Deck McGuire (Steve Mitchell / 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 struggled to hit the ball to start Week 9, but found some rhythm toward the end of the week. Kolten Wong was impressive in his 2016 Memphis debut while Deck McGuire has won three straight.

The Memphis Redbirds (24-33) started off Week 9 of the 2016 Pacific Coast League on a sour note. The club, which saw players move around while St. Louis tinkered with the roster, scattered 13 hits and scored two runs in the first three games of the week. However, Memphis’ offense clicked most recently, producing 30 hits and plating 19 runners in the final three games.

The Redbirds have dropped back down into last place in the division after going 2-4 during the week.

Here is how the week unfolded:

Friday, June 3: New Orleans (NYM) 5 at Memphis (STL) 1

The Redbirds failed to clinch their first series win of the season with a 5-1 loss to the visiting New Orleans Zephyrs.

Starter Mike Mayers (1-1, 2.45), making his second Triple-A start of the season after being promoted from Springfield (AA) May 31, struck out seven in 5 2/3 innings, but took the loss after giving up four runs (two earned) on four hits and walking two. Relievers Kurt Heyer, Miguel Socolovich and Justin Wright followed, combining for three strikeouts and one earned on three hits in 3 1/3 innings.

Memphis’ offense could not pick up the slack, scattering just five hits. Alex Mejia (1-for-4), Patrick Wisdom (1-for-4) and Tommy Pham (1-for-3) all doubled, and Charlie Tilson (0-for-4) plated Memphis’ lone run in the third on a groundout and fielder’s choice, as the club could not capitalize with runners in scoring position (0-for-4). During the series, Memphis was 2-for-30 with RISP, and 0-for-13 in its two losses.

Saturday, June 4: Memphis (STL) 0 at Iowa (CHC) 4

Memphis’ offensive woes continued, as they hit just four singles in their third-straight loss, falling 4-0 in the series opener at the Iowa Cubs. The win was Iowa’s eighth straight. The Cubs swiped six bags against catcher Michael McKenry and Memphis pitching, tying the most in a single game by an opponent in Redbirds history.

Starter Arturo Reyes (5-3, 4.10), who earned his first loss since April 22, was solid on the mound, fanning seven, issuing one free pass and giving up four earned on seven hits in six innings. Relievers Wright and Sam Tuivailala allowed one hit in two innings combined, with Tuivailala striking out two.

Memphis’ pitchers received no help from the offense, who failed to score a single runner. Jose Martinez (1-for-4), David Washington (1-for-4), Dean Anna (1-for-3) and Matt Williams (1-for-2) had the only Redbirds hits.

Sunday, June 5: Memphis (STL) 1 at Iowa (CHC) 6

The Redbirds took their fourth consecutive loss in a 6-1 defeat to the Iowa Cubs. For the second-straight game, the Redbirds scattered four hits (all singles) and have plated a total of seven runs over the last six games (one through the last two games).

Starter Jerome Williams (0-1, 5.40), in his debut as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals organization, was hurt by a pair of home runs, but fanned six, walked three and gave up three earned on five hits through five innings. Relievers Heyer, Corey Littrell and Juan Gonzales combined for two strikeouts in three innings, but Littrell allowed three earned on four hits in the seventh.

Matt Williams (1-for-2), who replaced the injured Mejia, had an RBI single, Memphis’ lone run of the game, which was scored by Nick Martini (1-for-3). With the run, Martini has now scored a run in seven of his last nine starts.

Monday, June 6: Memphis (STL) 6 at Iowa (CHC) 2

After a total of eight hits in the first two games of the series, the Redbirds scattered 12 in a 6-2 win over the Iowa Cubs to snap a four-game losing streak.

Starter Deck McGuire (4-6, 4.22) picked up his third consecutive win after giving up two runs on two hits with six strikeouts in five innings. Ryan Sherriff, Socolovich and Tuivailala closed the game with four scoreless frames.

Memphis’ offense, which scored seven runs over their previous six games, produced 12 hits, led by Williams (2-for-2) and newcomer Breyvic Valera (2-for-2). Martinez (1-for-4), Anna (1-for-4), Rosario (1-for-5), pinch-hitter Tommy Pham (1-for-1) and Valera each had an RBI as well.

