The Memphis Redbirds (38-41) picked up a series win at home against division rivals New Orleans Zephyrs (37-41) and a road win at the Omaha Storm Chasers (32-46) to cap off their best month of the season (17-13 in June). With that momentum, the club jumped to third place in the division, above the Zephyrs, for the first time since Week 8. With the way the pitching staff is performing and the rhythm that the offense is in, Memphis still has a shot to sneak into second in the division race.
Here is how the week of June 24-30 unfolded:
Friday, June 24: Memphis (STL) 6 at Colorado Springs (MIL) 11
Seven runs allowed in the seventh led to Memphis dropping the finale of the six-game series at Colorado Springs, 11-6.
The Redbirds scattered 10 hits, with Jose Martinez (2-for-5), Matt Williams (2-for-3) and Jacob Wilson (2-for-4) leading the way. Michael McKenry (1-for-5) and Carlos Peguero (1-for-4) drove in a pair of runs while Charlie Tilson (1-for-4) tripled, his sixth of the season, extending his hitting streak to seven games, and scored twice.
Starter Mike Mayers (2-2, 2.65) absorbed his second loss in Triple-A after giving up four earned runs on nine hits in six innings. Reliever Josh Lucas was pounded for seven earned in 2/3 of an inning as the game got away. Kevin Herget, in his Triple-A debut, gave up two hits and struck out one in 1 1/3 scoreless innings to finish the night.
Saturday, June 25: New Orleans (MIA) 0 at Memphis (STL) 4
Memphis shut out the New Orleans Zephyrs, the club’s fifth shut out of 2016, in the opener of a four game home series, 4-0.
Starter Corey Baker (1-0, 0.00), called up from Double-A Springfield earlier in the day, scattered four hits, all singles, and fanned six in 6 2/3 scoreless innings of his Triple-A debut. Miguel Socolovich and Sam Tuivailala combined for three strikeouts and one hit in 2 1/3 innings of relief duty, and Tuivailala picked up his 11th save.
While the pitching was nearly perfect, Memphis’ offense capitalized on several scoring opportunities. Martinez (3-for-4) plated a runner, Wilson (1-for-4) homered in the seventh, Randal Grichuk (1-for-4) drove in two with an eighth-inning single and Tilson (1-for-4) scored twice and extended his hitting streak to eight-games.
Sunday, June 26: New Orleans (MIA) 4 at Memphis (STL) 6
Tuivailala came on with the bases loaded and no outs in the top of the ninth and struck out the side to preserve a 6-4 win over the Zephyrs.
Starter Jerome Williams (4-1, 3.13) earned his fourth straight win, striking out four and allowing three earned runs on nine hits in six innings. Reliever Juan Gonzalez loaded the bases in the ninth with two hits and one walk, but Tuivailala needed only 15 pitches to strike out the side and pick up his 12th save of the season.
Seven of Memphis’ eight starting position players had a hit. Grichuk (2-for-4) had two, Peguero (1-for-2) reached base four times and McKenry (1-for-3) hit his third home run of the season in the fourth and scored twice.
Monday, June 27: New Orleans (MIA) 3 at Memphis (STL) 4
Memphis escaped a ninth-inning jam for the second-straight night and will now go for a four-game sweep after a 4-3 Monday win over the Zephyrs.
Socolovich entered with two on and no outs in the ninth and fanned the final two to end the game. Starter Deck McGuire had struck out five and allowed two earned on nine hits in six innings, but it was reliever John Brebbia (1-1, 10.80) who earned his first win in Triple-A, fanning two and giving up zero hits in the seventh.
Eight different Redbirds had one of Memphis’ nine hits. Alberto Rosario (2-for-4) plated a runner, Tilson (1-for-1) entered the game in the fifth and had a triple, his seventh of the season (one shy of tying Memphis’ single-season record), and David Washington (1-for-3) blasted a two-run homer, his 13th as a Redbird, in the seventh.
Tilson entered after Jeremy Hazelbaker and five others were ejected in the fifth inning after he took exception to a Jose Urena pitch thrown at his head and charged the mound. Other Redbirds bounced as a result of the on-field melee were Jose Martinez and Juan Gonzalez.
Tuesday, June 28: New Orleans (MIA) 8 at Memphis (STL) 7
Memphis cut New Orleans’ lead to one in the seventh but could not come back to complete the sweep of the Zephyrs, losing 8-7. Despite the defeat, the Redbirds have taken four of the last five series (after it took until the 16th to win their first).
