It's been quite a successful week for the Redbirds, winning five of the six games they played and displaying plenty of offense. They began the week on Tuesday with a ninth-inning three-run rally to defeat the Omaha Royals 8-7 in Memphis. Then they capped it off by beating the Royals in Omaha on Monday, 9-3. In between Ryan Ludwick went from hot to absolutely on fire, Edgar Gonzalez made it a point to get on base every time he showed up to the park and Chris Narveson, Troy Cate, Mike Parisi and the pitching staff continued to pitch well.
Unfortunately Memphis and the Cardinal Nation also lost a dear friend and a great teammate in Josh Hancock. Thoughts and prayers from this writer and the entire Memphis Redbird organization go out to the Hancock family.
Where They Stand
With the 5-1 week, the Redbirds once again sit atop the Pacific Coast League North at 14-11, including a tremendous 12-4 at home. Nashville is a half-game behind at 13-11 while Iowa is 11-13 and the Omaha Royals are three games back at 11-14.
Mike Sillman has been placed on the disabled list with shoulder tenderness and had not seen action since last Tuesday. Jolbert Cabrera recently had his appendix removed and is Inactive while infielder John Nelson has come off the DL and promptly hit a home run in his first at bat since coming off the DL.
There has been quite a bit of player movement as hard-throwing right hander Dennis Dove was promoted to the Cardinals, this will be his first trip to the big leagues. Reliever Hugo Castellanos was promoted to Memphis and starter Chris Lambert was brought up, too.
Ryan Ludwick has been a hot topic as of late with the Cardinals possible need for an outfielder and the tear that Ludwick has been on. Going into Tuesday's game, Ludwick's line reads .344/7/31, and he continues to do damage early in games and in clutch situations. He's slugging .652 with a .374 on-base percentage and has been playing stellar defense. Ludwick has obviously been the rock of the Redbird lineup in the clean up spot and his approach has set the tone for everyone else. He might get fooled one at bat, but he won't get fooled twice as pitchers have come to find out.
Edgar Gonzalez hit his first home run on Monday night and has begun to show more power as of late. Edgar now has five doubles and a triple, putting his slugging percentage at .402 while his batting average is .333. Most impressive though is the fact that he has managed to reach base in every game this year and his on base percentage is .404, the highest on the team. Edgar has been everything manager Chris Maloney could want and more out of his second baseman and number two hitter.
Troy Cate was placed in the rotation for Friday night's contest and he came up big, getting the win and going five innings while giving up only three runs and striking out three. More impressive though is the fact that Cate has just re-joined the team after leaving to be with his wife as she give birth to their newborn daughter in Canada. While in Canada, Cate caught the flu and didn't eat for two days only to return Thursday, eat a little, and prep for his second start of the year. Cate was solid through five, not allowing a run, but ran into a bit of a wall in the sixth, giving up the three runs and leaving. The decision to put Cate in the rotation came from Cardinals management and might mean that they are looking at Troy to fill the left-hander starter role that Randy Keisler could not hold down. Cate still needs to build up arm strength but has been stellar so far in Memphis, with a 1.96 ERA.
Chris Narveson and Mike Parisi both earned their third wins of the season the past two days. Parisi gave up three runs in the first but settled down and went five innings, scattering six hits and striking out one. Narveson pitched on Sunday and went six innings, giving up five runs and allowing nine hits, while striking out three. While neither of these starting lines are terribly impressive, the entire starting staff has done a good job of holding on to leads and not allowing big innings like opponents have allowed the Redbirds offense.
There's not a lot to document in the Who's Not department as most of the Redbirds have really started to hit and hit well. Travis Hanson's average is still under .200 but the third baseman had a big game Sunday with a triple and a double, his first two extra base hits of the year. Catcher Brian Esposito is hitting only .135 but has been a stalwart defensively and calls a good game.
John Rodriguez has yet to find his stroke and he has, probably more than any other Redbird, been affected by the death of Josh Hancock. Rodriguez was scheduled to start on Sunday but was later removed from the lineup before the game. Rodriguez also said on the Pre-Game Show that if it was his decision the game wouldn't be played as the players needed to grieve. Of course, Rodriguez spent time with the Cardinals last year and shared a clubhouse with Hancock.
Blake Hawksworth is 0-4 and has struggled to live up to his great 2006 season. Hawksworth has been the victim of some bad luck with balls that haven't been hit hard but just seem to find holes. Hawksworth has given up 27 hits in 20 innings.
Andy Cavazos has now allowed three home runs in only eight innings pitched. The strange thing is, Cavazos only gave up two home runs all of last year. He does have 12 strikeouts in those eight innings.
What We Know
The Redbird lineup, from top to bottom, has some hitters. There's a lot of power in the middle and toward the bottom with speed and patience at the top. Brendan Ryan slowed down after a good start but has recently begun to hit well again. Ryan's ability to get on at the top of the order is crucial and when he hits well, the team does. Toward the bottom of the order, Ryan Christianson, Rico Washington and John Nelson have shown power in limited at bats. Christianson splits time with Esposito but has two homers and extra base power while Washington and Nelson are utility infielders who have also shown they can hit it out and hit for extra base power when given the chance. The middle of the order has been devastating for opposing pitchers so far. Ludwick, Ankiel, Bozied and Stavinoha have combined for 20 home runs and 81 RBIs through 25 games.
The starting pitching has been up to par as well, but the starters need work going more than five innings. They have all been consistent in giving the team five good innings but many have hit an invisible wall in the fifth or sixth inning. It happened to Troy Cate Friday and Mike Smith on Saturday. It may be just a matter of hitting mid-season form for these guys as the rotation has been pitching very effectively as of late, holding the lead when they get it and staying away from big innings.
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