The Memphis Redbirds (7-6) opened Week 2 of the 2016 season on a dreary road trip, with several games in Colorado Springs cancelled or cut short due to inclement weather. The ball club went 3-2 during the week, including impressive wins at Oklahoma City on Wednesday and Thursday.
Sitting only a game behind division leader Round Rock (8-5), Memphis will look to carry this momentum into next week as they finish their road series in Oklahoma City before coming back home.
Here’s how the week unfolded:
Friday, April 15: Memphis (STL) 10 at Colorado Springs (MIL) 9
The Redbirds extended their win-streak to three, after dropping their previous three games, with a 10-9 win over the Colorado Springs Sky Sox. Memphis has scored 22 runs during the streak after only plating six in the previous three.
Matt Williams starred, as the 26-year-old went 3-for-4 with two runs, two walks and two RBI, including the game-winning RBI single that plated Michael Ohlman in the ninth. The infielder is now batting over .400 (.421) in 19 at-bats.
Patrick Wisdom (2-for-3), who entered Week 2 on TCN’s Who’s Not, and Alex Mejia (2-for-5) were the other Redbirds’ who recorded more than one hit for the Memphis offense that knocked 12 hits, and Anthony Garcia (1-for-3 with two RBI) blasted his first homer of the season in the top of the third.
Starter Thomas Lee (0-1, 8.68) pitched 4 1/3 innings, fanning three, walking one and allowing five earned on eight hits. Justin Wright and Miguel Socolovich recorded one strikeout each, and Juan Gonzales (1-0, 5.40) earned the win with three strikeouts and one walk over the last two innings.
Saturday, April 16: Memphis (STL) at Colorado Springs (MIL) postponed due to weather
Sunday, April 17: Memphis (STL) at Colorado Springs (MIL) postponed due to weather
Monday, April 18 (Game 1): Memphis (STL) 1 at Colorado Springs (MIL) 3 (seven innings)
Nearly 72 hours after last taking the field following two weather postponements over the weekend, the Redbirds gave up three unanswered runs after scoring in the top of the first and dropped a 3-1, seven-inning decision to the Colorado Springs Sky Sox.
The Redbirds’ lone run came after Dean Anna (2-for-3 with an RBI) plated Charlie Tilson (1-for-3) with a single. Carlos Peguero (1-for-3) and Wisdom (1-for-3) had the Redbirds’ other hits as Sky Sox pitchers struck out seven and walked none.
Starter Deck McGuire (0-1, 1.76) has yet to earn his first win while posting a respectable 1.76 ERA in three games. The right-hander fanned three, walked one and two earned on three hits in four innings. John Church allowed the third run in one inning of relief, and Dean Kiekhefer worked the sixth inning while surrendering one hit.
Monday, April 18 (Game 2): Memphis (STL) at Colorado Springs (MIL) postponed due to weather
The two lost games will be made up as part of seven-inning double headers in Colorado Springs on June 22 and 23.
Tuesday, April 19: Memphis (STL) 0 at Oklahoma City (LAD) 4 (five innings)
In a rain-shortened loss in Oklahoma City, the Redbirds dropped a 4-0, five-inning game to the Oklahoma City Dodgers.
The Redbirds had just three baserunners (two hits and one walk) compared to the Dodgers’ nine. Down 2-0 in the fifth, Jonathan Rodriguez’s (1-for-2) singled to lead off and get in scoring position, but Anna flied out and Ohlman grounded into a double play to wipe out the threat. J.C. Sulbaran (1-for-1) provided the only other hit of the night for Memphis, the first by a Redbirds’ pitcher this season.
Oklahoma City plated two more runs to give themselves a 4-0 lead after five frames, and a 55-minute rain delay shortly after ended the game.
Starter Sulbaran (2-1, 3.68) recorded his first loss of the season after surrendering seven hits and four earned in 4 2/3 innings. The right-hander also fanned five and walked two.
Wednesday, April 20: Memphis (STL) 7 at Oklahoma City (LAD) 2
Memphis strung together 10 hits and stole a season-high four bases in a 7-2 win at Oklahoma City, their first nine-inning game since Friday.
The Redbirds entered the day with four steals total in 11 games, then speedy outfielder Tilson (2-for-6) added two more while Rodriguez and Nick Martini recorded one apiece.
