The Memphis Redbirds (22-29) finished below .500 during Week 8 (3-4) and are still looking for their first series win of the season, but the club showed a lot of promise. On the mound, Memphis’ pitchers were tremendous, holding their final four opponents to a .159 average and nine runs scored. The offense looked great at times, scoring 14 on May 28 at Las Vegas, but then failing to plate more than three runners in four games.
Several players were moved during Week 8 to try to add more firepower to the offense, but in the short term, it only seemed to slow it down further. As a team, Memphis scored just five times over the last three games.
Here’s how the week unfolded:
Friday, May 27: Memphis (STL) 1 at Las Vegas (NYM) 4
TCN’s top prospect Alex Reyes struck out seven in five innings, but the Redbirds dropped their first game of their away series against the Las Vegas 51s, 4-1.
The score was tied at 1-1 after six innings, but the Redbirds made two crucial errors – a dropped ball in the seventh and a throwing error to first in the eighth – that led to Las Vegas’ final three runs.
The pitching staff, led by starter Reyes, had a terrific night, only giving up two earned on nine hits while fanning seven. Reyes, who has started in two games this season, has struck out 15 batters in nine innings. Unfortunately, reliever Miguel Socolovich (0-4, 3.26) tookhis fourth loss of the season after giving up two runs (one earned) in the seventh.
While the Redbirds excelled on the mound, the offense stalled, scoring once in the fourth via a David Washington (0-for-3) sac fly. Las Vegas native Tommy Pham (2-for-3) had two of the team’s five hits and scored the lone run.
Saturday, May 28: Memphis (STL) 14 at Las Vegas (NYM) 17
The Redbirds had their best offensive performance of the season (17 hits, 14 runs), but the 51s still managed to edge them out, 17-14.
Memphis pitching allowed a season-high 21 hits and 17 runs, including 10 runs through four innings. Starter J.C. Sulbaran (2-6, 8.73) struggled in his 10th start, throwing 3 2/3 innings and giving up 10 runs (nine earned) for the second straight time this year – he has lost in four consecutive starts and has yet to earn a win since April 13 vs. Oklahoma City. Relievers Heath Wyatt and Kurt Heyer threw a combined 4 1/3 innings to finish the game, giving up seven runs on 11 hits.
Although Memphis’ offense failed to score a runner through four innings, the team caught fire late, scoring 12 runs in the final three innings. Nick Martini (4-for-5) recorded his first four-hit game since September 1, 2014, when he was a member of the Springfield Cardinals, Michael Ohlman (2-for-3) and Patrick Wisdom (2-for-4) each homered in the eighth and Charlie Tilson (3-for-6) and David Washington (2-for-6) each had multi-hit games as well.
Sunday, May 29: Memphis (STL) 5 at Las Vegas (NYM) 11
Memphis gave up six runs in the first two innings on their way to their third consecutive loss at Las Vegas, 11-5.
Starter Jeremy Hefner (2-4, 5.08) threw a season-low 1 2/3 innings in his fourth straight loss of the season, giving up six earned on five hits and managing only one strikeout to four walks – his last win was April 20 at Oklahoma City. Memphis’ relievers combined to throw 6 2/3 innings, including catcher Alberto Rosario in the bottom of the eighth, the first position player to pitch for the Redbirds since Mark Shorey on June 16, 2012.
After Saturday’s onslaught, the Redbirds’ batters produced just seven hits. Alex Mejia (2-for-4) made an immediate impact in his first game back in Triple-A, picking up an RBI as well. Washington (1-for-3) hit his eighth home run with Memphis in the sixth, Ohlman (1-for-3) reached home on a fielding error in the second, Matt Williams (1-for-3) plated a runner in the ninth via a single and Rosario (0-for-1) brought home another when grounding out into a double play.
Monday, May 30: Memphis (STL) 9 at Las Vegas (NYM) 3
Starter Arturo Reyes tossed eight shutout innings (a Redbirds season-high), fanned five and gave up just three hits, leading Memphis over the 51s, 9-3, and avoiding the sweep.
With the win, Reyes (5-2, 3.88) is 5-0 in the month of May, and has not lost a game since April 22 at Oklahoma City. Reliever John Church took over in the ninth, fanning three and allowing three runs (zero earned) on two hits.
For the second time in three days, Memphis’ offense was clicking. Seven players had at least one hit during the game, led by Dean Anna (3-for-4), who plated a runner, and Tilson (2-for-5), who scored three more. Michael McKenry (2-for-3) had an RBI triple, Pham (1-for-4) blasted his first home run for Memphis this season and Washington (1-for-2) hit his team-leading ninth-home run since joining the Redbirds May 5, which leads the PCL during that span.
