The Memphis Redbirds (70-70) enjoyed an above .500 week for the first time since Week 16 (the Redbirds went 6-1 that week). It was too little too late, unfortunately, as the division leaders Round Rock Express (76-64) clinched the American Southern and a spot in the American Conference title game. Memphis started the week avoiding a four-game sweep away to the Reno Aces (67-71) before ending the period with a three-game win streak vs. division rivals New Orleans Zephyrs (56-84).
Here’s how the 4-3 week unfolded:
Friday, August 28: Memphis (STL) 2 at Reno (ARI) 6
The Redbirds suffered their third consecutive loss in a 6-2 defeat on the road against the Reno Aces.
Memphis was able to plate only two runs during the contest thanks to a Matt Stites throwing error and a Rafael Ortega (4-for-5 with one RBI) RBI single in the top of the eighth. The club tied the Aces on hits with 11, but Reno hit two solo home runs off Zach Petrick and Dean Kiekhefer while scoring another four to put the game out of reach.
Starter Petrick (7-7, 4.38) struck out four, walked one and allowed two runs (one earned) on seven hits in his five innings of duty.
Saturday, August 29: Memphis (STL) 2 at Reno (ARI) 8
The Redbirds extended their losing streak to four games after the Reno Aces scored eight runs off nine hits in an 8-2 game.
Memphis scored two consolation runs late in the game via a Jeremy Hazelbaker (3-for-4 with one RBI) RBI double and an Alex Mejia (0-for-4 with one RBI) sac groundout but were only able to record a paltry five hits. St. Louis Cardinals’ outfielder Jon Jay (0-for-3) was penciled into the lineup for a rehab assignment after being sent down to Memphis on Aug. 28 (Jay has been dealing with a wrist injury that has kept him out since late June).
Starter John Gast (7-10, 5.03) fanned two, walked one and allowed four runs on five hits in three innings pitched.
Sunday, August 30: Memphis (STL) 6 at Reno (ARI) 4
Memphis avoided the four-game sweep with a 6-4 win at Reno.
The Redbirds recorded 13 hits against the Aces (13) as the ball club, led by Jacob Wilson (2-for-3 with three RBI) and Aledmys Diaz (2-for-3 with one HR and two RBI), used a four-run fifth inning to jump ahead of the Aces. Nick Evans cut the lead to two in the ninth with one out due to an RBI single, but reliever Mitch Harris threw into two ground outs to end the game.
Starter Nick Greenwood (12-6, 5.68) earned his first win in four games as the lefty struck out four and scattered eight with three runs in five innings. Heath Wyatt, Justin Wright and Miguel Socolovich each recorded a hold while pitching in relief before Harris arrived and recorded his fourth save of the season.
Monday, August 31: New Orleans (MIA) 10 at Memphis (STL) 9
The Redbirds began their final homestand of the season with a 5-4 loss against division rivals New Orleans Zephyrs.
The Redbirds scored a run in the sixth and seventh to cut New Orleans’ lead to 5-4 with two innings remaining; but the Zephyrs bullpen threw out six out of seven Redbirds’ batters in the final two innings. Jay (2-for-3) and Hazelbaker (2-for-3 with one RBI) led Memphis’ lineup.
Starter Arturo Reyes (0-3, 10.24) earned his third loss after striking out four, walking two and scattering eight with five runs in six innings pitched.
Tuesday, September 1: New Orleans (MIA) 3 at Memphis (STL) 6
Memphis grabbed a game back against division rivals New Orleans Zephyrs in a 6-3 win.
The Redbirds matched New Orleans’ 10 hits and then some as the club’s four-run fourth inning – highlighted by a Hazelbaker (2-for-4 with one HR and one RBI) solo shot, an Ed Easley (1-for-3 with one RBI) RBI double and an Ortega two-RBI single – to build a comfortable 5-0 lead. The Zephyrs cut Memphis’ lead to two with three runs in the fifth and sixth, but Diaz’s (1-for-4 with one HR and one RBI) solo homer in the eighth ended New Orleans’ hopes of a win. Jay (2-for-3 with one HR and one RBI) recorded his first home run of the year with a solo blast in the first.
Starter Kyle Hald (1-2, 4.76) earned the win after being assigned from Springfield to Memphis. Hald struck out two, walked three and allowed three runs (two earned) off nine hits in five innings. Tyler Waldron recorded a hold in the seventh and eighth before Sam Tuivailala earned his team-leading 17th save of the season.
