It was a great night in Memphis last night, as the Memphis Redbirds beat the New Orleans Baby Cakes 2-1. Dakota Hudson pitched a gem and timely hitting led by Rangel Ravelo prevailed. Here are some observations that I had while attending:
I Love Memphis
Before we even get to the game, it's worth mentioning that you should definitely make a trip to Memphis and Autozone Park for a Redbirds game. The stadium is right in the heart of downtown. The legendary Beale Street is a five minute walk from the gates. The stadium is clean and beautiful, the atmosphere is both family and party friendly, and attending a game is affordable. The people, both patrons and workers, are the real highlight. Everyone is extremely helpful and friendly. If you live in St. Louis you're an easy four hour drive from downtown Memphis. It's worth making the trip.
Dakota Hudson Shines
A lot has been made about the Cardinals decision to start John Gant on Monday instead of either Daniel Ponce de Leon or Dakota Hudson. With what Hudson did to the Baby Cakes last night, that conversation will only get more intense.
For eight innings, Hudson pitched extremely well. He did a great job of mixing in all of his pitches and staying low in the zone. He started to show signs of fatigue in the late innings, and his stat line was spotless until he allowed back to back singles to start the ninth. At that point he was removed in favor of Edward Mujica who allowed one of those runners to score before eventually closing out the victory.
What stood out to me about Hudson's Start
First, it wasn't until the latter innings of the game that the Baby Cakes began to make hard contact against Hudson. His pitch count was low, but he really seemed to struggle with command during innings 7-9. It was a balmy, somewhat humid night in Memphis, and that might have been a contributing factor. The good news is, when he missed the zone he usually missed low, thus negating some of the damage that might otherwise plague a pitcher that isn't displaying total command. What Dakota Hudson does better than anything else is induce ground balls. He did that well on Saturday, and it seemed like he'd induce a grounder or a double play at will.
One thing that I was impressed by is how Hudson handled Garrett Cooper and Scott Van Slyke. Both players are, or were at one point, major league caliber role players. Neither really seemed to find comfort in the box against Hudson. Van Slyke in particular:
One of the big knocks on Hudson has been his struggles against lefties, but they really didn't seem to give him much trouble on Saturday night. Now, the Baby Cake's roster doesn't have anything that might be mistaken as a menacing lefty and that's worth keeping in mind. He made former Cardinals outfielder Magneuris Sierra look bad on more than one swing, and he seemed to keep the various switch-hitters in the New Orleans lineup off-balance early on in the game. Aside from the bad swings by Sierra, nothing about Hudson's performance against lefties last night seemed negative or exemplary. He was what I would describe as "fine." He did a great job of keeping lefties on the ground and not in the air. That's important for him.
One of my past complaints about Hudson is that he nibbles a little too much for how good his stuff is, and last night was fuel for those concerns. Yes, he was efficient early on in his start and got some good defense behind him, but he worked behind in the count often and was helped out by an aggressive Baby Cakes approach.
The Memphis Lineup
Memphis put together a ten-hit performance led by journeyman minor leaguer 1B/OF Rangel Ravelo. Ravelo's home run and triple, along with a Dakota Hudson double, were the only extra base hits for the Redbirds. Ravelo fell a double short of the cycle and hit a ball as far as I've seen one hit in Memphis.
Outfielder Oscar Mercado just has a knack for getting hits. Both of his hits were "hole-finders", one via grounder and the other via blooper. Mercado has 18 stolen bases on the season, and the Baby Cakes were aware of that, as they were doing everything that they could to keep him at first base.
The other stand-out in the Memphis lineup was 2B Max Schrock, but it wasn't his high-contact bat that left the impression. Entering the season, Schrock was viewed as an average second baseman, but he's worked his butt off to make gains in the field and those gains have been on display lately. He made two or three good to great plays at second last night, including this play. This is the best play that I've seen on the infield from a Cardinals minor leaguer this season:
Schrock's bat hasn't been as good lately as it was early on in the season, but he's still making contact (albeit soft) and his defense is as good as it has ever been. I'd expect to see Schrock in St. Louis in September, if not before.
Other Quick Impressions
I can't get enough of typing "Baby Cakes."
I was a little disappointed that both Adolis Garcia (JAG) and Tyler O'Neill were out of the lineup, but so goes life.
There were some people who thought that Edward Mujica might eventually be a major league option for the pen. Mujica has been fine in Memphis, but I think it'd be a Preston Guilmet-esque result if he were to be promoted to the majors. He ended the game with a strike out, but there wasn't a moment during his appearance in which he seemed in control.
Luke Voit got a hit, but he just doesn't look correct at the dish, right now. I've always been a fan and supporter of Voit, so when I tell you that this Memphis stint since being demoted is about as bad as he's looked in the minors in years.
Thanks For Reading!