Tuesday, May 31: New Orleans (MIA) 0 at Memphis (STL) 1
Following Arturo Reyes’ stellar outing Monday, Deck McGuire followed with seven shutout innings of his own in a 1-0 win.
McGuire (3-6, 4.27) struck out five, scattered six and did not issue a walk for the first time since April 29 at New Orleans. Memphis’ starters have worked 15-straight scoreless innings over the last two games. Socolovich and Sam Tuivailala combined for zero hits in two innings, and Tuivailala picked up his team-leading fifth save of the season.
On offense, Tilson (2-for-2) was the star of the show, reaching base four times and bringing home the game winner in the seventh with an RBI single, while Mejia (2-for-3) had his second multi-hit game in three days.
Wednesday, June 1: New Orleans (MIA) 2 at Memphis (STL) 3
In his third start of the season, Alex Reyes (1-0, 1.80) fanned 11 (a Redbirds season-high) and gave up just two hits in six innings, picking up his first win for Memphis in a 3-2 win over the New Orleans Zephyrs. Memphis’ pitching staff has limited its last three opponents to a total of six runs and 14 hits in 27 innings.
After a 1:05 rain delay, Reyes’ night started off badly with a one-out, two-run homer in the top of the first, but the starter picked up his game and finished strong, including striking out the side in his second and fourth frames. TCN’s top prospect has now struck out 26 in 15 innings for a K/9 rate of 15.6. Reliever Ryan Sherriff pitched one inning, and Gonzalez picked up his fourth save of the season after striking out one and giving up one hit in two innings in relief.
McKenry (2-for-4), who had eight total triples in his 11-year baseball career, recorded two triples and an RBI, bringing his triples season total to three in four games as a Redbird. Wisdom (2-for-4) and Pham (2-for-4) had two hits apiece.
Thursday, June 2: New Orleans (MIA) 4 at Memphis (STL) 1
Sulbaran pitched six shutout innings and Littrell added two more scoreless ones, but the Zephyrs scored four in the top of the ninth and ended Memphis’ three-game winning streak, 4-1.
Sulbaran, who gave up 21 runs (19 earned) in his past two outings, allowed just three hits while striking out six and walking one, and is a part of a stretch during which Redbirds starting pitchers threw 26 scoreless innings out of 27 over the last four games. Memphis’ pitching staff held their last four opponents to a .159 batting average in the process. However, reliever Church arrived in the ninth and yielded four runs on three hits to end the game.
While Memphis’ offense performed poorly (four hits), Washington (1-for-3) hit his 10th home run in 25 games as a Redbird in the bottom of the ninth and Carlos Peguero (2-for-3) recorded his first multi-hit back from the disabled list.
Memphis’ offense was red-hot at the start of the week, but tailed off tremendously during the New Orleans series (four runs in three games).
David Washington may have gone 5-for-20 during Week 8, but three of those five hits went yard, upping his season total to a team-leading 10 home runs. The outfielder, who has spent time at first base to help replace Jonathan Rodriguez, was most recently voted St. Louis’ Minor League Player of the Month of May by The Cardinal Nation.
Local product Tommy Pham was excellent during the Las Vegas series, going 4-for-12 with one HR in three games. The outfielder also was 2-for-4 June 1 vs. New Orleans as he works his way back toward rejoining St. Louis’ roster.
Charlie Tilson has been one of Memphis’ few bright spots on a stalling offense, going 8-for-18 over the last six games of Week 8, including a 3-for-6 performance in the offensive shootout May 28 at Las Vegas.
Michael McKenry was signed by St. Louis to provide veteran support at the catcher position in Memphis, and he did just that. The 11-year pro was 5-for-12 in four games during the week, plating five runners in the process.
On the mound, the Redbirds started Week 8 poorly (38 runs allowed in three games), but were nearly unhittable during the New Orleans series (six allowed in three games).
Arturo Reyes recorded his fifth win in the month of May with a season-high eight shutout inning performance May 30 at Las Vegas. The right-hander struck out five and scattered three hits during the game.
Deck McGuire followed suit, matching a season-high seven scoreless innings May 31 vs. New Orleans. The right-hander fanned five as well while scattering six.
Alex Reyes stepped up next and was awarded his first win of the 2016 season, striking out 11 and allowing two earned on two hits in six innings June 1 vs. New Orleans. TCN’s top prospect also started May 27 at Las Vegas, fanning seven and allowing one earned on three hits in five innings of a no-decision.
Juan Gonzalez provided solid relief for Memphis’ starters, combining for four strikeouts in three innings pitched. The reliever also scattered one and allowed zero runs during the week.
Corey Littrell gave up his first run as a Redbird May 29 at Las Vegas, but struck out another three in 1 1/3 innings. He also tossed two innings June 2, allowing zero hits and fanning one.
As stated above, Memphis’ offense stalled towards the end of Week 8.
