Springfield opened up a four-game set with the Arkansas Travelers at Hammons Field on Saturday. This was the Cardinals' first chance to take a look at the Angels' top prospect, Mike Trout. It didn't take too long to figure out that Trout as good as advertised. In the very first at-bat of the series, he cranked a fly ball to centerfield and over the yellow line, only to have it brought back by Tommy Pham, as he took away a home run. The Cardinals built on the momentum from Pham's catch in the top half of the inning, with a two-run home run off of the bat of Matt Adams. The Cardinals carried a 4-2 lead into the top of the ninth inning, with Matt Frevert on the mound, serving as the closer while Casey Mulligan is on the mend. Frevert retired the first two that he faced, before hitting Trout, walking the next man then giving up a three run go-ahead home run to Ryan Mount. The Travelers took game one 5-4.
Game two of the series, unfortunately enough, looked very similar. The Cardinals carried a 6-2 lead into the ninth inning, thanks to a three-run homer by Niko Vasquez. Not in a save situation, the Cardinals turned to Brett Zawacki. Trout hit a two-run home run that almost hit the scoreboard in deep left-center field, to narrow the Cardinals lead to 6-4. Zawacki was pulled from the game with one out in the ninth inning and the tying run still 180 feet from home plate. Jesse Simpson blew the save, allowing the tying run to score before giving up a grand slam. The Cardinals dropped game two, 10-6, after an eight-run ninth inning for Arkansas.
On Monday night, the Cardinals offense provided another lead for the bullpen to try and protect. Both Matt Adams and Chris Swauger hit home runs and the Cardinals led 4-3 going to the ninth. Again the Cardinals turned to Frevert to try and shut it down. Frevert again had two out and nobody on and again would be tagged with a blown save after giving up a game tying home run to Jay Brossman. This time though, the Cardinals bullpen kept it a tie game, but it wouldn't be until the 11th inning that someone was next able to cross the plate. Eric Duncan reached on an error, and went first to third on a base hit by Alan Ahmady to right field, which set the table for Jermaine Curtis. Curtis lined the game-winner down the right field line for a walk off single. Earlier in the game, Maikel Cleto made his Double-A debut, throwing a scoreless inning, allowing a hit and walking one while striking out one. He touched 100 twice on the Hammons Field radar gun. Cleto is scheduled to make his first start on Friday.
After three straight blown saves by the Cardinals relievers, one could understand the uneasy mood in the ballpark as the Cardinals called down to the ‘pen in the ninth inning for Jesse Simpson, who blew a save in game two of the series. The Cardinals built their 3-1 lead thanks to home runs by Jose Garcia and Niko Vasquez. After allowing a leadoff single, Simpson induced a double play before Trout singled to left, his third hit of the ballgame. Simpson retired the next batter however, to earn his first save of the year.
Mike Blazek – Blazek has now won each of his last three starts. After allowing nine home runs in his first four outings, he hasn't allowed a long ball in his past two starts. Blazek has given up just three earned runs in his last 12.2 innings, while striking out seven over that span.
Nick Greenwood - Greenwood continues to impress. The lefty has given up just one earned run in 15.2 innings since being called up from Palm Beach. He is now 1-0 with an ERA of 0.57.
The Cardinals in save situations - The bullpen blew three straight saves, two belonging to Matt Frevert. The Cardinals relievers allowed 12 runs in the ninth inning alone in the four-game series with Arkansas.
Cardinal Nation Top 40 Prospect Watch
#40 Niko Vasquez – Vasquez has started to show signs of life at the plate. He is hitting .235 with two home runs and six RBI in his last five games, to bring his season line to .212, four home runs and 15 RBI.
#36 Tyler Henley – Was released prior to the start of the homestand.
#34 Ryan Jackson – Jackson is coming off a tremendous month of April, in which he was named the organization's Player of the Month. He has slowed considerably in the month of May. He is hitting just .139 with one homer and two RBI in his last ten games. His average on the season stands at .284.
#33 Matt Adams – Adams continues to torch Texas League pitching. He is hitting .368 with four home runs and seven RBI in his last five games and he has already reached double digits in home runs after hitting his 10th of the season on this homestand. Adams is currently averaging a home run every 12.3 at bats.
#31 Steven Hill – On the club's 7-day disabled list. Rehabbing in Jupiter, FL but not yet appearing in games.
#23 David Kopp – On the club's 7-day disabled list. Rehabbing in Jupiter, FL and pitching in extended spring training games.
#19 Tommy Pham – Pham has cooled off in his past five games, hitting .238 over that span, but he had been on quite the tear. He is now hitting .284 and has five home runs and 11 RBI out of the leadoff spot for the Springfield. Pham's on-base percentage is up to .375.
#18 Deryk Hooker – Hooker parlayed a tremendous start against Northwest Arkansas into the Texas League Pitcher of the Week honors. Hooker went seven innings against the Naturals, and he didn't allow a run, while giving up just two hits and striking out four. He followed up that performance against Arkansas, going five innings and giving up three earned runs. Hooker would get a no decision. The righty is 1-3 with a 6.46 ERA on the season.
The Springfield Cardinals have a rare off day in the middle of a homestand Wednesday, before opening up a four game set with the Arkansas Travelers on Thursday.
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