The Memphis Redbirds (34-39) started Week 11 of the 2016 Pacific Coast League strongly, winning four of the first five games, but struggled in two doubleheaders (1-3) to end the week at 5-4. Memphis’ offense has performed well (outfielders Carlos Peguero, Jose Martinez and Charlie Tilson recorded 30 hits total), but the pitchers gave up crucial runs during the long Sky Sox series that included two make up games from April.
Here’s how the week unfolded:
Friday, June 17: Iowa (CHC) 6 at Memphis (STL) 7
Memphis jumped out to a 7-1 lead after two innings and held on for a 7-6 win over the visiting Iowa Cubs, winning their seventh of nine games.
Tommy Pham (2-for-4) and Michael McKenry (2-for-3) each went yard, and Jose Martinez (3-for-5) had a double and an RBI. Carlos Peguero (2-for-4) had his first multi hit game since being activated from the disabled list, and Pham, Martinez, Peguero, McKenry and Breyvic Valera (1-for-2) all reached base three times.
After a slow start to his 2016 Triple-A season, starter Deck McGuire (6-6, 3.81) picked up his fifth straight win. The right-hander worked six innings, fanned five and gave up three earned on six hits. Sam Tuivailala picked his team-best eighth save of the season with a 1-2-3 ninth.
Saturday, June 18: Iowa (CHC) 4 at Memphis (STL) 6
Memphis gave up 11 hits but only four runs to earn a 6-4 win over the Iowa Cubs, giving the club their eighth win out of 10 games for the first time since winning nine out of 11 July 20-30, 2015.
After two trips to the disabled list, Peguero (1-for-4) hit his first home run since April 25, a three-run shot in the third. Charlie Tilson (2-for-4) doubled and swiped his 11th bag, and Martinez (2-for-3) had a double and his fourth stolen base as well.
Starter Alex Reyes tossed 4 1/3 innings, striking out six and scattering seven hits on two earned, but it was Miguel Socolovich (2-4. 2.08) who earned the win in relief duty.
Socolovich struck out two in the eighth after Kurt Heyer, Corey Littrell and Ryan Sherriff combined for four hits and two runs in 2 2/3 innings. Tuivailala earned his second straight save of the week, ninth of the season, after going 1-2-3 in the ninth.
Sunday, June 19: Iowa (CHC) 3 at Memphis (STL) 4
Memphis picked up their fifth-straight win at home and ninth out of 11 with a 4-3 win over the Iowa Cubs.
The Redbirds offense scattered five hits but were able to capitalize on scoring opportunities and plate four runners. Matt Williams (0-for-2) scored Peguero (0-for-3) on a sac fly in the second, and Randal Grichuk (1-for-4), in his 2016 Triple-A debut, hit a three-run home run later in the inning. Rehabbing Brayan Pena went 2-for-4.
While the offense made the most of their chances, starter Mike Mayers (2-1, 1.93) picked up his second win in Memphis and put in excellent work. Mayers went six innings, fanned five and gave up one earned run on three hits. Tuivailala was awarded his third-straight save, 10th of the season, after another 1-2-3 ninth inning.
Monday, June 20: Iowa (CHC) 5 at Memphis (STL) 4
Memphis 'four-game overall winning streak and five-game home winning streak ended with a 5-4 loss to the Iowa Cubs in the series finale.
Williams (2-for-4) scored and plated a run, and Valera (2-for-3) had a walk and a run. Grichuk, Jacob Wilson, Alberto Rosario and Littrell had the only other hits.
Starter Arturo Reyes worked two innings before leaving with an apparent injury. Littrell followed with three earned on two hits and two walks in 2 1/3 innings, but Dean Kiekhefer (1-1, 1.80) earned the loss after giving up the game-winning run in the sixth. Kiekhefer walked one and scattered three hits in 1 2/3 innings.
Tuesday, June 21: Memphis (STL) 11 at Colorado Springs (MIL) 5
Memphis scattered 13 hits and plated 11 runners to take the away series opener, 11-5, over the Colorado Springs Sky Sox.
McKenry (2-for-4) homered in the sixth and had four RBI, and Wilson (3-for-5) had three hits for the first time since May 6 (he was 2-for-22 in six games prior to tonight). Jeremy Hazelbaker (2-for-4), Dean Anna (2-for-5) and Peguero (2-for-4) also had two hits.
Starter Jerome Williams (3-1, 2.81) was awarded his third win in four starts after fanning six and allowing four earned on seven hits in 5 2/3 innings. Relievers Sherriff and Josh Lucas combined for two strikeouts and one earned on two hits in 3 1/3 innings.
Wednesday, June 22 Game 1: Memphis (STL) 9 at Colorado Springs (MIL) 10
Memphis had 12 hits and a three-run lead going into the seventh inning but failed to seal a win against Colorado Springs in a 10-9 loss in nine innings.
Grichuk (2-for-3) and Martinez (2-for-4) both homered and combined for five RBI. Hazelbaker (3-for-4) plated two runners while Tilson (2-for-4) had a strong showing in the leadoff spot.
