Kolten Wong (Memphis Redbirds)

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 had their best week of the Pacific Coast League season in Week 10. Kolten Wong is on fire while the starting rotation went 22 2/3 innings without a run allowed.

The Memphis Redbirds (29-35) still sit at the bottom of the American Southern Division but went 5-2 in their best week of the 2016 season. The club also clinched their first two series wins of the season, grabbing three games from the Colorado Springs Sky Sox (29-33) and division-leading Nashville Sounds (40-27). With Kolten Wong, the lineup has looked a lot better, while the pitching staff, excluding their 16-run blemish June 15 at Nashville, was excellent.

Here is how the week unfolded:

Friday, June 10: Colorado Springs (MIL) 7 at Memphis (STL) 6

Memphis collected 10 or more hits for the fourth consecutive game, but allowed a go-ahead homer in the top of the 10th and dropped their second game against the Colorado Springs Sky Sox, 7-6.

Memphis found itself down 4-0 after three innings, but the offense, led by Jose Martinez (3-for-5) and Kolten Wong (2-for-6) scored six runs in the fourth and fifth and led 6-4 into the eighth. Nine different Redbirds had at least one of the team’s 13 hits, and Martinez hit his fifth homer this season in the fifth inning.

Starter Arturo Reyes pitched four innings, fanning one, walking one and allowing four earned on five hits. Justin Wright, Ryan Sheriff and John Church followed in relief duty, but Juan Gonzalez blew a save opportunity in the ninth before Corey Littrell (0-2, 3.86) earned his second loss of the season, striking out two but giving up the game-winning home run in the tenth.

Saturday, June 11: Colorado Springs (MIL) 0 at Memphis (STL) 2

Starter Jerome Williams (1-1, 1.93) tossed a complete game, five-hit shutout in a 2-0 win over the visiting Colorado Springs Sky Sox. The veteran struck out three and walked none.

It was the veteran’s first complete game since May 1, 2012 when he was with the Los Angeles Angels against the Minnesota Twins, and he only needed 105 pitches. It was also the first complete game shutout by a Redbird since Tim Cooney on June 2, 2015.

On offense, the Redbirds plated two runners on just five hits, but played excellent defense to aid Williams. Wong (1-for-2) reached base three of the four times and scored Memphis’ first run on a Martinez (1-for-4) base hit, and the club scored its final run via a throwing error by Colorado Springs’ shortstop. A double by Breyvic Valera (1-for-2) and singles by Charlie Tilson (1-for-3) and Michael McKenry (1-for-3) were Memphis’ only other hits.

Sunday, June 12: Colorado Springs (MIL) 0 at Memphis (STL) 5

Starter Deck McGuire (5-6, 3.75) followed Williams’ complete game shutout with an eighth inning two-hitter and helped secure Memphis’ first series win of the season, 5-0, over the Sky Sox.

After losing six of his previous seven starts, the red-hot McGuire has won four straight after fanning seven, walking one and scattering two hits. Miguel Socolovich relieved in the ninth and allowed one hit and one strikeout.

Tommy Pham (1-for-3) drove in two in the second with a double to right-center, Wong (1-for-3) had an RBI triple in the eighth, and Tilson (1-for-1) and Matt Williams (0-for-2) drove in the other Memphis runs. Dean Anna (1-for-1) had a pinch-hit single and scored a run in the eighth, and has reached base in his last three pinch hits and scored twice.

Monday, June 13: Memphis (STL) 4 at Nashville (OAK) 3

Facing division-leaders and in-state rivals Nashville Sounds, the Redbirds pulled out a 4-3 win thanks to some excellent pitching and base running.

Starter Alex Reyes (2-0, 3.32) pitched five innings and gave up one run on two hits while striking out nine batters. Through 21 2/3 innings in Triple-A, TCN’s top prospect is averaging 7.8 punch outs per outing and has a 16.6 K/9 IP ratio through five starts. Sherriff and Gonzalez combined for three strikeouts and one earned on two hits in three innings of relief duty, and Sam Tuivailala earned his team-leading sixth save of the season after striking out the side in the ninth.

On offense, Anna (2-for-3) reached base three times and plated two runs, David Washington (2-for-4) had a multi hit game, Pham (1-for-4) had a triple and scored twice and Wong (1-for-4), starting at center field for the first time this season, had a hit. In fact, Wong has a hit in all five games he has played with Memphis. On the base paths, the running Redbirds swiped a season-high five bags, led by Williams’ (1-for-2) three.

Tuesday, June 14: Memphis (STL) 7 at Nashville (OAK) 4

Wong (2-for-5) had his second two-homer game in six contests, and the bullpen stranded six in the final four innings to secure Memphis’ season-high fourth consecutive win, 7-4, over the Nashville Sounds.

