Springfield Cardinals Notebook: 2012 Week 20

2012 first-round pick Michael Wacha was brilliant in his Double-A debut, going three hitless innings in relief and striking out six out of nine batters in the middle of the Cardinals' 3-4 week 20.

There was an air of excitement around Hammons Field on Sunday as first-round Michael Wacha made his Double-A debut in spectacular fashion. As the hurler enjoyed success in his three innings of work in relief, it served as a reminder of the buzz and excitement that surrounds a first-round pick when they join a new team.

In the past two seasons, Springfield has seen first-rounders Shelby Miller, Zack Cox, Kolten Wong, and now Michael Wacha pass through the gates, each carrying a promise of the future with them. Though Cox has now been traded, each pick plays a significant piece in the puzzle of continuing to putting together a competitive major league club from year to year.

Thursday, August 16th, San Antonio 4 at Springfield 7

With only a few short weeks left in the season, Springfield continued to play host to San Antonio to begin week 20. Carlos Martinez received his first of two starts on the week. Efficient is not a word you could use to describe Martinez's performance. Lasting only four innings, Martinez surrendered four runs, three earned, on seven hits. Perhaps more representative of the outing was his 85 pitches needed to get through four innings.

However, what Martinez lacked, the bullpen made up for. Justin Wright entered in the fifth and didn't allow a base runner through two innings. Following Wright, Deryk Hooker, Eric Fornataro, and Keith Butler threw a scoreless inning each to close the game with the only base runner charged to Fornataro in the eighth. Hooker received the win with Butler earning his 25th save of the season. Also, noteworthy on the defensive side of the baseball, Greg Garcia committed his 20th error on the season at shortstop; a relatively high number for someone trying to make it as a middle infielder.

The offense continued to roll as they put up seven runs on 10 hits. Jermaine Curtis, who continues to swing a hot bat, led the way for Springfield, going 3-for-4 with three singles and two RBI, raising his average to .318. Springfield's other seven hits each came off the bat of a different player. Kolten Wong, Oscar Taveras, and Ray Kruml laced doubles for Springfield's only extra base hits. The double was Taveras' 32nd of the season. Alongside Curtis, Xavier Scruggs and Jamie Romak had two RBIs each in the win.

Friday, August 17th, San Antonio 1 at Springfield 4

On Friday, Springfield continued their set with San Antonio and received what can only be described as a absolutely brilliant pitching outing from starter Seth Maness. Maness earned his 10th win since joining the Double-A ‘Birds by being stingy with his runs and hits in his eight innings of work. Maness ended his night having given up just a run on four hits. Not wishing to undo Maness' outstanding work, Michael Blazek took over in the ninth and held the Missions hitless as he stuck out two of three batters.

The Cardinals had no problem getting the offense going again at they put up a total of 12 hits, getting started with three runs in the second inning. Wong was the offensive leader as he went 2-for-5 with a double and a RBI triple. Curtis continued hitting as well, going 2-for-4 with a RBI. Audry Perez also went 2-for-4 with a double and a RBI. Adding another double, his 11th of the season, was Adam Melker who went 3-for-4. Springfield's other RBI came off the bat of Kruml, his third since joining the Cards.

Saturday, August 18th, Corpus Christi 12 at Springfield 4

Riding a four-game win streak, Springfield welcomed the Hooks into town for a three-game set. The tune changed as Springfield hit a skid, starting with pitcher Scott McGregor who took the hill on Saturday night. McGregor lasted just 1 2/3 inning before being lifted. The damage had been done, however, as McGregor surrendered eight runs on four hits. Only five of those runs were earned however, after Scruggs threw away a ball in the second that could have ended the inning, with three more runs crossing the plate afterward.

Chase Reid followed McGregor, but it didn't get a whole lot better. Reid threw 3 2/3 innings but allowed two more runs on six hits before handing it over to Kevin Thomas, who allowed two more runs in 2/3 inning to finish the sixth. After that, the pitching finally settled down as Hooker and Wright combined for three scoreless innings.

Even though Springfield's offense jumped out to an early lead in the first and had a solid evening overall, it was still not enough to overcome the deficit brought on by the pitching. Wong was 2-for-5 for the second straight game but was a base short of his total from the previous evening, this time with two doubles. Curtis raised his average to a team-leading .321 with his 2-for-5 night at the plate. Taveras clubbed his 33rd double of the season to go with two RBI. Matching Taveras, Scruggs had Springfield's other two RBI adding to his team leading total of 86 RBI, two ahead of Taveras.

Sunday, August 19th, Corpus Christi 7 at Springfield 1

Looking to rebound from Saturday's poor pitching performance, Springfield sent Richard Castillo for the start. Unfortunately, for the Cardinals and Castillo, the Hooks bats stayed hot and Castillo was tagged for three runs on seven hits and five batters walked in four innings thrown.

The big pitching story for Springfield on Sunday came from 2012 first-round pick Michael Wacha, making his Double-A debut in relief of Castillo. Wacha entered in the fifth and held the Hooks hitless through three innings pitched, striking out six batters. Following Wacha's brilliant performance, Eric Fornataro entered in the eighth and allowed one run on two hits. The damage got deeper in the ninth as the Hooks spoiled Wacha's glory by adding three more runs against Keith Butler and took the game 7-1.

Springfield's offense cooled significantly. They still managed eight hits but were only able to plate one run. Six of those hits came off the bats of three players as Wong, Curtis, and Romak each went 2-for-4. Curtis and Romak each added a double as did Taveras, his 34th of the season. Taveras also added the team's only RBI, his 85th of the season, one behind Scruggs for the team lead.

