David Washington (Scott Rovak / USA TODAY Sports Images)

This week’s news from the St. Louis Cardinals’ Triple-A affiliate in Memphis and a look ahead to next

St. Louis’ Triple-A ball club is still looking for its first series win of the 2016 Pacific Coast League season. While the Memphis Redbirds offense continues to stutter, one recently promoted outfielder has been on fire, and the club still fields one of the best pitching staffs in the league.

After six weeks of Pacific Coast League baseball, the Memphis Redbirds (15-22) are still looking for their first series win of the season (seven series’ tied and three series’ lost). During Week 6, the club went 2-4, including two losses in games decided by one- or two-runs, bringing their season total to 8-13 in such contests.

While recently-promoted David Washington has exploded onto the scene (team-leader in AVG, .333, and HR, 4), Memphis’ offense still sits at the bottom of the PCL in multiple categories.

Here’s how the week unfolded:

Friday, May 13: Memphis (STL) 1 at Omaha (KC) 7

The Redbirds plated just one run in a 7-1 loss at the Omaha Storm Chasers to wrap up the eight-game road trip.

Greg Garcia (2-for-4) led all Memphis batters and scored the lone run in the fifth after Omaha had plated one in the second. The Storm Chasers added another in the next frame, and then five more in the sixth inning. After committing just one error in the last five games, Memphis committed three errors in the five-run sixth, allowing Omaha’s big inning on just one hit and making all five runs unearned.

David Washington (1-for-4) extended his hitting streak to six games with a ground-rule double in the sixth, and has had a hit in seven of his eight games as a Redbird after being promoted from Springfield on May 5. Charlie Tilson (1-for-4) and Jonathan Rodriguez (1-for-3) were the only other Redbirds to record a hit.

Starter Jeremy Hefner (2-1, 3.32) took his first loss of the season after fanning two, walking two and allowing two earned on six hits in 4 2/3 innings. Ryan Sherriff took over in the fifth, walking two and fanning one, in 1 1/3 innings, including the five-run sixth. John Church then struck out two in 2.0 innings. Church has now allowed just one run in his 13 relief appearances this season, covering 17 1/3 innings.

http://www.scout.com/player/132816-john-church?s=321

Saturday, May 14: Sacramento (SF) 3 at Memphis (STL) 10

Matt Williams drove in five runs as the Redbirds snapped a three-game losing streak with a 10-3 win over the Sacramento River Cats. Prior to the game, Memphis had scored a total of 10 runs during its three-game skid.

http://www.scout.com/player/157749-matt-williams?s=321

Williams’ (2-for-2) five RBI is a season-high by a Redbird and the most since Dan Johnson August 25, 2015 at Tacoma. He had a sac fly, a walk, a single and a double.  Tilson (2-for-3), Greg Garcia (2-for-5) and Washington (2-for-5) also had two hits. Washington now sports a seven-game hitting streak.

Nick Martini (1-for-3) crossed the plate three times, matching Rodriguez’s total on April 20 at Oklahoma City for the most by a Redbird this season.

Reyes (3-2, 4.15) allowed six hits and three runs (two earned) in six innings for his third win. The right-hander also fanned two and walked three. Corey Littrell, who followed Miguel Socolovich and Heath Wyatt, gave up one hit in the ninth in his Triple-A debut after being promoted from Springfield on Saturday.

Sunday, May 15: Sacramento (SF) 4 at Memphis (STL) 2

Memphis managed just three hits in the final eight innings in a 4-2 loss to Sacramento. The Redbirds, which opened the scoring in the first via Anthony Garcia’s (0-for-3) sac fly, scored a run on a two-out double by Martini (1-for-4), but Dean Anna (0-for-3) struck out to end the game with the potential tying run at the plate. Tilson (1-for-3) extended his hitting streak to four games with a first-inning single, and Martini has now reached base in 24 of his last 28 games.

Starter Deck McGuire (1-5, 4.20) pitched 5 2/3 innings while walking four and allowing seven hits and four earned, including two homers, to earn the loss. While he leads the team in defeats, McGuire has received a total of four runs of support from the offense in those losses.

Littrell, in his second appearance for the Redbirds, struck out three and allowed two hits in 1 1/3 innings of relief. Church and Sam Tuivailala followed, combining for three strikeouts in two innings.

Monday, May 16: Sacramento (SF) 1 at Memphis (STL) 5

The Redbirds took a series lead with a 5-1 win in game three against the River Cats.

http://www.scout.com/player/135121-mike-mayers?s=321

Mike Mayers (1-0, 1.69), in his first Triple-A start of the season, fanned four, walked two and allowed one earned on five hits in 5 1/3 innings. Mayers, who last started for Memphis in the 2014 season finale at New Orleans, was promoted from Springfield over the weekend. Sherriff, Socolovich and Juan Gonzales followed in relief, and they struck out two apiece in 3 2/3 innings.