Tilson (3-for-5) led all Memphis batters, hitting his third home run of the season in the fifth, scoring three times and swiping a bag. McKenry (1-for-2) also homered, his fourth of the season, Grichuk (1-for-5) plated a pair of runs with a seventh-inning double.
Starter Alex Reyes (2-1, 4.93) took his first loss after giving up six runs (four earned) on six hits in just 3 2/3 innings while fanning four. Reliever Kurt Heyer walked five and allowed two earned on hits in 2 2/3 innings and now posts an 8.57 ERA in 2016.
Thursday, June 30: Memphis (STL) 5 at Omaha (KC) 2
After a travel day Wednesday, Memphis jumped out to a 5-0 lead after 5 1/2 innings and carried that momentum to a 5-2 win in the series opener at Omaha.
Grichuk (2-for-5) hit two home runs, his third and fourth in 12 games as a Redbird and plated three runners, while Wilson (2-for-4) added a two-run bomb in the fifth, his second in five games. Tilson (2-for-5) had a multi-hit game as well.
Starter Mayers (3-2, 2.41) picked up his third win for the Redbirds, striking out three and allowing one earned on five hits in seven innings. In the ninth, closer Tuivailala fanned one and allowed one hit to earn his team-leading 13th save of the season, fourth-most in the PCL.
Charlie Tilson was 5-for-10 in the last two games, is tied for the league lead in triples (7) and failed to produce a hit just once last week while going 8-for-20 (.400).
Jacob Wilson was 9-for-27, including three multi-hit games, with two HR and seven RBI in his best week since coming off the disabled list May 13.
Michael McKenry is currently riding a five-game hitting streak, including 4-for-13 with two HR and five RBI in Week 12.
Randal Grichuk has played an important role in Memphis’ offense, going 5-for-23 with two HR, four total in 12 games, and seven RBI.
Corey Baker fanned six and allowed four hits (all singles) in 6 2/3 innings during his Triple-A debut June 25 vs. New Orleans.
Deck McGuire struck out six and allowed two earned on nine hits in six innings June 27 vs. New Orleans.
Jerome Williams picked up his fourth win of the season June 26 vs. New Orleans, fanning four and scattering nine hits on three earned in six innings.
Sam Tuivailala combined for two hits and six strikeouts in 3 1/3 innings, and was 3-for-3 in save opportunities.
Miguel Socolovich struck out three and allowed one hit in two scoreless combined innings, and also picked up his second save of the season June 27 vs. New Orleans.
David Washington went 1-for-11 with one HR and three RBI to go with eight strikeouts.
Alex Reyes gave up six runs (four earned) on six hits in 3 2/3 innings and picked up his first loss this season.
Kurt Heyer yielded two earned runs on two hits and walked five in 2 2/3 innings June 28 vs. New Orleans.
Memphis pitcher and manager to All-Star event
Redbirds reliever Sam Tuivailala was voted to the 2016 Triple-A All-Star Game, to be held at BB&T Ballpark in Charlotte, North Carolina July 13 at 6:00 (CT).
Tuivailala will represent the Redbirds with other Pacific Coast League players against the International League All-Stars. Manager Mike Shildt, a Charlotte native, will be a coach for the PCL All-Stars.
The right-hander was named a PCL All-Star in 2015, but did not appear in the event due to promotion to St. Louis. The reliever has struck out 47, walked 15 and has held opponents to a .231 average. He is currently fourth in the league with 13 saves, and his 13.6 K/9 IP ratio is second.
Memphis pitcher to 2016 Futures Game
Memphis starter Alex Reyes has been selected (along with Springfield catcher Carson Kelly) to represent the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2016 Futures Game on Sunday, July 10 in San Diego. In eight starts since activation from his 50-game suspension in May, Reyes, 21, is 2-1 with a 4.93 ERA, has struck out 52 batters, walked 18 and allows a .243 opponent batting average.
The right-hander, born in New Jersey and signed out of the Dominican Republic, will play on the World Team. Reyes was also invited in 2015, but was unable to participate due to injury.
Week 12’s transaction activity was relatively slow, with four pitchers receiving promotion and demotion between Memphis and Double-A Springfield.
The biggest news was RHP Corey Baker, who started June 25 vs. New Orleans, the same day he was officially called up to Memphis. The starter tossed 6 2/3 scoreless innings, fanned six, allowed four hits (all singles) and picked up his first win in his Triple-A debut.
