Springfield Cardinals Notebook: 2011 Week 6

The Cardinals' Double-A club were swept at home but Chris Swauger is taking advantage of increased playing time.

The Springfield Cardinals' four-game home series with the Northwest Arkansas Naturals did not go the way the Cardinals would have liked, as the Naturals swept Springfield.

In game one, the Cardinals carried a 3-1 lead into the fifth inning thanks to a three-run home run off of the bat of Chris Swauger. Just three outs away from an official game, the rains came pouring down. After a two-hour rain delay, the rain finally washed out the game and washed away the stats…and possibly a Cardinals victory.

On Friday night, the Cardinals jumped out to a lead behind home runs from Niko Vasquez and Ryan Jackson. The first start of Mikael Cleto's Double-A career generated a lot of attention, and he received mixed reviews. Cleto pitched five innings, giving up three earned runs on five hits and struck out five. Known for his velocity, he didn't disappoint, sitting mainly in the high nineties. Carrying a 5-4 lead into the eighth inning, Springfield turned to one of their most reliable relievers, Nick Greenwood. Greenwood entered the game with a 0.56 ERA, but after giving up a go-ahead three-run home run to Nick Van Stratten to deep left centerfield, his ERA would sit at 2.16. Another blown save sank Springfield's hopes on Friday night, as they lost, 7-5.

On Saturday, the Cardinals bullpen wouldn't blow the lead as the Springfield bats couldn't muster much against Northwest Arkansas' starter, highly-touted 20-year-old lefty, John Lamb. Lamb silenced the Cardinals bats, going six innings and only giving up a home run to Eric Duncan. Three scoreless innings out of the Naturals bullpen was all it took to give Northwest Arkansas the game, 5-1.

On a double-dip Sunday, the Cardinals were once again kept pretty quiet offensively speaking. Northwest Arkansas received another solid effort from a member of their starting staff, as lefty Will Smith earned the complete game shutout, going seven innings and only giving up four hits. Deryk Hooker was the tough-luck loser, as he put together another nice outing, going six innings and surrendering three runs on six hits. He struck out five and earned a quality start. But without offense, his effort resulted in his fourth loss of the season.

In game two of the doubleheader, the Springfield bats came alive for four runs. Unfortunately Northwest Arkansas scored eight. Springfield did get two RBI apiece from Matt Adams and Alex Castellanos. Castellanos' RBI came on his seventh homer of the year. Without much help elsewhere in the lineup, Northwest Arkansas completed the sweep of the doubleheader and the series, winning 8-4.

Trying desperately to break out of their four game losing streak, Springfield headed out for Little Rock, Arkansas early Monday morning. Later that evening, the Cardinals broke out of their losing streak and their offensive slump, outslugging the Travelers 12-6. Matt Adams was the only Cardinals starter not to collect a hit. Alex Castellanos hit his eighth home run of the season and collected three RBI. The Cardinals offensive outbreak gave Mike Blazek his fourth victory on the season.

On Tuesday night, the Cardinals made it two in a row, thanks in large part to Matt Adams. Adams collected four RBI in the game, running his season total up to 36. The Cardinals received two RBI from Jermaine Curtis, who was given his second straight start in the leadoff spot that has been empty with the loss of Tommy Pham to injury. Scott Schneider earned the victory, despite the fact that he gave up six earned runs over six innings. Nick Greenwood returned to his dominant form, working two scoreless innings out of the bullpen to earn his first save of the season.

Who's Hot

Alex Castellanos – Castellanos missed a couple of games after being hit by a pitch, but the Cardinals are certainly happy to have him back. The outfielder is hitting .538 with two home runs and five RBI in his past five games.

Chris Swauger – Swauger has been taking advantage of more playing time. He is hitting .429 with two RBI over his last five games and .360 with a home run over his last ten. Swauger also had a three-run homer washed away with the rain last Thursday.

Richard Castillo – Castillo is 1-0 and has allowed just one earned run over 5.1 innings in his last four appearances.

Kevin Thomas – Thomas may have been bounced from the starting rotation, but he has only allowed one run in his last 12 innings pitched. Thomas did start game two of the doubleheader and is expected to serve in the long relief role for the near future.

Who's Not

Alan Ahmady – Ahmady is off to a slow start in the Texas League. He is hitting just .152 since being called up from Palm Beach. Ahmady has only two RBI, and has struck out eight times.

The Cardinal Nation Top 40 Prospect Watch

#40 Niko Vasquez – Vasquez is hitting .257 over his last 10 games, but he does have three home runs and seven RBI. Vasquez is still trying to overcome a slow start, as his average sits at .222 with five homers and 18 RBI.

#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 during May. He is hitting just .196 with two homers and seven RBI this month and is hitting just .211 over his last five games.

#33 Matt Adams – Adams has been held homerless his last five games and is hitting .278 over that span. However, his RBI totals continue to climb. He now has 34 RBI and 10 home runs on the season and owns a .313 batting average.

#31 Steven Hill – On the club's disabled list with a knee injury.

#23 David Kopp – Kopp made his first start of the season on Saturday, going only 3.2 innings before he reached his pitch limit. Kopp took the loss after giving up three earned runs on five hits.

#19 Tommy Pham – On the club's disabled list with a shoulder injury.

#18 Deryk Hooker – The reigning Texas League Pitcher of the Week took the loss in Sunday's game one, despite earning a quality start. He went six innings and allowed three runs against the Naturals. He is now 1-4 with a 6.14 ERA with 27 strikeouts compared to 14 walks in 36.2 innings and opponents are hitting .288 against him.

Up Next

The Springfield Cardinals finish off a four-game series in Little Rock on Thursday before heading to Tulsa for a four-game set with the Drillers.

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