Washington (2-for-2), who had a day off Sunday, returned to reach base four times and extend his hitting streak to eight games, while Tilson (1-for-3) had a seventh-inning single to extend his own hit streak to five. Martini (2-for-4), Anna (2-for-4) and Ohlman (2-for-3) also had two hits.

Tuesday, May 17: Sacramento (SF) 10 at Memphis (STL) 3

The Redbirds, who were going for their first series win of the season, settled for a series split with a 10-3 loss to the River Cats.

Memphis left 11 runners on base, and was 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position. The club has now tied seven series and lost another three.

Washington (3-for-5) had a season-high three hits, and now sports a nine hitting streak, one shy of Tilson’s season-high for a Redbird. The outfielder also has a hit in 10 of his 11 games with Memphis. Tilson (1-for-4) moved his own hit streak to six games, while Anna (1-for-4) drove in two runs and Patrick Wisdom (1-for-4) plated another.

Starter J.C. Sulbaran (2-4, 5.59) took the loss, giving up five earned on seven hits in five innings of work, and Sherriff and Church allowed five more out of the bullpen. Wyatt and Tuivailala worked scoreless innings of relief.

Wednesday, May 18: Off

Thursday, May 19: Fresno (HOU) 4 at Memphis (STL) 2

After falling behind 3-0, Memphis rallied to come within one but could not complete the comeback and lost the home series opener to the Fresno Grizzlies, 4-2.

Washington (1-for-4) hit a two-run homer in the sixth, his third of the season, to pull Memphis within one and extending his hitting streak to 10 games – it is the second 10-game hitting streak by a Redbird this season (Tilson had the other).

The home run also puts him first on the team in HR (the outfielder has played in more than half the games as most of the team). Greg Garcia (3-for-4) recorded his second three-hit game of the season, and Martini (3-for-4) recorded a three-hit game as well. However, the trio were the only Redbirds to record a hit.

http://www.scout.com/player/145002-greg-garcia?s=321

Starter Hefner (2-2, 3.50) pitched well enough to win, working 5 2/3 innings and giving up three runs on six hits while fanning six, but unfortunately took his second loss of the week. Littrell came on in relief, striking out two and allowing no earned in 1 1/3 innings, but Fresno picked up an insurance run in the ninth with a solo shot off Socolovich.

Who’s Hot

On offense, no player has made as big of an impact as David Washington. The outfielder/first baseman, who joined the team May 5, is not only enjoying a 10 game hitting streak and leads the team in HR (4), but has also gone hitless in just one game in 12.

http://www.scout.com/player/133110-david-washington?s=321

Two other players who made a statement at the plate were Greg Garcia and Nick Martini. Garcia recorded three multi-hit games during Week 6, including a 3-for-4 performance May 19 vs. Fresno, while Martini went hitless in one game during the week and went 3-for-4 May 19 vs. Fresno as well.

http://www.scout.com/player/157706-nick-martini?s=321

On the mound, a pair of newcomers made an impact: starter Mike Mayers and reliever Corey Littrell. Mayers went 5 1/3 innings with four strikeouts and one earned off five hits May 16 vs. Sacramento while Littrell fanned five and allowed no earned runs in 3 2/3 innings of relief duty.

http://www.scout.com/player/192919-corey-littrell?s=321

Who’s Not

Two position players who had great Week 5’s hit a rough patch in Week 6: Patrick Wisdom and Anthony Garcia. Wisdom, after going 6-for-12 in a three-game stretch in Week 5, recorded just one hit in five games during Week 6, and is currently second on the team in SO (36). Garcia, like Wisdom, collected only one hit in six games, and currently has the lowest AVG on the team for the season (.179).

During the week, Memphis’ pitching staff did not give up too many earned runs, but one starter struggled during Week 6. Starter Deck McGuire, who has received a total of four runs of support from the offense in his five losses, allowed seven hits and four earned, including two home runs, in 5 2/3 innings in a loss May 15 vs. Sacramento.

Transactions

After a slow week in Week 5 regarding player movement, several players were moved up and down in the Cardinals’ organization, starting Thomas Lee being placed on the disabled list on May 12. Another pitcher went on the DL during the week, two were called up from Springfield, a catcher was activated from the DL and an outfielder was optioned to Memphis from St. Louis.

Here’s how the week unfolded:

05/12/2016: Memphis places RHP Thomas Lee on the 7-day disabled list.

05/13/2016: St. Louis Cardinals recall LHP Dean Kiekhefer from Memphis.

05/13/2016: Memphis activates C Michael Ohlman from the 7-day disabled list.

05/13/2016: Memphis places LHP Justin Wright on the 7-day disabled list.

