Are the Memphis Redbirds (13-18) having trouble finishing games? St. Louis’ Triple-A affiliate has already played in 19 games decided by one- or two-runs, but lost 11 of them. This lack of finishing, along with a cold offense, is one of the reasons Memphis sits last in the division and below .500 for the third consecutive week after going 3-4 during Week 5 of the PCL season. However, several players showed promise.
Here’s how the week unfolded:
Friday, May 6: Memphis (STL) 7 at Nashville (OAK) 6
The Redbirds plated six runners in the second, highlighted by Jacob Wilson’s first grand slam of the season, on the way to a 7-6 win at the Nashville Sounds.
The second was Memphis’ highest scoring inning of the season. After plating 31 runs in the first four innings of the first 21 games of the season, Memphis has now plated 20 in the first four frames of its last four contests.
Jonathan Rodriguez (3-for-4) drove in the first run with an RBI single to left and the infielder later hit a solo shot (his third of the season) in the fifth to add to Memphis’ tally. Alberto Rosario (1-for-4) singled home Rodriguez three batters later. After a single and a walk, Wilson (3-for-5) launched the Redbirds’ first grand slam of the season and the first since Cody Stanley vs. Reno on August 27, 2015.
The Sounds came within a run on two different occasions after the second, but Memphis got a key defensive play – a throw out by Martini to second in the seventh – and clutch relief pitching to seal the win.
Starter Thomas Lee worked 4 2/3 innings before Dean Kiekhefer (1-0, 0.00) recorded his first win of the season. Lee struck out four, walked two and allowed five runs (two earned) on seven hits, while Kiekhefer fanned one in 1 1/3 innings. Miguel Socolovich and Juan Gonzales each recorded a hold in an inning each before Sam Tuivailala was awarded his third save of the season, fanning one and walking two in one inning.
Saturday, May 7: Memphis (STL) 1 at Nashville (OAK) 2
After scoring 25 runs in the last four games, Memphis had just one run on three hits, all singles, in a 2-1 loss at Nashville. The Redbirds have now played 18 one- and two-run games in its 26 games this season, tied with Nashville for second-most behind Colorado Springs’ 20.
Starter J.C. Sulbaran had a solid outing, giving up only four hits and retiring the first 10 batters he faced. The right-hander also fanned one, walked three and allowed one earned in 5 2/3 innings of a no-decision.
However, Memphis’ offense was stagnant at the plate. Nick Martini (1-for-3), Alberto Rosario (1-for-3) and Tommy Pham (1-for-4) were the only players to provide a hit, as Pham’s two-out RBI single plated Memphis’ lone run.
Justin Wright (0-1, 3.65) relieved Sulbaran with two on and two outs in the sixth, and stranded them both with a strikeout to keep the game tied at one. In the next inning, Wright allowed the game-winning run via an RBI ground ball and earned the loss for Memphis. John Church struck out two in 1 2/3 innings of relief duty.
Sunday, May 8: Memphis (STL) 2 at Nashville (OAK) 3
The Redbirds rallied in the top of the ninth to tie the game 2-2 via David Washington’s two-run homer, but the Sounds scored on a walk-off single to defeat Memphis, 3-2.
Starter Jeremy Hefner had his longest outing of the season, working 7.0 innings, and struck out five batters in a no-decision. Hefner’s last seven-inning start was July 12, 2013, when he was a pitcher for the New York Mets.
Heath Wyatt was equally impressive in relief, throwing 12 pitches and fanning two in the eighth inning to keep Memphis within two heading into the ninth.
For the majority of the game, the Redbirds struggled at the plate, with seven hits during the contest. Washington’s (2-for-4) ninth-inning home run was his first since his promotion from Springfield.
Jesse Jenner (1-for-3) made his Memphis debut behind the plate and recorded a single in his first at bat, and Charlie Tilson (1-for-4) broke his four-game hitless streak with a triple in the first.
Coming on in the ninth to try and put the game in extras, Miguel Socolovich (0-1, 3.86) hit a batter to score the game-winning run.
Monday, May 9: Memphis (STL) 5 at Nashville (OAK) 0
After dropping the last two, the Redbirds responded with a 5-0 win to even the four-game road series at Nashville.
Starter Arturo Reyes (2-2, 4.40) picked up his second straight win in his longest outing of the year. The right-hander threw 7 2/3 innings, struck out six and gave up no runs while all six hits were singles.
Ryan Sherriff and Gonzales each put in solid relief performances also, combining to throw 2 1/3 innings, giving up no runs and fanning three.
On the offensive end, Rosario (3-for-4) had his best game of the season, picking up his third RBI with a single in the sixth. This was the catcher’s first multi-hit game in 2016, and his first three-hit game since May 29, 2012, when he played for the Salt Lake Bees.
Patrick Wisdom (2-for-3) also had a terrific night in a Redbirds jersey, hitting his second home run of the season in the second, giving him 11 RBI. Pham (1-for-4), Washington (1-for-4) and Dean Anna (1-for-4) each contributed to the five runs scored.
