Anthony Garcia (© Butch Dill / 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 jumped to second place in the division but still sit eight games behind division-leader Nashville. Streaky outfielder Anthony Garcia is red hot, homering in three of his last four games.

Last week, the Memphis Redbirds (50-54) went 1-6 and were at the bottom of the Pacific Coast League American Southern Division; but thanks to great play and some luck (Round Rock dropped six of its seven games this week), the Redbirds finish Week 16 in second place with a road trip to the struggling Express coming up. The pitching staff, who had a nightmare of a Week 15 (46 runs and 70 hits allowed), performed more efficiently, giving up more than five runs only once during the week.

Here’s how the week unfolded:

Friday, July 22: Iowa (CHC) at Memphis (STL) postponed due to travel issues

Saturday, July 23 Game 1: Iowa (CHC) 4 at Memphis (STL) 6

Memphis picked up a win in game one of the doubleheader Saturday, 6-4, against the Iowa Cubs via a walk-off two-run homer in the ninth by Charlie Tilson (1-for-2), his fourth of the season.

Tilson, who came on as a pinch runner in the sixth in place of Anthony Garcia (1-for-2), blasted Memphis’ first walk-off home run in extra innings since Brock Peterson June 27, 2013 vs. Albuquerque. Harrison Bader (3-for-5) and Jose Martinez (2-for-4) had multi hit games while Garcia, Martinez, Dean Anna (1-for-4) and Carson Kelly (1-for-4) plated one runner apiece.

Starter Deck McGuire fanned two, walked two and scattered five on one earned in five innings of a no-decision. Relievers Corey Littrell, Sam Tuivailala and Ryan Sherriff (4-0, 2.57) followed, with Tuivailala blowing the save opportunity, his fourth of the season, and Sherriff earning the win in one inning pitched.

 

Saturday, July 23 Game 2: Iowa (CHC) 2 at Memphis (STL) 5

After trailing 1-0 after the top of the fourth, the Redbirds scored three runs in the next frame and never looked back, defeating the Cubs, 5-2, and completing the doubleheader sweep.

Efren Navarro (2-for-4) and Michael Ohlman (2-for-3) led Memphis batters with two hits each. Tilson (1-for-3) plated two while Ohlman scored once.

Swingman Kurt Heyer (2-0, 5.65) made the start and gave up only one earned on two hits in five innings to secure the win. Reliever Juan Gonzalez allowed one earned in 2/3 innings and Dean Kiekhefer picked up his second save of the season.

 

Sunday, July 24: Iowa (CHC) 1 at Memphis (STL) 5

Memphis pitching gave up one run in the first but tossed eight scoreless innings in a 5-1 win over the Iowa Cubs.

Starter Arturo Reyes (6-4, 5.10) retired the final 13 batters he faced in his first start back after missing 31 games due to injury. Reyes struck out four and allowed one earned on five hits in five innings.

Garcia (3-for-4) and David Washington (2-for-3) were hot at the plate, both hitting two-run homers, as Washington added to his team (18) and system leads (23). Efren Navarro (2-for-4) singled twice, and Reyes (1-for-2) recorded his second RBI of the season in the fourth.

 

Monday, July 25: Iowa (CHC) 6 at Memphis (STL) 2

Memphis fell short in its attempt at a ninth-straight home win and a sweep of the Iowa Cubs in a 6-2 loss.

Garcia (3-for-4) and Navarro (2-for-4) were the only Memphis batters to record a hit. Garcia homered for the second consecutive game with a solo shot in the sixth and Navarro blasted one in the third.

Starter Corey Baker (1-3, 8.13) gave up five runs (four earned) on 10 hits in seven innings, picking up his third loss of the season. Josh Lucas scattered two hits on one earned over the final two innings.

 

Tuesday, July 26: Oklahoma City (LAD) 3 at Memphis (STL) 2

Memphis rallied from a 2-0 deficit with two runs in the bottom of the eighth, but the Dodgers used an RBI single in the ninth to defeat the Redbirds, 3-2.

Tilson (2-for-5) led all Memphis batters with two singles. Kelly (1-for-2) scored a runner in the eighth with an RBI double, and Harrison Bader (1-for-1) plated another in the same inning in a pinch-hitting role.

