Springfield Cardinals Notebook: 2012 Week 5

Lefty starter John Gast gave the Cardinals 13 innings of work and allowed only two runs this week, contributing to Springfield's solid 5-2 record in week 5.

Springfield started week five riding two wins following a 10-game losing streak and searching for consistency. The first game of the period, as they continued their set with the Naturals, brought excitement and energy to the ballpark as the largest crowd of the year turned out at Hammons Field for the Cardinals' second of four World Series replica ring giveaway days.

Also adding to the excitement were the friendly and familiar faces of Chris Swauger and Jermaine Curtis, who returned to Double-A after starting the season with Memphis. The fans of Springfield really connected with these two last season and are excited to greet them back despite the demotion from Triple-A. The presence of the two also seemed to give the team a jolt as the club put together a solid week at 4-2.

Thursday, May 3rd. Springfield 3, NW Arkansas 4

Performing in front of their largest crowd of the season, the Cardinals were tangled in a pitching duel between lefty John Gast and the Naturals' Tim Melville. The game did not come down to starting pitching, though, as both starters turned in nearly identical lines with Gast going six innings and allowing five hits and giving up three runs, two of them earned. The Cardinals starter uncharacteristically struggled with his control, allowing four walks and giving up a home run to Wil Myers. The loss however, went to Jesse Simpson who yielded the winning run in the seventh on a solo home run to Sharlon Schoop. Jorge Rondon and Eric Fornataro each contributed a scoreless inning.

Most of Springfield's offense came via the long ball as two of their three runs were scored via solo shots from Xavier Scruggs and Audry Perez. Perez also added a single and was 2-for-4 on the evening. Kyle Conley added Springfield's third RBI but was 0-for-2. Chris Swauger, making his 2012 Springfield debut, was 1-for-4.

Friday, May 4th, Springfield 14, NW Arkansas 9

Finishing their home set with Northwest Arkansas and looking for the series win, the Cardinals handed the ball to Trevor Rosenthal. The right-hander gave the Cardinals a good start, allowing just two runs on six hits. However, Rosenthal was forced to leave the game after the fifth with an elevated pitch count. The bullpen was a little less solid as Justin Wright followed by yielding three runs in 1 1/3 innings pitched. Next was Scott Schneider, who delivered a scoreless 1 2/3 innings before turning the ball over to Kevin Thomas, who allowed four more runs, with only two earned.

The bullpen's shaky outing forced the offense's hand and the Cardinals hitters delivered. Jake Shaffer, whose bat caught fire in the game, led the charge, going 3-for-5 with two home runs and six RBIs and received unanimous player of the game honors. Jose Garcia also got in on the action, going 2-for-5 with his first home run of the season and two RBIs. Kyle Conley also added two hits and two RBIs giving him nine in 2012.

Saturday, May 5th, Springfield 4, Arkansas 2

Continuing their lengthy homestand, the Cardinals welcomed the Arkansas Travelers to Springfield for the first time this season. Looking to get back to his 2011 form, Michael Blazek took the hill and shut down the Travelers' lineup. Blazek gave the Cardinals a great performance, going six strong innings and allowing two runs on three hits and striking out six. Springfield really would like to see more of this from Blazek. He has been the most inconsistent starter so far this season but might be gaining form as his last two starts have been a lot better.

The bullpen was also strong in support of Blazek, rebounding from a shaky Friday, and giving the Cardinals three scoreless innings. Fornataro absorbed two of those innings allowing no hits and striking out one, followed by Keith Butler who picked up the save in one inning of scoreless work.

Offensively, the Cardinals only managed five hits, two which came off the bat of shortstop Greg Garcia, who was 2-for-3 with a solo home run and a double. Jake Schaffer added his third home run in two days with a solo shot in the fourth inning. Oscar Taveras contributed a single and his 24th RBI of the season.

Sunday, May 6th, Springfield 10, Arkansas 7

Sunday afternoon brought cool air and the threat of rain as clouds loomed overhead all day at Hammons Field. With starter Tyler Lyons taking the hill, the Cardinals seemed confident in their ability to continue their winning ways. Lyons gave the Cardinals just what they needed to build a lead by allowing only one earned run on six hits in six innings pitched. Once, Lyons left though, the bullpen struggled as Simpson pitched the 7th inning and allowed three runs followed by Jorge Rondon who gave up two more runs in the eighth. Keith Butler earned another save with a scoreless ninth.

The scary moment in this game came in the top of the eighth inning on a shallow Texas League fly ball off the bat of Casey Hearther to right-field. As the ball dropped, second baseman Jose Garcia and right fielder and top prospect Oscar Taveras both approached at full speed. Just as the ball fell in between them Garcia and Taveras collided, with Garcia's knee driving into Taveras' upper leg as Garcia flipped over the sliding right fielder.

Hammons Field quieted and Cardinals fans held their breath as they watched Taveras visibly in pain. You could have heard a pin drop in the stadium. After moments of waiting and attention from the Springfield medical staff, Taveras and Garcia both rose to applause of relief from the Springfield crowd. Taveras left the game and walked off the field directly to the locker room on his own power.

Springfield's offense had another solid game led by Taveras who went 2-for-2 with two walks and a three-run home run before leaving the game. Curtis and Swauger were both very comfortable at the plate, both going 4-for-5.

