New Orleans’ chances of finishing the season with a .500 record ended Friday night at Zephyr Field.
Memphis (78-62) pounded 15 hits in maintaining a three-game lead over Nashville with a 11-6 win over the Zephyrs. The Redbirds reduced their magic number to two for clinching the American Southern title.
The Zephyrs (68-73) committed three errors. Shortstop Juan Diaz made two on the same play in the third. He mishandled a grounder by Jermaine Curtis, allowing him to reach safely, then threw wildly to first, enabling Stephen Piscotty to score from second. Luis Mateo then doubled home Xavier Scruggs and Curtis, giving Memphis the lead, 3-2.
The Redbirds led 5-3 entering the fifth, then Mateo hit a two-run homer against reliever Joey O’Gara.
The Zephyrs scored twice in the bottom of the inning against Redbirds starter Heath Wyatt, both with two out. Diaz doubled, plating Mark Canha from second. Rob Brantly then singled in Diaz.
The Redbirds, however, sealed the victory with two out in the seventh. Tommy Pham tripled, scoring Scott Moore. Pete Kozma then hit a grounder to third base, and Zach Cox’s throw to first was wide, enabling Pham to score.
WHAT: New Orleans Zephyrs vs. Memphis Redbirds
WHERE: Zephyr Field, Metairie
WHEN: 6 p.m.
PROBABLE PITCHERS: Zephyrs RH Alex Sanabia (7-5, 4.74 ERA) vs. Redbirds RH Zach Petrick (7-6, 4.62)
BROADCASTS: WMTI-FM, 106.1; MiLB.tv
Redbirds center fielder Tommy Pham left an impression on the Zephyrs during the teams season-changing series in Memphis last month.
In the final game of the series, on Aug. 9, Pham became the first player in Redbirds history to have four hits (4-for-5), four RBIs and four runs in the game, getting a home run, a walk and a stolen base in the process. That performance was a big reason he was selected Pacific Coast League Player of the Week for Aug. 5-10.
That it was his best game is saying something, because Pham is batting .325 this season in 101 games.
Pham also has another connection to New Orleans. He was the Redbirds’ fifth outfielder 40 games into the season, Manager Ron “Pop” Warner said Thursday. Pham got his chance when the parent St. Louis Cardinals sold the contract of former UNO outfielder Joey Butler on May 23 to the Orix Buffaloes of the Japan League.
Pham figured in that, hitting .385 as a pinch-hitter. Since May 1, he is batting .350 with all 10 of his homers, 14 doubles, five triples and 55 runs in 87 games.
“We didn’t have to adjust his swing, his stance, he approach or anything,” said Redirds hitting coach Mark Budaska. “He hit well in Double-A. He just needed the at-bats here.”
Left-hander Brian Flynn hit Steve Piscotty with a pitch in the first inning and Luis Mateo with one in the second, giving the Zephyrs 51 this season, tied for ninth in the PCL. Anthony DeSclafani threw the Z’s 103rd wild pitch Thursday, which lead the league and is 18 more than last season. … Flynn and Redbirds infielder Pete Kozma were teammates at Owasso (Okla.) High School. Kozma was the star of the 2007 team and was selected in the first round by the Cardinals. The next year, Flynn was the state’s Player of the Year, but went on to pitch at Wichita State. He was drafted in the seventh round by Detroit in 2011. … When left fielder Mark Canha went 0-for-4 Thursday night, it marked the first time this season he did not have a hit in a game against Memphis in which he had a plate appearance. He had hit .438 in nine games this season against the Redbirds, with two homers, a double and four RBI.