Springfield Cardinals Notebook: 2012 Week 4

Oscar Taveras remained the most consistent member of the Cardinals offense during the team's 2-5 week. The outfielder raised his average to .333 with seven home runs and 23 RBI on the season and earned April Player of the Month honors.

The Springfield Cardinals entered the week in the middle of eight games on the road against the Northwest Arkansas Naturals and the Tulsa Drillers. Unfortunately, after losing five consecutive to end last week, the Cardinals dropped five more in a row to begin this week and found themselves in a 10-game hole in the division as they searched for some consistency in both pitching and offense. On Tuesday, the Cards returned home and found some pop from their offense as they finally broke the streak and salvaged two wins to end the week.

Thursday, April 26th, Springfield 3 at NW Arkansas 6

Riding their longest losing streak of the season, Springfield looked to avoid a series sweep by Northwest Arkansas by sending Tyler Lyons to the mound for an afternoon matchup against the Naturals' Justin Marks. Lyons did not give the Cards a strong outing, giving up five runs on 10 hits in 5 1/3 innings pitched, including three runs in the first inning.

The Cardinals' offense attempted to dig their way out of the hole after being down 4-0 but were only able to muster five hits and they went 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position. Oscar Taveras had two of the Cardinals' five hits including a solo home run in the 8th inning. Kolten Wong and Jose Garcia drove in the other two runs as Springfield dropped their sixth straight, 6-3.

Friday, April 27th, Springfield 1 at Tulsa 5

Looking, for a fresh start off their six game losing streak, Springfield made the short trip over to Tulsa to start a four-game set with the Drillers on Friday. Scott Gorgen gave the Cardinals hope, allowing only one run through a solid first five innings. Gorgen, much like his last outing, seemed to hit a wall in the 6th inning as he yielded four runs, leaving the Cardinals down 5-1 through 5 2/3 innings. Jesse Simpson entered the game to finish the 6th and Eric Fornataro held the Drillers hitless through the next two innings.

The Cardinals again struggled to generate much offense as they managed only one run on five hits and went 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position. Gorgen did his best to help himself as he drove in the only run for Springfield. Kolten Wong and Audry Perez were each 2-for-4 as the struggling birds dropped the series opener for their seventh straight loss.

Saturday, April 28th, Springfield 2 at Tulsa 3

Searching for consistency, the Cards looked to John Gast, who has been their ace, to help break the losing streak. Instead, the lefty gave the Cardinals his shortest outing of the season, allowing three runs on five hits in five innings pitched for his second consecutive loss. Kevin Thomas and Jorge Rondon added scoreless relief appearances.

The Cardinals again weren't able to back Gast's performance with much offense as they scored only two runs on a 2-for-9 night with runners in scoring position. Taveras went 2-for-3 with a double in the loss as Wong and Kyle Conley drove in the only runs for the Double-A Birds. Jake Schaffer added a pinch-hit double in the 8th.

Sunday, April 29th, Springfield 2 at Tulsa 3

Still looking to get on track, righty Trevor Rosenthal took the mound in a matchup with the Drillers' Dan Houston. Rosenthal went 5 1/3 innings allowing three runs on three hits while striking out four, but was wild as he walked six batters and hit another. Keith Butler and Sam Freeman each pitched a scoreless inning in relief to hold Tulsa to three runs, giving the offense a chance for a win.

The Cardinals' offense remained quiet early in the game until Kyle Conley, who was 2-for-4 on the day, hammered his third home run, a solo shot in the sixth. Taveras drove in the only other run for Springfield in the eighth with his sixth home run. Third baseman Niko Vasquez, who has been off to a slow start in 2012, went 2-for-4 with a double for Springfield's other extra base hit. Second baseman Wong went hitless and saw his average dip below .300 for the first time as the Cardinals fell short for their ninth consecutive loss.