Rodriguez paced the Redbirds offense with two hits, two runners plated and another three runs scored. Peguero (2-for-4 with an RBI) and Martini (2-for-5 with two RBI) were the other Memphis batters with multiple hits, and Martini and Ohlman (1-for-4) drove in a pair of runs.
Starter Jeremy Hefner (2-0, 2.30), who grew up less than 60 miles away in Perkins, Oklahoma, earned his second win of the season, allowing just four hits and two earned while striking out six and walking one. Hefner was relieved by Socolovich, Gonzales and Sam Tuivailala, who gave up three hits in three innings combined.
Thursday, April 21: Memphis (STL) 6 at Oklahoma City (LAD) 5
After struggling early in the 2016 season, Memphis’ primary closer, Tuivailala, left the tying run on third base in the bottom of the ninth as the Redbirds held on for a 6-5 win over the Dodgers.
Seven different Redbirds recorded a hit and five others plated a run during the game, and Memphis was able to hold on despite a three-run Oklahoma City rally that cut Memphis’ lead to one. Tilson (3-for-5 with an RBI) led the offense with a triple and stole his team-high third base of the season.
In his first game since Monday, Wisdom (1-for-4) scored two runners, and Greg Garcia (1-for-3), in his first game back in Memphis this season, plated a runner after getting hit by a pitch. Anthony Garcia (0-for-4) and Martini (1-for-2) recorded RBIs as well.
Starter Thomas Lee (1-1, 6.91) picked up his first win, and Tuivailala earned his first save. Lee struck out five, fanned two and allowed two earned on six hits in five innings of duty, and Tuivailala struck out the last two Oklahoma City batters to seal the win.
Side note: Memphis is now 67-0 under manager Mike Shildt when leading after eight innings.
When it comes to position players, there are two players on Memphis’ roster who are on fire – 1B Jonathan Rodriguez and CF Charlie Tilson.
Although he slowed down a touch after Week 1, Rodriguez posted a monster game April 20 at Oklahoma City (2-for-4 with two RBI and a double). The infielder currently leads Memphis in RBI (11), HR (2) and is tied for first in hits (12).
Tilson, however, had the stronger Week 2. The outfielder, who currently leads the team in SB (3), had two outstanding performances to end the week, going 2-for-6 with two bases stolen April 20 at Oklahoma City, and 3-for-5 with an RBI single and a triple April 21 at Oklahoma City.
On the mound, Memphis’ best performer has been starter Jeremy Hefner. The Oklahoma native fanned eight in his only start of the week (April 20 at Oklahoma City), and pushed his strikeout total to a team-high 16. The right-hander also posts a 2-0 record with a 2.30 ERA, and leads the team in WHIP (0.96).
While Memphis’ offense has looked solid to start the 2016 season (.259 team average), there are two players who struggled this week – Dean Anna and Anthony Garcia.
Anna, who was also on last week’s Who’s Not list, went 2-for-10 during the week with one RBI, and sits tied for last on the team in batting (.212, min. 20 at-bats).
Garcia, who played well in Week 1, recorded only one hit during the week and sits at the bottom of the Redbirds’ batting average with Anna (.212). However, the outfielder did score three runners during Week 2.
Memphis’ pitching staff performed fairly well during Week 2 as no one really struggled on the mound. Reliever Heath Wyatt’s ERA jumped from 0.00 to 4.15 after he allowed two earned runs and walked one in 0.1 innings April 21.
Starter J.C. Sulbaran had a tough game April 19 as the plated four earned in 4 2/3 innings in his one first loss of the season (although, he did strike out five during the contest).
In a quiet week for the Redbirds on the transactions front, 2B Greg Garcia being optioned from St. Louis to Memphis was the biggest news during Week 2. In the related move, SS Alex Mejia was assigned to Springfield.
Here’s how the week unfolded:
04/18/2016: St. Louis Cardinals option 2B Greg Garcia to Memphis Redbirds.
04/19/2016: Memphis Redbirds assign SS Alex Mejia to Springfield Cardinals.
Catcher Alberto Rosario remains on the seven-day disabled list (since April 10), joining pitchers Marco Gonzales, Tim Cooney and Tyler Waldron, who have been out all season to date.
