Springfield Cardinals Notebook: 2012 Week 10

Texas League Player of the Week Oscar Taveras and Kolten Wong continue to be a huge part of the Cardinals' success as they battle for the division title after their 4-3 week.

As I mentioned last week, it's very exciting for fans watching players play for St. Louis that came through Springfield because you never know who is going to be that next person. Watching another 2011 Springfield Cardinal, Joe Kelly, make his MLB debut on Sunday leaves that fans also wondering who and when that will be. The fun part is that one of the players that the fans are currently seeing Springfield this year may catch on for a breakout season and end up helping in the rotation the following year like Kelly.

Another exciting thing to recognize about players in Double-A is their aptitude for winning. The players that contributed to winning the World Series St. Louis last season had a great drive for victory. Many of them were a part of a winning ball club in Springfield in 2007 and even some playoff ball clubs in Memphis since then. It's a well-known fact that minor league baseball is not about winning or losing but developing players, but some of that development has to come by being thrown in the middle of a playoff race and seeing how those players react.

After Springfield absorbed a tough 10-game losing streak early in the year, they have battled back and are in the thick of the division race again, leaving fans with an excitement as they watch players learn how to win.

Thursday, June 7th, Springfield 4 at Tulsa 6

The Cardinals, just three games out of first place after their Wednesday night win over the Drillers, took to the field again in Tulsa hoping to gain another game on the first place squad. Seth Maness, who had been phenomenal in all his starts at Double-A thus far, was given the start. This time, Maness was not his usual self and gave, by far his worst start in Double-A. Making it only through the fourth inning, Maness allowed nine hits and three earned runs but avoided a loss as he left with the game tied after the fourth inning. Instead, Chris Corrigan ended up on the hook as he threw the fifth inning and allowed two runs on three hits to the Drillers. Following Corrigan, Justin Wright tossed a scoreless sixth and seventh and Jesse Simpson rounded up the Cardinals pitching with a scoreless eighth inning.

Cardinals hitters collected 10 hits in the contest, six of which came off the bats of Jermaine Curtis, Jake Shaffer, and Greg Garcia, who each had two hits. Shaffer added an RBI on a solo home run in the fourth inning. The other three Springfield runs were driven in by Kyle Conley, who collected a three-run double in the first inning, his seventh two-bagger of the season.

Friday, June 8th, Springfield 5 at Tulsa 1

After dropping Thursday night's contest, the Cardinals needed to take the next two games on the road against the Drillers to stay in the first half division race. Trevor Rosenthal was handed the responsibility. Rosenthal continued his recent success and went deeper into the game, totaling seven innings while surrendering only one run on three hits. Michael Blazek relieved Rosenthal with two hitless frames to close out the win.

The Cardinals put together another solid night at the dish, plating five runs on 11 hits. Eight of those hits came from four Cardinals batters, including Oscar Taveras and Adam Melker. They each had two-hit games with Melker driving in his eighth RBI of the season. Curtis and Garcia also had two-hit games for the second consecutive evening with Garcia driving in two runs on a solo home run and a single. Chris Swauger had the Cardinals' other RBI in his 1-for-5 performance as Springfield pulled back to within three games of first place.

Saturday, June 9th, Springfield 4 at Tulsa 3

Wrapping up their short four-game road trip at Tulsa, the Cards looked to Richard Castillo to pull to within two games of first. Castillo has been very solid since his call-up and continued his success on Saturday night. Castillo's record improved to 4-0 with his six-inning performance, allowing three runs on eight hits and striking out seven. Not to spoil Castillo's performance, Deryk Hooker, Eric Fornataro, and Keith Butler each followed with scoreless innings. Butler earned his 13th save of the season.

Cardinals hitters put up double digit hits again and scraped out four runs on a team 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position with 10 left on base. Jermaine Curtis was 2-for-4 for the second consecutive evening and Greg Garcia hit his second solo home run in as many nights. Swauger added a solo home run. Kolten Wong and Audry Perez drove in the other two runs for the Cardinals. Xavier Scruggs, whose bat is heating up, was also 2-for-4 in the win.

Sunday, June 10th, Arkansas 3 at Springfield 20

On Sunday, the Cardinals arrived back at home after the three-hour ride from Tulsa. Welcoming the team was a healthy crowd of just over 6,000 on Matt Adams Texas League Player of the Year bobblehead giveaway night at Hammons Field. Tyler Lyons took the mound before his promotion to Triple-A. Lyons was solid though he got off to a slow start as the Travelers tagged him for three runs in the second inning. However, that is all that Lyons surrendered in his six innings of work. Kevin Thomas followed Lyons with two scoreless innings and Corrigan followed with a scoreless ninth.

Even with their solid performance, Springfield pitching was given more than enough support as the offense erupted for 20 runs on 24 hits. Wong got things started by leading off with an opposite field solo home run. Leading the charge and accounting for a quarter of the runs was Scruggs, who was 3-for-5 on the night with two monster home runs, a double, and five RBIs. Swauger and Melker added two-run home runs themselves as each went 3-for-5. Melker also had two doubles and another RBI. Also getting in on the abundant action, Taveras was 4-for-5 at the plate with his 17th double of the season. Newcomer Breyvic Valera also contributed after replacing Wong at second base in the sixth inning by going 1-for-2 and adding his first Texas League RBI.

