Memphis Redbirds Notebook: 2013 Week 7

The Triple-A Redbirds near the conclusion of a West Coast road trip holding onto a narrow divisional lead. Red-hot Kolten Wong showed no signs of rust after missing three games.

Memphis Redbirds (3-4 this week, 23-21 overall)

Despite a losing overall effort this week, the Redbirds were able to remain in the lead of the American Northern Division, a game ahead of the Omaha Storm Chasers (KC). This week, there were two series, one in Tacoma and one in Salt Lake City. Memphis split the series in Tacoma, and has lost two already to Salt Lake. In all four of the Redbirds' losses, the team had at least a two-run lead going into the fifth.

May 16 at Tacoma, Win 6-5 (10 innings)

Michael Wacha got the start for Memphis after the Wednesday day off, and excelled in his eighth start of the season. On the year, Wacha has not allowed more than two earned runs in an outing, and on Thursday, the 2012 first-round pick threw for seven innings and struck out eight. His only run yielded came on a solo home run in the sixth.

Memphis hitters provided support for the Texas native, putting five runs on the board from the third to the sixth frame. Chad Huffman struck his fifth home run of the year over the left field fence in the third. In the fourth, Kolten Wong scored on Jermaine Curtis' sacrifice fly, followed by a sacrifice fly in the fifth by Adron Chambers to score J.R. Towles. The Redbirds pushed the lead to 5-0 after Wong drove one out of the park and Curtis scored another runner on a sacrifice fly.

Mitchell Boggs was brought on in the eighth to preserve the 5-1 lead, but walked three of the first four, then yielded two runs on two singles in a row before being pulled for Sam Freeman. With the bases full, Freeman induced a force out, but the runner from third scored. Victor Marte relieved Freeman to get the final out of that inning. In the ninth, Marte allowed the tying run to score from second and send the game into extra innings.

Brock Peterson doubled pinch-runner Vance Albitz home for the winning run in the tenth frame.

May 17 at Tacoma, Win 7-4

A four-run top of the ninth put the Redbirds ahead by four before the Rainiers responded with just one run in the bottom of the frame.

A solo shot in the second inning by Towles was the first run. Ryan Jackson extended his hit streak to ten games with a two-run blast in the third frame. Tacoma responded with three runs, with one in the third, fourth and sixth to tie the game. A runner scored on a double in the third, scored on a ground ball in the fourth and starting pitcher Tyler Lyons served up a one-run crowd souvenir to right field. Lyons struck out seven hitters but allowed three runs in 5 1/3 frames.

Jorge Rondon collected the last two outs of the sixth and struck out one in the seventh before two straight walks led to him being replaced by Barret Browning. Browning earned the win because of the two-out rally in the ninth.

With two-outs and nobody on, five straight singles from the eighth hitter to the third in order pushed the lead to three, and a single added one but Jackson was thrown out at home trying to score from second.

May 18 at Tacoma, Loss 4-3

After putting three runs on the board early, Memphis failed to respond to Tacoma's three-run fifth frame. Starting pitcher Nick Additon continued the strikeout dominance by the Redbirds, fanning six batters in the first three innings. Although he allowed three runs in the sixth, it was still a solid outing. With an early double, the Rainiers had two runners in scoring position with nobody out. Additon managed to escape the inning only allowing three runs. On the day Tacoma only got four hits on the Florida native. He struck out nine in six innings of work, and left the game with the score tied.

Albitz got his fourth hit in two days with a two-RBI double in the second. The final Redbird tally was in the fourth on a sacrifice fly that scored Brock Peterson.

Marc Rzepczynski held Tacoma scoreless for the seventh despite walking three batters with one out. In the eighth, left-hander Sam Freeman allowed a run. Freeman allowed base-runner Alex Liddi to steal twice before scoring on a double with two outs to put the Rainiers ahead for good.

May 19 at Tacoma, Loss 5-6

Maikel Cleto made his third start of the season and struggled for the second straight time. The reliever turned starter allowed five runs in five innings, including leaving two runners on base in the sixth. Tacoma scored a run in the second on a solo home run, and Cleto served up a two-run dinger in the fourth. After a walk and a single in the sixth, his day was done and Eduardo Sanchez came in relief. Those two runners would come home, with Cleto charged with five runs on the day.

Memphis scored five in the first five innings - two in the third from Curtis' single, and two in the fourth on back-to-back doubles by Rob Johnson and Towles. The Redbirds' final run came via Brock Peterson's solo shot in the fifth.

Sanchez pitched one scoreless inning in the sixth and Fornataro held Tacoma scoreless for two innings. There was one out into the ninth when Rondon served up the walk-off home run.

May 20 at Salt Lake, Loss 4-5

Monday's matchup was the third game in a row decided by one run, and the third game in a row the Redbirds held a two-run lead going into the sixth and lost anyway. Memphis hitters put four runs on the board, two in the first and two in the fifth.

In the first, Wong hit his second home run of the week with Adron Chambers on base. Wong scored again in the fifth on Brock Peterson's RBI single and Ryan Jackson was walked home with two outs and the bases loaded.

