Springfield Cardinals Notebook: 2012 Week 23

Manager Mike Shildt now has the Double-A Cardinals within one win of their first-ever Texas League Championship.

As the Springfield Cardinals find themselves just one win away from the organization's first Texas League Championship, it is a good time to take a look at the man who has led them to this point.

Shildt
First-year Manager Mike Shildt is a proven winner, with back-to-back championships in the Appalachian League with the Johnson City Cardinals. Now Shildt has led Springfield to within one game of his third consecutive championship, now at the Double-A level.

The question about successful coaches is always whether it is their coaching or if they had tremendous talent playing under them. Let's examine that question a little further.

First, there are several players playing under Shildt now that were one his 2010 championship team. A number of those players also played for Quad Cities last season, who also took the 2011 Midwest League title. Shildt still won a championship last season with a different group of players at Johnson Cit,y but there is also a core group of players who have proven to be winners.

As the question is asked, there is no clear answer as to the reason this Springfield team has clicked so well this season. However, it is clear that between the proven-winners of Shildt and a select group of players, there is a true winning combination at work in Springfield.

Texas League Playoffs North Division Finals
Game 2 – Thursday, September 6th, Springfield 0 at Tulsa 3

Hoping to take a 2-0 series lead back to Springfield, the Cardinals sent Seth Maness to the mound in game two at Tulsa. Maness allowed the Drillers to jump out to an early lead in the first as Corey Dickerson golfed a solo home run over the right field fence. Maness then retired 10 straight batters before giving up a double to Major League rehabber Troy Tulowitzki, who then scored on a single from Ben Paulsen. Maness was finished after six innings, having surrendered three runs on six hits. Michael Blazek took over in the seventh and threw two perfect innings to close out the game, but the Cardinals fell 3-0 to even the series at 1-1.

Unable to muster a run, the Cardinals were dominated by starter Josh Outman. The Cardinals managed just two hits in seven innings against Outman and four total in the game. Two of the hits came off the bat of Jermaine Curtis, who was 2-for-4 on the evening. Another hit was a double from Xavier Scruggs. Oscar Taveras reached base three times with a single and two walks.

Game 3 – Friday, September 7th, Tulsa 2 at Springfield 4

Looking to get the series back on track, the Cards returned to Hammons Field needing only to win two out of three at home to advance. Kevin Siegrist got the start in game three for the Birds. Siegrist had a solid start on the mound and earned the win while allowing two runs on four hits and walking three Drillers batters. Michael Wacha took over in the sixth inning and threw two scoreless innings striking out two batters before turning it over to Eric Fornataro who added a perfect eighth. Keith Butler earned the save with scoreless ninth as the Cardinals took a 2-1 lead in the series.

After being shut out in game two, the Cardinals put together a solid night at the plate. Scoring four runs on nine hits, Springfield was led by Taveras, who was 2-for-4 with a double and a RBI. Audry Perez had two hits in three plate appearances also with a double and a RBI. Scruggs had another double for the Cards while Jamie Romak added the other RBI.

Game 4 – Saturday, September 8th, Tulsa 4 at Springfield 1

On Saturday, the Cardinals looked to put away the Drillers and advance to the Texas League Championship. Scott Gorgen took the hill in game four. He had a uneventful first inning but fell behind in the second as he gave up two home runs for a total of three runs. However, those would be the only runs that Gorgen would relinquish as he went three more innings for a total of five innings surrendering three runs on six hits. Justin Wright took the ball in the sixth and allowed another run as the Cards went down 4-1. Following Wright, Deryk Hooker and Kevin Thomas combined for three scoreless innings to close the game but the Cards fell to even the series 2-2.

Springfield did not have a big night at the plate. In fact the only run they scored came from the bat of Scruggs, who was 2-for-3 with a solo home run. Romak also had a good night at the plate, going 3-for-4 with a double. Chris Swauger and Jermaine Curtis had Springfield's only other two hits.

Whiting
Game 5 – Sunday, September 9th, Tulsa 1 at Springfield 3

With the series tied 2-2 and a trip to the Texas League Championship Series on the line, Springfield handed the ball to Boone Whiting. Knowing the task that the Cardinals had charged him with, Whiting was nothing short of brilliant. In seven innings of work, Whiting allowed just one hit. A double in the third inning from Dickerson scored Tim Torres, who Whiting had walked earlier in the inning. The run was the only run Whiting would surrender and the only run the Drillers would score the rest of the way. Fornataro relieved in the eighth with a perfect inning before Butler earned his third save of the series with a scoreless ninth, allowing one more hit.