Monday, April 30th, Springfield 2 at Tulsa 3

Hoping to shake the lengthy losing streak, Michael Blazek took the bump to wrap up the four game series at Tulsa. Blazek turned in his best start this season, allowing no runs and only two hits in six innings pitched. Supporting Blazek's strong performance, Freeman and Butler once again turned in scoreless frames. With a outstanding pitching performance through eight innings, it looked like the Cardinals were going to shake the losing streak and they were only two outs away when Jorge Rondon, who entered the game in the ninth inning gave up a massive walk-off three-run home run to Tulsa's Mike Zuanich. Zuanich's home run handed the Cardinals their 10th consecutive loss as the Cardinals slipped to 8-16 on the season, 10 games out of the first-half division race.

Not only did the Cardinals drop their 10th straight but their third straight by the score of 3-2. In the loss, Conley and Taveras once again drove in the only runs for Springfield. The youngster Taveras continued his hot hitting, going 2-for-3 with a RBI double. Shortstop Jose Garcia also added his sixth double of the season.

Tuesday, May 1st, Springfield 12, NW Arkansas 5

On Tuesday the Cardinals returned to the friendly grounds of Hammons Field to face the Northwest Arkansas Naturals, who finished the sweep of the Cardinals just four days earlier in Springdale. Fans entered the gate asking for the Cardinals to break their losing streak and the team seemed desperate to shake the slump as well.

Tyler Lyons was handed the ball with the task of holding the Naturals' offense and giving the Cards a good shot to win. Lyons accepted the challenge and seemed very focused as he delivered his best performance of the season. Lyons went six innings and allowed only one run on four hits and struck out a season-high seven batters. Once Lyons left the game, the Cardinals pitching began to unravel as reliever Scott Schneider gave a strong seventh inning but gave up a early run in the eighth and was responsible for two more base runners when Mario Lisson took Jesse Simpson deep over the left field fence later in the inning. Luckily, the Cardinals' offense had provided a nice cushion and stability was restored as Justin Wright entered the game in the ninth and threw a scoreless inning to close the much-needed win.

Most impressive in the victory was the Cardinals bats that seemed to catch fire with the warm night at Hammons Field. The offense came out of the gates quickly as the lineup batted around and drove in six runs in the first inning, including a two-run double from catcher Audry Perez and a two-run triple from shortstop Greg Garcia. Garcia made careful consideration for going home after an errant throw on the relay from right field. The second inning opened with just as much excitement as Wong singled to lead off before being driven in on Taveras' seventh home run on the season - a line-drive shot that narrowly cleared the right field fence. Taveras later added a single and a stolen base. Not letting down their guard, the Birds continued to pile on the offense as they added two runs in the third and two more in the eighth. Wong seemed to get back on track at the plate as he went 3-for-4 with three singles, a walk, and a RBI in the impressive win for the Cardinals.

Wednesday, May 2nd, Springfield 2, NW Arkansas 1

At noon on Wednesday, the Cards and Naturals were back in the action in front of a large weekday afternoon crowd comprised mostly of students from southwest Missouri area schools who attended the Cardinals' Healthy Living Education Day presentation before the game. Once the action started, it had a very different look from Tuesday night's game as righty Gorgen took the hill looking to stifle the Naturals' bats. Gorgen worked slowly in the hot afternoon sun but was very strong in his five innings, allowing no runs on four hits even working his way out of a bases-loaded jam in the second inning. Northwest Arkansas' only run came in the seventh, when Kevin Thomas, who worked two innings in relief, gave up a solo home run to straight away center field to Carlo Testa. Sam Freeman, who earned the win, and Keith Butler, who earned the save, each threw a scoreless inning for Springfield.

The Cardinals, who had 10 hits in the win, had almost as much difficulty getting runs across the plate, going 1-for-14 with runners in scoring position. Catcher Nick Derba, who was 2-for-4 on the day, had the only RBI for Springfield as he answered Testa's home run in the next half of the inning with a solo shot of his own. The winning run scored in the eighth as Jake Schaffer, who went 2-for-3, crossed the plate on a wild pitch thrown by Blaine Hardy. Wong was also 2-for-3 on the day and added his fifth stolen base.

