And then there were two. The season has ended for all Cardinals minor league affiliates aside from the Memphis Redbirds and the Peoria Chiefs. The Redbirds picked up a second consecutive PCL Championship and have turned toward some possible revenge against the Durham Bulls in the Triple-A Championship. The Chiefs are looking for their first title since 2002, when they were in their first stint as a St. Louis minor league team.
Since the amount of teams is much smaller and the stakes of the games are much higher, we’ll be looking at a few standout performances instead of picking one. After all, many clutch moments contribute to postseason successes like these. As always, you can find this week’s daily recap here.
Memphis Redbirds (83-57)
American Conference Championship: (3-1)
PCL Championship: (3-1)
Triple-A Championship: Tuesday, Sept. 18
Memphis lost just twice over their two best-of-five series leading to the PCL Championship. A rain-soaked series against Oklahoma City featured two postponed games, but the Redbirds took Games 1, 3 and 4 to secure a conference win over the Dodgers’ affiliate.
Facing the high-octane offense of the Fresno Grizzlies in the league championship series, the first two games were expectedly high-scoring affairs. The Houston Astros’ AAA squad was second in the league in OPS and runs scored during the regular season. The Redbirds took Game 1 by a score of 10-4, but the script was flipped in Game 2 when they lost by nine runs, 10-1.
After those 14 runs surrendered in the first 18 innings, Memphis pitching would give up just one run in the remaining 20 frames.
An 11-inning pitchers’ duel in Game 3 ended in a walk-off squeeze bunt—yes, you read that right—by Alex Mejia. It was the Redbirds’ first squeeze bunt in 147 games this year, and it seems like they picked the right time for it.
The pitching performance was essential in the strange walk-off win. Chris Ellis pitched the first 5.1 innings and gave up Fresno’s lone run. After that, the bullpen was lights-out. Genesis Cabrera, Giovanny Gallegos and Conner Greene combined for 5.2 scoreless innings and put the lid on the Grizzlies’ lineup.
Game 4 was all Memphis.
The scoring started early when Randy Arozarena hit a three-run bomb to left, his first since August 24 and his second since late July. He would later follow with a second homer, this time a two-run shot. The Redbirds’ starter, Jake Woodford, delivered a dominant performance on the mound and Gallegos finished the game to secure a 5-0 win and back-to-back PCL Championships for Memphis.
The Redbirds will have a rematch of last year’s Triple-A Championship when they face the Durham Bulls this Tuesday. The Bulls beat Memphis in last year’s championship and did so as well in 2009—the Redbirds will be looking to return the favor.
Pitchers of the Series
Jake Woodford (RHP): 1 GS, 7.1 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 6 K
According to MiLB.com’s Michael Avallone, Memphis manager Stubby Clapp said Woodford made a “mental change as far as how he would attack hitters” before the start of the postseason. It worked, clearly. After making the climb from Springfield to Memphis in mid-July, Woodford put up a 4.50 ERA and 4.81 FIP in 64 innings for the Redbirds. His K/9 sat around 6.22 and his BB/9 approached 4 at both levels this season. In 11.1 playoff innings, Woodford surrendered one run, five hits, two walks and struck out ten. His performance on Saturday night was pure dominance, making quick work of a Fresno lineup that was the regular season’s second-best offense among PCL teams. His only other start in the postseason was in Game 4 against OKC, the game that the Redbirds would win to advance to the PCL Championship. He seems to have a knack for finishing series.
Giovanny Gallegos (RHP): 2 G, 3.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 0 K
Gallegos was the player acquired alongside Chasen Shreve in the Luke Voit deal. He was extremely impressive in the regular season following the move from the Yankees. Gallegos had a 3.90 ERA through 27.2 innings for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre before the trade, then followed with a 0.54 ERA in 16.2 innings for Memphis. Over 13 regular season appearances for the Redbirds, Gallegos gave up just one run.
His two outings against Oklahoma City were a bit shaky, giving up an earned run in each trip to the mound, but he was stellar against a strong Fresno offense. Gallegos pitched two hitless innings in the extra-inning affair that was Game 4. He then took the reigns from Jake Woodford in Game 5, giving up just one hit and closing out the final game of the series. Gallegos has been impressive to say the least and, at 27 years old, one would expect to see him in St. Louis after the Triple-A Championship game to close out September.
(Also, he had a walk-off single as a reliever, which is pretty cool.)
Players of the Series
Randy Arozarena (OF): 5-for-15, 4 R, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 2 BB, 1 K
Arozarena was put on the paternity list before the postseason began and returned to play three games against OKC and the entire series against Fresno.
We must have been seeing that dad strength in action.
For the entire postseason, Arozarena finished with a slash line of .348/.464/.652 in 28 PA. He was at his best in the Fresno series, when he provided all five runs in Game 5’s series win, mashing two homers for the Redbirds. Arozarena had been in a bit of a power drought, hitting as many dingers in one game as he had in the previous two months, but it came when needed. Arozarena picked up co-MVP honors for the series, shared with the person next featured on this list.