Monday, June 11th, Arkansas 5 at Springfield 3

After trouncing the Travelers on Sunday evening, the Cardinals looked to duplicate the performance on Monday. Unfortunately, Scott Gorgen lasted only 4 2/3 innings, surrendering four runs on four hits and walking four batters. The loss was his fifth of the season as his ERA has risen to 4.36. Simpson and Jorge Rondon each threw scoreless innings in relief of Gorgen and Justin Wright surrendered one additional run in the ninth inning.

Cardinals hitters must have used too much of their offense the evening before as they were unable to overcome the deficit. Springfield came up with just six hits. Three of those were off the bat of Jake Shaffer, who clubbed his ninth double of the season and added his 28th RBI. Taveras also contributed an RBI double of his own, his 18th double of the season. Audry Perez was 1-for-4 in the contest and added the Cardinals' only other RBI.

Tuesday, June 12th, Arkansas 1 at Springfield 4

Looking to rebound from his last outing, Seth Maness took the hill at home. Not only did Maness rebound from his last, uncharacteristic performance, but he delivered a knockout show for the fans at Hammons Field. Maness went the distance, making just one mistake to leadoff hitter to Jean Segura, who launched a solo shot in the sixth inning. Maness allowed just five hits in his nine inning, complete game.

Not needing to do much to cover Maness' performance, Springfield's bats scraped together four runs on seven hits. Four of those hits came from Shaffer and Swauger who were each 2-for-3 at the plate. Shaffer added an RBI but the big blow came off the bat of Kyle Conley who clubbed a three-run homer in the second inning, his ninth of the season.

Wednesday, June 13th, Arkansas 6 at Springfield 1

The Cardinals looked to take three of four from the last place Travelers by turning the ball over to Trevor Rosenthal. Unfortunately, a win was not in the cards and he suffered his sixth loss of the season. Rosenthal lasted six innings and surrendered four runs on eight hits. Out of the bullpen, Wright and Thomas each threw scoreless innings but Blazek was touched for two additional runs in the eighth inning.

Not to be outdone by Maness' performance the evening before, the Traverlers' Ariel Pena held the Springfield hitters to a similar fate. In Pena's complete game, Cardinals hitters were held to seven hits with the only run coming off the bat of Jose Garcia, fresh off the disabled list. Aside from Garcia's solo blast, the only other extra base hit was clubbed by Taveras, was added a triple in his 2-for-4 evening.

Who's Hot

Seth Maness - Despite having a rough performance to start the week, I had to keep him on this list based on his performance at home on Tuesday night. His ERA has dipped to 1.56 through five starts and doesn't seem to be struggling much with the hot-hitting Texas League.

Oscar Taveras - Through 240 at-bats, the 19-year-old sports a .325 batting average with 12 home runs, 19 doubles, four triples, and 43 RBI. Any doubts that surfaced two weeks ago when he was struggling seem to have disappeared.

Who's Not

Kolten Wong - It's so hard to put the second baseman on this list. All he has done is hit in Double-A, but his bat has gone cold and his average has dipped below .300 for the first time since early April. I expect he will get it together soon, but in the meantime, he was 3-for-25 this week.

Team Transactions

June 11 - LHP Tyler Lyons Sent to AAA Memphis
June 11 - RHP Jorge Rondon Activated from DL
June 12 - RHP Chris Corrigan Sent to Palm Beach
June 12 - INF Vance Albitz Received from Palm Beach

Division Standings

Texas League North W L PCT GB Home Away L 10 Streak
Tulsa Drillers (COL) 36 28 .563 - 24-12 12-16 6-4 W4
NW Arkansas Naturals (KC) 33 31 .516 3.0 22-10 11-21 6-4 L4
Springfield Cardinals (STL) 33 31 .516 3.0 20-12 13-19 7-3 L1
Arkansas Travelers (LAA) 25 39 .391 11.0 15-13 10-26 3-7 W1

The Cardinal Nation Top 40 Prospect Watch

#2 Carlos Martinez – It is being suggested the Martinez will make the start on Friday evening. This would make Martinez's Double-A debut and his first start since May 14th.

#3 Oscar Taveras – Taveras has quieted any of his doubters who were chattering about his struggles two weeks ago by putting together a hitting clinic comprised of three multi-hit games and Texas League Player of the Week honors.

#4 Kolten Wong - As mentioned above, Wong is really struggling for the first time at Double-A. It will be interesting to watch how long it will take him to turn this small slump around. I believe he will come back even stronger.

#12 Trevor Rosenthal – Rosenthal continues to develop his pitches and we are seeing a little bit of a up and down performance with him. Overall though, his numbers have continued to improve and his ERA now sits at 3.00. That is impressive and more indicative of his pitching than his record of 5-6.

#31 Jermaine Curtis - A man of many talents including rap, Curtis can just hit. His experience at the Triple-A has him settling in on Double-A pitching as Curtis has raked for a .347 average through 121 at-bats.

#38 Keith Butler – Butler didn't see a lot of action this past week but was effective in converting his 13th save of the season.

#39 Breyvic Valera - Valera only saw five at-bats at the Double-A level and collected a single and an RBI.

What's Next

As the Travelers leave town, the Cardinals welcome the Naturals from Northwest Arkansas for a crucial four-game set at Hammons Field. As things stand now, the Cardinals are tied with the Naturals for second place in the division, three games behind the Drillers. These next four games with the Naturals could play a huge role in the race for the first-half division title.

Follow me on Twitter: @BrandonJMahler

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