Wednesday, September 2: New Orleans (MIA) 5 at Memphis (STL) 6
With two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth, pinch hitter Easley (1-for-1 with three RBI) played the role of hero for the Redbirds as his walk-off double plated three runs and earned Memphis its first consecutive wins since Aug. 11 at Omaha in a 6-5 win.
Memphis trailed for much of the game after New Orleans’ three-run sixth inning gave Memphis a 5-1 deficit, but Anthony Garcia’s (1-for-3 with one HR and two RBI) two-run homer cut the Zephyrs lead to two in the bottom of the sixth. After two scoreless innings, two outs and Scuggs, Diaz and Dean Anna on base, Easley replaced Wyatt in the lineup and cleared the bases with a fly ball double to right to win the game.
Petrick got the start for the Redbirds, but it was reliever Wyatt (3-0, 2.27) who earned the win for Memphis. Petrick fanned four, walked two and allowed five runs on 10 hits in 5 1/3 innings while Wyatt struck out one in two innings.
Thursday, September 3: New Orleans (MIA) 2 at Memphis (STL) 3
The Redbirds extended their win streak to three games with a 3-2 win over the visiting New Orleans Zephyrs. The three-game streak is Memphis’ first since July 30 in a 9-0 win over Oklahoma City.
Memphis scored the first three runs in eight innings via a Diaz (0-for-2 with one RBI) sac fly in the second, throwing error in the seventh that scored Justin Wright and a Hazelbaker (1-for-4 with one RBI) RBI triple in the eighth. The Zephyrs cut Memphis’ lead to one in the top of the ninth due to a Vinny Rottino solo shot off Waldron and a Reid Brignac RBI single off Kiekhefer, but Kiekhefer was able to ground out Tomas Telis with a man on second to end the game.
Kurt Heyer started for the Redbirds, but Chris Thomas (2-0, 2.65) earned the win. Heyer fanned one, walked three and scattered two in four innings before Thomas struck out two and allowed two hits in 2 1/3 innings. Wright and Waldron each recorded a hold before Kiekhefer arrived with one out in the ninth and recorded his second save of the season.
Jeremy Hazelbaker: Hazelbaker had an excellent Week 21. The outfielder entered the week with a three-game hit streak and extended that to eight games before his hitless game vs. New Orleans on Sept. 2. The 28-year-old went 11-for-24 with one HR and four RBI during the week.
Ed Easley: Easley has been searching for a time to get back on track and Week 21 may have been that week. The 29-year-old went 6-for-14 with four RBI (including a 1-for-1 three RBI day Sept. 2 vs. New Orleans that the catcher, who came on as a pinch hitter, plated the three winning runs in the ninth).
Rafael Ortega: Ortega had a very good Week 21. The outfielder went 7-for-19 with three RBI. The speedster also stole a base during the week.
Dan Johnson: Johnson enjoyed a great Week 21 during which the 36-year-old veteran recorded a hit in five of the seven games. The infielder went 7-for-25 with one RBI during the stretch.
Xavier Scruggs: After going hot for nearly the entire month of August (21-for-71 with three HR and 12 RBI between Aug. 6 and Aug. 27), the slugger recorded only two hits during the week (albeit in fewer at-bats). The 27-year-old went 2-for-13 with one RBI during Week 21.
Arturo Reyes: Reyes has yet to have a win this season as a starter for the Redbirds. The 23-year-old dropped his third game after a six-inning performance that included four strikeouts, two walks and five runs off eight hits. The right-hander currently holds a 10.24 ERA with Memphis.
Dean Anna: The shortstop had a below-par week for Anna’s standards (usually one of Memphis’ most consistent batters). The 28-year-old went 4-for-21 (although he recorded seven walks to two strikeouts).
Week 19’s Memphis Redbird transactions has been one of the busiest weeks of the season. One of the biggest additions to Memphis’ lineup this week was St. Louis outfielder Jon Jay. Jay was sent to Memphis on a rehab assignment on Aug. 28 while the 30-year-old dealt with a wrist injury. The Florida native has batted .223 with one HR and 10 RBI in 57 games for St. Louis.
Here’s how the week unfolded:
08/28/2015: St. Louis Cardinals recall RHP Sam Tuivailala from Memphis Redbirds.