TCN Top 40 Prospects
The Redbirds have nine of The Cardinal Nation’s Top 40 Prospects on the active roster, with another on the restricted list. Here is how they have performed recently:
1. Alex Reyes: Reyes is currently on the restricted list. The 21-year-old spent time in Springfield, Palm Beach and GCL Cardinals in 2015. The right-hander went 3-2 with a 3.12 ERA in Springfield, and 2-5 with a 2.26 ERA in Palm Beach. He should return to action around May 20.
3. Marco Gonzales: Gonzales was placed on the disabled list to start the 2016 season. The lefty, who spent some time sidelined last season, had Tommy John surgery, ending his year.
5. Tim Cooney: Cooney remains on the disabled list. The starter went through some shoulder soreness in the spring, and out indefinitely. The lefty was arguably Memphis’ best starter last season before being sidelined with appendicitis.
6. Charlie Tilson: Tilson ended Week 2 as one of the hottest players in the Redbirds’ outfield. The outfielder, who was promoted to Memphis from Springfield this season, was arguably Memphis’ most reliable offensive options in the last two games of the week, going 2-for-6 with two stolen bases April 20, and 3-for-5 with an RBI single and a triple April 21. The speedster also leads the team in stolen bases (3).
11. Sam Tuivailala: Tuivailala struggled early this season, posting a 9.82 ERA in 3 2/3 innings after Week 1. The right-hander responded with a better Week 2 that ended with his first save of the season April 21 at Oklahoma City. The flamethrower still sports a 7.50 ERA, but he is tied for second on the team in strikeouts (11) in only six innings of duty.
20. Jacob Wilson: Wilson started the season as Memphis’ best hitter (team leading .375 average in Week 1), but the hometown kid struggled in Week 2, recording only one hit. The infielder had nine at-bats in a week with several postponements, however, and his batting average still sits at .300.
24. Patrick Wisdom: After a slow start to the season, Wisdom responded with several solid appearances. The power-hitter, who was promoted to Memphis from Springfield for 2016, recorded at least one hit in three games this week, including a 2-for-3 and an RBI performance April 15 at Colorado Springs.
25. Anthony Garcia: Garcia’s week started in excellent fashion on April 15 at Colorado Springs (1-for-3 with a HR, two RBI and two walks.) His performances tailed off towards the end of the week as the outfielder failed to record a hit in his last three appearances. However, Garcia did plate one runner April 21 at Oklahoma City.
30. Michael Ohlman: Ohlman struggled during Week 2. The catcher’s average dipped down to .257 after two hits in 13 at-bats. Also promoted to Memphis from Springfield for the first time in 2016, Ohlman plated three runners during the week.
33. Arturo Reyes: Reyes, who was supposed to start in Saturday’s contest at Colorado Springs, did not pitch due to the weather-related cancellations. The right-hander recorded a loss in his only start last week, but he struck out eight during the game and currently posts a 1.80 ERA.
Memphis’ pitching staff is once again one of the PCL’s best after a solid start to the 2016 season. Although sitting at 7-6, the club sits first in the league in HR allowed (2) and fourth in the league in ERA (3.19) while posting a respectable WHIP (1.35).
The Redbirds seem to be clicking on the offensive end as well where they sit middle of the pack in several categories including AVG (.259), OBP (.333) and doubles (25). One area of concern for the team is they are third-to-last in hits (104). However, the weather-shortened Week 2 could have been a factor.
Like its St. Louis parent, Memphis is last in the league in fielding percentage (.967), with at least one error in six of their last seven games.
Memphis (7-6) finished Week 2 one game behind division leader Round Rock (8-5). Nashville (7-7) sit .5 GB Memphis in third, and New Orleans (6-8) rounds out the division in fourth, 1.5 GB Memphis.
After dropping its first game in Oklahoma City Tuesday, Memphis will try to end the four-game series with a third consecutive win over the Dodgers on Friday. After that, the Redbirds come back home to face the division leader Round Rock Express in a top-two division matchup.
After that series, Memphis gets a one-day break Wednesday, April 27 before traveling down to New Orleans for a game against the Zephyrs on Thursday. After his second start was postponed due to weather, Arturo Reyes will take the hill Friday night in Oklahoma City, followed by Deck McGuire, J.C. Sulbaran, Jeremy Hefner and Thomas Lee.
Follow Thomas Simpson on Twitter @jthomasSimpson.
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