Here’s a list of all of the transactions:
06/24/2016: RHP Kurt Heyer assigned to Springfield Cardinals from Memphis Redbirds.
06/24/2016: RHP Kevin Herget assigned to Memphis Redbirds from Springfield Cardinals.
06/25/2016: RHP Corey Baker assigned to Memphis Redbirds from Springfield Cardinals.
06/25/2016: RHP Josh Lucas assigned to Springfield Cardinals from Memphis Redbirds.
06/27/2016: RHP Kurt Heyer assigned to Memphis Redbirds from Springfield Cardinals.
06/27/2016: RHP Kevin Herget assigned to Springfield Cardinals from Memphis Redbirds.
TCN Top 40 Prospects
The Redbirds have 10 of The Cardinal Nation’s Top 40 Prospects on the roster but two starters and a newly-added position player are on the disabled list. Here is how the prospects have performed recently:
1. Alex Reyes: Reyes’ performances have tapered off over his last three starts. TCN’s top prospect is 0-1, has combined for 11 earned on 18 hits and seven walks and sports a 7.62 ERA in 13 innings. His strikeout rate has dropped as well; fanning four or less batters in a start only once in his first six starts, and failing to strike out out more than four in his last two starts.
3. Marco Gonzales: Gonzales underwent Tommy John surgery this spring, ending his season.
5. Tim Cooney: Cooney is out indefinitely and remains on the disabled list with shoulder soreness.
7. Charlie Tilson: Tilson followed last week’s performance with another great week at the plate in Week 12. The outfielder went 8-for-20, including 5-for-10 in the last two games, and is tied for first in the league with seven triples.
11. Sam Tuivailala: After giving up three runs June 22 at Colorado Springs, Tuivailala was phenomenal in Week 12. The right-hander combined for two hits and six strikeouts in 3 1/3 innings, and was 3-for-3 in save opportunities to bring his total to a team-leading 13 saves, fourth in the league.
21. Jacob Wilson: Wilson had his best week since coming off the disabled list May 13 in Week 12. The infielder was 9-for-27, including three multi-hit games, with two HR and seven RBI and brought his RBI above .200 for the first time since May 9 at Nashville.
25. Mike Mayers: Mayers has been a consistent option in the rotation since joining Memphis. The right-hander was 1-1 in Week 12, combining for six strikeouts and five earned runs on 14 hits in 13 innings, and has a 2.41 ERA in Triple-A.
26. Corey Littrell: Littrell has struggled recently, giving up nine earned runs in 13 2/3 innings prior to Week 12. Although in one appearance, the reliever was better on the mound, fanning one and allowing zero hits in 1 2/3 scoreless innings.
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: Washington played well toward the end of Week 11, but he went through another cold spell in Week 12. Although he hit his team-leading 13th homer of the season June 27 vs. New Orleans, the infielder went 0-for-10 with eight K's at the plate otherwise.
While Memphis’ pitching staff has performed better recently, poor showings at the beginning of the season give the team a 4.58 ERA, ninth in the league, but the club is good at striking out batters out (605, fifth).
On offense, the team still sits towards the bottom of the league in multiple categories, including 14th in hits (659), 12th in SLG (.390) and 10th in AVG (.256) and strikeouts (616).
The Redbirds (38-41) jumped into third place after going 4-2 in Week 12 and sit one game ahead of last place New Orleans Zephyrs (Mia, 37-41). Division leader Nashville Sounds (Oak, 47-34) sit eight games ahead of the Redbirds while second-place Round Rock Express (Tex, 42-38) is 3.5 games ahead.
After going 4-2 during Week 12 of the 2016 PCL season, the Redbirds (38-41) will complete the final three of their four-game road trip against the Omaha Storm Chasers (KC, 32-46). Following the final game Sunday, July 3, Memphis will open a seven-game home stand that includes a three-game series vs. Nashville and a four-game set against Round Rock.
Nashville and Round Rock are the top two teams in the American Southern Division, creating an ideal opportunity for Memphis to make up ground in the standings. While the club is 1-3 against the Express, the Redbirds have played much better against their cross-state rivals (5-3). Both teams are dangerous on the mound – league-leading 3.29 ERA for Nashville, 4.16 ERA for Round Rock – but Memphis recently won a road series against the Sounds and were 17-13 in the month of June.
Corey Baker returns to the mound Friday night at Omaha, followed by Jerome Williams, Deck McGuire, Alex Reyes and Mike Mayers.
Follow Thomas Simpson on Twitter @jthomasSimpson.
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