Well, the Redbirds left Memphis at 5-3 after a successful first homestand in which they took three of four games from Oklahoma City and then earned a split with a veteran-laden New Orleans squad. Unfortunately for the Redbirds, Oklahoma City is no home away from home. Friday's initial game between the two was postponed, then the Redbirds fell 5-2 on Saturday and then Sunday in a double-header. Memphis could not get a single run in either game and lost 2-0 and 1-0. The ‘Birds then battled back on Monday behind home runs from Ryan Christianson and Rick Ankiel to even up their record at 6-6.
Where they Stand
Iowa and Nashville are now 6-5 and tied at the top of the American North Division of the Pacific Coast League, while the Redbirds hold a one-game lead over the Omaha Royals, who are 5-7.
Infielder Rico Washington will join the team from Springfield on Tuesday, replacing John Nelson, whose back problems have parked him on the disabled list. Outfielder John Rodriguez also reportedly tweaked his back while checking his swing on Sunday.
After starting the year on a certain reporter's "Who's Not" list, Rick Ankiel has started to tear the cover off the ball. He had two three-run homers in the series against New Orleans and then he collected his first home run away from AutoZone Park on Saturday in the loss. He had another home run on Monday, this one a two-run shot. The 27-year-old outfielder now paces the team with those four home runs and also leads with 12 RBIs, but his average sits at .190.
Edgar Gonzalez and Ryan Ludwick both had seven-game hit streaks snapped on Sunday. Gonzalez is hitting .278, with no extra base hits while Ludwick is hitting .256 with a home run and a couple of doubles and six RBIs.
The starting pitching has stayed solid with guys like Chris Narveson, Matt Ginter and Mike Smith posting solid second starts and keeping their ERA at 3.00 or below. Mike Parisi had his first Triple-A start on Tuesday and went five innings, striking out two and only allowing three hits - attacking hitters while staying cool and composed. The recent call up followed that up with a five-inning, four-run start against Oklahoma on Monday. Parisi came away with the win again, although he gave up seven hits and walked three as well as striking out three.
Brian Falkenborg has now saved four games in a row, with his two-inning save on Monday. The closer blew the save on Opening Day, but has come back strong as he allowed only one hit and struck out three on Monday. His ERA now sits at 2.84.
Troy Cate came in late on Wednesday against New Orleans and immediately gave up a home run to the red-hot Andy Tracy. After that, Cate got a ground out and then promptly struck out the next five batters in a row. No Redbird has done that since Anthony Reyes and Cate was using all his pitches effectively and changing speeds. In the double-header on Sunday, Cate started the second game and went five scoreless innings, striking out two and allowing only three hits.
Tagg Bozied had a miserable week after getting five RBIs in the first five games. He has now struck out 17 times in 34 at bats. He has only five hits in those 37 AB's and his average sits at .146.
Dennis Dove has struggled with his command so far this year as he has four walks and only two strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings. He has yielded two runs in two of his last three one-inning appearances. Dove throws hard - he just needs to harness his stuff and get more innings on the mound.
As noted previously, the entire offense couldn't muster even a single run in the scheduled double-header on Sunday. Both games were set for seven innings but the second one went into "extras" before David Matranga hit a walk-off home run against Andy Cavazos to end a game in which Memphis only got two hits.
What We Know
We know that Rick Ankiel has big-league bat speed and power - he just needs to adjust and start hitting lefties. Ankiel has also played well in the outfield and could be looking to earn his way back onto the Cardinals' 40-man roster. We also know that Walt Jocketty was at the game on Thursday before the Redbirds took off to Oklahoma City and Ankiel hit a monster shot that Jocketty couldn't have missed.
It's also apparent in watching the Redbirds that their pitching staff will keep them in a lot of games this year. The starters, especially Ginter and Mike Smith, look capable of handling themselves in the big leagues again should the Cardinals run into more injury issues. Blake Hawksworth had a good comeback start on Sunday but of course got no run support. Hawksworth will obviously be a big storyline for the Redbirds this season.
Also, players are starting to emerge from the bullpen. Cate and Kelvin Jimenez have been impressive so far and after a bad opening day and Brian Falkenborg is pitching well. If the young guys - Dove, Sillman and Worrell - can keep their walks down, they will succeed as well.
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