Springfield Cardinals Notebook: 2013 Week 3

Michael Blazek was perfect in his new role - 4-for-4 in save opportunities - during the Double-A Cardinals 5-1 week.

After inconsistency marked the first two weeks of the season, the Springfield Cardinals found their rhythm in week 3. Strong pitching from Boone Whiting, new closer Michael Blazek and the emergence of top prospect Carlos Martinez along with solid hitting from Tommy Pham, Ruben Gotay and Chris Swauger powered the Cardinals to a 5-1 week.

Tuesday, April 16th, San Antonio 1 at Springfield 3

The Cardinals began the week by finishing up their first homestand of 2013 at Hammons Field against the Missions of San Antonio. After a rough start, Springfield looked to Scott McGregor to set them on the right track. McGregor was certainly up to the task and was stingy with the Missions hitters, allowing them to just one run in six innings thrown.

McGregor allowed six hits and another runner on a walk but struck out four batters. In relief of McGregor, Deryk Hooker reinforced his performance with two shutout innings before Michael Blazek entered for his first save with a scoreless ninth.

Pham: .317 with 10 XBH including five triples
The Cardinals matched the Missions with eight hits but were able to plate two more runs in the win. Of the eight hits, six came from Tommy Pham, Jake Lemmerman, and Ruben Gotay, who each had two. Pham notched his fifth triple in the young season. Lemmerman added a RBI single, his fourth RBI of 2013. Chris Swauger also notched his fourth RBI. Travis Tartamella contributed his first double of the year.

Thursday, April 18th, Springfield at Arkansas (postponed due to rain)

Friday, April 19th (Game 1), Springfield 3 at Arkansas 2

After two days off because of the rainout in Little Rock on Thursday, the Cardinals saw a welcome sight in the first game on Friday. Top pitching prospect Carlos Martinez made his first start of 2013 after being left stranded in his native Dominican Republic throughout spring training because a work visa issue.

Nevertheless, Martinez hit the mound and looked sharp in his limited role. Martinez seemed to be on a 45-50 pitch limit as he was pulled after 2 2/3 innings having thrown 44 pitches. In his 2 2/3 innings, the flame-throwing prospect allowed a run on four hits.

Following Martinez, Anthony Ferrara threw the next three innings and was credited with the win after surrendering just one hit on a solo home run to the Travelers' C. J. Cron. After Ferrara, Blazek pitched the seventh inning, the final inning in a shortened game for the double-header, earning him his second save in as many days.

Springfield hitters put together three runs on seven hits. Swauger delivered the big blow of the game with a two-run home run in the sixth inning. Swauger was 2-for-3 alongside Mike O'Neill, who was also 2-for-3 and drove in the Cards only other run. Tommy Pham, Jake Lemmerman, Starlin Rodriguez had the team's other three hits.

Friday, April 19th (Game 2), Springfield 3 at Arkansas 0

Friday's round two brought Boone Whiting, who has been outstanding in his first three starts, to the mound. Pitching was the story for the Cardinals as Whiting delivered another outstanding start. Throwing five of the seven innings, Whiting struck out six batters and held the Travelers scoreless on four hits and a walk. Kevin Siegrist followed with an equally impressive performance, throwing two innings in relief and striking out the side in both innings while preserving the seven-inning shutout.

Not needing much to help the pitching effort, the offense put up three runs for the third straight game. This time it was on five hits with no two coming from the same player. MLB veteran Ruben Gotay delivered the game's biggest hit with a two-run double in the third inning, his eighth double already in the young season. Struggling Audry Perez also came through with a RBI single in the seventh.

Saturday, April 20th, Springfield 2 at Arkansas 6

Hoping to continue their newly-found hot streak, the Cardinals sent Seth Blair to the mound on Saturday with hopes of him turning his season around. Unfortunately, Springfield saw much of the same from Blair. Coming off an outstanding showing in the Arizona Fall League, Blair allowed six runs, only four of them earned, on seven hits and two walks in 5 2/3 innings pitched. His ERA has settled at 9.22 after his third start of the season.

Ramon Delgado got the final out of the sixth inning and Dean Kiekhefer took over for a scoreless seventh before Justin Wright threw a perfect eighth in the Cardinals only loss of the week.

The bats needed to put something together to make up for Blair's performance on the mound, but they also went cold. Hitters managed just four hits, two of which came from Pham, who had a RBI double. Pham also scored the team's other run on a non-RBI play in the sixth inning.

Sunday, April 21st, Springfield 3 at Arkansas 1 (10 innings)

Finishing the four-game set in Little Rock, the Cards handed the ball to Richard Castillo to give them a shot at a series win. With the exception of his second start, Castillo has been the model of consistency through his first four starts and Sunday was the same. Castillo again gave the Cardinals six innings of solid effort, surrendering just a run on four hits and two walks.