Tuesday, May 10: Memphis (STL) 7 at Omaha (KC) 1
A six-run sixth inning gave Memphis a cushion en route to a 7-1 win Tuesday night at the Omaha Storm Chasers. The Redbirds set a season high in hits for the second time in five games with 14 after having 13 on Friday.
Starter Deck McGuire (1-4, 3.86) was particularly excellent, earning his first win of the season with 7.0 innings pitched, allowing five hits and one run and striking out six. Before this game, McGuire had received a total of five runs from the Redbird offense in his first six starts.
It was McGuire’s longest outing since he went seven frames June 14, 2015 as a member of the Oklahoma City Dodgers, and his first game of at least seven innings and fewer than two runs since April 28, 2015 with Double-A Tulsa.
Five Redbirds had multiple hits, led by Greg Garcia (3-for-5) and Rosario (3-for-4); Rosario had back-to-back three-hit games, and Garcia put in a three-hit performance after going 1-for-13 in the Nashville series. Anna, Martini and Wisdom all went 2-for-4, while Washington (1-for-5) hit his second home run with Memphis to lead off the second.
Wednesday, May 11: Memphis (STL) 4 at Omaha (KC) 8
Memphis produced 11 hits and all nine batters reached base at least once, but the club wasn’t able to capitalize on scoring chances in a 8-4 loss at Omaha.
Starter Thomas Lee (1-3, 6.83) struggled in his shortest outing of the season, throwing just 1 2/3 innings and giving up six runs on seven hits. Wyatt followed with his longest outing, working three innings and yielding two runs on five hits. The relief effort by Sherriff, Socolovich and Tuivailala accounted for all four of the team’s strikeouts (4), and the trio gave up no runs and one hit over 3 1/3 innings.
Wisdom (2-for-5) has been on fire, recording his third two-hit game in a row, and is now 6-for-12 during the stretch. Jenner (2-for-3) had his first multi-hit game, Anthony Garcia (2-for-3) finished with a pair of hits for the second time in four games and Washington (1-for-4) extended his hitting streak to four games with a single in the eighth. Meanwhile, Anna (1-for-4) is one hit away from tying his longest hit streak of the season at four.
However, the Storm Chasers had 13 hits, and was 6-for-13 with runners in scoring position, while Memphis struggled to score.
Thursday, May 12: Memphis (STL) 5 at Omaha (KC) 15
Redbirds pitchers allowed a season-high 10 runs in the fifth inning to fall to the Storm Chasers, 15-5.
Washington (1-for-4) and Tilson (1-for-4) homered, with Washington’s being his third in seven games as a Redbird and Tilson’s his first of the season, while Wisdom (1-for-4) extended his hitting streak to six with a sixth-inning single.
Heading into the fifth inning with a 3-1 deficit, the Redbirds allowed 10 runs on eight hits and an error as Omaha took a 13-1 lead. The Storm Chasers’ Brett Eibner blasted two of his three home runs during the inning, and Eibner, Whitt Merrifield and Jorge Bonifacio became the first players to record two hits in the same inning against Memphis since May 1, 2012.
The Redbirds scored two in the sixth and seventh, including Washington and Tilson’s homers, but Omaha answered in each inning to keep Memphis at bay.
Starter J.C. Sulbaran (2-3, 5.08) took the loss in his return to Werner Park after spending last season as a Storm Chaser. The right-hander walked three and allowed seven earned on seven hits in 4 1/3 innings of duty.
Offensively, no position players stood out more than Patrick Wisdom and David Washington.
Wisdom, who sported a .178 average at the end of April, is riding a six-game hitting streak. The third baseman had three multi-hit games during Week 5, and is tied for second on the team in HR (2) and RBI (12).
Meanwhile, Washington extended his hitting streak to five games while homering in three of his seven games in a Redbird jersey. After replacing injured Carlos Peguero in right field, it is going to be hard to send Washington back down to Springfield with the way he is performing.
On the mound, Arturo Reyes shined the brightest with his dominant performance May 9 at Nashville. The right-hander fanned five and allowed six hits (all singles) with no earned to earn his second consecutive win of the season.
Deck McGuire is another who had a great start, earning his first win of the season May 10 at Omaha. McGuire struck out six and allowed one earned on five hits in 7.0 innings.
Jeremy Hefner, who leads all Memphis starters in ERA (3.24) and strikeouts (30), continues to perform superbly. The right-hander fanned five and allowed two earned on five hits in 7.0 innings May 8 at Nashville.
Memphis’ offense was hot and cold during Week 5, with a few players struggling. Jacob Wilson, who went 3-for-5 with a grand slam May 6 at Nashville, went hitless over the last three games. While there is no word on why he hasn’t played in the Omaha road series yet, his play could be the reason why (Wilson is last on the team with a .192 average).
Greg Garcia, a player who played well for Memphis last season, is another position player who struggled in Week 5. The infielder, who is two spots ahead of Wilson on the team in AVG (.215), had a terrific outing May 9 at Omaha (3-for-5), but recorded four hits total in seven appearances this week.