MiLB.com doesn’t like their videos to be embedded unless they share them in one of their site articles, so here are some links if you’re looking for more of Arozarena’s highlights from the series:
Tommy Edman (2B/3B/SS): 8-for-16, 3 R, 2 2B, HR, 4 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K
Edman started the Fresno series strong with a leadoff homer and didn’t stop mashing. He’s been doing that all postseason.
All year, really.
The 23-year-old infielder started the season with Springfield where he compiled a .299/.350/.403 line over 498 PA, good for 108 wRC+. That performance earned a call-up to Memphis at the end of the season where Edman again adjusted and hit well, with that same 108 wRC+ across 76 PA. Edman actually lowered his K-rate to 14.5% and walked 10.5% of the time in those 17 games with the Redbirds. His total postseason line was .469/.486/.656 through 34 PA in what is still a very limited first look at Triple-A pitching. After starting 2018 a Springfield Cardinal, Edman now shares co-MVP honors for the PCL Championship.
Peoria Chiefs (76-63)
Division Quarterfinal: (2-0)
Division Championship: (2-0)
League Championship: (1-2), Game 4 today
Peoria steamrolled their first two divisional opponents, the Cedar Rapids Kernels and last year’s Midwest League champion Quad Cities River Bandits.
The first loss of Peoria’s 2018 postseason came in Game 1 against the Bowling Green Hot Rods. A Chiefs offense that had put up 20 runs in the first four postseason games was blanked in a 4-0 finish.
Game 2 was a pitchers’ duel in which the Chiefs and Zach Prendergast emerged victorious, with Prendergast pitching 6.2 scoreless innings and allowing just three baserunners. A slew of singles and an errant throw led to Peoria’s two runs, which were enough to choke the Hot Rods to tie the series.
Peoria fell behind in the series 2-1 after a five-run loss in Game 3. Jake Dahlberg, who had been a consistent force in Peoria’s rotation this season, combined with some fielding errors behind him to surrender four runs in the first inning. There was no coming back from that deficit, as the Chiefs fell 6-1.
In this best-of-five series, Peoria faces an elimination game tonight at home. Angel Rondon is set to take the mound for the Chiefs, who are looking to win their first Midwest League Championship in 16 years.
Pitchers of the Series
Zach Prendergast (RHP): 1 GS, 6.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 7 K
More detail was given to Prendergast in last week’s article; that’s because he showed up here often in the regular season and has continued to do so in the playoffs. Prendergast delivered an excellent pitching performance that led to what has been Peoria’s only win in the MWLCS to this point. Allowing only three baserunners, Prendergast struck out seven and walked one in Game 2. Over 11.2 postseason innings in 2018, the 2017 undrafted free agent has surrendered just two unearned runs, five hits, two walks and struck out a whopping 18 batters.
Ben Yokley (RHP): 1 G, 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 K
Yokley doesn’t receive a lot of attention, mainly because he’s barely pitched as a professional. Drafted in the 29th round of the 2015 draft out of the Air Force Academy, he threw 13.1 innings for Johnson City that year before being placed on the military leave list. 2018 has been Yokley’s first action in three years and he made it to Peoria after a short stint in the GCL. The rust showed a bit as Yokley compiled a 3.86 ERA in 21 innings for the Chiefs, striking out 20 but walking 13 batters.
His postseason performance has been excellent. After a 1.1 inning outing against Cedar Rapids in which he gave up two hits and struck out one, Yokley calmed the waters over two perfect innings in Game 1 of the MWLCS. Though the Chiefs went on to lose 4-0, the 26-year-old righty delivered four strikeouts while allowing no baserunners in his lone appearance.
Players of the Series
Nick Dunn (2B): 3-for-10, 1 R, 2B, 1 RBI, 2 BB, 1 K
Dunn was drafted in the fifth round this year and moved up from State College after putting up 125 wRC+ over 201 PA for the Spikes. He really struggled in 48 regular season PA for Peoria, collecting just a .397 OPS, but has blossomed a bit in the postseason. Overall, Dunn’s line is 400/.483/.480 through 29 PA in the Chiefs’ playoff run. He delivered the lone run in yesterday’s Game 3 loss with an RBI double. In a series where offense has been hard to come by for the Chiefs, Dunn has offered consistency.
Yariel Gonzalez (1B): 5-for-12, 0 R, 2B, 0 RBI, 0 BB, 1 K
Gonzalez hasn’t been hitting for any of the power he showed in the regular season, but he’s been putting up hits consistently for Peoria. Aside from an 0-for-4 performance last night, Gonzalez had two-hit and three-hit nights to open the series, accounting for five of Peoria’s 13 total hits in Games 1 and 2. He had just been activated from the DL on September 2 after being added on August 22. Gonzalez put up an OPS of .815 in the regular season and, if Peoria is going to force a Game 5 in the MWLCS, they’ll need Gonzalez to help wake the bats up—hopefully with more power than he’s shown.