Memphis Redbirds Notebook: 2013 Week 21

Despite a tough extra-inning loss Wednesday and a 3-4 week overall, the Triple-A club remains in playoff contention with five games remaining.

Memphis Redbirds (3-4 this week, 66-73 overall)

Despite a losing week overall, Memphis remains only a game behind Omaha for the Division's playoff spot with five games to play. Fortunately for the Redbirds, Omaha has stumbled lately, losing eight of the last ten games, and winning only 12 of 27 games so far in August. Memphis also holds the tie-breaker.

For the Redbirds, it was another week of relying on fill-in starters without much experience in the role, including two starts by Eric Fornataro (one start this year before this week), Nick Greenwood (seven starts this year, four in August), and one by Keith Butler.

August 22 at Iowa, Win 4-3

A ninth inning come-from-behind rally gave the Redbirds their fourth straight win. Memphis scored two in the frame, one by Travis Tartamella's single and another by pinch-hitter Chad Huffman's sacrifice fly. Boone Whiting started the game for the Redbirds, but reliever Keith Butler earned the win in his two frames. Fernando Salas walked one but got the final three outs for the save.

Whiting pitched a no-decision quality start, allowing just two earned runs on six hits in six frames. The right-hander yielded a solo home run in the fourth and a pair of singles resulted in a tally for the Cubs in the fifth. At that point, the game was tied at two after Memphis scored in the first and fourth frames.

August 23 at Iowa, Loss 2-0

Iowa pitched a four-hit shutout against the Redbirds, who were missing starting pitcher Carlos Martinez due to his call-up to St. Louis. Eric Fornataro made the start and lasted four innings, retiring the first nine batters before facing trouble in the fourth. The 25-year-old right-hander allowed two singles in a row with a runner on base to plate one run. A wild throw, his second of the inning, tallied another run for the Cubs.

Fornataro was relieved by Victor Marte, who pitched for two frames, had three strikeouts. Michael Blazek pitched two scoreless innings as well.

August 24 at Iowa, Loss 8-5

Memphis lost its second straight game because of a huge five-run inning in the sixth frame by Iowa. Nick Greenwood and Deryk Hooker yielded four runs apiece in the losing effort and Greenwood was attributed with the loss. The southpaw pitched 5 1/3 frames, and allowed runs in the second, fourth, fifth and sixth innings. In the second, a solo home run tied the game at one. A couple of frames later, Jermaine Curtis' throwing error allowed runners to be safe at first and second before an RBI single broke the tie.

Memphis responded in the fifth with a two-out, two-RBI double by Greg Garcia. Iowa tied the game again on an RBI single in the bottom of the inning, and blew the game open in the six. Greenwood was pulled after allowing a double, but Hooker did not fare better. Iowa hitters smacked three doubles and drew two walks off the reliever who started the year in Springfield.

August 25 at Iowa, Win 11-5

Keith Butler made a pinch start for the Redbirds and threw three scoreless frames before being pulled for Michael Blazek. Blazek, Sam Freeman and Jorge Rondon each pitched 1 2/3 innings and the three combined to allow all five runs. Salas pitched a scoreless ninth frame. The visitors jumped out to an early lead against the Cubs, a five-run first inning matched Iowa's game total. Memphis started the game with a single, followed by back-to-back doubles, and Brock Peterson's extra base hit drove in both runners for two of the first five runs. Later in the frame, with two runners on base, Vance Albitz took the 0-1 delivery deep to left field for his first home run at Triple-A this season. In the third inning, Chad Huffman homered the first pitch he saw with Peterson on first to push the lead to seven.

Iowa responded with two in the fifth frame off Blazek after a single and five walks plated two runners. Blazek was pulled and Freeman got the final out of the inning. Memphis ended the game with four more runs across the next three frames, one from Ryan Jackson's RBI double, two more on fly-outs in the eighth and Huffman's solo home run in the ninth.

August 26 at New Orleans, Loss 1-0

Memphis lost the series opener in New Orleans despite a quality start by Scott McGregor. The left-hander allowed one run through six frames and struck out nine Zephyrs, tying a career high set in 2009. The Redbirds had opportunities to score, but could not capitalize, including runners on the corners with one out in the second inning, and another chance in the third.

New Orleans plated the only run on a solo home run by Kyle Jensen in the second frame; McGregor's ninth allowed all year. In the shut-out loss, Memphis failed to score for the seventh time this season.

August 27 at New Orleans, Win 8-2

The Redbirds walked out of Zephyrs Field with a big six-run victory that was assured after a five-run ninth frame put the game away. Whiting made his second quality start this week and the starter struck out nine hitters, the second day in a row Memphis' starting pitcher struck out nine. Memphis got on the scoreboard first in the second frame, scoring one run on Garcia's RBI single with two runners on base and another on Curtis' ensuing single.

New Orleans' left-fielder Kyle Jensen answered with his second home run in as many days, tying the game with a two-run blast in the bottom of the second. The visiting Redbirds regained the lead in the fifth on a single by Jamie Romak that plated Jackson.

Neither team scored again until the busy ninth inning for Memphis. Outfielder Mike O'Neill walked to start the rally, followed by Jackson's single and Justin Christian's single that sent O'Neill home. Romak homered to score both runners, and Huffman followed that curtain call with a blast of his own, the seventh time this season Memphis has hit back-to-back home runs.