Boone Whiting made his second start, and allowed three runs to score in the second. Three singles and two walks was enough of a rally to put the Bees ahead 3-2 at the time. After the Redbirds responded in the fifth with two runs, Salt Lake scored two in the eighth on Rzepczynski. A single and a couple of walks loaded the bases with one out. Then a slow ground ball was hit towards the mound. Scrabble charged the ball and threw the ball wide of catcher Rob Johnson. The throwing error allowed two runs to score and Memphis couldn't plate one in the ninth to tie the game.

May 21 at Salt Lake, Loss 3-10

This game was decided in the seventh, when the Bees scored eight runs. Memphis had the lead for the fourth straight game going into the fifth, yet lost for the fourth straight time. Memphis hitters scored three in the fourth frame, but those were the only runs for the road team all day. With the bases full of Redbirds, Jamie Romak sent them all home with a three-RBI double.

Salt Lake scored two in response in the sixth, and added to that with eight in the seventh. Sam Freeman loaded the bases before being pulled for Eric Fornataro. A sacrifice fly scored one and two straight walks scored another runner. A two-RBI double put the Bees ahead by three.

From there, Salt Lake continued that inning by scoring four more, putting five on Fornataro plus the three left on base attributed to Freeman. Wacha also was charged with allowing two runs after leaving two on base in the sixth that scored when Freeman took over in the sixth.

May 22 at Salt Lake, Win 17-6

In a bounce-back game, Memphis started out early and scored six runs in the first, and 14 in the first five frames. Back-to-back leadoff triples by Justin Christian and Wong started the rally, but three batters later, there were two outs and a runner on second. Two more singles put the Redbirds up by four. J.R. Towles hit his fourth home run of the year to score two more runs. In the next inning, Memphis tallied three more on Jackson's RBI single and Huffman's two-RBI single.

Brock Peterson drove in two runs in the third with a two-out single. Three more runs in the fifth on a sacrifice fly and Peterson's home run put the score at 12-2 in the Redbirds' favor. For some extra insurance, Peterson hit his second two-run home run of the evening and Romak hit the ball over the fence in the deepest part of center field. Scrabble was called on in the ninth but had another rough outing, allowing four runs.

Former University of Memphis Tiger pitcher Scott McGregor made his Triple-A debut. The sixth-year-professional allowed two runs in six frames, pitching well enough to earn his first win, especially with the 12 runs in support.

Heating Up

Kolten Wong – Despite playing in only three games this week, the second baseman has made a significant impact behind the plate. He is riding an 11-game hit streak, and is hitting .458 (27-for-59). In three games, the hot prospect has eight hits in 14 at-bats and has scored eight times with two home runs.

Jamie Romak - Over his current six-game hitting streak, Romak is hitting .375 (9-for-24). The extra-base-hit machine has received extended playing time with Taveras out, and has five doubles in the last four games as well as a home run.

Brock Peterson – The first baseman has found his power stroke again, hitting four home runs in the last eight games, with two on Wednesday night, not to mention his game-winning double on Thursday, May 16. On the road trip, he has ten hits and nine RBI.

Getting Cold

Sam Freeman – The lefty took two losses this week while allowing four earned runs in 2 1/3 innings. His performance, combined with others, made it a bad week for the relievers.

Marc Rzepczynski - Attributed with one loss this week, the St. Louis call-down has struggled this week, allowing six runs in three frames of work. His error blew the game on Monday, May 20.

Bullpen – It is not enough to simply call out some relievers. At this point in the season, the bullpen has already yielded the same amount of earned runs as the starters (89), and has pitched 94 less innings. The ERA comparison is lopsided; the starters have a 3.20 ERA and the relievers have a 5.13 ERA.

Roster Updates

Tavaras hasn't returned to the lineup, and that has given way for more playing time for Huffman, Romak and Christian. All three have done well this week, and Garcia's injury has allowed Jackson and Curtis to play every night as well as creating some at-bats for Albitz. Pitchers have been moving up and down the system, as Boggs returned to St. Louis, and Lyons made his debut in the big leagues.

Transactions

May 19: Pitcher Mitchell Boggs transferred back to St. Louis from Memphis
May 19: Catcher Rob Johnson activated from disabled list
May 21: Pitcher Eduardo Sanchez lost on waivers to the Cubs
May 22: Pitcher Tyler Lyons promoted to St. Louis from Memphis
May 22: Pitcher Scott McGregor promoted to Memphis from Springfield

Injuries

Garcia has not played since being placed on the disabled list on May 10.

Oscar Taveras has not played since hurting his ankle on May 12.

Kolten Wong injured his ankle May 16, but only missed three games, and had an immediate impact upon return.

Looking Forward

Memphis finishes the series with the Bees on Thursday then comes home for two series, one against Round Rock and another against Albuquerque. Round Rock has a poor road record (7-12), and Albuquerque has a losing road record, too (8-11). The Redbirds look to turn around the disappointing last two weeks and gain some momentum during this home stand.



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