photo: Yadier Molina and Paul DeJong (Memphis Redbirds)
It was an energetic night for baseball and its fans Monday evening in Memphis, Tenn. as The Battle of The Birds exhibition was played for the 10th time. It was the first match-up between the St. Louis Cardinals and their Triple-A affiliate, the Memphis Redbirds, since 2017 when St. Louis prevailed, 9-3. The Cardinal Nation showed their excitement as a sell-out crowd of 10,442 watched a preview of both 2019 teams at festive AutoZone Park.
The proceedings began with autograph signings followed by a ceremony during which the 2018 Triple-A National Champions received their rings.
Triple-A National Champions.
— Memphis Redbirds (@memphisredbirds) March 25, 2019
After the home team seized to an early 1-0 edge in the first inning, the major leaguers took the lead for good via Marcell Ozuna’s three-run home run to left field against Adam Wainwright in the third. That led to 6-3 victory to conclude St. Louis’ spring schedule. St. Louis now leads the all-time series 7-2-1.
It was a homecoming for area resident Stubby Clapp, now first-base coach for the St. Louis after a very successful two-year stint managing the Redbirds. Clapp is fifth on the Redbirds all-time list with 174 wins, and his .619 winning percentage is the best in team history.
Welcomed to an array of applause was Memphis’ new manager Ben Johnson, who is a nearby Germantown native. The former outfielder was drafted by St. Louis out of high school in the fourth round of the 1999 First-Year Player Draft and later reached the majors with the Padres and the Mets.
The Redbirds played full steam ahead right off the bat as Adolis Garcia launched an RBI double off the first pitch he saw from Michael Wacha. Max Schrock scored.
Wainwright was the starting pitcher for the home team and was solid through two innings, yielding just two walks and striking out two. It flipped in the third inning, however, when Andrew Knizner and Paul DeJong walked, and Ozuna’s monster three-run homer on a line-drive to left field gave the Cardinals the lead they would never lose.
Yadier Molina had unfamiliar head-to-head at-bats against Wainwright, since Molina wasn’t catching his pitches, rather he was trying to get a hit against his long-time teammate. The pitcher prevailed, as Molina grounded out in the second, and flied out in the third inning. The pair have been a starting battery for 242 career games, most all-time for St. Louis.
Both had history in the Battle of the Birds matchup with Wainwright starting the April 3, 2004 game for the Redbirds in a 5-1 defeat when he was a 23-year-old. Molina went 1-for-2 (HBP) in a 7-3 win playing for the Redbirds in the April 2, 2004 game.
St. Louis starter Wacha had a strong showing in four innings, allowing two hits, one run and adding five strikeouts, the latter a game-high.
Memphis showed signs of life in the bottom of the seventh after accruing only two hits in the first six innings. It started with Lane Thomas being hit by an Alex Reyes offering. Ramon Urias reached via a fielder’s choice against new pitcher Connor Jones as Thomas scored to make it 5-2. Jones later threw a wild pitch that enabled Brian O’Keefe to dash home from third base.
The game ended with smiles from both teams.
What is next
St. Louis looks to build from its strong spring finish as they head to Milwaukee to open the regular season in a Thursday afternoon matchup at 1:10 p.m. (CT). Meanwhile, Memphis has a 10-day wait until its home opener against Omaha. Redbirds manager Johnson is keen to work out the fundamentals with his team, while awaiting the final roster for opening day.
Frank Ramirez will be back each Friday this season with his weekly notebooks from AutoZone Park, covering the 2019 Memphis Redbirds, exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation.
Stay tuned for the final roster details for Memphis and all four Cardinals full-season minor league affiliates over the next week here at The Cardinal Nation.
Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation
Order The Cardinal Nation’s 190-page 2019 Prospect Guide now – available in PDF and printed book form, with a special 50% off deal for annual members.
Not yet a member?
Join The Cardinal Nation for the most comprehensive coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals from the majors through the entire minor league system.
© 2019 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.