05/14/2016: LHP Corey Littrell assigned to Memphis from Springfield.

05/15/2016: RHP Mike Mayers assigned to Memphis from Springfield.

05/17/2016: St. Louis Cardinals option CF Tommy Pham to Memphis.

TCN Top 40 Prospects

The Redbirds have 12 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 scheduled to be activated to start for the Redbirds on Sunday afternoon at home against Fresno. It will be the top prospect’s 2016 debut after serving his 50-game drug suspension.

3. Marco Gonzales: Gonzales underwent Tommy John surgery, ending his season.

5. Tim Cooney: Cooney remains on the disabled list with shoulder soreness and will be out indefinitely.

6. Charlie Tilson: Tilson has been one of Memphis’ best additions for 2016. The outfielder, who at one point went 10 games with at least one hit, was hot at the plate again with a six-game hit streak before going hitless May 19 vs. Fresno. The speedster, who does a terrific job of getting on base (29 hits and 15 BB compared to 9 SO), also leads the team in stolen bases (7).

11. Sam Tuivailala: Tuivailala, who at one point sported a 13.50 ERA, had another great week for the Redbirds. Memphis’ primary closer has dropped his ERA to 3.00 after going 9.0 innings without an earned run along with 14 SO during the stretch.

19. Greg Garcia: After struggling to gain a footing in Triple-A ball, Garcia had an excellent Week 6. The infielder recorded three multi-hit games, including a 3-for-4 performance May 19 vs. Fresno, and is slowly becoming one of Memphis’ best offensive options again.

20. Jacob Wilson: Wilson was placed on the disabled list on May 11. The infielder sports a .192 AVG, but has 2 HR and 10 RBI as well.

24. Patrick Wisdom: Wisdom seemed to have been gaining some steam after going 6-for-12 during a three-game stretch last week. Week 6 has been another story, however, as the infielder recorded one hit during the week. The prospect has also been unable to show patience at the plate, striking out 36 times, second-most on the team.

25. Anthony Garcia: Week 5 was very good for Garcia; Week 6, not so much. The outfielder recorded one hit during the week (a 1-for-3 performance vs. Sacramento), and has the lowest AVG (.179) on the club.

30. Michael Ohlman: Ohlman was activated from the disabled list May 13, and returned to the lineup May 14 vs. Sacramento. While he took some time to get back in the groove after being out for 10 days, the catcher recorded a hit in his return and went 2-for-3 with 2 RBI May 16 vs. Sacramento.

33. Arturo Reyes: After throwing 6 2/3 shutout innings last week, Reyes earned his third consecutive win of the 2016 season May 14 vs. Sacramento. The starter went 6.0 innings, striking out two and allowing six hits and two earned. For the season, the right-hander currently posts a 4.15 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP along with 27 SO compared to 12 BB.

34. Corey Littrell: Littrell was called up to Memphis from Springfield on May 14, and made his Triple-A debut that same day vs. Sacramento. The reliever, who went 1-1 with a 1.72 ERA along with 14 SO and 1 BB in Springfield, has yet to allow a run and has fanned five in 3 2/3 innings.

Memphis Stats

The Redbirds’ pitching staff dropped their ERA a few decimal places (3.98, compared to 4.00 last week), and sit third in the 16-team league with that number.

Memphis’ offense, however, is still struggling. The Redbirds have a .240 AVG, which is fourth-lowest in the league, a .313 OBP, third-lowest in the PCL, and finally 141 runs, dead last.

Memphis Standings

After spending three weeks in last place of the PCL American Southern Division, the Redbirds (15-22) moved up due to New Orleans’ (15-23) seven-game losing streak. Round Rock (20-18) remains in first place, but Nashville (21-19) has slowly crept up with a five-game winning streak to tie the leader.

What’s Next

After going 2-4 during Week 6 of the 2016 PCL season, the Redbirds hope to get their first series win of the year against the Fresno Grizzlies (16-23). The Redbirds play the Grizzlies through Sunday, and then begin an eight-game road trip with a four-game set at the Salt Lake Bees (22-16).

Memphis, which couldn’t take the home series against the struggling Sacramento River Cats (16-25) and dropped the first game against Fresno, may have a more difficult time against Pacific Southern Division leader Salt Lake. While the Bees are average statistically – the club sits middle of the pack in several batting and pitching categories –Salt Lake has done a great job at finishing games (12-6 in games decided by one- or two-runs). By comparison, Memphis is 8-13 in such contests.

After Jeremy Hefner’s start May 19, Arturo Reyes attempts to get his fourth consecutive win Friday night vs. Fresno, followed by Deck McGuire, then a Sunday TBA placeholder for Alex Reyes.

Follow Thomas Simpson on Twitter @jthomasSimpson.

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