Monday night’s game might have appeared like any other as the Memphis Redbirds took a 5-2 win over Omaha at AutoZone Park. It wasn’t.
The win in game 109 put the Redbirds on the same lofty perch as their St. Louis parent – in first place. Memphis now sits atop the Pacific Coast League’s Northern Division as they passed Nashville.
It has been all about resilience.
Some number of expert baseball watchers left the Redbirds for dead after having lost their top starter, Clayton Mortensen (ten quality starts, seven wins, 105 innings, 82 strikeouts), top reliever, Jess Todd (24 of 26 in save opportunities), and top hitter, Brett Wallace (.298 BA, number one Cardinals prospect), via trades in the last two weeks.
Instead of folding, Monday brought the Triple-A club’s fifth consecutive victory and their second five-game run in those last two weeks. They are now seven games over .500 at 58-51, tying their season high water mark first set on May 9.
To put the magnitude of their recovery into perspective, the Redbirds were 8 ½ games out of first as recently as June 21. Losing at Iowa that night, Memphis hit a season-low six games under .500 at 32-38. They were coming off a disastrous 4-14 stretch of losing baseball.
I was with the club during that series and saw a team that seemed to lack timely hitting and had no appearance of a group that could pick up nine games in the standings, let alone play 13 games over .500 in the ensuing six weeks.
Yet that is precisely what Chris Maloney’s club did.
Despite St. Louis having made at least 19 different calls for players from his club this season, many of them have been taken away multiple times, the man known as “Hammer” has more than held his team together.
One shouldn’t be surprised, as Maloney is a proven winner. In fact, among those managers with at least six years of service, he is the winningest skipper in the Cardinals system over at least the last 43 years. Maloney has compiled a .519 victory mark coming into this season amassed at six different levels since 1991.
Maloney’s 2009 Redbirds have just over one month remaining, with their final regular-season game scheduled on September 7. They should be an exciting team to watch as they go down to the wire.