Wong, who never had a pair of two-homer games in the same season in his career until now, hit a three-run homer in the fifth and the game-winning solo shot in the tenth, Alberto Rosario (3-for-5) had three hits and Tilson (2-for-5) and Williams (2-for-4) joined Wong with two hits each.

Starter Mike Mayers tossed five innings, striking out six, walking three and allowing two runs on five hits in a no-decision. Littrell and Church combined for 2 2/3 innings with four strikeouts and four hits, but it was Socolovich (1-4, 2.22) who earned his first win of the season after fanning two in 1 1/3 innings. Tuivailala came on in the tenth and was awarded his seventh save and second in two games, striking out two.

Wednesday, June 15: Memphis (STL) 3 at Nashville (OAK) 16

The Sounds pounded out 19 hits and scored 16 runs, as Memphis’ win streak ended at four games with the 16-3 loss.

Seth Maness and Brayan Pena (1-for-4) each their first rehab appearance in a Memphis uniform. Maness retired all three batters faced in the seventh while Pena singled in the top of the eighth.

Starter Arturo Reyes (5-4, 5.37) gave up eight runs on seven hits in two innings, and has yet to earn a win in the month of June (after five in May). Kurt Heyer, Wright, Littrell, Maness and Gonzalez followed out of the bullpen, combining for 12 hits, eight runs allowed and five strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings before catcher Rosario pitched the final out in the eighth.

The club struggled at the plate, with just five hits, led by McKenry (2-for-4) – the veteran is now batting .333 in his 12 games with Memphis. Nick Martini (1-for-3) plated two runners, and Martinez (1-for-3) scored one.

Thursday, June 16: Memphis (STL) 5 at Nashville (OAK) 2

The Redbirds secured their second straight series win with a 5-2 victory over division-leaders Nashville.

Pham (2-for-4) blasted a two-run homer, his second of the season, in third, and Wong (2-for-4) extended his hit streak to seven games. In his second game of his rehab stop in Memphis, Pena (1-for-4) had a single and a walk.

Starter Williams (2-1, 1.80) had a solid performance, fanning four and allowing one earned on six hits in six innings. Maness, in his second Redbirds rehab game as well, allowed one hit in one inning while Socolovich was awarded his first save of the season after striking out one in the ninth.

Who’s Hot

The offense played a key part in Memphis’ strong Week 10.

http://www.scout.com/player/156983-kolten-wong?s=321

Kolten Wong has been Memphis’ best offensive weapon since his 2016 Triple-A debut June 9 vs. Colorado Springs, going 12-for-28 with four home runs and 12 RBI and has a seven-game hit streak to boot.

Michael McKenry has proven time and time again that experience matters, going 4-for-13 in four games this week.

http://www.scout.com/player/117651-dean-anna?s=321

Dean Anna was 4-for-9 with four RBI and two walks, including a 1-for-1 pinch-hit performance. He has reached base in his last three pinch hit opportunities and scored twice.

Tommy Pham was 5-for-22, but was instrumental in the club's June 16 win at Nashville, going 2-for-5 with one home run and four RBI.

While Memphis’ offense was much better in Week 10, the pitching staff was nearly lethal.

Deck McGuire struck out seven and scattered two hits in eight scoreless innings June 12 vs. Colorado Springs.

http://www.scout.com/player/32746-jerome-williams?s=321

Jerome Williams was 2-0 this week, including a complete game five-hitter June 11 vs. Colorado Springs.

Alex Reyes fanned nine, walked three and allowed one earned on two hits in five innings June 13 at Nashville, and has a 16.6 K/9 IP ratio through five starts in Triple-A.

Mike Mayers tossed five innings June 14 at Nashville, striking out six and allowing four runs (two earned) on five hits.

http://www.scout.com/player/145217-sam-tuivailala?s=321

Sam Tuivailala was back to his excellent self in Week 10, combining for five strikeouts and one earned on two hits in two innings.

Who’s Not

Nick Martini, who was assigned to Springfield June 15 to make room for Carlos Peguero, was 2-for-11 with two RBI.

Patrick Wisdom, who is currently third in PCL All-Star Game voting at third base, was 3-for-22 with one RBI and five strikeouts.

Jacob Wilson, who was activated from the disabled list June 13, went a rusty 0-for-10 with three strikeouts in three games.

Arturo Reyes, who won five games in May, is winless in June. He went 0-1 and allowed 12 earned on 12 hits with three walks and one strikeout in two starts this week.

Juan Gonzalez issued four walks and yielded three earned runs on five hits in three innings during Week 10.

In 2/3 of an inning, Kurt Heyer struck out two but allowed four earned on five hits June 15 at Nashville.

Transactions

Week 10 included two players being activated from the disabled list, two sent down to Double-A (Springfield) and two St. Louis players arriving on rehab assignments.