Monday, August 20th, Corpus Christi 2 at Springfield 1 (13 innings)

Losers of two straight to Corpus, Springfield found themselves in a pitcher's duel Monday evening hoping to avoid being swept at home. Kevin Siegrist made the start and delivered exactly what the club needed, going seven strong innings and allowing one run on four hits.

Blazek entered in the eighth to follow Siegrist and delivered the Cardinals through the 10th with three hitless innings as the Cards were matched by an equally impressive pitching performance by the Hooks. Following Blazek, Butler took over for a hitless 11th inning before turning the ball over to Wright. He threw a scoreless 12th before giving up the game-winning solo home run to the Hooks' Jair Fernandez in the 13th inning.

For the second straight evening, Springfield struggled to get runs across the plate. Audry Perez had two of the Cardinals' six hits, going 2-for-5 with a double and the ‘Birds only RBI. Greg Garcia also added his 19th double of the season.

Tuesday, August 21st, Springfield 8 at NW Arkansas 4

Hoping to bounce back from being swept by the Hooks at home, the Cardinals made the two-hour trek to Springdale, Arkansas to take on the Naturals. Looking improve upon his last outing, Carlos Martinez took the hill for his second start of the week. Martinez made big improvements from last outing, going six strong innings while giving up just a run on three hits. Martinez also had a season-high eight strikeouts. Hooker took over in the seventh and allowed a run in the inning and two runs in the eighth before Fornataro took over to finish in the ninth.

After being shut down the last two games, that offense rebounded with a big game, putting up eight runs on 11 hits. Xavier Scruggs had the best night at the plate, going 2-for-5 with two home runs and five RBI. The two home runs moved Scruggs into the team lead with 22 on the season who he also leads the team now with 91 RBI. Newcomer Mike O'Neill was 2-for-2 with a RBI double and Kolten Wong added a RBI triple. Curtis also got in on the action, going 2-for-3 with a double.

Wednesday, August 22nd, Springfield 8 at NW Arkansas 9

Looking for a repeat of his last outing, Seth Maness made his second start of the week on Wednesday evening. Maness was unable to replicate it, lasting just 2 2/3 innings while giving up seven runs on seven hits. Reid followed Maness and allowed another run in the fourth inning before holding them steady through the sixth. Thomas entered after Reid and held the Naturals scoreless in the seventh before Fornataro entered to give up the game-winning run.

After falling into a 8-1 deficit in the fourth inning, the offense bounced back to tie the game in the eighth at 8-8. The offensive charge was led by Wong, who went 3-for-5 with a three-run double. Curtis also had another strong offensive game, bringing his average to .322 with a 2-for-5 evening while driving in two runs. Greg Garcia, who also had two hits, drove in one run while O'Neill plated his second run in as many nights.

Who's Hot

Jermaine Curtis – Going 13-for-31 in week 20, Curtis has seen his average rise to a team-leading .322.

Michael Wacha – After his first Double-A outing, Wacha now has 22 strikeouts in 10 minor league innings since joining the Cardinals' organization.

Xavier Scruggs – The first baseman had three home runs and nine RBI in week 20, moving him into the team lead in both categories.

Who's Not

Scott McGregor – Lasting just 1 2/3 innings in his only start this week, McGregor gave up eight runs on four hits and three walks.

Ray Kruml – The outfielder went 2-for-15 with five strikeouts in week 20.

Team Transactions/Injury Report

August 18 - LHP Iden Nazario - Sent to Palm Beach, trading places with Wacha
August 18 - OF Alan Ahmady - Sent to Palm Beach, trading places with O'Neill
August 18 - RHP Michael Wacha - Received from Palm Beach, trading places with Nazario
August 18 - OF Mike O'Neill - Received from Palm Beach, trading places with O'Neill

Second Half Division Standings

Texas League North W L PCT GB Home Away L 10 Streak
Springfield Cardinals (STL) 36 21 .632 - 19-8 17-13 5-5 L1
Arkansas Travelers (LAA) 30 28 .517 6.5 14-15 16-13 6-4 L2
Tulsa Drillers (COL) 26 32 .448 10.5 15-15 11-17 5-5 W4
NW Arkansas Naturals (KC) 18 39 .316 18.0 12-19 6-20 2-8 W1

The Cardinal Nation Top 40 Prospect Watch

#2 Carlos Martinez – Making two starts in week 20, Martinez had a bit of an up and down week. After bouncing back from a short outing to start the week, the righty combined for 10 innings pitched allowing four runs on 10 hits.

#3 Oscar Taveras – Taveras has been given some rest to end the period, but went 5-for-19 with three doubles this week. He did surrender the team lead in average, RBIs, and home runs.

#4 Kolten Wong– The second baseman had a very strong week, going 12-for-34 with five doubles, two triples, and five RBI.

#31 Jermaine Curtis – Curtis went 13-for-31 and saw his average rise to a team leading .322 to go along with two doubles and five RBIs on the week.

#38 Keith Butler – The closer earned his 25th save of the season but also allowed three runs in one inning of work in his second of three outings during the week.

What's Next

The Cardinals finish up their series in Northwest Arkansas with games on Thursday and Friday before heading back to Springfield for three games with the Travelers and four games at home with Tulsa. They will finish the season by heading to Little Rock, AR for the final three regular season games against the Travelers on September 1-3. Sitting on a 6 ½ game lead in the division, Springfield will begin to turn their attention toward the Texas League playoffs in the coming days.

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