Jonathan Rodriguez (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

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 showed slight improvement by splitting their two series this week. Memphis’ offense, led by David Washington and Jonathan Rodriguez, caught fire (68 hits and 42 runs), but the pitching staff stumbled.

The Memphis Redbirds (19-25) finished a week above .500 (4-3) for the first time in four weeks, but the club is still looking for its first series win (nine series tied and three lost). The Redbirds, who currently sit third in the Pacific Coast League American Southern Division, usually rely on their pitching to decide games, but Week 7 was a different story.

Led by David Washington and Jonathan Rodriguez, the club’s offense scored five or more runs in five of the seven games. With the addition of the recently acquired Jose Martinez, who won the PCL batting title (.384) while also sporting a league-best .461 OBP in 2015, the Redbirds are positioned to continue to improve at the plate.

Here’s how the week unfolded:

Friday, May 20: Fresno (HOU) 7 at Memphis 8

The Redbirds took game two of their home series against the Fresno Grizzlies, 8-7, thanks to a five run third inning, a run in the fifth and quality defense and pitching the rest of the way.

Anthony Garcia (2-for-4), Tommy Pham (2-for-3) and Patrick Wisdom (2-for-3) each had two hits, with Garcia leading the way with a run and three RBI. David Washington (1-for-3) recorded his fifth homer of the season with a two-run shot in the first. With the home run, Washington extended his hitting streak to a Redbirds season-best 11 games while recording a hit in 12 of his 13 games with Memphis.

Starter Arturo Reyes pitched 4 2/3 innings of no-decision baseball, striking out two and allowing seven runs (four earned) on five hits, including two homers. Ryan Sherriff (1-0, 2.14) took over with two outs in the fifth and recorded his first win of the season, striking out two and allowing no hits in 1 1/3 innings.

John Church and Juan Gonzales each earned a hold, combining for three strikeouts and one hit over two innings, before Sam Tuivailala recorded his team leading fourth save of the season in the ninth.

Saturday, May 21: Fresno (HOU) 7 at Memphis 1

Memphis hitters struck out 14 times and had just six hits in a 7-1 loss to the Fresno Grizzlies.

The only highlights of the night for the Redbirds were Washington’s (1-for-4) single in the seventh that brought his hitting streak to 12 games and Wisdom’s (2-for-4) RBI single that plated Memphis’ lone run. The infielder had two of the team’s six hits, his second consecutive multi-hit game. Nick Martini (1-for-3), who tripled in the fifth, has reached base in 29 of the last 33 games, and he has not been held hitless in back-to-back games in his 27 starts in 2016 (he was 0-for-3 Friday night).

Corey Littrell pitched two scoreless innings in relief of starter Deck McGuire (1-6, 5.00), who recorded his sixth loss of the season after fanning three, walking four and allowing six earned (including two homers) on five hits in 4 1/3 innings. Littrell, who arrived from Springfield one week ago, has not allowed a run in 5 2/3 innings.

Sunday, May 22: Fresno (HOU) 1 at Memphis 8

Alex Reyes, the top-ranked prospect in TCN’s Top 40, pitched 4.0 innings and fanned eight in his season and Triple-A debut to help lead the Redbirds over the Fresno Grizzlies, 8-1.

While the starter gave up two hits, walked three and found trouble often during the game (bases loaded and one out in the second, two men on and zero outs in the third), he struck out the final batter of each inning to escape without allowing a run. He also matched Arturo Reyes for the most strikeouts by a Redbirds starter in a game this season (8).

While Reyes’ debut was big, it was reliever Sherriff (2-0, 1.96), who was awarded the win (his second in three games). During 2.0 innings of relief work, the right-hander fanned four and allowed one hit.

Memphis’ offense, meanwhile, recorded 10 hits for the second time this week, led by Wisdom (3-for-3) and Jonathan Rodriguez (3-for-4), who also recorded his fourth home run of the season.

Charlie Tilson (2-for-4) and Greg Garcia (2-for-4) recorded multi-hit games as well, but Washington’s (0-for-2) 12-game hitting streak came to an end. His streak was the longest by a Redbird this season and the second-longest active streak in the PCL entering the game.

Monday, May 23: Memphis 3 at Salt Lake (LAA) 14

Memphis pitching allowed a season-high 21 hits and one run shy of the most allowed this season in a 14-3 loss to the Salt Lake Bees. Eight of Salt Lake’s 20 hits were doubles, tying a single-game record for two-baggers by a Redbirds opponent.

Starter J.C. Sulbaran (2-5, 7.52) survived only 2.0 innings after giving up 11 runs (10 earned) on 13 hits. Reliever Kurt Heyer, who arrived from AA-Springfield on Monday, gave up three earned and eight hits in 4 2/3 innings before Miguel Socolovich fanned three in 1 1/3 innings.