Breyvic Valera and Nick Martini were both assigned to Springfield to make room for Jacob Wilson and Carlos Peguero, who both spent time on the disabled list. Wilson, TCN’s 21st ranked prospect, is hitting .170/.235/.284 in 28 games for Memphis while Peguero is hitting .286/.375/.455.

Meanwhile, St. Louis C Brayan Pena and RHP Seth Maness are both rehabbing injuries suffered earlier this year. Pena had a left knee injury in spring training while Maness (0-1, 6.39) was placed on the 15-day disabled list May 13 with right elbow inflammation.

Here’s how the week unfolded:

06/13/2016: 2B Breyvic Valera assigned to Springfield Cardinals from Memphis Redbirds.

06/13/2016: Memphis Redbirds activated 3B Jacob Wilson from the 7-day disabled list.

06/15/2016: St. Louis Cardinals sent C Brayan Pena on a rehab assignment to Memphis Redbirds.

06/15/2016: St. Louis Cardinals sent RHP Seth Maness on a rehab assignment to Memphis Redbirds.

06/16/2016: OF Nick Martini assigned to Springfield Cardinals from Memphis Redbirds.

06/16/2016: Memphis Redbirds activated OF Carlos Peguero from 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 and had one position player activated from the disabled list during the week but have two starters still out. Here is how the prospects have performed recently:

1. Alex Reyes: Last week, Reyes pitched his shortest outing (1 2/3 innings June 7 at Iowa). However, TCN’s top prospect responded with a five inning start and gave up one run on two hits while striking out nine batters. Through 21 2/3 innings and five starts in Triple-A, TCN’s top prospect is averaging 7.8 punch outs per outing and has a 16.6 K/9 IP ratio.

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: After ending Week 9 on a three-game hit streak, Tilson appeared in every game, going 4-for-24 (.167) with one RBI, two BB and one SB.

11. Sam Tuivailala: Tuivailala picked up two saves during Week 10 to extend his team-leading total to seven. In two innings in two games, the reliever combined for five strikeouts and one earned on one hit.

21. Jacob Wilson: After spending a month on the disabled list, Wilson was activated June 13 and appeared in three games this week. The infielder, who is hitting .170/.235/.284 after the end of Week 10, went hitless at the plate (0-for-10).

25. Mike Mayers: Mayers has been productive in four starts in Triple-A this season (four starts, 1-1, 2.45 ERA). In Week 10, the starter appeared in one game (June 14 at Nashville), fanning six, walking three and allowing two earned on five hits in five innings of a no-decision.

26. Corey Littrell: Littrell hit a dry spell last week out of the bullpen, allowing five runs (four earned) on five hits and walking two in two innings. In Week 10, the reliever improved slightly, combining for four strikeouts in 3 1/3 innings, but allowed three earned on six hits as well.

31. Patrick Wisdom: After a productive Week 9 for the Redbirds, Wisdom followed with a poor one in Week 10. The infielder, who is third in 2016 PCL All-Star voting at third base, was 3-for-22 (.136) with three walks and five strikeouts.

38. David Washington: During May, Washington was Memphis’ best option on offense. While his production has cooled off in recent weeks (10-for-47 since May 30), five of those 10 hits came in Week 10 that included a 2-for-4 performance June 13 at Nashville.

Memphis Stats

The Redbirds dropped their ERA to 4.41 and post a 1.40 WHIP as well (both good for eighth in the league) allowing 562 hits so far this season (good for third). While the club’s offense is improving, the team still sits second to last in the league in several hitting categories, including AVG (.246), SLG (.371), HR (41) and RBI (250).

Memphis Standings

Memphis (29-35) remains in last place in the PCL American Southern Division, but could climb up the rankings if they continue to play well (5-2 in Week 10). The club is 2.5 games behind third-place New Orleans Zephyrs (32-33), 6.5 GB second-place Round Rock Express (36-29) and 9.5 GB division leaders Nashville Sounds (40-27).

What’s Next

After going 5-2 during Week 10 of the 2016 PCL season, the Redbirds (29-35) come back home for a four-game series against the Iowa Cubs (31-33). Following that series, Memphis heads to Colorado Springs (29-33) for six games in four days that includes two makeup games from April 17 and 18.

While the Redbirds earned their first series win of the season against the Sky Sox, the club is currently 1-3 against the Cubs so far in 2016. Iowa is a strong offensive team, hitting .281 with 53 HR and 324 RBI as a squad, but their weak point is the pitching staff (4.79 ERA). If Wong keeps lighting up opposing pitchers, the rest of Memphis’ lineup can follow suit and the pitching staff performs like they did in Week 10, the club could steal a series win.  

After Jerome Williams’ start Thursday, Deck McGuire returns to the mound for Memphis Friday vs. Iowa, followed by Alex Reyes, Mike Mayers and Arturo Reyes.

Follow Thomas Simpson on Twitter @jthomasSimpson.

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