Nick Martini, one of Memphis’ best hitters in 2016, was 5-for-19 during Week 8. However, that was boosted by his 4-for-5 game May 28 at Las Vegas. The outfielder was 1-for-14 during the other five games.
Patrick Wisdom has struggled with inconsistency during 2016, and that trend continued in Week 8, with the infielder going 4-for-23. The infielder struck out six times during the week, bringing his season total to a team-leading 47.
While Memphis’ pitchers excelled at the end of Week 8, the staff gave up 38 runs in the first three games.
J.C. Sulbaran would have appeared on the Who’s Hot list after fanning six in six innings June 2 vs. New Orleans, but the starter gave up 10 runs in 3 2/3 innings May 28 at Las Vegas. What’s more is that was the second consecutive start the right-hander gave up at least 10 runs.
Jeremy Hefner was awarded his fourth loss of the season May 29 at Las Vegas after walking four and allowing six runs on six hits in 1 2/3 innings. It is noted that the starter revealed on social media June 1 he could possibly be out until at least August after an MRI revealed right shoulder inflammation.
Reliever John Church pitched three innings during Week 8, scattering seven and allowing eight runs (three earned) during relief duty.
Tuivailala pitched in his worst game of 2016 May 29 at Las Vegas, walking three and allowing four earned on two hits in 2/3 innings.
Several key players were moved up and down during Week 8 of the 2016 season, including 11-year veteran Michael McKenry, who had opted out of his minor league contract with the Texas Rangers earlier in May. While his signing brings more experience to the position in Memphis, it caused a traffic jam at catcher, which caused TCN’s 33rd ranked prospect Michael Ohlman to be sent down to Springfield. While Ohlman was hitting .259/.340/.388 with two HR and 12 RBI in Memphis, he struck out almost 40% of his plate appearances and his defense has been questionable at times.
Anthony Garcia, TCN’s 32nd ranked prospect, is another promising player sent down to Springfield. The 40-man roster outfielder has struggled to produce at the plate this season, hitting .192/.281/.336 in 38 games.
The Redbirds will receive starting rotation help with the return of Mike Mayers, who will replace Jeremy Hefner; Hefner is expected to be out with shoulder soreness. Mayers, is 1-0 and posts a 1.69 ERA in one start for Memphis in 2016, recently struck out a career-high 10 batters May 26 vs. Midland and is 5-2 with a 2.30 ERA in Double-A in 2016. While the two Reyes’ have been Memphis’ best options at starter, the rest of the current rotation is 7-16 with a 5.82 ERA.
Meanwhile, two other players were assigned to Springfield, two were activated from the disabled list and a promising starter was promoted this week.
Here’s how the week unfolded:
05/27/2016: C Michael McKenry assigned to Memphis Redbirds.
05/27/2016: LF Anthony Garcia assigned to Springfield Cardinals from Memphis Redbirds.
05/28/2016: SS Alex Mejia assigned to Memphis Redbirds from Springfield Cardinals.
05/29/2016: RHP Heath Wyatt assigned to Springfield Cardinals from Memphis Redbirds.
05/29/2016: 1B Jonathan Rodriguez assigned to Springfield Cardinals from Memphis Redbirds.
05/29/2016: Memphis Redbirds activate LHP Justin Wright from the 7-day disabled list.
05/31/2016: C Michael Ohlman assigned to Springfield Cardinals from Memphis Redbirds.
05/31/2016: RHP Mike Mayers assigned to Memphis Redbirds from Springfield Cardinals.
05/31/2016: Memphis Redbirds activate LF Carlos Peguero from the 7-day disabled list.
TCN Top 40 Prospects
The Redbirds have 11 of The Cardinal Nation’s Top 40 Prospects on their active roster. However, three of their prospects are out (one for the season and two more indefinitely), and two more were assigned to Springfield this week; Anthony Garcia was assigned prior to Week 8’s first game, so he is excluded from this list.
Here is how the prospects have performed recently:
1. Alex Reyes: TCN’s top prospect, is already competing with Arturo for Memphis’ best option at starter. He was awarded his first win of the season June 1 vs. New Orleans, fanning 11 and giving up two earned on two hits in six innings. So far in 2016, the right-hander has 26 SO in 15 innings, has a .135 opposing batting average and a 0.93 WHIP.
3. Marco Gonzales: Gonzales underwent Tommy John surgery prior to the start of 2016, effectively ending his season.
5. Tim Cooney: Cooney is out indefinitely and remains on the disabled list with shoulder soreness.
7. Charlie Tilson: Tilson continues to be one of Memphis’ best options on offense with his third consecutive positive week. The Redbirds’ primary leadoff man was 8-for-18 over the last six games of the week, including a 3-for-6 performance in the offensive shootout May 28 at Las Vegas. The outfielder is hitting .266/.332/.382 so far in 2016, and is second on the team in walks (17).
