Diaz powers Redbirds in semifinal opener

Cards infielder homers twice, plates three; O'Neill also goes yard

Aledmys Diaz swatted 11 homers in 117 games between the Majors and the Pacific Coast League this season. (Jamie Harms/MiLB.com)

By Kelsie Heneghan / MiLB.com | September 7, 2017 1:24 AM ET

Since Aledmys Diaz has Major League experience, Memphis hitting coach Mark Budaska noticed he was being pitched around in the Pacific Coast League. But when the Cardinals infielder gets a pitch to hit, he doesn't waste it.

Diaz slugged two homers and drove in three runs on Wednesday as Memphis topped Colorado Springs, 4-1, in Game 1 of the best-of-5 PCL semifinals at AutoZone Park.

Video: Diaz homers again for Redbirds in semifinals

"He's done a real nice adjustment with his strike zone knowledge and using the whole field and driving the ball the other way a lot," the hitting coach said. "So I'm real happy with what he's done down here."

Gameday box score

In the third inning, Diaz drilled a two-run jack to left field that put the Redbirds ahead for good, 3-1. The 27-year-old provided some insurance with a solo shot to left-center in the sixth. It marked Diaz's first multi-homer game in the Minor Leagues, although he left the yard twice for St. Louis on April 8 against Cincinnati.

"He hit a curveball the first two-run homer and then he hit a cutter out over the plate for a second homer. So he made some good swings on some good pitches," Budaska said. "It was a good day for him, a good confidence-builder, clutch situation, playoffs. It was a really nice day for him."

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Tyler O'Neill also went yard for Memphis, opening the scoring with a solo blast in the bottom of the first. The Cardinals' No. 4 prospect is coming off a season in which he slugged 31 homers, including five in his last seven games.

Video: O'Neill goes yard for Redbirds in semifinals

"He's a mistake hitter, a good fastball hitter and if they get it out over the plate, he'll put the barrel on it," Budaska said. "He hit his 32nd home run of the year, so he's a real good, young, talented home run hitter."

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Dakota Hudson (1-0), the Cardinals' No. 8 prospect, allowed a run on five hits and three walks with five strikeouts over six innings. Mike Mayers fanned two over two perfect frames and Mark Montgomery worked around two hits in a scoreless ninth for the save.

"Everyone did real nice. We played good defense, the starting pitcher, Dakota, did a really nice job, Mayers came in for a couple innings and Montgomery closed it out," Budaska said. "So both sides -- pitching, defense -- and we barreled some baseballs up for some home runs and it was a nice game for everybody. Exciting game for us."

Memphis can take a 2-0 lead in the series when it resumes on Thursday at 8 p.m. ET.

In other PCL playoff action:

El Paso 3, Reno 1

Padres slugger Hunter Renfroe hit a solo homer and drove in an insurance run with a groundout to lead the Chihuahuas in Game 1 of the other semifinal series. After climbing three levels this season, right-hander Chris Huffman (1-0) allowed a run on six hits and three walks with three strikeouts over six innings. Evan Marzilli walked twice and scored the lone run for the Aces. Box score

Kelsie Heneghan is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @Kelsie_Heneghan. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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