Who's Hot

Oscar Taveras - The 19-year old outfielder is absolutely raking as he collected the Cardinals' minor league Player of the Month honors for the month of April and the same honor from The Cardinal Nation. This week, the slugger hit two more home runs and added five more RBI while striking out only once for the week.

Kyle Conley - Springfield's newest addition has been impressive since he joined the Double-A team as the outfielder has hit .297 with three home runs and five RBI through 10 games.

Kolten Wong - While the second baseman struggled mildly through the beginning of the week, he redeemed himself in the last two of games, going 6-for-8 and raising his average back to .333 on the season.

Sam Freeman - The lefty out of Kansas did not allow a run in his three appearances this week and lowered his team-leading ERA to 1.20.

Who's Not

Xavier Scruggs - The fan favorite 24-year old slugger continues to struggle, collecting just three hits in the past week. Scruggs is now hitting .162 with 31 strikeouts and only 16 hits on the season.

Scott Schneider - The reliever made his first appearance since April 24th and was roughed up again, allowing three runs which raised his ERA to 14.00.

Injuries

Outfielder Tommy Pham, who was originally thought to be able to return to action this season had season ending surgery on his right shoulder last week and will not return in 2012. This marks the second year in a row that Pham has missed a majority of the season.

Division Standings

Texas League North W L PCT GB Home Away L 10 Streak
Tulsa Drillers (COL) 19 7 .731 - 12-2 7-5 8-2 W1
NW Arkansas Naturals (KC) 12 14 .462 7.0 10-4 2-10 7-3 L2
Arkansas Travelers (LAA) 11 15 .423 8.0 7-5 4-10 3-7 L1
Springfield Cardinals (STL) 10 16 .385 9.0 7-5 3-11 2-8 W2

The Cardinal Nation Top 40 Prospect Watch

#3 Oscar Taveras - Taveras now has fans anxious to see what kind of numbers he will put up this season as he now has an organization-leading seven home runs to go with 23 RBI and 18 extra base hits, accompanied by a .333 average and .667 slugging percentage through 102 at-bats.

#4 Kolten Wong - Now hitting .329 on the season, Wong has shown an ability to hit both left and right handed pitching with a .324 and .333 batting average respectively.

#12 Trevor Rosenthal – Rosenthal has lowered his ERA to 3.86 on the season. Perhaps his most impressive statistic is his .071 opponent batting average with runners in scoring position. However, the starter needs gain more control as he has walked 17 batters through his first five starts.

#21 John Gast – After a sharp start to the season, Gast has lost two consecutive starts and saw his ERA rise to 2.30 though he still sports a .193 ERA versus right-handed batters.

#23 Tommy Pham – Pham will miss the remainder of the season due to injury for the second consecutive year.

#30 Raniel Rosario – After a hot start to the season, Rosario is now hitting .214 with 23 strikeouts in 56 at-bats.

#34 Sam Freeman - Thriving in the set-up role, Freeman now has a 1.20 ERA in 12 appearances while holding lefties to a .167 opponent batting average.

#38 Keith Butler – Butler has consistently been a solid reliever to whom the Cardinals look when needing a scoreless inning. In 11 appearances, Butler holds a 2.70 ERA.

What's Next

The Cardinals continue their four-game set with the Naturals on Thursday and Friday as they look to put together a winning streak after ending their 10-game losing streak on Tuesday. On Thursday, John Gast will be handed the ball as he looks to bounce back from his last outing. Thursday will also mark the second of four World Series replica ring giveaways at Hammons Field and a large turnout is expected much like the first giveaway on April 19th. On Saturday, the Cardinals will continue their eight-game homestand as they receive a four-game visit from the Arkansas Travelers in their first matchup this season.

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