Starter McGuire tossed five innings and struck out six, but gave up six earned on 10 hits in a no-decision. Kiekhefer allowed one hit and fanned another in the sixth, but Tuivailala blew a save opportunity after allowing the three tying runs to score in the seventh. John Brebbia (0-1, 6.75), in his first appearance as a Redbird, picked up the loss after scattering three hits on one earned in extras.
Wednesday, June 22 Game 2: Memphis (STL) 16 at Colorado Springs (MIL) 4
The Redbirds scored a season-high 16 runs in the first four innings and tied a team record 17 hits in a 16-4 throttling of the Sky Sox in Wednesday’s second game.
Tilson (3-for-5) homered in the third, plated two, going a combined 5-for-9 in the doubleheader. Peguero was 4-for-5 with three RBI. Hazelbaker (3-for-4), Anna (2-for-4), David Washington (2-for-3) and Wilson (2-for-3) had multiple hits and combined for six RBI.
Heyer pitched four innings, struck out four and scattered eight hits on four earned in a starting role, but Gonzalez (3-0, 3.68) was awarded the win after throwing two hitless innings.
Thursday, June 23 Game 1: Memphis (STL) 8 at Colorado Springs (MIL) 9
Memphis had a three run lead after five innings but gave up four crucial scores in the bottom of the sixth to drop game one of the second straight doubleheader, 9-8, to Colorado Springs.
Matt Williams (3-for-3) was perfect at the plate and added an RBI while Washington (2-for-3) hit two homers and plated three runners. Peguero (1-for-4) added a homer in the third and Tilson (2-for-3) had a hit in the sixth of his past seven games.
Alex Reyes started, walking four, fanning three and scattering five hits on five earned in five innings of no-decision pitching. A grand slam by former MLB player Will Middlebrooks in the third was his major mistake. Socolovich (2-5, 2.76) followed in the sixth, but only lasted 1/3 inning after allowing four runs (three earned) on one hit and three walks.
Thursday, June 23 Game 2: Memphis (STL) 5 at Colorado Springs (MIL) 7
Memphis dropped its second straight and third out of the last four in game two of Thursday’s doubleheader, 7-5, to Colorado Springs.
Martinez (3-for-5) recorded three RBI while Peguero (2-for-4) plated two.
Normally a reliever, but with prior starting experience, Littrell started, striking out two and allowing one hit in 3 1/3 scoreless innings, but Brebbia (0-2, 15.43) picked up his second loss of the week after giving up three earned on three hits in one inning. Relievers Sherriff and Gonzalez didn’t fare better, combining for four earned on five hits in 1 2/3 innings.
Carlos Peguero was 14-for-34 (.412) during the week, with two HR and 15 RBI.
Jeremy Hazelbaker, who hit .333/.403/.594 with 10 HR and 46 RBI in 58 games for Memphis in 2015, was 8-for-16 with five RBI and two steals.
Charlie Tilson was 11-for-25, including 3-for-5, one HR and two RBI in game two of the June 22 doubleheader at Colorado Springs.
Randal Grichuk hit two homers, plated seven runners and was 5-for-18 during Week 11.
Jose Martinez went 15-for-28 (.536) with one HR and 10 RBI.
Mike Mayers fanned five and allowed one run (zero earned) in six innings June 19 vs. Iowa.
Breyvic Valera went 4-for-19 in seven games.
Alex Reyes struck out seven in two starts, but issued seven free passes and gave up seven earned on 12 hits in 9 2/3 innings.
Miguel Socolovich pitched well to start the week, fanning four and allowing one hit in three combined innings, but gave up four runs (three earned) in 1/3 inning June 23 at Colorado Springs.
Kurt Heyer tossed five innings in two games during Week 11, striking out four but walking two and scattering nine hits on six earned runs.
John Brebbia, who was called up June 21 from Springfield (Double-A), allowed five earned on nine hits in 3 2/3 innings and sports a 15.43 ERA.
The St. Louis Cardinals tweaked with Memphis’ lineup, moving several players in Week 11 and giving the club a better rounded roster. The Redbirds are 13-11 in the month of June.
Kolten Wong and Tommy Pham were called up to St. Louis, but the Redbirds received Jeremy Hazelbaker, one of Memphis’ best offensive weapons in 2015, and Randal Grichuk in return.
John Church was released June 20, and LHP Dean Kiekhefer was optioned to Memphis from St. Louis. In 29 2/3 innings, Church was 0-1 with a 3.34 ERA and struck out 25 batters.
RHP John Brebbia was called up to replace RHP Arturo Reyes, who has struggled recently before being placed on the disabled list. Reyes is 5-4 on the season with a 5.35 ERA, but the starter has posted a 10.93 ERA in 14 innings in June.
Here’s a list of all of the transactions this week:
06/17/2016: St. Louis Cardinals recall 2B Kolten Wong from Memphis Redbirds.
06/17/2016: St. Louis Cardinals option OF Jeremy Hazelbaker to Memphis Redbirds.