Starter Alex Reyes fanned seven and allowed two earned (a two-run homer) on two hits in three innings of a no-decision. The workload of the top prospect was being conserved in case he was needed to pitch for St. Louis on Saturday, which has since been ruled out. Relievers John Brebbia and Littrell combined for three strikeouts and three hits allowed in five innings, but Miguel Socolovich (2-6, 2.95) picked up his sixth loss of the season in the ninth.

 

Wednesday, July 27: Oklahoma City (LAD) at Memphis (STL) postponed due to weather

Thursday, July 28 Game 1: Oklahoma City (LAD) 5 at Memphis (STL) 2

Oklahoma City stifled Memphis’ offense, allowing only two runs on four hits, and took game one of the doubleheader, 5-2.

Navarro (1-for-3) extended his hit streak to 11 games with a solo shot in the first, his seventh of the season, and Washington (0-for-1) scored the last run for the club via a sac fly. Martinez (2-for-3) doubled in the seventh.

In his first game back from the disabled list, starter Jeremy Hefner (2-5, 5.30) fanned five but gave up five runs (four earned, including a homer in the second) on four hits and issued three free passes in 4 2/3 innings.

 

Thursday, July 28 Game 2: Oklahoma City (LAD) 5 at Memphis (STL) 6

With Memphis facing a one-run deficit in the bottom of the sixth, Ohlman’s (2-for-3) two-run single gave the Redbirds a lead and the win, 6-5, over the Dodgers.

Navarro’s (0-for-3) 11-game hit streak was snapped, but Ohlman and Anna (2-for-3) had two hits apiece, with Anna contributing two doubles. Garcia (1-for-3) and Washington (1-for-2) hit back-to-back solo homers in the fourth, and have combined for five home runs during the week alone.

Heyer received his second start of the week in game two. He tossed 4 1/3 innings, and struck out two, allowed five runs (three earned) on six hits and walked two in the process. Sherriff (5-0, 2.49) followed and picked up his fifth win (and second of the week), scattering one hit in 1 2/3 scoreless innings, before Tuivailala earned his 14th save of the season after striking out the side in the seventh.

 

Who’s Hot

http://www.scout.com/player/133112-anthony-garcia?s=321

Anthony Garcia, who had sported a below-.200 average in Memphis, went on a tear in Week 16, going 9-for-18 with three HR, one double and five RBI, and is now hitting .231.

http://www.scout.com/player/104973-efren-navarro?s=321

Although his 11-game hitting streak was snapped in game two of the doubleheader, Efren Navarro was tremendous at the plate, going 9-for-24 with two HR and two RBI.

http://www.scout.com/player/133110-david-washington?s=321

Although David Washington’s line was average (4-for-13), the outfielder/infielder blasted two home runs, extending his team lead to 19 and system lead to 24, and plated four runners to boot.

http://www.scout.com/player/142180-michael-ohlman?s=321

Michael Ohlman went 5-for-11 with one triple (his first of the season) and three RBI.

http://www.scout.com/player/179990-arturo-reyes?s=321

Arturo Reyes fanned four and allowed one earned on three hits in five innings, retired the final 13 batters he faced and picked up his first win July 24 vs. Iowa since May 30 at Las Vegas.

http://www.scout.com/player/174617-alex-reyes?s=321

While only in three innings, Alex Reyes struck out seven batters July 26 vs. Oklahoma City and now leads the team in strikeouts (79) in eight-fewer games than second place Deck McGuire (76).

http://www.scout.com/player/192919-corey-littrell?s=321

Corey Littrell pitched three scoreless innings of relief duty in two games, combining for three strikeouts and one hit allowed.

 

Who’s Not

Breyvic Valera recorded just two hits during the week (2-for-17).

Matt Williams had two doubles, a triple and an RBI, but was not consistent at the plate (4-for-20).

Although it was his first start back since May 29 at Las Vegas, Jeremy Hefner tossed 4 2/3 innings, allowing five runs (four earned) on four hits in 4 2/3 innings in game one July 28 vs. Oklahoma City.

 

Transactions

C Michael McKenry, who spent just 13 days in St. Louis and hit 0-for-1 with a sacrifice fly, cleared waivers and chose to enter free agency. The 31-year-old slashed .301/.350/.444 with five HR, four 3B, 10 2B and 29 RBI in 37 games in Triple-A Memphis this season.