Despite Castillo's strong effort, Hooker was given the win as the pitcher of record when the Birds took the lead in the tenth inning. Blazek pitched a perfect tenth inning to protect the lead and earned his third save of the week.

Springfield hitters did not plate a run until the fifth inning to tie the game until the tenth. The team put together seven hits, coming from seven different players. The team's three RBI came from Vance Albitz, Pham, and Gotay. Adam Melker had the team's only extra base hit with a double.

Monday, April 22, NW Arkansas 6 at Springfield 9

Monday evening the Cardinals returned home to Hammons Field to begin their first series of the season with the Northwest Arkansas Naturals. Scott McGregor took the hill for the Cards hoping to duplicate his performance from last Tuesday. Unfortunately, McGregor looked a little different this time around, going 5 1/3 innings surrendering four runs on nine hits but still left with the lead in sixth.

Unfortunately though, Kevin Thomas followed and allowed the game to be tied in the seventh inning by allowing two runs on three hits in an inning of work. Delgado entered to put out the fire and did so with a perfect inning and two-thirds and earned the win as the pitcher of record with the Cardinals took the lead in the bottom half of the seventh inning. Following Delgado, Blazek collected his fourth save with a perfect ninth inning.

Matching the Naturals with 12 hits, the Cardinals were able to get three more runs out of it with a team 6-for-9 with runners in scoring position. Xavier Scruggs was the biggest contributor for Springfield, going 2-for-4 with a home run in the seventh inning and three RBI. Swauger also had a big day with a 3-for-4 night at the plate with two RBI. Starlin Rodriguez added his first home run of the season, a two-run shot in the fourth inning. The Cards also got RBIs from Gotay, who clubbed his ninth double of the season, and Tommy Pham, who added his third double.

Who's Hot

Boone Whiting - Through his first three starts, Whiting has a 1.69 ERA and struck out six batters in five innings during his start in week three.

Michael Blazek - The new closer was 4-for-4 in save opportunities and was perfect in four innings during week 3.

Tommy Pham - Hitting .317, Pham already has five triples, three doubles, and two home runs this season.

Who's Not

Adam Melker - Adam has hit a slump and has seen his season average drop to .180.

Seth Blair - Blair is still struggling, posting a 9.22 ERA through his first three starts of 2013.

Team Transactions

April 18 - RHP Carlos Martinez activated from Temporary Inactive List

April 21 - RHP Scott Gorgen activated from DL and sent to High-A Palm Beach

April 22 - C Travis Tartamella sent to Triple A-Memphis to fill in for the injured J.R. Towles

April 22 - C Juan Castillo received from High A-Palm Beach to fill Tartamella's roster spot

April 22 - RHP Chris Corrigan activated from DL and sent to High-A Palm Beach

North Division Standings

Club W L PCT GB Home Away L 10 Streak
Springfield Cardinals (STL) 9 8 0.529 - 4-3 5-5 7-3 W2
Arkansas Travelers (LAA) 8 9 0.471 1.0 4-6 4-3 4-6 W1
Tulsa Drillers (COL) 8 9 0.471 1.0 5-2 3-7 6-4 L1
NW Arkansas Naturals (KC) 5 12 0.294 4.0 3-7 2-5 3-7 L2

The Cardinal Nation Top 40 Prospect Watch

Texas League North #5 Carlos Martinez - After a solid first start in Little Rock to get his feet wet, Martinez is scheduled to make his second start on Tuesday. I would not expect the pitch count to be loosened much yet for Springfield's top pitching prospect.

#11 Jordan Swagerty - No announcements yet on when Swagerty will be seen in action in Springfield.

#17 Starlin Rodriguez - Rodriguez has hit a hot streak and has seen his average rise to .300. He also slammed his first home run of the season on Monday night.

#22 Kevin Siegrist – The lefty was only used once in week 3 but struck out six batters in two innings of work.

#25 Boone Whiting - The 2013 Springfield control specialist has just three walks in his three starts. That may not yet be Seth Maness territory but it has proven effective as Whiting has a 1.69 ERA in 16 innings pitched through his first three starts,

#30 Seth Blair - Blair hasn't figured it out yet through his first three starts of 2013, allowing four earned runs after surrendering eight earned in his last outing. His ERA now sits at 9.22.

#32 Mike O'Neill - Though O'Neill is not yet maintaining his usual above .300 average, he is still posting a healthy .406 on-base percentage.

#38 Audry Perez - Perhaps his struggles has cost him an opportunity for promotion on Monday as Tartamella was selected to temporarily replace J.R. Towles in Memphis. Perez now sits well below the Mendoza line with an .098 batting average.

What's Next

With top prospect Carlos Martinez taking the hill on Tuesday, Springfield will spend the next seven days at home as they finish the next three games of a four game set with Northwest Arkansas before hosting the Arkansas Travelers for a four-game set over the weekend at Hammons Field. Having played very well already against these two teams, the Cardinals have a chance to put together a strong run in the next week.

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