August 28 at New Orleans, Loss 8-7 (11 innings)

Wednesday night marked the eighth time in 13 tries that Memphis lost an extra-innings affair. In the overtime, New Orleans managed to keep up with Memphis, including a three-run tenth inning. Fornataro made his second start of the week and only his third all year. The Houston native pitched for 3 2/3 frames with three runs allowed, one earned.

The Zephyrs scored on the right-hander in the second frame on a sacrifice fly, then again in the fourth when he left the game with the bases full. Greenwood relieved Fornataro, and two runners scored on Peterson's error when he could not field a grounder.

Memphis eliminated a three-run deficit in the seventh on Chris Swauger's two-out three-run blast, his second of the year. Memphis gained the lead in the eighth on Greg Garcia's RBI single with runners on the corners. The visitors had runners on first and second with one out, but Huffman grounded out into a double-play to hold the lead to one.

Freeman pitched a scoreless seventh to keep the lead, however, Butler blew a save opportunity by allowing a run to score in the eighth. With one runner one first and two outs, a double to right field plated the tying run. The visitors got the lead again in the tenth, with a Peterson's 25th home run in the year to add one, and back-to-back doubles by Curtis and Huffman added one apiece.

It was all but over, and the Zephyrs came back in the tenth against Deryk Hooker behind a two-run home run and an RBI single that tied the game again. In the 11th, Kevin Thomas served up a walk-off home run on a 1-1 delivery.

Heating Up

Early Leads – Memphis was 3-1 this week when scoring first and outscored opponents 11-5 over the first three frames this week. On the year, the club has won 49 of 79 contests when scoring first and has outscored opponents 249-162 across the first three innings.

Chad Huffman – Huffman has three home runs in the last four games, and nine hits in his last seven games. With runners in scoring position, the February free-agent pick up has 31 hits in 98 tries (.316) with 42 of his 54 RBI.

Boone Whiting –The right-hander has 15 strikeouts over 12 innings in his last two starts. Although one start was a loss, both were quality starts and Whiting allowed two runs in both. On the year, the Californian has an unimpressive 5-5 record, but he has averaged 8.7 strikeouts per nine innings and has only received a 52 runs of support (2.6 run average) and allowed 51 runs in his 20 starts.

Getting Cold

Finishing Games – Memphis has struggled to find runs in the last innings and even more so in extra-inning affairs. Opponents have out-produced Memphis 186-166 in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings combined. In the tenth inning on, the Redbirds have only plated 18 runs to the oppositions' 24 in 13 games (that is skewed by a seven-run 12th inning against Omaha on May 6).

Deryk Hooker – In two of his last three outings, the right-hander has surrendered three or more runs. In his last ten outings, he has 13 frames pitched and 11 earned runs allowed. To the 24-year-old's credit, those runs occured in just three of those outings. The Californian native has not struck anybody out in his last three appearances (3 2/3 frames).

Jamie Romak – Early in the season, Romak was exceptional at producing extra-base hits. His pace has slowed down significantly post-All Star break. Prior to the All-Star break, the Canada native had 304 at-bats with 43 extra-base hits, including 19 home runs. That is an extra-base hit every seven at-bats and a home run every 16 at-bats (Redbirds average as a team is every 40 ½ at-bats, PCL league average is 37.94).

Post-All Star break, Romak has 134 plate appearances, with ten extra base hits, and three home runs. Those numbers add up to an extra-base hit every 13 at-bats and a home run every 44 2/3 at-bats, closer to the average, but way off his hot start.

Award Updates

Brock Peterson was named to the 2013 All-Pacific League Coast League Team at designated hitter. The first baseman is the 10th Redbird to be named to the post-season all-star team and the first since Victor Marte in 2010.

Mike O'Neill was named to the Texas League (Double-A) Post-Season All-Star Team for his work there prior to his July 31 promotion to Memphis.

Transactions

August 23: Pitcher Carlos Martinez promoted to St. Louis
August 26: Pitcher Nick Additon placed on the Disabled List (retroactive to August 22)
August 26: Pitcher Victor Marte placed on the Disabled List (retroactive to August 24)
August 26: Pitcher Kevin Thomas promoted to Memphis from Springfield
August 27: Pitcher Tyler Lyons optioned to Memphis
August 27: Pitcher Fernando Salas promoted to St. Louis
August 27: Pitcher Carlos Martinez optioned to Memphis
August 27: Pitcher Michael Blazek promoted to St. Louis

Injuries

Catcher Geoff Klein has been on the disabled list since May 8. Pitchers Nick Additon and Victor Marte joined Ramon Delgado on the disabled list this week. Outfielders Oscar Taveras and Tommy Pham have been out since June 24 and July 27, respectively, and Adron Chambers joined them on August 18.

Looking Forward

There are only five games remaining in the regular season, one more to finish the New Orleans series and then four against the RedHawks in Oklahoma City. Omaha has five games left as well, with one more against Iowa (lost previous three), and a four-game home stand against Round Rock.

Next season, the Pacific Coast League will undergo a conference re-alignment. Memphis will be a part of the American Southern Division with Nashville, New Orleans and Round Rock. The postseason format will remain the same.



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