With Whiting giving the Cardinals such a great outing, the offense did not need to do a lot to ensure a trip to the finals. Swauger, who left the game in the sixth after breaking his collar bone in four places after laying out for a ball in shallow left field, had a very strong game at the plate. When Swauger left, he was 2-for-2 with two double and a RBI. Scruggs had the other two RBI for the Cardinals with both coming on sac flies. Scruggs ended his day at the plate going 0-1 with two RBI as the Cardinals clinched the series to become North Division Champions and advance to the Texas League Championship Series.

Texas League Championship Series
Game 1 – Tuesday, September 11th, Frisco 0 at Springfield 5

Heading into the Texas League Championship Series, Cardinals' Manager Mike Shildt announced that he would stick with the same rotation that had been effective in the division series. That meant that Carlos Martinez would get the start for game one. With the series set to start Tuesday at Hammons Field, the news also surfaced Tuesday morning that Major Leaguer Mike Napoli, who the big league Cardinals faced in the 2011 World Series, would be playing for the RoughRiders in the series.

Carlos Martinez took the mound looking to redeem his rough start in game one of the division series. This start was very different from his last as, this time, Martinez went seven shut out innings, striking out seven and allowing just four hits. Fornataro followed with a perfect eighth inning and Blazek entered in the ninth to close out the shut out of the RoughRiders.

Springfield matched Frisco hit for hit but also added five runs. The Cardinals led most of the game 1-0 after getting a solo home run from Greg Garcia in the second inning. The Cardinals didn't get any more offense until they put up four runs in the eighth on a solo home run from Romak and a three-run shot from Mike O'Neill. That gave them the final 5-0 cushion and a 1-0 series lead.

Game 2 – Wednesday, September 12th, Frisco at Springfield

Looking to head back to Frisco with a 2-0 series lead and just one win away from a Texas League Championship, Seth Maness took the hill. Maness went seven strong innings allowing two runs on four hits. Neither of the runs were earned. Hooker took over in the eighth and was given the win despite allowing a two-run home run to left field to rehabbing big-leaguer Mike Napoli. Butler took over and struck out the side in the ninth to earn his fourth save of the postseason.

The Cardinals weren't able to put together much offense until their six-run eighth inning rally. Trailing 4-0, Tavares hit a two-out double, bringing O'Neill to third after his leadoff walk. A Romak walk loaded the bases for Greg Garcia, who hit a RBI single through the right side of the infield. Consecutive singles from Scruggs and Adam Melker brought in three runs to tie the game before Perez' two-run double down the right field put the Cardinals on top 6-4 entering the ninth inning.

Who's Hot

Xavier Scruggs – After a rough end to the regular season, the first baseman is hitting a team-leading .364 so far in the postseason.

Carlos Martinez – It was very strong game one of the Texas League Championship Series for Martinez as he went seven innings, striking out our seven and shutting out the RoughRiders.

Boone Whiting – Whiting ended the division series with a equally impressive start, going seven innings, allowing one hit and one run.

Who's Not

Kolten Wong – The second baseman has not had a strong postseason thus far hitting just .148 so far through the playoffs.

Swauger returned to the team post-surgery
Team Transactions/Injury Report

OF Chris Swauger was moved to the disabled list after breaking his collar bone and requiring surgery on Monday. Surgeons inserted seven screws, two pins and a plate during his surgery.

RHP Richard Castillo was activated from the DL, replacing Swauger on the finals roster.

The Cardinal Nation Top 40 Prospect Watch

#2 Carlos Martinez – Martinez had an outstanding first start in the Texas League Championship Series, redeeming his three inning outing from the Division Series.

#3 Oscar Taveras – The slick-hitting outfielder has had a mild postseason at the plate, hitting just .231 with two doubles and three RBI. However, Taveras showed his glove in game five of the Division Deries with two outstanding plays in center field.

#4 Kolten Wong – The acclaimed second baseman has not has a strong postseason showing, hitting just .148 from the leadoff spot.

#31 Jermaine Curtis – Curtis is struggling much like the rest of the top of the order, hitting .240 so far in the postseason.

#38 Keith Butler – The closer has been perfect so far, earning four saves in four opportunities so far in the playoffs.

What's Next

The Cardinals are heading to Frisco needing only one win in three games to become Texas League Champions. The Championship Series will continue with Game Three on Friday night at 7:05 pm at Dr. Pepper Ballpark in Frisco. Springfield will send Kevin Siegrist to the mound against Barret Loux.

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