Springfield Cardinals Notebook: 2011 Week 20

Springfield is just 1-8 in their last nine, falling out of Texas League playoff contention. Matt Adams' 30th home run set a franchise record.

Springfield hit the road for a six-game road trip, only two games out of first place in the Texas League North Division. At the end of the road trip, Springfield found themselves all but eliminated from the playoff race.

Last Wednesday, Springfield started the road trip against the best team in the Texas League, San Antonio.

In game one of the series, it was all San Antonio. Joe Kelly made the start and was roughed up a little, giving up three runs in five innings of work, on six hits. Nick Greenwood yielded three more runs, one of them unearned, in relief. Unfortunately, Springfield's offense was unable to even grab a single run, being shut out on five hits. Springfield dropped game one, 6-0.

In game two, Springfield sent Deryk Hooker to the mound for the first time since May 15. The righty worked 4 2/3 innings, giving up just one run on four hits, while only throwing 74 pitches, 51 for strikes. On this night, Hooker was not the story. Matt Adams hit two home runs, bringing his season total to 30. That set the new franchise single season home run record, as Adams passed Colby Rasmus. Rasmus hit 29 for Springfield in 2007.

Scott Schneider came out of the bullpen to relieve Hooker, and he worked a scoreless 1 1/3 innings. Jorge Rondon pitched the seventh inning, but he was only able to record one out, while giving up three runs on a hit and two walks. Rondon was tagged with the loss, as the Springfield offense was only able to scratch out two runs against the league's best pitching staff. Springfield lost game two, 6-2.

On Friday night, Springfield was looking to salvage at least one game in the series, but they were matched up against one of the league's best pitchers, Joe Wieland. Wieland was traded from the Texas Rangers to the Houston Astros, just one week after throwing a no-hitter for the Rangers' Double-A affiliate, the Frisco RoughRiders. Wieland continued his dominance, earning his second straight victory against the Cardinals, working five innings, giving up an unearned run on two hits. Wieland is now 6-0, with a 1.50 ERA in 10 Texas League starts, combined between Frisco and San Antonio.

John Gast took the loss, after tossing 5 2/3 innings, giving up three runs on six hits. Jim Rapoport collected the lone RBI in the game, as Springfield lost the ballgame, 4-1, as the Missions completed the sweep.

Suddenly finding themselves losers in all of their last five games, Springfield was hoping that a trip to Corpus Christi would help. In game one, Springfield sent Mike Blazek to the hill, and he gave up four runs in 5 2/3 innings of work, but did not factor in the decision.

Eric Duncan hit two home runs and drove in three, while Chris Swauger hit a home run and drove in two. Matt Adams also collected two RBI, bringing his season RBI total to 94.

After Springfield grabbed the lead in the top of the ninth inning, it looked like they were primed to end the losing skid. Instead, Jordan Swagerty blew his first save, yielding one run in 1 2/3 innings. Still tied in the bottom of the 11th, Jorge Rondon served up a bases-loaded single, to plate the winning run. Rondon was tagged with his seventh loss of the year.

On Sunday night, Springfield asked Arquimedes Nieto to end the six-game losing streak, Unfortunately, he was not up to the challenge. In his second start of the year for Springfield, Nieto was knocked around by the Hooks, giving up eight runs on eight hits, while walking three and striking out two.

Down 8-1 after four innings, the Springfield offense did their best to claw back into the game, as Zack Cox went 3-for-5 with two RBI, Travis Tartamella drove in two more and Eric Duncan and Jermaine Curtis both added an RBI. The hole that Nieto dug early on, was too deep to climb out of, as Springfield lost their seventh straight game, 9-6.

On Monday night, the Cardinals turned to Joe Kelly to break the skid. And break it he did. Kelly worked six very strong innings, only giving up one run on six hits, while striking out three.

The Cardinals offense supplied Kelly with just enough protection, as Zack Cox turned in another multi-hit performance, going 2-for-4, to raise his batting average to .312, and he hit his seventh home run of the season. Ryan Jackson and Chris Swauger both picked up an RBI.

The Springfield bullpen was able to hold the lead, as they received scoreless innings from Samuel Freeman and Nick Greenwood to set up Jordan Swagerty in the ninth. Swagerty pitched a scoreless frame, walking one and striking one out, as he notched his first Texas League save. Springfield ended the seven-game losing streak with a 4-1 victory.

On Tuesday, Springfield returned to Hammons Field for a short four-game homestand with the Northwest Arkansas Naturals.

The Cardinals sent Shelby Miller to the hill, in his return from a suspension for violating team rules. In his last start, Miller lasted only 2/3 of an inning, and things didn't start much better for Miller on Tuesday. He threw 31 pitches in the first, walking three and allowing two runs on one hit. He even balked a runner home from third. With the bullpen warming up, Miller struck out the Royals' number two prospect to end the inning, stranding two on base. From there, Miller settled in. He worked four innings, giving up two runs on two hits, while striking out three and walking three. Miller was working with a pitch count, and left the ballgame after the fourth inning.