While Memphis pitchers and defense gave up 12 runs in the first four innings, the offense was another story. The Redbirds rattled off eight hits and plated three runners, highlighted by Martini’s (1-for-4) and Rodriguez’s (2-for-4) solo shots in the fifth, their second and fifth time respectively this season, and A. Garcia’s (1-for-3) RBI single in the sixth. With his home run, Rodriguez went yard for the second consecutive game, and after going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts yesterday, Martini’s homer means he has still not been held hitless in back-to-back games in his 29 starts this season.

Tuesday, May 24: Memphis (STL) 5 at Salt Lake (LAA) 7

The Redbirds came all the way back to within a run in the eighth, but a five-run deficit after two innings proved to be too much in a 7-5 loss to the Salt Lake Bees.

Memphis pitching has allowed 17 runs in the first three innings of the first two games of the series, and the offense stranded 10 runners on base Tuesday night and was 3-for-15 with runners in scoring position. The eighth inning was particularly disappointing, as the Redbirds failed to score with the bases loaded and no outs.

Anna (2-for-5) and Wisdom (2-for-4) combined for four hits and three RBI and Greg Garcia (2-for-5) added two hits.

Starter Jeremy Hefner (2-3, 4.17) took the loss after fanning five, walking two and giving up six earned on 11 hits in 6.0 innings. Littrell relieved and struck out the side in his lone inning, giving him 6 2/3 scoreless innings and eight strikeouts so far in Memphis.

Wednesday, May 25: Memphis 9 at Salt Lake (LAA) 7

Washington (2-for-3) led the Redbirds with a pair of two-run blasts and four RBI in a 9-7 win over the Salt Lake Bees. The outfielder has now hit safely in 15-of-18 games with Memphis and has team-leading seven home runs, is hitting .328 and has a .710 SLG on the year.

Starter Arturo Reyes (4-2, 4.57) collected his fourth win in 2016 after fanning four and giving up three earned on seven hits in 6.0 innings. Reyes, who leads the starting rotation with four wins, recorded his four wins in his last five starts and gave up less than three runs in an outing for the fifth time this season.

Sherriff yielded no runs and one hit in 2.0 innings of relief duty – the reliever has given up 10 runs on 14 hits and has fanned 22 in 17 appearances.  Juan Gonzalez recorded his third save of the year despite Salt Lake scoring four runs and loading the bases with two outs in the ninth.

A. Garcia (2-for-4), Tilson (2-for-5) and Rodriguez (2-for-4) each had a pair of hits. A. Garcia plated three via a three-run homer in the third and scored another in the seventh via a sac fly to collect a season-high four RBI in his sixth multi-hit game this season. Rodriguez picked up an RBI in the seventh to give him 21 in 37 games.

Thursday, May 26: Memphis 8 at Salt Lake (LAA) 4

Rodriguez (2-for-4) hit two home runs and starter McGuire allowed three runs in 7.0 innings to lead Memphis to its second consecutive win over the Salt Lake Bees, 8-4, and split the road series.

McGuire (2-6, 4.85) picked up his second win of the season after striking out two, walking two and giving up seven hits. In his 7.0 innings, 68 of McGuire’s 85 pitches were strikes. Littrell fanned one and gave up no runs on one hit in 1.0 inning and Church walked one and allowed one earned on one hit in 1.0 inning.

Pham (3-for-3) had his best game in 2016, plating two runners, and Tilson (4-for-5) had a season-high four hits during the day, including a leadoff bunt-single in the fifth.

Who’s Hot

Offensively, the Redbirds had one of their most productive weeks and were led by several players.

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

David Washington is still Memphis’ top offensive option after recording at least one hit in five games, including a 2-for-3, 2 HR and 4 RBI performance May 25 at Salt Lake, and leads the team in AVG (.324) and SLG (.706).

http://www.scout.com/player/133111-jonathan-rodriguez?s=321

Jonathan Rodriguez was 6-for-16 with three HR and four RBI during the Salt Lake series, and is now tied with Washington for the team lead in HR (7) while leading the team in RBI (24).

http://www.scout.com/player/157108-charlie-tilson?s=321

Charlie Tilson went 7-for-19 during the Salt Lake series, including a 4-for-5 performance May 26, and struck out only once in the past five games.

http://www.scout.com/player/169788-patrick-wisdom?s=321

Patrick Wisdom recorded at least one hit during Week 7, including four multi-hit games, and brought home four runners as well.