Tuesday, June 7: Memphis (STL) 5 at Iowa (CHC) 6

Memphis hitters collected 10 or more hits for the second-straight game, but the pitching gave up two runs in the sixth to drop the series finale, 6-5, to the Iowa Cubs.

Starter Alex Reyes, in his shortest outing of the season, tossed 1 2/3 innings, yielding four runs on six hits while fanning four and walking two. The starter also had a key at-bat in the game, hitting a two-run double to put Memphis up 2-1 in the second.

Heyer, Littrell (0-1, 3.46), Sherriff, Church and Gonzales allowed Memphis to make a comeback, combining to throw 6 1/3 innings and giving up two runs on four hits, but Littrell was earned his first loss as a Redbird after giving up the two scores in the sixth.

Martinez (2-for-5) recorded his first multi-hit game and his first home run as a Redbird after going 5-for-38 in his first 11 games with Memphis. Michael McKenry (2-for-4) and Wisdom (2-for-5) also had a pair of hits while McKenry swiped his first bag and threw out his first baserunner as a Redbird.

Thursday, June 9: Colorado Springs (MIL) 5 at Memphis (STL) 8

Memphis gave up a 2-1 lead on a grand slam in the top of the ninth, but Kolten Wong hit a walk-off grand slam of his own in the bottom of the frame to lead the club to an 8-5 win over the Colorado Springs Sky Sox.

Wong (3-for-4), making his 2016 Triple-A debut after being sent down from St. Louis June 6, hit two home runs and plated five runners. Washington (2-for-3) and McKenry (2-for-4) each had multi-hit games as well.

Starter Mayers worked six innings and gave up only one earned run on five hits while fanning six, but it was Tuivailala (2-1, 5.56) who picked up his second win of the season. The reliever struck out five in two innings, but allowed the grand slam in the top of the ninth to give away the 2-1 Memphis lead.

Who’s Hot

Although it was only one game, it was a game to remember for Kolten Wong. The infielder went 3-for-4 with two HR (including the walk-off grand slam) and five RBI June 9 vs. Colorado Springs.

Matt Williams was Memphis’ most consistent hitter in Week 9, going 6-for-11 with six walks and only three strikeouts.

In only three games, Michael McKenry has proven that experience is important at the plate, going 4-for-11, including two consecutive multi-hit games to end the week.

Deck McGuire’s hot streak continues as the starter picked up his third consecutive win. The right-hander tossed five innings June 6 at Iowa, fanning six and issuing two free passes while allowing two earned on two hits.

In his second time around in Memphis in 2016, Mike Mayers went 0-1, but was excellent on the mound. The right-hander pitched 11 2/3 total innings in Week 9, combining for 13 strikeouts and five runs (three earned) on nine hits.

Miguel Socolovich was dependable on the mound in relief duty, combining for three strikeouts and two hits in 3 2/3 scoreless innings.

Juan Gonzalez remains on the hot list for the second consecutive week after striking out three in one inning June 7 at Iowa.

Who’s Not

Tommy Pham was 3-for-21 with two RBI but also eight strikeouts.

Dean Anna was 3-for-18 with one RBI and two runs scored.

Alex Reyes pitched his shortest outing as a Redbird in 2016, allowing four earned on six hits in 1 2/3 innings.

Corey Littrell, who started his Triple-A career as one of Memphis’ best relievers, allowed five runs (four earned) on five hits and walked two more in two total innings.

Sam Tuivailala allowed Colorado Springs to make a ninth inning comeback, giving up a grand slam to blow a 2-1 lead June 9 vs. Colorado Springs.


Week 9 included several players moving up and down the Cardinals’ organization.

Jerome Williams was picked up by St. Louis to add some more depth to the starting rotation. The right-hander has started 149 games (225 appearances) in the majors over the last 10 years, most recently with the Phillies, and has a 52-66 career record with a 4.57 ERA. Sulbaran (2-6, 7.69), who has fanned 38 and walked 23 in 50 1/3 innings in Triple-A (Memphis), was sent to Double-A (Springfield) to make room for the acquisition.

Kolten Wong appeared in 49 games, starting 35, with St. Louis, but hit .222/.306/.286 and was shipped to Memphis to make room for the activation of infielder Jhonny Peralta off the disabled list.