Meanwhile, Thomas Lee and J.C. Sulbaran both went cold during Week 5. Lee allowed 11 runs (eight earned) in two starts in Week 5, including a season-low 1 2/3 innings May 11 at Omaha. Sulbaran’s black mark of the week came May 12 at Omaha, as the right-hander walked three and allowed seven earned on seven hits, including three home runs, in the 15-5 defeat.
After a busy Week 4 in which two players earned promotions to Memphis, two placed on the disabled list and another sent to Memphis on a rehab assignment, the only player transaction involving the Redbirds in Week 5 was Tommy Pham’s transfer to Springfield.
In six rehab games as a Redbird, the outfielder showed his rust, going 4-for 18, all singles, and added two walks for a line of .222/.300/.222/.522.
TCN Top 40 Prospects
The Redbirds have 11 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 about a week away from his activation from the restricted list. He has been making starts in Cardinals’ Extended Spring Training in Jupiter, Florida. According to TCN’s Brian Walton, St. Louis’ top prospect shined in a game against Mets prospects last week, throwing fastballs in the high 90s, while a Cardinals pitcher charting pitches said Reyes clocked in at 100 mph previously. He also struck out six batters and picked off a base runner.
3. Marco Gonzales: Gonzales underwent Tommy John surgery, ending his season.
5. Tim Cooney: Cooney remains on the disabled list with a sore shoulder but there is a report he threw a bullpen this past week. The lefty was arguably Memphis’ best starter last season before being sidelined with appendicitis.
6. Charlie Tilson: Tilson made news last week after going 10 games with at least one hit, the longest hitting streak by a Redbird since Greg Garcia in 2015. However, the prospect produced just two hits in 21 at bats in Week 5, including his first homer of the season May 12 at Omaha.
11. Sam Tuivailala: After struggling in Week 1, Memphis’ primary closer has excelled in recent weeks. During his two appearances in Week 5, Tuivailala struck out three and allowed no hits in two innings. The right-hander leads all Memphis relievers in strikeouts (22) in 13.0 total innings.
19. Greg Garcia: Garcia, who started the 2016 season on St. Louis’ roster before being moved to Memphis in Week 2, was a consistent performer last season for Memphis. Excluding a 3-for-5 performance May 10 at Omaha, the infielder went hitless the rest of the week.
20. Jacob Wilson: Wilson was one of Memphis’ best offensive weapons to start the 2016 season (nine hits in six games), but has struggled since Week 2. His highlight of Week 5 was his May 6 start at Omaha (3-for-5 with a grand slam), but he was hitless in the four other games. The infielder sits last on the team in AVG (.192), but has two home runs and 10 RBI.
24. Patrick Wisdom: Wisdom is currently the Redbirds’ hottest position player. The infielder recorded three multi-hit games, going 6-for-12 during the stretch, and is enjoying a six game hitting streak. The prospect, who took some time to find footing in Triple-A, is tied for second on the team in HR (2) and RBI (12).
25. Anthony Garcia: After struggling in previous weeks, Garcia had a terrific Week 5. The outfielder had two multi-hit games, and at least one hit in four of his five appearances. After a promising Week 5, the prospect is now up to .200 for the first time since April 28.
30. Michael Ohlman: Ohlman was placed on the disabled list last week. Before his undisclosed injury, the prospect recorded at least one hit in six of his previous eight games. The catcher currently sits third on the team in AVG (.273, minimum 15 games).
33. Arturo Reyes: After being awarded his first win of the season May 4 vs. Omaha, Reyes picked up his second win of the season in style. In a May 9 start at Nashville, the starter struck out five batters and allowed six hits (all singles) with no earned in 6 2/3 innings.
The performances of Memphis’ pitching staff has dipped recently, with the staff’s ERA sitting at 4.00, sixth in the league; last week, the Redbirds sported a 3.77 ERA. However, they are still one of the best in the PCL in hits allowed (263, good for third), but in 31 games, which is the least games played in the league.
Memphis’ offense, on the other hand, is still struggling mightily. At the plate, the Redbirds post the third worst AVG (.238) – although .011 points separate Memphis and sixth-worst Round Rock – and the Redbirds have the second-fewest RBI (110).
After going 3-4 in Week 5, the Redbirds (13-18) remain last in the PCL American Southern Division for the third straight week. Round Rock (18-15) maintained first place, Nashville (16-18) rose to second and New Orleans (15-17) fell to third.
After dropping their last two, the Memphis Redbirds (13-18) hope to even their away series against the Omaha Storm Chasers (19-14) Friday night. Following the game, Memphis returns to AutoZone Park for an eight-game home stand with a break in between against the Sacramento River Cats (13-22) and Fresno Grizzlies (14-19).
The Redbirds, who are 8-11 in games decided by one- or two-runs, have been able to perform well on the mound to keep games close, but need more production from the offense.
After J.C. Sulbaran’s Thursday turn, Jeremy Hefner will start Friday at Omaha, followed by Thomas Lee, Arturo Reyes and Deck McGuire.
Follow Thomas Simpson on Twitter @jthomasSimpson.
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