11. Sam Tuivailala: During a span of 10 innings earlier this season, Tuivailala gave up zero earned on one hit in relief duty, recording four saves in the process. However, the reliever had his first hiccup since the start of the season, walking three and allowing four earned on two hits in 2/3 innings May 29 at Las Vegas. He did rebound by earning his sixth save of the season May 31 vs. New Orleans.
21. Jacob Wilson: Wilson was placed on the disabled list on May 11 with an undisclosed injury. The infielder was hitting .192/.261/.321 with two HR and 10 RBI.
25. Mike Mayers: Mayers, who did not appear in a game during Week 8, was called up from Springfield to replace Jeremy Hefner. The starter, who was a top prospect last year before being slowed by injury, is 5-2 with a 2.30 ERA in 54 2/3 innings. His last start for Memphis was May 16 vs. Sacramento, when he fanned four and allowed one earned on one hit in 5 2/3 innings.
26. Corey Littrell: Littrell has been one of Memphis’ best options in relief since he was promoted from Springfield, and Week 8 was no exception. The lefty gave up his first earned run in Triple-A May 29 at Las Vegas, but proceeded to strike out three in 1 1/3 innings. The reliever also made an appearance June 2 vs. New Orleans, fanning one in two innings.
31. Patrick Wisdom: Inconsistency has been one of Wisdom’s weak spots so far in 2016. The infielder, who has spent time between third base and shortstop, 4-for-23 during Week 8 play, highlighted by a 2-for-4 with one HR and three RBI performance May 28 at Las Vegas. For the season, the prospect is hitting .247/.329/.397, which are solid numbers, but his strikeout rate is very high (team-leading 47). One interesting note: Wisdom also leads the team in walks (18).
33. Michael Ohlman: Ohlman most recently came off the disabled list and was just getting comfortable at the plate, going 3-for-6 with one HR and three RBI in his final two games in Memphis. However, with the addition of 11-year veteran Michael McKenry, the Cardinals thought it would be best for the prospect to head down to Springfield for more playing time rather than compete with two other players in Memphis.
38. David Washington: Washington may be TCN’s lowest ranked prospect on Memphis’ roster, but if the roster was based on current play and not on career or potential, he would definitely be in the top 10. The outfielder, who has spent time at first base as well, blasted three home runs in his last four games to bring his Memphis season total to a team-leading 10. What is more impressive is that he was called up from Springfield on May 3 and currently leads the league in HR total during that span. The 25-year-old is currently hitting .307/.382/.716 with 22 RBI for Memphis.
While the beginning of Week 8 was Memphis’ pitchers’ worst series (38 runs in three games), the staff was tremendous towards the end, holding their last four opponents to a .159 average and nine runs scored. However, those 38 runs did some damage to the team’s ERA (4.44), while their hits allowed (454) and strikeouts (393) still sit in the middle of the league.
If Memphis’ offense performed at the same level as they did at the start of Week 8, the Redbirds may be looking at a four-game winning streak right now. The club sits fourth to last in AVG (.248), OBP (.321) and SLG (.379).
The Redbirds (22-29) remain in third place in the PCL American Southern Division for the third consecutive week after going 3-4 during Week 8. The club is 0.5 games ahead of last place New Orleans Zephyrs (22-30) and will need a win June 3 vs. New Orleans to keep that advantage. Meanwhile, the Nashville Sounds (33-21) sit atop the division with Round Rock Express (29-24) trailing behind.
After avoiding a sweep against the Las Vegas 51s (28-25) and grabbing two out of three against the New Orleans Zephyrs (22-30), the Redbirds (22-29) stay at home to try and win their first series of the 2016 season on June 3 vs. New Orleans. Following Friday’s game, the Redbirds travel to take on the Iowa Cubs (25-26) in a four game road series, take a break Wednesday, June 8 and come home Thursday, June 9 for a four-game home series vs. Colorado Springs Sky Sox (24-25).
Colorado Springs and Iowa boast three of the five best offenses in the PCL, posting a .282 and .276 average respectively. However, the clubs aren’t as strong on the mound – Colorado Springs sports a 5.04 ERA while Iowa has a 4.41 ERA.
Both clubs are similar to Las Vegas as they are a great offensive team, but lack the pitching acumen to stifle opponents. The Redbirds have already played against Colorado Springs in two series already, going 3-3 during their face offs (two games were postponed due to inclement weather). Hopefully, Memphis’ offense can get it clicking again and grab a few games next week.
After J.C. Sulbaran’s start Thursday, Mike Mayers returns to the mound for Memphis in the home series finale vs. New Orleans, followed by Arturo Reyes, Deck McGuire and Alex Reyes.
Follow Thomas Simpson on Twitter @jthomasSimpson.
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