Springfield Cardinals Notebook: 2012 Week 22

Chris Swauger's bat heated with the hot Tulsa weather as he went 3-for-5 with three home runs and four RBI in Springfield's Texas League North Division Finals Game 1 8-6 win in 10 innings.

As a strong regular season came to an end and the playoffs began, the Springfield Cardinals were forced to shift their focus. September always offers an interesting time in Minor League Baseball as the players watch teammates from years past get the call to enter the show as their teams' seasons end and the Major League schedule continues. That is not the case this season for Springfield as they hope to continue playing well into September as they chase a Texas League Championship.

Thursday, August 30th, Tulsa 9 at Springfield 1

The Cardinals began week 22 as their last week of regular season play in the 2012 season, hoping to salvage a series split with the Drillers at home. Kevin Siegrist, recently named to the Arizona Fall League, made his final start of the regular season. Unfortunately for Siegrist, his fifth and final start of the season mirrored his first. Siegrist lasted just four innings as he was tagged for five runs, four of them earned, on six hits and three batters walked.

Chase Reid took over in the fifth but the game just got more out of hand. In Reid's three innings pitched, he surrendered three runs on three solo home runs on four total hits. Kevin Thomas followed with two innings, allowing one additional run, as the Cards dropped what turned out to be their final home game of the 2012 regular season.

After falling into a deficit, Springfield couldn't put together much offense to combat the Drillers' charge. In fact, the Cardinals didn't even manage a hit until the ninth inning when they scored their first run. The Cards only run came off the bat of Oscar Taveras, who had the only hit and drove in Mike O'Neill.

Friday, August 31st, Tulsa at Springfield (Cancelled-Rain)

The remains of Hurricane Isaac moved into the Ozarks on Friday and washed out the Cardinals final scheduled home game.

Saturday, September 1st, Springfield 4 at Arkansas 0

Traveling to Little Rock for their final series of the regular season, Springfield sent Seth Maness to the mound. Maness had a very strong start, going five shutout innings on three hits. After Maness, Carlos Martinez, Deryk Hooker, Eric Fornataro, and Keith Butler each threw a scoreless inning to shut out the Drillers. Only Hooker gave up a hit in the final four innings.

Not needing a lot of offense, the Cardinals delivered with four runs on 12 hits. Chris Swauger had the big night at the plate, going 3-for-5 with two RBI. Taveras also had a solid evening, going 2-for-4 with a RBI double. Jamie Romak added a double of his own while Kolten Wong and Greg Garcia contributed two hits each.

Sunday, September 2nd, Springfield 10 at Arkansas 1

In the second game of the series, Scott Gorgen made the start. It was Gorgen's first at Double-A since July 17th after he made multiple starts at Triple-A and had a stint in the bullpen with Springfield. Gorgen's return to the starting role was very successful, as he went five innings, allowing one run on two hits while striking out eight. Michael Wacha followed with a scoreless sixth striking out the side. Fornataro, Blazek, and Butler took it the rest of the way as they each threw a scoreless inning, allowing just two hits through three innings.

After his three hits on Saturday night, Swauger had three more on Sunday, going 3-for-3 with a double and a staggering six RBI. Romak had a pretty solid game as well as he went 2-for-3 with a triple, a home run and three RBI. Taveras had the other RBI for the Cardinals as he went 3-for-5 with his 37th double of the season. Jermaine Curtis also had two hits and Greg Garcia added his 20th double of the season.

Monday, September 3rd, Springfield 0 at Arkansas 1

In the regular season finale, Springfield looked to end the Travelers season with a sweep in Little Rock by sending Boone Whiting for his second Double-A start. Whiting was very sharp as he kept the Travelers scoreless through six innings, surrendering just five hits. Siegrist entered in the seventh and threw a hitless frame before Justin Wright took over and added a hitless eighth. Wright continued into the ninth and allowed a double followed by a two-out, two-strike game winning RBI single from Drew Heid for walk off 1-0 loss.

Unable to come up with any runs, the Cards didn't manage many hits either. Curtis clubbed a double while Romak and Adam Melker each singled for the Cardinals only three hits. They finished the regular season the way it started with a 1-0 loss.