Meanwhile, two Redbirds were placed back on the disabled list and another infielder was added to the Memphis roster from Springfield.

Here’s how the week unfolded:

06/03/2016: RHP J.C. Sulbaran assigned to Springfield Cardinals from Memphis Redbirds.

06/03/2016: RHP Jerome Williams assigned to Memphis Redbirds.

06/04/2016: Memphis Redbirds place LF Carlos Peguero on the 7-day disabled list retroactive to June 3, 2016.

06/06/2016: St. Louis Cardinals option 2B Kolten Wong to Memphis Redbirds.

06/06/2016: 2B Breyvic Valera assigned to Memphis Redbirds from Springfield Cardinals.

06/06/2016: Memphis Redbirds place SS Alex Mejia on the 7-day disabled list.

TCN Top 40 Prospects

The Redbirds have 10 of The Cardinal Nation’s Top 40 Prospects on their active roster, but two starters and one position player remain on the disabled list. Here is how the prospects have performed recently:

1. Alex Reyes: Prior to his start June 7 at Iowa, Reyes had allowed three runs on seven hits through 15 innings, but TCN’s top prospect tossed 1 2/3 innings (his shortest outing of the season) and gave up four runs on six hits. Four of his five outs were strikeouts, but the starter still has trouble with control of his pitches (62 total pitches during the game).

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 has recorded a hit in three straight games, but he struggled overall during Week 9. The outfielder was 3-for-20 and two RBI, with his hits coming in the last three games of the week.

11. Sam Tuivailala: Tuivailala started Week 9 positively, combining for three strikeouts and zero hits allowed in two innings. However, the reliever allowed a grand slam June 9 vs. Colorado Springs to give away a 2-1 Memphis lead in the ninth inning.

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 was 0-1 in two starts this week and excelled in his second round with Memphis in 2016. The prospect pitched 11 2/3 innings, combining for 13 strikeouts and five runs (three earned) on nine hits.

26. Corey Littrell: Littrell started off his Triple-A career on a roll, allowing only one run in 11 innings while fanning 13 batters. In Week 9, the reliever cooled off, allowing five runs (four earned) on five hits and walking two in two innings.

31. Patrick Wisdom: Wisdom was consistent at the plate in Week 9 for the Redbirds. The infielder was 6-for-24, but his strikeout rate is still an area of needed improvement (seven during the week).

38. David Washington: Prior to Week 9, Washington hit 10 home runs in 25 games and was Memphis’ best slugger (.716 SLG). Washington’s production cooled down in Week 9, however, after the infielder went 4-for-22 with zero home runs and one RBI.

Memphis Stats

Memphis’ pitching staff still posts a 4.44 ERA and 500 hits allowed, 10th in the league in both categories, but the staff’s strikeout rate is impressive (450, good for fifth in the league).

Although Memphis’ offense finished Week 9 positively, scattering 30 hits and scoring 19 runs in three games, the club is hitting .246/.321/.372, which still sits towards the bottom of the PCL.

Memphis Standings

The Redbirds (24-33) dropped to last place in the PCL American Southern Division after going 2-4 in Week 9. The club is 2.5 games behind third-place New Orleans Zephyrs (27-31), 6.5 GB second-place Round Rock Express (31-27) and 11.5 GB division-leaders Nashville Sounds (37-23).

What’s Next

After going 2-4 during Week 9 of the 2016 PCL season, the Redbirds continue their four-game home series against the Colorado Sky Sox (26-29) before going on a four-game road trip to division leaders Nashville Sounds (37-23).

While the Sounds sit 11.5 games ahead of the Redbirds in the division, Nashville is just 16-15 at home. The club’s offense is not particularly strong (hitting .253/.324/.411), but their pitching staff is lethal (league-leading 3.30 ERA and 527/176 SO-BB) and is led by starters Daniel Mengden (3-1, 1.39) and Eric Surkamp (3-1, 3.07). With how Memphis’ offense has been playing lately, the club will need their pitching staff to be on top of their game.

After Mike Mayers’ start Thursday, Arturo Reyes returns to the mound in game two of the Sky Sox series Friday night, followed by Jerome Williams, Deck McGuire and Alex Reyes.

Follow Thomas Simpson on Twitter @jthomasSimpson.

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