RHP Mike Mayers was called up to St. Louis and made his big league debut July 24 against the Los Angeles Dodgers. While his big moment wasn’t easy – nine runs allowed in 1 1/3 innings – he has pitched well enough in the minors this season to possibly receive more opportunities in the future (3-3, 2.94 ERA in Triple-A Memphis, and 5-2, 2.30 ERA in Double-A Springfield).

St. Louis RHP Trevor Rosenthal was placed on the 15-day disabled list with right shoulder inflammation, and RHP’s Dean Kiekhefer and Sam Tuivailala were promoted as the 25th and 26th men in relief of the injured reliever. Tuivailala was later optioned back down July 27 following the doubleheader July 26.

Three players – RHP’s Arturo Reyes and Jeremy Hefner, and SS Alex Mejia – were activated from the 7-day disabled list this week. Reyes (6-4, 5.10) struck out four in in five innings July 24 vs. Iowa, Hefner (2-5, 5.30) fanned five but gave up four earned on four hits in 4 2/3 innings in game one of the doubleheader July 28 vs. Oklahoma City and Mejia combined for 0-for-4 in the doubleheader Thursday.

Here’s a list of all of the transactions that occurred:

07/22/2016: RHP Chris Perry assigned to Springfield Cardinals from Memphis Redbirds.

07/22/2016: C Michael McKenry assigned to Memphis Redbirds from St. Louis.

07/23/2016: C Michael McKenry elected free agency.

07/24/2016: St. Louis Cardinals select the contract of RHP Mike Mayers from Memphis Redbirds.

07/24/2016: St. Louis Cardinals option RHP Miguel Socolovich to Memphis Redbirds.

07/24/2016: Memphis Redbirds activate RHP Arturo Reyes from the 7-day disabled list.

07/25/2016: St. Louis Cardinals select the contract of RHP Jerome Williams from Memphis Redbirds.

07/25/2016: St. Louis Cardinals option RHP Mike Mayers to Memphis Redbirds.

07/26/2016: St. Louis Cardinals recall RHP Sam Tuivailala from Memphis Redbirds.

07/26/2016: St. Louis Cardinals recall RHP Dean Kiekhefer from Memphis Redbirds.

07/26/2016: RHP John Brebbia assigned to Memphis Redbirds from Springfield Cardinals.

07/26/2016: RHP Corey Baker assigned to Springfield Cardinals from Memphis Redbirds.

07/27/2016: St. Louis Cardinals option RHP Sam Tuivailala to Memphis Redbirds.

07/27/2016: 3B Jacob Wilson assigned to Springfield Cardinals from Memphis Redbirds.

07/27/2016: RHP Josh Lucas assigned to Springfield Cardinals from Memphis Redbirds.

07/27/2016: Memphis Redbirds activate SS Alex Mejia from the 7-day disabled list.

07/27/2016: Memphis Redbirds activate RHP Jeremy Hefner from the 7-day disabled list.

 

TCN Top 40 Prospects

The Redbirds have 12 of The Cardinal Nation’s Top 40 Prospects on their active roster but two starters and a position player remain on the disabled list. Here is how the prospects have performed recently:

1. Alex Reyes: Reyes fanned seven and allowed two earned on two hits in three innings July 26 vs. Oklahoma City. With the seven punch outs, TCN’s top prospect now leads the team in strikeouts (in eight fewer games than second-place Deck McGuire) and is 2-2, 5.07 ERA.

3. Marco Gonzales: Gonzales underwent Tommy John surgery prior to the start of 2016, ending his season.

5. Tim Cooney: According to MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch, Cooney is expected to undergo season-ending shoulder surgery to repair a Bennett lesion (calcium build-up in the shoulder). The lefty has been sidelined since Spring Training with discomfort in his shoulder prior to the diagnosis.

6. Harrison Bader: Bader appeared in every game this week for the Redbirds, either in a starting role or as a pinch hitter, and went 4-for-13 with one RBI. The outfielder, who splits time with Charlie Tilson, Jose Martinez and Anthony Garcia, is hitting .288/.347/.424 with one HR and nine RBI in 20 games.

7. Charlie Tilson: Tilson suited up in all seven games for Memphis in Week 16 and was 6-for-21 with one HR and five RBI. The outfielder played especially well during the Iowa doubleheader July 23 (2-for-5 with a walk-off homer and four RBI combined), and is hitting .282/.346/.406 in 99 games in Triple-A Memphis.