Texas League Playoffs Division Finals
Game 1 – Wednesday, September 5th, Springfield 8 at Tulsa 6 (10 innings)

The Cardinals, playing in their first playoff series since 2010, matched up with the Tulsa Drillers in the North Division Finals. Springfield lost the season series to the Drillers 16-15, but was 8-8 at Tulsa. The post-season matchup was the first between the two clubs since 2007 when Springfield swept Tulsa in three games.

Out of the gate, Tulsa jumped out to a quick lead in the first inning against Carlos Martinez, who gave up two runs to the Drillers in each of the first three innings. Martinez had a rough start as he lasted just four innings surrendering six runs on seven hits. The Springfield bullpen was outstanding with Wright, Hooker, Fornataro and Butler combining to throw six scoreless innings allowing just three base runners. Butler earned his first playoff save in the win.

Down 6-0, Springfield's offense finally awakened in the fifth. Swauger homered to left and Wong singled to center, scoring Xavier Scruggs from second base, to make it 6-2. Swauger added a second solo homer in the sixth to cut the Drillers lead to 6-3. Garcia slammed a three-run homer in the eighth to tie the game at 6-6.

In the 10th inning with the game still tied and with two outs and Curtis at first, Swauger blasted a 1-2 fastball over the left field wall to give Springfield an 8-6 lead and the win. It was the second time in franchise history a Cardinals player has hit three homers in a playoff game, joining Mark Hamilton who did it against Tulsa on September 7, 2007.

Who's Hot

Chris Swauger – Even before his 3-for-5, three home run, four RBI performance and game one of the divisional playoffs, Swauger had swung a hot bat to end the season going 6-for-16 with eight RBI in week 22.

Who's Not

Carlos Martinez- Not a strong playoff start for Martinez, who was rocked for two runs in each of the first three innings Wednesday, including two two-run home runs.

Team Transactions/Injury Report

INF Vance Albitz added to roster for playoffs
OF Ray Kruml activated from DL for playoffs
INF Neal Pritchard sent to Palm Beach
P Chase Reid sent to Palm Beach

Final Division Standings

Texas League North W L PCT GB Home Away L 10 Streak
*Springfield Cardinals (STL) 77 61 .558 - 44-25 33-36 5-5 L1
*Tulsa Drillers (COL) 75 64 .540 2.5 42-29 33-35 9-1 W9
Arkansas Travelers (LAA) 62 78 .443 16.0 34-36 28-42 3-7 W1
NW Arkansas Naturals (KC) 58 81 .417 19.5 37-33 21-48 2-8 L3
*playoff teams

The Cardinal Nation Top 40 Prospect Watch

#2 Carlos Martinez – Despite not having a strong start to the playoffs, Martinez finished the season strong, posting a 2.90 ERA in 71 1/3 innings pitched through 15 appearances since joining Springfield. Martinez struck out 58 batters while walking just 22. It should be noted that Martinez hit 100 mph on the gun a couple of times during the year.

#3 Oscar Taveras – After earning Texas League Player of the Year honors, Taveras also won the Texas League batting title with a .321 batting average. Taveras finished the regular season with 94 RBI and 67 extra base hits, including 23 home runs, 37 doubles, and seven triples.

#4 Kolten Wong – Wong ended a solid regular season with a .287 batting average, 52 RBI, 38 extra base hits including nine home runs, 23 doubles, six triples. The second baseman also showed his abilities to make things happen on base, finishing with 21 steals.

#31 Jermaine Curtis – Curtis challenged Taveras for the Texas League batting title but tapered off near the end, finishing at .313, good for second in the league. However, Curtis did post a Texas League-leading .416 OBP.

#38 Keith Butler – In 53 appearances this season, mostly in the late inning role, Butler earned 25 saves, good for second in the league. In 58 2/3 innings pitched, Butler posted a 5-1 record with a 2.76 ERA.

What's Next

The Cardinals will continue their best-of-five series with the Drillers Thursday night at 7:05pm. Springfield will send right hander Seth Maness to the mound against lefty Josh Outman in Game two at Tulsa. Game three will be Friday back in Springfield and if needed the series will continue Saturday and Sunday at Hammons Field.

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