06/17/2016: 2B Breyvic Valera assigned to Memphis Redbirds from Springfield Cardinals.
06/17/2016: Memphis Redbirds place 3B Patrick Wisdom on the 7-day disabled list.
06/18/2016: St. Louis Cardinals recall OF Tommy Pham from Memphis Redbirds.
06/18/2016: St. Louis Cardinals option OF Randal Grichuk to Memphis Redbirds.
06/19/2016: St. Louis Cardinals option LHP Dean Kiekhefer to Memphis Redbirds.
06/20/2016: Memphis Redbirds release RHP John Church.
06/21/2016: LHP Justin Wright assigned to Springfield Cardinals from Memphis Redbirds.
06/21/2016: RHP John Brebbia assigned to Memphis Redbirds from Springfield Cardinals.
06/21/2016: Memphis Redbirds place RHP Arturo Reyes on the 7-day disabled list.
TCN Top 40 Prospects
The Redbirds have 10 of The Cardinal Nation’s Top 40 Prospects on the roster but two starters and a position player are on the disabled list. Here is how the prospects have performed recently:
1. Alex Reyes: Reyes had a poor week. In two starts, TCN’s top prospect combined for nine strikeouts, seven walks and seven earned on 12 hits in 9 1/3 innings.
3. Marco Gonzales: Gonzales underwent Tommy John surgery, ending his season.
5. Tim Cooney: Cooney is out indefinitely and remains on the disabled list with shoulder soreness.
7. Charlie Tilson: Tilson put on some terrific performances in Week 11. The outfielder was 11-for-25, including a 3-for-5, one HR and two RBI night in game two of the doubleheader June 22 at Colorado Springs. The speedster also swiped his team-leading 11th bag of the season June 18 vs. Iowa.
11. Sam Tuivailala: Tuivailala started Week 11 strong with three straight saves June 17-19, striking out one and tossing three hitless innings. However, the reliever blew a save opportunity in game one of the doubleheader June 22 at Colorado Springs, allowing the three tying runs to reach home plate.
21. Jacob Wilson: After going hitless for three straight games coming off the disabled list, Wilson found some rhythm and went 7-for-28 during the week. While he hasn’t hit a home run since May 6 at Nashville, the infielder plated three runners.
25. Mike Mayers: Mayers worked six innings, fanned five, gave up one earned on three hits and picked up his second win of the 2016 Triple-A season June 19 vs. Iowa. The starter is 2-1 with a 1.93 ERA in 28 innings for Memphis.
26. Corey Littrell: After going 7 2/3 innings without allowing a run to start his Triple-A career, Littrell gave up three or more runs for the third consecutive week. The reliever combined for two walks and three earned on three hits in three innings prior to a better outing in game two of the June 23 doubleheader at Colorado Springs (3 1/3 scoreless innings with two strikeouts and a hit allowed).
31. Patrick Wisdom: Wisdom was placed on the disabled list prior to Friday’s game against Iowa. The infielder is hitting .234/.317/.359 with three HR and 21 RBI in 2016.
38. David Washington: In May, Washington was Memphis’ best offensive weapon after hitting 10 HR and 22 RBI in 25 games, but the outfielder cooled off since then, going five games without a hit in Week 11. The prospect picked up his game towards the end of the week, however, going 5-for-10 with two HR and six RBI in the last three outings.
The Redbirds’ team ERA rose to 4.59 after a poor showing on the mound at the end of the week, but the staff is fifth in strikeouts (560) and walks issued (253) while their hits allowed is at a respectable 648 (good for ninth in the league).
While the club’s offense played well, the team sits 12th in AVG (.255) and SLG (.386), sixth in strikeouts (579) and 13th in hits (606), but third in walks (274) and eighth in OBP (.333).
The Redbirds (34-39) still sit in last place of the PCL American Southern Division, 8.5 games behind division leaders Nashville Sounds (44-31), 4.5 GB second-place Round Rock Express (39-34) and 2.5 GB third-place New Orleans Zephyrs (36-36). While Memphis has played well recently (13-11 in June), the Zephyrs have been better (15-7).
After going 5-4 during Week 11, the Redbirds (34-39) conclude their away series Friday night at the Colorado Springs Sky Sox (34-37) before returning home for a four game home set against division rivals New Orleans Zephyrs (36-36). The club will take a one-day break the following Wednesday before traveling to Nebraska for a four game road series at the Omaha Storm Chasers (30-42).
New Orleans may be Memphis’ toughest opponent as the Redbirds are 2-4 against Milwaukee’s Triple-A ball club. The Zephyrs aren’t a great hitting team, posting a .235/.311/.315 line in 2016, but field one of the best pitching staffs in the league (3.77 ERA, second in the league.) If Memphis’ pitchers can shake off this past week, the club’s offense is clicking and that could lead to some wins in Week 12.
After Alex Reyes’ start Thursday, Mike Mayers returns to the mound for Memphis Friday night at Colorado Springs, followed by Jerome Williams and Deck McGuire.
Follow Thomas Simpson on Twitter @jthomasSimpson.
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