Springfield Cardinals Notebook: 2013 Week 4

Mike O'Neill went 11-for-20 and reached base 19 times during the week, earning him Texas League Player of the Week honors.

Weather played a significant role in the Springfield Cardinals schedule during week four, leading to the cancellation of two games and forcing the team to play two home double-headers. The early day games proved to be a strength for the Cardinals offense as the bats erupted in all three early games. The Cardinals 3-4 week seats them one game behind the Tulsa Drillers for the early division lead.

Tuesday, April 23rd, NW Arkansas at Springfield (postponed because of rain)

Wednesday, April 24th (Game 1), NW Arkansas 1 at Springfield 8 (7 innings)

With the rainout on Tuesday, top prospect Carlos Martinez was forced to wait an extra day for the second time in his second start of the season. While he is still trying to gain strength, Martinez accomplished the goal set before him by turning in an effective start and remaining within his pitch limit of 60 pitches to get through four innings. Though his top velocity is not yet there, the flamethrower still struck out four Naturals. That was equal to the amount of batters he allowed to reach base with just one of them crossing the plate. That was the only run the Naturals would score in game 1 of the double-header as Anthony Ferrera and Deryk Hooker combined for three scoreless innings following Martinez.

The bright afternoon must have awakened the bats early in the day on Wednesday as the Cardinals put on a power show. The players must have been craving some Andy's frozen custard, a Springfield favorite that is awarded to all attending fans if a Cardinals' player hits a home run in the sixth inning. All three of the Cards' home runs came in the sixth inning starting with Starlin Rodriguez's deep solo shot to left center. After Rodriguez, Jake Lemmerman clipped the left field foul pole with a two-run shot of his own. Hot-hitting Tommy Pham capped the inning by slamming a two-run home run to dead centerfield. Pham and Rodriguez both had three hits in game 1. Audry Perez added a RBI double with Chris Swauger and Ruben Gotay both contributing an RBI.

Wednesday, April 24th (Game 2), NW Arkansas 10 at Springfield 3 (7 innings)

The second half of the double-header had a script completely flipped from game 1. The contest got off to a rough start as starter Boone Whiting, who had been very solid to start the season, was touched for five runs in the first inning. The only positive for Whiting was striking out five batters. It seemed to get worse as he surrendered two more runs for a total of seven, although only four of those were earned.

Whiting was done after three innings and gave way to Dean Kiekhefer, who threw the next two innings and allowed another three runs on five hits. Justin Wright finally put out the fire by entering in the sixth and tossing two scoreless innings.

Although the Birds were able to manage seven hits in game 2, most of the power was used in game 1 of the doubleheader. The only extra base hit came from the bat of Xavier Scruggs, who was 2-for-3, with a two-RBI double. Mike O'Neill was also 2-for-3 and Swauger drove in the only other run for Springfield in the lop-sided loss.

Thursday, April 25th, NW Arkansas 6 at Springfield 2

Sporting a brand new short haircut and hoping to turn his season around, Seth Blair took the mound on Thursday evening as 2012 Texas League Championship replica rings were given away to 2,500 fans at Hammons Field. Blair's fastball was sitting between 89-91 mph on the brisk evening and was effective enough to garner five strikeouts. However, his command just wasn't there as evident by his three batters walked and his being tagged for several hard hits balls even on recorded outs. In all, Blair ended his day having thrown 4 2/3 innings surrendering four runs on four hits.

Kevin Thomas finished the fifth inning and threw two more frames, allowing just one base runner on a walk. Kevin Siegrist took the mound in the eighth inning and surrendered a two-run home run. Ramon Delgado finished with a scoreless ninth.

Although Springfield matched the Naturals with just five hits, two of those hits left the yard. Perez, starting to show a few signs of turning it around at the plate, got the Cards on the board in the 5th inning with a solo home run. Pham followed three innings later with another solo home run for Springfield's only two runs and only extra base hits. Vance Albitz had the only multi-hit game, going 2-for-4 at the dish.

Friday, April 26th, Arkansas at Springfield (postponed because of rain)

Saturday, April 27th, Arkansas 9 at Springfield 3

Welcoming the Arkansas Travelers to town, the Cards would again have to wait a day because of rain to resume action at home. Those who caught the St. Louis Cardinals game on TV Saturday afternoon into the evening got a good picture of what conditions were like in Springfield. The fog had settled over Missouri and it combined for a very cool, damp evening at Hammons Field.

Richard Castillo took the mound for Springfield for his fifth start of the season hoping to even his personal record at 2-2. Unfortunately, Castillo was not able to do so, although his start wasn't bad either. Despite allowing 10 base-runners on eight hits and two walks, only three of those runners crossed the plate in his six innings of work.

The bullpen was not strong in support of Castillo though as Wright entered in the seventh only to give up four runs on four hits including two home runs through an inning and two-thirds. Delgado bailed Wright out of the eighth before Michael Blazek entered in the ninth to yield two unearned runs.

Cardinals hitters were a dismal 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position on Saturday night. Out of the seven hits, three were for extra bases including Perez and Swauger's RBI doubles. Swauger was 2-for-3 on the night. Also adding two hits was Pham, who was 2-for-4 with a double of his own. Rodriguez drove in the third run for Springfield in the loss.

Sunday, April 28th (Game 1), Arkansas 2 at Springfield 15 (7 innings)

Riding a three game losing streak and hoping the stop the bleeding, the Cardinals took the field early on Sunday afternoon for yet another double-header. Game 1 featured Scott McGregor making his fifth start of the season. McGregor brought some much needed relief to the bullpen going into the double-feature as he threw six strong innings. He let the Travelers score just once on their six hits while he fanned five batters. Thomas finished the game in the seventh allowing a solo home run to the Travelers' Taylor Lindsey.

