In an age when tape-measure homers and launch angles seemingly rule the sport, Alex Mejia gave his team a boost with a play from yesteryear.
The designated hitter executed a successful squeeze bunt in the 11th inning to lead Memphis past Fresno, 2-1, on Friday night at AutoZone Park. The Redbirds lead the best-of-5 Pacific Coast League Championship Series, 2-1, and are one win away from their second straight title after a correct hunch by their manager.
"The situation was pretty much a perfect storm for us," Memphis skipper Stubby Clapp said. "We had the right hitter up and the right runner [at third], plus the way the defense was set up. I was willing to take the risk rather than play another inning."
After the teams combined for 25 runs through the first two games of the series, Game 3 featured 13 hits and seven double plays between the two clubs. Collectively, Fresno played a strong game defensively, but its lone error set up Memphis for the win.
Gameday box score
With Tommy Edman on first following his one-out single in the 11th, Grizzlies reliever Brendan McCurry threw away a pickoff attempt to send him to third. Rangel Ravelo was intentionally walked, and Mejia laid down a perfect bunt to give Memphis its third walk-off win this postseason.
Video: Mejia executes game-winning squeeze bunt for Memphis
While it was the first squeeze for the Redbirds in 147 games this season, Mejia is no stranger to walk-off bunts. The native of Sylmar, California, helped Class A Peoria to a 14-inning win against Kane County with a successful squeeze on May 23, 2013. Mejia had one sacrifice bunt in 322 at-bats this year.
"Ravelo at first and Mejia at the plate is a pretty good double-play combo if he hits it on the ground," Clapp said. "You need to be creative sometimes and find ways to win instead of waiting on home runs or doubles. But my heart can only pump so fast, so I'm glad we got it done there."
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The Redbirds broke the ice in the third with consecutive doubles against starter and 12th-ranked Astros prospect Rogelio Armenteros by No. 15 Cardinals prospect Edmundo Sosa and Edman.
Fresno wasted a bases-loaded, no-out opportunity in the fifth but tied the game in the next frame on second-ranked Houston prospect Kyle Tucker's solo homer to right field.
Mejia doubled and singled twice for his fourth multi-hit effort in seven postseason games. The 27-year-old is batting .379/.379/.517 with nine RBIs in the playoffs after compiling a .273/.316/.329 slash line in 108 regular-season contests with the Redbirds. Edman finished 3-for-4 with a walk, an RBI and a run scored.
Cardinals No. 13. Genesis Cabrera, Giovanny Gallegos and Conner Greene (1-0) combined for 5 2/3 scoreless frames out of the bullpen. The Redbirds surrendered 14 runs through the first 18 innings of the series.
"It certainly changes the game when the pitching is working," Clapp said. "When you've got guys on the mound controlling things like they were today, you see what happens. Add in defensive help like we saw tonight and that just doubles up on the difficulty of scoring."
No. 3 Astros prospect Yordan Alvarez walked three times for the Grizzlies, who totaled four hits.
Armenteros scattered seven hits and surrendered one run while striking out one in six innings. McCurry (0-1) allowed an unearned run on two hits in 2 1/3 frames.
With one win separating Memphis from a third league title and second in as many years, Clapp had a simple message for his players following the game.
"Just come back ready to play. That's all I've ever asked of my guys."
Game 4 is Saturday at 7:35 p.m. ET at AutoZone Park.