Zephyrs 2, Redbirds 1
Former Memphis Redbird Xavier Scruggs lined a pinch-hit single down the first-base line that scored Isaac Galloway from third base in the bottom of the 10th, and New Orleans won the series opener Thursday at Zephyr Field.
The win was the fourth in five games for the Zephyrs (10-11). Memphis (8-11) lost its fifth in six games.
Zephyrs reliever Andre Rienzo got out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the ninth, and Brian Ellington had a runner on third base with one out in the top of the 10th.
Galloway then led off the bottom of the 10th with a single to left and stole second. Austin Nola, a former LSU standout, then reached on an error by third baseman Patrick Wisdom. Second baseman Elliot Soto executed a perfect bunt, advancing both runners and setting the stage for Scruggs hit on a 1-1 pitch.
The Zephyrs took a 1-0 first-inning lead when Kenny Wilson led off with an infield single, stole second base and scored on Cole Gillespie’s two-out single to right field.
Memphis finally got to Zephyrs starter Jarred Cosart in the fourth, tying the score. Right fielder Carlos Peguero doubled leading off, stole third and came home on Dean Anna’s one-out single to left-center.
Coming into Thursday’s series opener against Memphis, Zephyrs catchers were just 2-for-25 trying to throw out base-stealers.
Tomas Telis, who was switched from third base to catcher and is quick around the plate, was 1-for-14. Adrian Nieto was 1-for-11.
Asked the reason opponents’ base-runners are so successful against Z’s backstops, manager Arnie Beyeler deadpanned, “They don’t throw the ball very well. That’s the bottom line.
“And, we’ve got to get better at that. In the last series (vs. Nashville), we had chances. Earlier in the season, we even didn’t have a chance. They have to throw better, and they’re working on it.”
In this series, that bears watching. Memphis comes into Zephyr Field having gone 10-for-11 stealing bases in its past seven games after starting the season 4-for-7. Asked if that was a concern going into this series, Beyeler said, “It will be if (the Redbirds) get on base.”
“We have to keep ’em off base, but if you want to control the running game, throw strikes and make guys swing the bats. When you’re not throwing guys out and you’re working from behind in the count, throwing a lot of balls, it’s tough.”
Just in time
Xavier Scruggs came to the Zephyrs as an experienced middle-of-the-lineup hitter who would add power to the lineup. Scruggs, however, has just two home runs this season.
One came on Tuesday, the final game of the Zephyrs’ most recent series at Nashville. It was Scruggs’ final hit in a 5-for-14 performance (.357) in the four games.
“I was just trying to keep my approach simple, hit balls up the middle,” Scruggs said. “I was able to get some good pitches and get in some good situations to help the team.”
The performance came with Scruggs’ former team, Memphis, up next. He spent seven years in its minor league system, with two short stints the past two seasons with the parent St. Louis Cardinals. Scruggs had four minor league seasons in a row with more than 20 home runs. He became a free agent after last season.
“It was a great time there,” he said. “I came up in the Cardinals’ organization. But I was ready for an opportunity with a new team. The Cardinals have a lot of guys. They’re pretty stacked.”
Saturday will mark the first Zephyrs’ game this season broadcast by Cox Sports Television. The network then will televise eight games in June (9th through 23rd), July 4 and Aug. 20-22. ... In his start with the Miami Marlins on Wednesday after being called up from New Orleans, left-hander Justin Nicolino shut out the Dodgers on two hits for 7.1 innnigs. Jose Urena, called up on April 21, got the Marlins out of trouble in the eighth and got the save. ... Zephyr Field is a finalist for the SEC baseball tournament, beginning in 2017, and conference officials will be at the stadium Saturday for observations. The game is at 6 p.m. Fans can get into the game, which starts at 6 p.m. for $5. Use the promo code “SEC” when buying tickets through TicketMaster.