11. Sam Tuivailala: Although Tuivailala was absent two days of Week 16 due to major league promotion, the reliever pitched three innings in two games and converted one save out of two opportunities. The prospect leads the team and is tied for third in the league in saves (14) out of 18 opportunities, and leads all Memphis relievers in strikeouts (57).

12. Carson Kelly: Kelly played in four games while splitting time with fellow Top-40 prospect Mike Ohlman, but produced a hit in all four games, going 4-for-13 with two doubles and two RBI. In only 10 games with Memphis, the catcher is slashing .306/.350/.444 with five doubles and two RBI and has gone hitless in just one game (July 19 at El Paso).

25. Mike Mayers: Mayers didn’t pitch in any games in Triple-A this week due to his call up to St. Louis on Sunday. The starter is 3-3, 2.94 ERA and leads all Memphis starters in ERA and WHIP (1.25).

26. Corey Littrell: Littrell tossed three scoreless innings in two games this week, striking out three, walking two and scattering one hit. The reliever is 1-3, 3.79 ERA and posts a 10/3 SO/BB ratio.

31. Patrick Wisdom: Wisdom was placed on the disabled list on June 17. The infielder is hitting .234/.317/.359 with three HR and 21 RBI in 2016.

32. Anthony Garcia: Garcia, who entered Week 16 with an average below-.200, caught fire, going 9-for-18 with three HR, one double and five RBI, including two consecutive home run games and a homer in three out of his last four games. The outfielder has jumped to a .231/.308/.422 line with six HR and 21 RBI in 46 games.

33. Michael Ohlman: Ohlman appeared in four contests, including once as a pinch-hitter, and went 5-for-11 one triple (his first for Memphis) and three RBI. While the catcher’s line looks good (.272/.339/.447 with four HR and 20 RBI), his strikeout rate is still very high (39.5 percent).

38. David Washington: After cooling down in the month of June and the first two weeks of July, Washington calmed down at the plate and finished Week 16 with a decent line (4-for-13 with two HR and four RBI). With his two homers, the outfielder/infielder has increased his team lead to 19 and his system lead to 24. While the slugger leads the team in SLG (.544 among active players), his strikeout rate is extremely high (45.2 percent).

 

Memphis Stats

Offense Season Stat PCL Rank of 16
BA .265 Tied for 9th  
Runs 492 8th 
HR 86 9th 
Stolen Bases 73 7th 
RBI 463 8th 
Strikeouts/Walks 807/376 10th/4th 
     
Pitching Season Stat PCL Rank of 16
W-L 50-54 8th 
ERA 4.81 11th
Strikeouts/Walks 759/355 12th/10th 
Saves 25 Tied for 7th 
WHIP 1.46 Tied for 8th 
Hits Allowed 947 8th 

Memphis Standings

Team W-L PCT GB
Nashville Sounds 59-47 .557 -
Memphis Redbirds 50-54 .481 8.0
New Orleans Zephyrs 49-54 .476 8.5
Round Rock Express 50-56 .472 9.0

What’s Next

After going 4-3 during Week 16 of the 2016 PCL season, the Redbirds (50-54) finish their four-game series Friday night against the Oklahoma City Dodgers (60-44), followed by a four-game road trip to the Round Rock Express (50-56) and come back home for a four-game series against the Omaha Storm Chasers (46-58).

At a time when Memphis sits eight games behind division leader and cross-state rival Nashville Sounds (59-47), week 17 is an excellent chance for the Redbirds to cut that deficit. Round Rock, in second place just last week, is 2-8 in the last 10 games and just 13-18 against the American Southern Division. While the Express’ offense sits 15th in the league in hitting (.253 average), their pitching staff is dangerous, led by starter Michael Roth (8-3, 2.42).

While Omaha is 34-40 against teams outside of their division, the Kansas City affiliate has proven to be a tough opponent for Memphis (4-4 this season). Their pitching and batting stats are average in the league, and are led by 3B Hunter Dozier (.309/.368/.536 with 13 HR and 37 RBI).

After Jeremy Hefner’s and Kurt Heyer’s starts Thursday night vs. Oklahoma City, Mike Mayers returns to the mound Friday night vs. Oklahoma City, followed by Deck McGuire, Arturo Reyes and Alex Reyes.

 

Follow Thomas Simpson on Twitter @jthomasSimpson.

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