Springfield Cardinals Notebook: 2011 Week 9

After a rough start, the Double-A Cardinals are just two games out of first, but have more injuries to Tommy Pham and Matt Adams.

The Springfield Cardinals hit the road after a very nice homestand in which they won four of six against the same two teams that they were heading down to Texas to face.

Springfield opened a three-game series with the Corpus Christi Hooks, a team that they swept a week prior, with a crushing 6-5 defeat. The Cardinals trailed 5-4 entering the ninth inning, but rallied to tie the game, only to lose on a walkoff home run surrendered by Nick Greenwood. Matt Adams returned to the lineup and was 4-for-5, while Alex Castellanos hit his 13th home run of the season.

On Thursday, Springfield bounced back from the tough to swallow loss the night before, as they trashed the Hooks 9-1. The offensive onslaught was powered by only one home run, hit by Eric Duncan, his second of the season. Duncan finished with three RBI in the game, while both Matt Adams and Alex Castellanos notched two RBI. Mike Blazek was stellar in his performance, going seven innings and only giving up one run, while striking out eight. Blazek was given the win, as he improved his record to 6-2.

In the rubber match of the series on Friday night, the top prospect in the organization, Shelby Miller, made his Double-A debut. Miller certainly did not disappoint. He struck out the first man that he faced and retired the Hooks in order in the inning. Miller would go six innings and only give up one run in his debut, while striking out five, which was good enough to earn his first Texas League victory. Matt Adams hit his 15th home run of the year and Springfield took the series, winning 3-1.

After the trip to San Antonio, the Cardinals opened up their series with the Missions with 6-4 victory, their third in a row. David Kopp earned the win, improving his record to 2-2, as he went six innings, gave up seven hits and struck out five. Ryan Jackson and Alex Castellanos provided the offense. Jackson was 3-for-3 with three RBI and Alex Castellanos hit a two-run home run, his 14th of the year.

Going for their fourth victory in a row on Sunday, the Cardinals carried a 3-2 lead into the ninth inning. Coming in to try and nail down the save was Jorge Rondon, who got the save on Saturday in his Double-A debut. This time, he took the blown save and the loss, as the Missions scored twice in the ninth to win 4-3. That ruined a solid start from Scott Schneider, in which he went six innings, giving up just one run on five hits while striking out five.

In the rubber match on Monday, Springfield didn't have to worry about blowing a lead late, as they never had a lead to protect and one could argue they were never really in the game. A seven-run first inning took most of the wind out of sails of the Cardinals' offense. Kevin Thomas started, and only went 1/3 of an inning, as all seven runs in the first inning went on his tab. He took the loss, which dropped his record to 1-3 on the season.

Who's Hot

Eric Duncan – The Cardinals have been waiting for Eric Duncan's bat to warm up ever since he was assigned to Springfield. In his last ten games, Duncan is hitting .345 with a home run and six RBI. He is still only hitting .242 on the season, but there are signs that the former first rounder is starting to heat up.

Mike Blazek – Blazek is 2-0, with three earned runs against him in his last 12 innings on the hill. Blazek was leading the Texas League in home runs surrendered earlier, but he has not allowed a home run since May 16, and has just one in his last 33 2/3 innings. He had given up nine home runs in his first 24 1/3 innings to start the season.

Who's Not

Kevin Thomas – After being one of the hottest pitchers on the roster, Thomas has been shelled his last two trips to the hill. Thomas is 0-1, with 10 earned runs against him in his last 5 1/3 innings. He lasted just 1/3 of an inning last time out, giving up seven runs.

Around the Texas League

Alex Castellanos – Castellanos is ninth in the Texas League with a .317 batting average, is tied for second in home runs and is fourth in slugging.

Matt Adams – Adams owns the third best batting average in the league and is leading the league in home runs and is second in runs batted in while leading the league in slugging percentage.

Mike Blazek – Is tied for the league lead with six wins.

Nick Greenwood – Greenwood is second with seven holds.

How They Stack Up

The Springfield Cardinals are 10-6 in their last 16 games and have ridden the wave of a rejuvenated offense, with the arrival of Zack Cox and the return of Steven Hill, and a much improved pitching staff, to get back into the Texas League North race. But their work will be cut out for them with injuries to Matt Adams and Tommy Pham. A look at the standings:

Texas League North Standings

W L PCT GB Home  Away  Div  Strk Last10
NW Arkansas 26 25 0.510 - 12-13 14-12 14-13 W2 4-6
Tulsa 28 27 0.509 - 14-14 14-13 17-14 L3 4-6
Arkansas 25 26 0.490 1 15-11 10-15 13-14 W1 5-5
Springfield 26 29 0.473 2 12-15 14-14 14-17 L2 5-5

The Cardinal Nation Top 40 Prospect Watch

#34 Ryan Jackson – Jackson followed a landmark April with a dreadful May. June is off to a pretty good start for Jackson. He is hitting .278 with four RBI in his first five games of this month. He is now hitting .249 with three home runs and 23 RBI on the season. The shortstop also has 23 doubles.

#33 Matt Adams – Adams was red hot on the road trip, hitting an unreal .588 with a homer and four driven in to start the month, but then an injury ended his road trip. Many expect Adams to be out around two weeks with an oblique injury.

#31 Steven Hill – Back for his first road trip since coming back off of the disabled list, Hill was just 2-for-12 (.167) on the road trip with just one RBI.

#23 David Kopp – Kopp earned the victory in his only start on the road trip, going six innings and surrendering three earned runs on seven hits while striking out five. Kopp is now 2-2, with a 5.74 ERA on the season. The Cardinals are still waiting for Kopp, a 12-game winner a season ago, to return to his 2010 form.

# 19 Tommy Pham – Pham was 4-for-16 on the road trip before being placed on the club's disabled list.

#18 Deryk Hooker – On the club's disabled list.

#2 Zack Cox – Cox had a tough first road trip in the Texas League… at least by his standards. Cox was just 5-for-24 (.208) with an RBI. He is now hitting .250 with one home run and five RBI. He still owns a .353 on-base percentage, despite the rough stretch.

#1 Shelby Miller – It's tough to imagine that much more could have been expected of Shelby Miller than what he delivered. In his first start of his Double-A career, Miller went six innings, giving up only one run on seven hits while striking out five. Miller will make his next start on Friday, his first in front of the Springfield faithful. Miller is 1-0 with a 1.50 ERA for Springfield.

Up Next

The Springfield Cardinals come home for a short four-day, five-game homestand against the Tulsa Drillers, who are currently tied for first in the division. The Cardinals will head out of Springfield after the game on Saturday, before taking on the Arkansas Travelers on Sunday, to start a four-game series with the Travelers.

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