by his eight walks in five games this week, including a 1-for-1 with four BB performance Aug. 27 at Reno). His on-base percentage is .459 this month and .382 on the season.

Rafael Ortega: Ortega had an excellent week at the plate as the Venezuelan went 10-for-26 with four RBI in six games. The outfielder record four multi-hit games during Week 20.

Cody Stanley: Aside from his heartbreaking passed ball in the bottom of the ninth Aug. 27 at Reno, Stanley had a very good Week 20. The catcher went 7-for-17 with one HR and five RBI in his last six games, including a 1-for-5 one homer and four RBI performance Aug. 27 at Reno that included a game-tying grand slam with two outs in the top of the ninth.

Who’s Not

Jeremy Hazelbaker: Once one of Memphis’ most consistent hitters, Hazelbaker has cooled off considerably. Although he has recorded four hits in his last three games, the 28-year-old has struck out seven times in that time span and has not recorded an RBI since Aug. 18 vs. Albuquerque. In 22 August contests, Hazelbaker is batting just .213.

Nick Greenwood: Greenwood has dropped three consecutive starts and has not won a game since Aug. 9 at Nashville. The lefty’s ERA has jumped to 5.69 after he gave up a season-high 12 hits and nine runs Aug. 24 at Tacoma in only three innings.

Zach Petrick: Petrick struggled badly in his lone start of the week Aug. 22 vs. El Paso. In 5 1/3 innings of duty, the right-hander gave up a season high 13 hits and nine runs (only six were earned). The 26-year-old is the team-leader in IP (147.0) and K (105), but his ERA is well over five since the start of July.

Arturo Reyes: Through three starts for the Redbirds, Reyes has struggled to adjust to Triple-A. The right-hander who played college ball with Marco Gonzales has walked 10 and allowed 17 runs during his three starts while the 23-year-old’s ERA sits at a grim 11.48.

Transactions

Week 20’s transactions focused on Aug. 23 as the one and only day with any moves. The biggest news was Redbirds infielder Greg Garcia getting called back up for his third stint in St. Louis this season. Garcia, 26, is batting .294 for Memphis with 36 RBI and a team-leading 15 steals in 94 games.

In other news, Memphis added a shortstop from Springfield while sending a relief pitcher back to Springfield.

Here’s how the week unfolded:

08/23/2015: St. Louis Cardinals recall 2B Greg Garcia from Memphis Redbirds.
08/23/2015: St. Louis Cardinals option LHP Tyler Lyons to Memphis Redbirds.
08/23/2015: Springfield Cardinals assign SS Aledmys Diaz to Memphis Redbirds.
08/23/2015: Memphis Redbirds assign RHP Chris Thomas to Springfield Cardinals.

Top Prospects

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

2. Marco Gonzales: With 1 1/2 weeks remaining in the regular season, Gonzales finally got his first win of the season on Aug. 21 vs. El Paso. One spot behind top prospect Alex Reyes, the lefty progressed from Palm Beach, to Springfield and Memphis while recovering from a shoulder injury. His ERA sits at 5.20 in Triple-A. The 23-year-old pitched five innings in his win while striking out five, walking three and allowing six hits with no runs. In his last game, Gonzales struck out two, walked three and allowed four runs off eight hits in five innings Aug. 27 at Reno.

5. Tim Cooney: Cooney is currently on the 7-day disabled list after suffering appendicitis following 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 and recorded his team-leading 16th save Aug. 18 vs. Albuquerque. The right-hander’s ERA dropped from 1.93 to 1.76 in the month of August with 13 strikeouts in nine innings.

12. Jacob Wilson: The Bartlett, TN native went 3-for-15 with two RBI in six games last week, but had a much better Week 20, going 7-for-16 with four RBI in his last five games.

14. Greg Garcia: Garcia participated in one game this week (Aug. 22 vs. El Paso) for the Redbirds before being called up for his third stint in St. Louis. During the game, the infielder went 0-for-4 with one K.

31. Xavier Scruggs: Second on the team in home runs (14), Scruggs has been red-hot recently recording at least one hit in 10 of his last 12 games since Aug. 15. During this run, the power-hitter blasted three homers and plated eight.

35. Cody Stanley: Aug. 27’s game at Reno was one of the craziest endings for the catcher. Stanley knocked a grand slam over the right field wall with two outs and the bases loaded in the top of the ninth to tie the game, but in the very next frame, with the bases loaded and one out, Stanley failed to hold onto Mitch Harris’ pitch and allowed an Aces base runner to score the game winning run. In his last six games, the catcher is 7-for-17 with one home run and five RBI.

Memphis Stats

Memphis’ batting average improved to a tie for second-to-last with Oklahoma City at .256. The club also rose to eighth in RBI at 577. On the mound, the Redbirds are still league leaders in walks (league-low 330), are one shutout (13) behind league-leaders New Orleans (14) and are sixth in the league in WHIP (1.36). The club’s ERA (4.10) is seventh in the league.

Standings

The Redbirds (66-67) have been in second place in the American Southern Division for 13 straight weeks and are below .500 after going 3-4 this week, with division leader Round Rock’s (71-62) lead at five games. Meanwhile, Nashville (60-73) has cut Memphis’ edge in second to six games while New Orleans (53-80) has dropped to 13 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.

Division-leader Round Rock is just 12-16 during August and has a two-game losing streak. The Redbirds, who sit five games back, need to shake off the same inconsistencies that have plagued them a majority of the season to apply pressure on the division leaders.

What’s Next

Memphis opens Week 21 with the remaining three games of the four-game road stop in Reno against the Aces (64-68). The Redbirds then begin a four-game home series against division rival New Orleans Zephyrs (53-80) on Monday.

With a little more than a week remaining in the regular season, time is of the essence. Although Round Rock has had a shaky few weeks as well, the division leader’s luck could change in a snap. If the Redbirds have any hopes of making the playoffs, the club needs to turn it on and fast at Reno and vs. New Orleans.

Although the Redbirds have only played Reno once all season, New Orleans are familiar foes (the Redbirds are 5-7 against the Zephyrs). The Zephyrs are 4-23 in the month of August and are dead last in the American Southern Division. If the Redbirds have been looking for a series to try a push for that playoff spot, this may be their last chance.



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