The Redbirds lost four straight one-run games to the New Orleans Zephyrs on the road and then came back home only to win three straight soundly over the Omaha Royals. From one extreme to the other, the strangest part was how the Redbirds played in each of these series. Against the Zephyrs, Memphis got behind early only to rally back each time and lose by one run. Against the Royals, the Redbirds were able to secure a big lead early and cruise to easy victories. The ball has been flying out of the park for the Redbirds as well and Chris Narveson had Memphis' first complete game this year Monday night, holding the Royals to one run on five hits.
Where they Stand
In the American North Division of the Pacific Coast League, Memphis is now 9-10, a half game back of the 9-9 Iowa Cubs and three and a half back of the 12-6 Nashville Sounds, while the Omaha Royals are 7-12. The Redbirds will play the O-Royals one more time before welcoming in the Iowa Cubs for a four-game weekend series.
John Rodriguez has been the designated hitter now for the better part of two weeks thanks to allergies that have him dizzy when running too much. He also has left shoulder and left knee ailments. Tagg Bozied tweaked his back and was pulled late in the game Saturday but was back starting at first on Sunday.
The latest series against the Omaha Royals produced quite a few eligible players for the Who's Hot list. The most outstanding among them is Ryan Ludwick, who's been on a tear. After a two-home run game from Ludwick on Thursday against the Zephyrs, Ludwick opened up against the Royals by going 2-for-4 Saturday with two runs scored, Sunday he had a big two-RBI double in the first inning to open the scoring and then Monday he had another big first inning hit, this one in the form of a three-run home run, and he later added a sacrifice fly to give him four RBIs on the day. Ludwick's line is now .348 avg/ 5 HR/ 18 RBI. He's also been playing terrific defense, making a couple diving catches and getting consistent good read on the ball.
Tagg Bozied and Rick Ankiel have also put their power on display this week. After seeing his average dip below .200, Bozied has turned it on with two home runs this week, including a two-run bomb on Sunday. Ankiel has had a number of extra base hits recently and hit a two run home run against the Royals on Monday to give him six, and his average has risen above .200 now as well. Expect both of these players to be consistent extra base threats, although they have both lacked a touch of discipline with only seven walks between them while striking out 33 times.
Chris Narveson followed up a nice effort by Mike Smith with the best performance by a Redbird pitcher to date this season. He went the distance on Monday while walking only one and giving up only five hits. He struck out seven to earn the win. When Narveson has his control, he has been terrific as he was Monday, changing speeds and hitting his spots.
Troy Cate is most certainly on a roll, as he has gone 12 straight innings without allowing a run. In his 13 1/3 innings pitched, he has given up only one run while striking out 11 for a .068 ERA. Cate has started a game, the second of a double header, and pitched out of the bullpen, and has been effective in both roles. Cate's wife was expected to give birth on Monday as well, so he left the team on Sunday and is expected back mid-week.
John Rodriguez has been one of the most consistently feared Redbirds but lately has fallen into a slump. Since Rodriguez has been in the DH role because of his maladies, he not been very effective. He is batting .184 and has not driven in a run since the opening series, giving him only two on the season.
Brendan Ryan has had recent troubles at the plate and in the field, as he had two errors on Sunday and is hitting only .211. Both of Ryan's errors were on tough plays where the ball took a bad hop and he has shown good range and solid accuracy otherwise.
Travis Hanson has lost playing time to the recently called up Rico Washington and Hanson's average is now .196. Hanson has not been effective at the plate, with only a .250 on base percentage, but has shown a solid glove.
Andy Cavazos had a tough inning in the blowout win over the Royals on Sunday, serving up a three-run homer to the Royals stud left fielder, Billy Butler. To his credit, Cavazos was not the only pitcher to get hurt by Butler, as Narveson's only run given up on Monday was a towering shot by Butler.
What We Know
Ryan Ludwick has established himself as the premier hitter on this team and with his terrific play in the field, a candidate to return to the Bigs. Ludwick has continually put together good at-bats, come through in RBI situations and shown power and great instincts. Rick Ankiel has also continued to show power and aggressiveness at the plate but he could use some patience and see more pitches. Nick Stavinoha turned on a ball Sunday and homered as well, but has had some nagging minor injuries that may be holding him back at the plate.
Chris Narveson was very effective changing speeds on Monday night and had the Royals hitters off balance the whole game. His changeup is excellent and when his command is on, he has been consistently effective. If he can keep his walks down, he is a guy that the Cardinals could learn to count on.
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