Monday, May 7th, Springfield 0, Arkansas 5

Scott Gorgen got the rock to start the Sunday afternoon game for the Cardinals. Gorgen, who has been fairly consistent all season, has recently fallen victim to a lack of run support from the Springfield offense. Sunday was no different as the Cardinals failed to back the righty with any runs as he gave up two earned runs on eight hits in five innings pitched but still took his third loss of the season. In relief of Gorgen, Justin Wright put up two scoreless innings followed by Kevin Thomas who gave up two more runs as Springfield fell 5-0.

The offense managed to scrape out 10 hits but failed to get a run across, going a total of 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position. Jermaine Curtis, Audry Perez and Adam Melker each had multi-hit games going 3-for-4, 2-for-4, and 2-for-3 respectively. Curtis and Perez, each with doubles, had the team's only extra base hits.

Tuesday, May 8th, Springfield 4, Arkansas 0

Springfield ended the homestand with a noon matchup with Arkansas. Lefty Gast made the start for the second time in week five and delivered a gem of an outing. Gast was brilliant in the afternoon heat as he went seven strong innings, allowing only five hits and holding the Travelers scoreless and earning his fourth win on the season. The bullpen was just as sharp, holding Arkansas hitless through the last two innings by Sam Freeman and Fornataro. ,p> A huge sigh of relief in this game was the return of phenom Oscar Taveras, who missed only one game after the collision with Garcia. Taveras had an immediate impact, hitting a monster three-run home run that cleared the training facility in right field late in the game to cushion a one run lead and ensure the win for the Cardinals.

Who's Hot

Jermaine Curtis - The infielder is 8-for-17 with three triples in four games back with Springfield.

Oscar Taveras - Even with the injury scare, Taveras continues to hit. The 19-year-old now own a .331 average with nine home runs and 30 RBIs in 30 games.

Jake Shaffer - Shaffer's bat caught fire this week as he hit three home runs to go with seven RBIs for the week.

John Gast - The lefty hurler has regained his form, allowing just two earned runs in 13 innings of work this period.

Who's Not

Jesse Simpson - The Cardinals were unable to count on the reliever this week as he allowed four earned runs in one inning of work over two appearances. He was placed on the disabled list following his most recent outing.

Xavier Scruggs – The first baseman continues to struggle, hitting just .189 and slugging .315 on the season. He struck out three more times on the week without taking a walk at the plate.

Injury Report

The scare with the Taveras and Garcia collision turned out to be nothing more than a deep bruise and soreness. In speaking with Taveras, he said he will likely be sore for several weeks but he is playing on the leg and hitting for power, so that is a good sign.

Second baseman Kolten Wong had earlier left Sunday's game after rolling an ankle. His status is day to day. Neal Pritchard was brought up from Florida as insurance though Wong was not placed on the disabled list.

Team Transactions

May 3 - OF Chris Swauger - Received from Memphis
May 4 - OF Rainel Rosario - Sent to Palm Beach
May 4 - INF Jermaine Curtis - Received from Memphis
May 4 - INF Niko Vasquez - Sent to Palm Beach
May 6 - C Audry Perez - Reinstated from Inactive List
May 6 - C Kleininger Teran - Placed on DL
May 6 - RHP Jesse Simpson - Placed on DL
May 6 - INF Neal Pritchard - Received from Extended Spring Training

Division Standings

Texas League North W L PCT GB Home Away L10 Streak
Tulsa Drillers (COL) 21 11 .656 - 12-2 9-9 5-5 W1
NW Arkansas Naturals (KC) 16 16 .500 5.0 13-5 3-11 5-5  L1
Springfield Cardinals (STL) 14 18 .438 7.0 11-7 3-11 6-4 W1
Arkansas Travelers (LAA) 13 19 .406 8.0 8-6 5-13 4-6  L1

The Cardinal Nation Top 40 Prospect Watch

#3 Oscar Taveras - The teenage phenom's line speaks for itself. Taveras owns a .331 average to go with a .678 slugging percentage, nine home runs and 30 RBI through 30 games played.

#4 Kolten Wong - The first-rounder has been a quiet contributor. Though he did not have any RBIs on the week, Wong is still hitting .320 and leads the team with six stolen bases and 22 runs scored.

#12 Trevor Rosenthal – Rosenthal continues to improve as he has lowered his ERA to 3.82.

#21 John Gast – Gast allowed just two earned runs in 13 innings pitched this week, lowering his ERA to 2.08 and improving his record to 4-2.

#31 Jermaine Curtis - The infielder fresh out of Triple-A is tearing up Double-A pitching, hitting 8-for-17 with three doubles in his first four games back with Springfield.

#34 Sam Freeman - The lefty reliever is continuing his success as he did not allow a run again this week, improving his ERA to 1.10 in the setup role.

#38 Keith Butler – Butler has been successful in the closer role, earning three saves in his last three appearances.

What's Next

The Cardinals hit the road on Thursday to make the trip again to Springdale, Arkansas to face the Northwest Arkansas Naturals for a four-game series before they head to Little Rock for a four-game rematch with the Travelers. Springfield will look to build on the momentum from the 6-2 homestand to get through their tour of Arkansas.

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