Despite the fact that prior to the 2011 World Series, the St. Louis Cardinals only faced the Texas Rangers in three interleague games back in 2004, a number of the Cardinals players are already familiar with many of the Rangers personnel.
In 2011, Round Rock, located near Austin, carried the Rangers flag after what amounted to an affiliate swap with the Houston Astros and the Oklahoma City PCL club. The Rangers had been in Oklahoma City from 1983-2010.
Though the major league Rangers reached the 2010 World Series while the Cardinals missed the playoffs, the Cards were superior at the Triple-A level. Memphis posted a stellar 12-7 regular-season record against Oklahoma City in 2010 and even more importantly, swept them out of the playoffs in three straight. The Redbirds enjoyed the regular-season edge at home (7-3) and on the road (5-4).
This season, however, Memphis lost five of eight to Round Rock both at AutoZone Park and away for an overall 6-10 record against Texas’ PCL club. Plenty of other teams struggled against the Express as well as Round Rock won 87 games, taking their division by 17. Memphis came in second, winners of 77 contests, with their division champion, Omaha, ousting Round Rock in the playoffs.
The Redbirds logged two of their biggest innings of the year against Round Rock, plating seven in the seventh inning on April 30 en route to a 10-7 win and five runs in the fourth inning on July 26 in what would be a 10-4 victory. To be fair, the Express also had two five-run innings against Memphis’ PCL ERA champion pitching staff.
In terms of individual accomplishments, Tony Cruz was an Express killer. On April 28, the catcher had a walkoff RBI single in the 10th inning of a 6-5 Memphis win. Just two days later, Cruz victimized Round Rock pitcher Zach Phillips for a grand slam, one of six grand slams by a Redbird in 2011. Even better, the next batter up, Aaron Luna, also went deep off Phillips, making it the first of three back-to-back homer attacks for Memphis this past season. On July 26 at Round Rock, Nick Stavinoha drove in six runs, tying for the biggest RBI day by a Memphis hitter in 2011.
In 2010, the Redbirds logged four walkoff victories against Oklahoma City, including in three consecutive games in late July. The successful batters were Daniel Descalso, Mark Hamilton (twice) and Bryan Anderson. Last September 8, Joe Mather launched two home runs in Game 1 of the PCL playoffs versus the RedHawks. Two days later, Lance Lynn (see photo) spun his most masterful performance as a professional, setting the Memphis team record by striking out 16 Oklahoma City batters in the first-round playoff-clinching contest.
On a lifetime regular season basis, Memphis is 108-119 against the Rangers’ Triple-A clubs – Round Rock in 2011 (6-10) and Oklahoma City prior (102-109).