While Memphis’ pitching staff performed badly overall, there were still some standout performers.

http://www.scout.com/player/174617-alex-reyes?s=321

Alex Reyes, who received his Triple-A debut after serving a 50-game suspension, struck out eight (tied with Arturo Reyes for a season-high among Memphis pitchers), walked three and gave up two hits on zero earned in 4.0 innings May 22 vs. Fresno.

http://www.scout.com/player/158032-ryan-sherriff?s=321

Ryan Sherriff was awarded two wins in three days and pitched 5 1/3 scoreless innings, fanning seven and giving up two hits in the process.

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

Corey Littrell, who was called up from Springfield last week, has gone 7 2/3 innings without giving up a run in a Memphis jersey, and combined to strike out four and allow two hits in three games this week.

Who’s Not

Memphis’ offense was rattling off hits during Week 7 (68), but there were a few hiccups.

Michael Ohlman, who recently came off the disabled list, was 1-for-13 in four games while striking out five times.

Matt Williams went 2-for-14 in four games and was caught stealing on both his attempts.

On the mound, the staff had their worst performance of the season, including a 21 hit, 14-3 drubbing May 23 at Salt Lake.

J.C. Sulbaran and Kurt Heyer both appeared in that game, with Sulbaran giving up 11 runs (10 earned) on 13 hits in 2.0 innings while Heyer allowed three earned on eight hits in 4 2/3 innings.

Jeremy Hefner, who was one of Memphis’ best starters at the beginning of the season, collected his third consecutive loss after giving up six earned on 11 hits in 6.0 innings.

Transactions

The biggest news in Week 7 was Memphis activating RHP Alex Reyes, the number one prospect in TCN’s top 40. Reyes fanned four and allowed only two hits in 4.0 scoreless innings May 22 vs. Fresno.

Meanwhile, a recently acquired outfielder was added to the roster from St. Louis while four other players were moved during the week.

Here’s how the week unfolded:

05/20/2016: RHP Mike Mayers assigned to Springfield Cardinals from Memphis Redbirds.

05/22/2016: Memphis Redbirds activate RHP Alex Reyes from the restricted list.

05/23/2016: RHP Kurt Heyer assigned to Memphis Redbirds from Springfield Cardinals.

05/23/2016: C Jesse Jenner assigned to Palm Beach Cardinals from Memphis Redbirds.

05/25/2016: St. Louis Cardinals option Jose Martinez to Memphis Redbirds.

05/26/2016: St. Louis Cardinals recall Greg Garcia from Memphis Redbirds.

Jose Martinez Added

Jose Martinez, a veteran outfielder acquired Wednesday from the Kansas City Royals in exchange for cash considerations, was assigned to the Redbirds. The 27-year-old was hitting .298 with three home runs and 18 RBI with a .356 OBP in 37 games with Omaha.

In 2015, the outfielder won the PCL batting title (.384) while also sporting a league-best .461 OBP. Martinez was added to give St. Louis more options offensively in the outfield.

Other active outfielders include Anthony Garcia, with the lowest AVG of any current Redbird (.192) and Tommy Pham (.214) is trying to get back on track after injury. Martinez is big (6’6”, 215 pounds), but isn’t considered a power hitter, and is average on defense in the corner outfield positions.

TCN Top 40 Prospects

The Memphis Redbirds have 12 of The Cardinal Nation’s Top 40 Prospects on their active roster. Here is how they have performed recently: 

1. Alex Reyes: The top prospect in TCN’s top 40 finally made his Triple-A debut following a 50-game suspension from a failed drug test in November 2015, and it was a great one. Reyes, whose fastball rises towards the 98-99 mph range and sometimes towards triple digits, pitched 4.0 scoreless innings May 22 vs. Fresno, striking out eight and allowing two hits in the process.

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

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

7. Charlie Tilson: Tilson followed up last week’s performance with another great showing in Week 7. Memphis’ primary option at leadoff appeared in six games and recorded three multi-hit games. The outfielder also recorded his first four-hit game of 2016 May 26 at Salt Lake with a 4-for-5 effort that included a leadoff bunt-single. The speedster leads the team in bases stolen (7); however, he hasn’t swiped a base since May 14 vs. Sacramento.

11. Sam Tuivailala: Tuivailala pitched 2.0 innings in two games during Week 7, combining to strike out three, walk two and give up one earned on one hit and getting his fourth save of the season May 20 vs. Fresno. The earned run was his first since April 21 at Oklahoma City and brought his ERA up to 3.18 while his 28 SO lead all Redbirds relievers.

19. Greg Garcia: Garcia was promoted to St. Louis while Matt Carpenter is on paternity leave, but we’ll leave him on this list because he appeared four games this week. The infielder, who has been one of Memphis’ most consistent options, is currently on a six-game hit streak, including two multi-hit games prior to being called up to St. Louis. The 26-year-old is fifth on the team in AVG (.269) and fourth in OBP (.350) in 2016.

