Redbirds race to PCL division title

With 80th win, Cardinals' affiliate is first full-season club to clinch

Memphis is four wins shy of breaking the single-season franchise record, established in 2000. (Mike Strasinger/Nashville Sounds)

By Josh Jackson / | August 14, 2017 12:32 AM

With 21 games left in the regular season, Triple-A Memphis has no pennant chase to worry about.

"It's done," manager Stubby Clapp said. "It's out of the way, and now [the players] can move on and look forward to and get settled for the playoffs."

At 80-41, the Redbirds became the first full-season team to clinch a division title, wrapping up the Pacific Coast League's American Southern crown with a 12-7 win over second-place Nashville on Sunday at First Tennessee Park. It's the fifth division title in 18 years for Memphis, which will participate in the playoffs for the first time since 2014.

Fourth-ranked Cardinals prospect Tyler O'Neill homered, Patrick Wisdom was 3-for-4 with three doubles and three runs scored and Alex Mejia went 4-for-6 with three RBIs and two runs scored.

Gameday box score

Pitching, however, has been Memphis' bread and butter. The club has a PCL-best 3.63 ERA, getting strong seasons from right-handers Mike Mayers (5-6 with a 3.36 ERA) -- who pitched 1 2/3 shutout innings Sunday -- Luke Weaver (10-2, 2.55 ERA) and No.  53 overall prospect Jack Flaherty (4-2, 2.86 ERA).

"The pitching's been great," said Clapp, whose team can become the third in the PCL to win its division by 20 or more games since divisional play was instituted in 1963. "When the pitching's not there, the hitting has picked up the slack. But pitching and defense overall are what have given us the opportunities."

Video: Lucas notches the save

Clapp is in his first season managing the Redbirds, but he's not exactly a newcomer. He's the Triple-A franchise's record-holder in career triples (19) and walks (222), having played four seasons in Memphis and winning a PCL championship in 2000.

"Obviously, it's been special to come back to the Cardinals organization after a long time not being here. That means a lot," he said. "And to get to clinch and all that is great, but there's still a lot of work to do and we want to finish strong."

MiLB include

Offensively, Wisdom has 25 homers in 109 games and Cardinals No. 5 prospect Harrison Bader has 20 to go with a .348 on-base percentage. Breyvic Valera, Nick Martini and Rangel Ravelo, who went 3-for-5 and fell a triple shy of the cycle in the clincher, have been regulars for the bulk of the year and are all batting over .300. 

"It's fun when you can come to park every day and put together the lineup and know they're going to find a way," Clapp said. "You can move them around and see where they are in different spots in the order and know they're going to consistently do good."

Video: O'Neill's 24th PCL home run

O'Neill, who smacked his 24th homer, came to the Redbirds from the Mariners organization in the Marco Gonzales trade on July 21. In 19 games with the team, he has five homers, a triple, four doubles and 20 RBIs.

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"Obviously, that makes [the lineup] a little more special. It's fun to have him be a part of the organization," Clapp said.

A's No. 23 prospect Renato Nunez was 2-for-5 with his Minor League-leading 31st homer in the Sounds' loss.

Josh Jackson is a contributor to Follow and interact with him on Twitter, @JoshJacksonMiLB. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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