08/28/2015: Springfield Cardinals assign RHP Chris Thomas to Memphis Redbirds.
08/28/2015: St. Louis Cardinals send OF Jon Jay on a rehab assignment to Memphis Redbirds.
08/30/2015: Springfield Cardinals assign LHP Kyle Hald to Memphis Redbirds.
08/30/2015: Memphis Redbirds place LHP John Gast on the 7-day disabled list.
08/31/2015: St. Louis Cardinals option RHP Sam Tuivailala to Memphis Redbirds.
09/01/2015: St. Louis Cardinals recall C Cody Stanley from Memphis Redbirds.
09/01/2015: St. Louis Cardinals recall LHP Marco Gonzales from Memphis Redbirds.
09/01/2015: St. Louis Cardinals recall RHP Mitch Harris from Memphis Redbirds.
09/01/2015: Springfield Cardinals assign 2B Brett Wiley to Memphis Redbirds.
09/02/2015: St. Louis Cardinals recall RHP Miguel Socolovich from Memphis Redbirds.
09/02/2015: St. Louis Cardinals recall LHP Nick Greenwood from Memphis Redbirds.
09/02/2015: St. Louis Cardinals recall LHP Tyler Lyons from Memphis Redbirds.
09/02/2015: St. Louis Cardinals option LHP Marco Gonzales to Memphis Redbirds.
09/02/2015: Springfield Cardinals assign LHP Ryan Sherriff to Memphis Redbirds.
09/02/2015: Springfield Cardinals assign RHP Kurt Heyer to Memphis Redbirds.
09/03/2015: St. Louis Cardinals option LHP Nick Greenwood to Memphis Redbirds.
In The Cardinal Nation’s monthly top 40 prospect list for August, six 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 has jumped between Memphis, Springfield and Palm Beach while recovering from injuries, with his ERA at 5.20 in Triple-A. Gonzales received a call-up Sept. 1 from the Cardinals but was optioned back to Memphis on Aug. 2. The Gonzaga alum did not receive a start this week for Memphis.
5. Tim Cooney: Cooney will finish on the 7-day disabled list after suffering appendicitis during his call up to St. Louis. The lefty started his last game for the Redbirds on June 28.
6. Sam Tuivailala: Tuivailala has been Memphis’ most reliable closer all season after recording his team-leading seventeenth save of the season Sept. 1 vs. New Orleans. The right-hander also has his ERA sitting at 1.67 this season and hasn’t given up a run since Aug. 16 vs. Albuquerque.
12. Jacob Wilson: The Bartlett, TN native enjoyed a decent Week 21. Wilson, who is third on the team in HR (11) and RBI (54), went 5-for-26 with four RBI during the stretch.
31. Xavier Scruggs: After going hot for nearly the entire month of August (21-for-71 with three HR and 12 RBI between Aug. 6 and Aug. 27), the slugger recorded only two hits during the week (albeit in fewer at-bats). The 27-year-old went 2-for-13 with one RBI during Week 21.
35. Cody Stanley: Stanley recorded only two at-bats for the Redbirds this week. The catcher was called up to St. Louis on Sept. 1 for the second time this season.
Memphis sits at third to last place with a .259 batting average but are the league-leaders in walks at 588. On the mound, the Redbirds are league leaders in walks (league-low 348) and are second in shutouts (13) behind league-leaders New Orleans (15). Meanwhile, the club sits in eighth place in ERA (4.11) and has a seventh place WHIP (1.36).
The Redbirds (70-70) have been in second place in the American Southern Division for 14 straight weeks and are at .500 after going 4-3 this week. The club sits six games behind division leaders Round Rock Express (76-64). Meanwhile, the Nashville Sounds (63-77) sit seven games behind Memphis while the New Orleans Zephyrs (56-84) are 14 games behind the Redbirds.
Unfortunately, the division leaders Round Rock Express clinched the American Southern Division Title and a spot in the Pacific Coast League American Conference title game on Sept. 1 after a 10-5 victory over the Nashville Sounds.
The Memphis Redbirds open their final week of the season with a lone four-game road series against league-leaders Oklahoma City Dodgers (85-55). With the season coming to an end, top prospects being called up to St. Louis for the Cardinals’ playoff run and Memphis’ playoff hopes sealed, the club will probably try to end the season positively while bringing in prospects from Springfield for some Triple-A experience.
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