Zack Cox carried the offense, going 2-for-3 with two home runs and three RBI. Cox raised his batting average to .316, which now leads the team. Thanks to Cox's second home run, the Cardinals carried a 4-3 lead into the seventh inning.

Jeff Lyman was in line for the victory after working 2 1/3 scoreless innings, walking one and striking one out. Lyman has lowered his ERA to 5.79, after it stood at 22.50 at the end of July. Lyman certainly pitched well enough for the win, but the bullpen blew yet another lead.

Since Jordan Swagerty pitched the night before, he was unavailable. So the Cardinals turned to Jorge Rondon, who was trying to notch his eighth save. Instead, he was tagged with his eighth loss, after he allowed two runs, one earned to score. Rondon was not helped out by the defense, as Jose Garcia committed an error. The Cardinals dropped game one to the Naturals, 5-4. Springfield has now lost eight of their last nine.

Who's Hot

Zack Cox - Cox is now leading the team with a .316 batting average and is hitting .408 in August. Over his last five games, Cox has four home runs and is 9-for-17. Cox is hitting .391 since July 1, which is the second highest batting average in the full season minor leagues during that period.

Jeff Lyman - Lyman owned a 22.50 ERA after two appearances in the month of July. In the month of August, he is 0-0 with a 3.00 ERA. He has allowed just one run in his last 8 2/3 innings, surrendering only two hits in that time.

How They Stack Up

Second half standings – Texas League North

W L PCT GB Home  Away  Div  Streak Last10
NW Arkansas 32 25 .561 - 17-10 15-15 18-15 W2 8-2
Arkansas 27 30 .474 5.0 15-13 12-17 15-18 L4 4-6
Tulsa  26 31 .456 6.0 14-15 12-16 18-15 W1 5-5
Springfield  24 33 .421 8.0 13-17 11-16 15-18 L1 2-8

The Cardinal Nation Top 40 Prospect Watch

#35 Francisco Samuel – Was placed on the disabled list after giving up two runs in the 10th inning and leaving the game due to apparent injury on Sunday.

#34 Ryan Jackson – Jackson is hitting just .238 in August, with a home run and 10 RBI. Jackson is now hitting .280 with 10 homers and 69 RBI on the season.

#33 Matt Adams –Adams set the new franchise single season home run record on the road trip, hitting his 30th home run of the season. His 30 homers pace the Texas League, as do his 94 RBI. Hit batting average has fallen off of late, but it still sits at .314, which is the highest batting average of any qualifying active Texas Leaguer. It is safe to say that Matt Adams is officially on Triple Crown watch.

#28 John Gast – Gast went 5 2/3 innings in his start, allowing three runs on six hits, while striking out three. He was tagged with the loss, his second of the season. The lefty is now just 2-2 with a 5.80 ERA on the road, but is 2-0 with a 1.69 ERA at home. Overall, Gast is 4-2 with a 4.04 ERA.

#27 Joe Kelly – Kelly earned the win his last time out, going six innings and only allowing one run on seven hits. He struck out three and walked one, as he provided the Springfield Cardinals the stoppers' performance that they so badly needed, as his victory ended a seven game skid. Kelly is now 4-4 with a 5.21 ERA. The right-hander is 3-1 with a 2.84 in four road starts.

#19 Tommy Pham – Is on the club's disabled list and out for the remainder of the season.

#18 Deryk Hooker – Making his first Springfield start since May 15, Hooker went 4 2/3 innings, surrendering one run on four hits. Hooker, on a pitch count, threw just 74 pitches in his return, and the results were very promising as he held baseball's best team in check. Hooker is now 1-4 on the season with a 5.66 ERA.

#2 Zack Cox – Cox was hitting .200 on June 30. He is now hitting .316. The left-handed hitter has been on an absolute tear since July the first. In that time, Cox is hitting .391, which is the second highest batting average in the full season baseball (MLB included) during that period. The third baseman still does not have enough plate appearances to qualify for the league leader board in batting average, but he is on pace for 390 plate appearances. Needing 378 to qualify at the end of the season, it appears possible that Cox could be the biggest challenger to teammate Matt Adams' quest for the Texas League Triple Crown.

#1 Shelby Miller – Miller had his worst start of the season last time out, only going 2/3 of an inning and getting pegged with his third Texas League loss. Coming off a suspension for violating team rules, Miller had another rocky first inning on Tuesday night. Throwing 31 pitches and walking three and allowing two runs on one hit caused the bullpen to begin to loosen. Miller limited the damage, getting out of the first with two runs scoring. He went four innings, giving up just the two runs on two hits, while striking out three. Miller is now 7-3 with a 3.05 ERA on the season.

Up Next

The Springfield Cardinals finish up a short four-game homestand against the Naturals, then head back out on the road for three with Arkansas and then four with Tulsa.

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