21. Jacob Wilson: Wilson was placed on the disabled list on May 11. Before being put on the DL, the infielder sported a .192 AVG, but has 2 HR and 10 RBI as well.

26. Corey Littrell: Since being promoted from Springfield last week, Littrell has been one of Memphis’ best options out of the bullpen. The lefty appeared in three games this week, combining to strike out four, walk one and give up two hits in 4.0 scoreless innings. The prospect has pitched 7 2/3 scoreless innings in a Memphis jersey this season.

31. Patrick Wisdom: Although inconsistency has plagued his AAA season so far, Wisdom showed how important he is offensively in Week 7. The infielder appeared in every game during the week and recorded at least one hit in six of those games (four multi-hit games), including a perfect 3-for-3 performance May 22 vs. Fresno. While Wisdom’s SO count is high (41, one behind team-leading Jonathan Rodriguez) compared to his BB (15), he is third on the team in RBI (17) and first in 2B (11).

Even more interesting is the fact that Wisdom played both Wednesday and Thursday’s games at shortstop, the first time in his career he has appeared there.

32. Anthony Garcia: Although he has had a frustrating season, Garcia’s Week 7 looked better than previous weeks. In five games, the outfielder went 5-for-19, but plated eight runners, including a three-run blast May 25 at Salt Lake. His eight runs batted in brought him up to tied-for fourth on the team (16), but the 24-year-old is also at the bottom of the team in AVG (.192).

33. Michael Ohlman: Ohlman swapped game time with veteran Alberto Rosario and appeared in four games during the week, but recorded only one hit. The catcher, who came off the disabled list last week, was hitting .290 after May 16 vs. Sacramento, but that has dipped to .241 since then. One area of concern for the player is his strikeout rate: he has struck out 36 total times (good for third), but in nearly 50 less at-bats than the two players above him.

38. David Washington: Washington may end up being the best offensive player Memphis will have this season, and he is certainly playing like it. Not only does the outfielder lead the Redbirds in AVG (.328), HR (7) and SLG (.706) in more than half the games played as the other players, but he is also outplaying his Springfield stats (.276 AVG and 5 HR in 22 games, four less than in Memphis). While his 12-game hit streak came to an end May 22 vs. Fresno, the 25-year-old was still impressive in Week 7, including a 2-for-3 performance May 25 at Salt Lake that included two two-run homers.

Memphis Stats

Week 7 was the pitching staff’s worst week to date in 2016, which included allowing 21 hits and 14 runs scored May 23 at Salt Lake. Their ERA rose to 4.36 (from 3.98 last week) after allowing 47 runs, the most allowed so far this season, while their hits allowed (391) and WHIP (1.43) sit in the middle of the league.

The offense, however, looked a lot better. The club boosted their average up to .248 (from .240 last week) after recording 68 hits during the week while plating 42 runners. However, the club still sits towards the bottom of the league in key categories such as SLG (.374) and OBP (.321).

Memphis Standings

The Redbirds (19-25) remain in third place of the PCL American Southern Division for the second consecutive week, but the club has shown improvement after going 4-3 and splitting their series against the Salt Lake Bees (25-20).

Meanwhile, there was some movement at the top of the division as the Nashville Sounds (27-20) claimed first over the Round Rock Express (25-21) while the New Orleans Zephyrs (19-27) ride their four game losing streak to last in the division.

What's Next

After splitting the series against the Fresno Grizzlies (21-25) and the Salt Lake Bees (25-20), the Redbirds (19-25) continue their road trip with a four-game series against the Las Vegas 51s (24-22) followed by a four-game home series against the New Orleans Zephyrs (19-27).

Although Las Vegas sits third in the PCL Pacific Southern Division, the Mets’ club is no slouch. The 51s lead the league in BB (185), tied with Round Rock for second-best AVG (.281) and the second-best OBP (.361), and are led by SS T.J. Rivera (.366, 5 HR and 42 RBI), who ranks first in RBI and third in AVG in the PCL.

However, their pitching staff is the team’s weak-link. The club posts the third worst ERA in the league (4.99), ranks first in hits allowed (482) and recently gave up 19 hits in a 13-2 loss to Nashville. If Memphis’ offense performs like it did in Week 7, the Redbirds have a chance at winning their first series in 2016.

After Deck McGuire’s game Thursday, Alex Reyes returns Friday at Las Vegas for his second start of the season, followed by J.C. Sulbaran, Jeremy Hefner and Arturo Reyes.

Follow Thomas Simpson on Twitter @jthomasSimpson.

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