Not to be outdone by the parent team, the Memphis Redbirds followed the trend set by the St. Louis Cardinals and won their opening day contest on Thursday night.
The Memphis Redbirds, the AAA-affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals, traveled to New Orleans for the official opening night of minor league baseball. This first contest of the minor league season was to be the first for many including Stubby Clapp appearing as Memphis’ manager. This opening night ended eerily similar to the Cardinals’ opening night.
Young outfield stud, Harrison Bader, kicked off Memphis’ season in style by blasting the second pitch of the game for a home run. Bader was showing the world immediately why and how he is one of the top prospects in the St. Louis Cardinals organization.
Luke Weaver took to the mound for the Redbirds and seemed to be on a roll. He pitched a total of two innings, surrendered only one hit, and recorded one strikeout. Then… then was pulled with some kind of hand or finger concern (according to Derrick Goold). This early-exit has some worried that Thoracic Outlet Syndrome could be an issue (see Chris O’Leary).
As of this writing, I have no update to share on Weaver but will share as soon as details are released.
Before his exit, Weaver climbed aboard the hit bus and recorded a double to his credit to come around and score on a Tommy Pham single in the top of the third inning. It was following this hit in the bottom of the third when Weaver was pulled giving way to Kurt Heyer.
Heyer was not as sharp as Weaver and allowed New Orleans to pick up a run in the bottom of the third (score 2-1 in favor of Memphis). In the bottom of the fourth, New Orleans picked on the St. Louis Cardinals prospect once more and tagged him for two more runs turning the score over and grabbing the lead 3-2.
The Redbirds would not go quietly and showed their offensive prowess in the sixth inning plating two: Pham scored on a Patrick Wisdom double, and Wisdom later scoring on a wild pitch. This gave the Memphis squad the lead by a score of 4-3.
This lead did not last long as the Baby Cakes (yes, that is the moniker for the New Orleans team) scored with help from the made-of-glass Tommy Pham. In the bottom of the sixth, Peter Mooney (Baby Cakes) singled but then managed to come all the way around and score thanks to a fielding error AND a throwing error both compliments of Pham.
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The score was tied and stayed that way into extra innings. New Orleans threatened to close things out in the eleventh but Todd Cunningham, who had been inserted into the game as a defensive replacement in the outfield, made a spectacular diving catch in front of the bullpen in left field to end the inning and save the winning run.
It was in the top of the thirteenth inning when Wisdom put his name on the home run map joining Bader before him. With an 0-2 count, and with two outs already recorded in the frame, Wisdom simply refused to go down swinging. Instead, he blasted a home run breaking the tie and giving Memphis the lead.
Ryan Sherriff was called upon by Clapp to close out the game in the bottom of the thirteenth inning. He allowed a single and then allowed the runner to advance on a wild pitch. The stress tightening, Sherriff induced two close-out outs in the way of a fly out and line out to secure the Memphis win.
The St. Louis Cardinals might have walked-off their first victory of 2017, and the Memphis squad followed with their own version of a walk-off (albeit in the opposition’s home stadium). Thursday’s win puts Memphis at 10-10 in opening day contests. Moreover, the Redbirds have won five of their last six opening day/night contests.
The St. Louis Cardinals organization should be proud of the fight shown thus far by their AAA team. Other organizations should be on the look-out for the rising names on display in Memphis. These two things were made true on Thursday night.