Springfield bats seem to come alive with the first game of a double-header. Just like on Wednesday, the Cardinals piled on runs in game 1. A total of 15 runs on 13 hits and a team 6-for-14 with runners in scoring position helped the Cards break their losing streak.

Swauger was the biggest contributor with a 2-for-3 game that included a grand slam and six total RBI. Also going deep was Lemmerman, who added a solo shot in the sixth inning. Mike O'Neill, the Texas League Player of the Week, went 4-for-4 with three runs scored. Pham drove in his 13th run and while he remained hitless for the game, he reached base three times with two walks and a hit-by-pitch. Adam Melker got in on the action with two doubles and drove in another run. Perez also plated a run on a double. Scruggs had the other RBI for Springfield in the game 1 win.

Sunday, April 28th (Game 2), Arkansas 1 at Springfield 0 (7 innings)

The second half of the afternoon double-header was a completely different story from the high-scoring affair earlier in the day. Anthony Ferrara got the start in game 2 and was extremely effective in his five innings of work. Allowing just a run on four hits and a walk, it is unfortunate that Ferrera had to take his second loss of the season because of no offense behind him. Following, Ferrera's strong start, Hooker and Kiekhefer each threw perfect innings in relief to finish the pitching efforts for Springfield.

The Cards must have used all of their offense in the first game on Sunday because after putting up 15, no runs crossed the plate for Springfield in game 2. The offense managed just four hits, two of which came from O'Neill, who was 2-for-2, giving him six hits on the day. Rodriguez and Albitz, both with singles, had the only other two hits for the Cardinals.

Monday, April 29th, Arkansas 2 at Springfield 12

Trying to salvage a series split, Carlos Martinez took the hill on Monday afternoon for his second start of the week and third of the season. This time out proved his most effective yet as he climbed to 74 pitches to get through five innings of three hit baseball. You can tell Martinez's stuff is coming around as he struck out five batters and his velocity rose to 99 mph. Just as important, Martinez used his mix of pitches and got three ground-ball outs in the top of the fourth to retire the Travelers. We might have actually seen Martinez go a little further on Monday but he labored a bit through the fifth and his pitch count rose.

After Martinez, Siegrist was very effective in two innings, striking out two more Travelers. Kiekhefer pitched the eighth and ninth, allowing another run on two hits while preserving Martinez' first win of the season.

There's something about early day games for Cardinals batters or perhaps it was the finally beautiful weather the city of Springfield has been waiting for that lit the bats afire. Nevertheless, the mostly local school crowd at Hammons Field got a show.

Scruggs perhaps had the biggest show at the plate, leaving the yard twice including a grand slam in the fifth inning and a solo home run in the seventh. Fireworks followed Scruggs home run in the seventh though, as Travelers' pitcher Caleb Graham took offense to Scruggs' lengthy standing and staring at his own masterful hitting. Graham immediately began jawing at Scruggs and things erupted with a pitch up and in to Melker on the next pitch.

Graham was immediately tossed from the game and Travelers manager Tim Bogar soon followed after giving his two cents. Scruggs' two home runs gives him seven on the season. Swauger also went deep, a solo shot in the third inning, and he also added two more RBI for a team-leading 20. Pham delivered his fifth home run of the season, a two-run shot in the sixth. Melker had the team's other RBI on a triple.

Who's Hot

Mike O'Neill - Earned Texas League Player of the Week honors with an 11-for-20 week, reaching base a total of 19 times and scoring 10 runs. ,p> Xavier Scruggs - The average is down and the strikeouts are still high but the power is there. Scruggs had two home runs and eight RBI in week 4.

Chris Swauger - His bat has caught fire as he went 8-for-19 with two home runs and 12 RBI this week.

Tommy Pham - The hot-hitting outfielder seems to have figured something out this season as his success continues. Pham was 9-for-22 with three home runs and six RBI this week.

Who's Not

Seth Blair - Although his performance was better, his was still hit very hard. He seems to be catching too much of the zone and his control is erratic.

Team Transactions

None to report at this time

North Division Standings

Texas League North W L PCT GB Home Away L10 Streak
Tulsa 13 11 .542 -- 10-4 3-7 6-4 W2
Springfield 12 12 .500 1.0 7-7 5-5 5-5 W1
Arkansas 11 13 .458 2.0 4-6 7-7 5-5 L1
NW Arkansas 8 16 .333 5.0 3-7 5-9 4-6 L2

The Cardinal Nation Top 40 Prospect Watch

#5 Carlos Martinez - Combined for nine innings thrown, striking out nine in his two starts this week. He earned his first win of 2013 and reached 99 mph on Monday.

#11 Jordan Swagerty - Remains in Jupiter; no timetable yet released on when Swagerty will join the Double-A Birds.

#17 Starlin Rodriguez - a little streaky so far at the plate but recently has found some power with two home runs in the last week. Defense has been solid at second base with just one error thus far. Lemmerman, his middle infield partner, already has seven errors at shortstop.

#22 Kevin Siegrist - Siegrist had just two appearances this week and allowed two runs in three innings while striking out four batters

#25 Boone Whiting - Whiting had his toughest outing of the season so far in his start this week, getting roughed up for seven runs, only four earned, in three innings of work.

#30 Seth Blair - Still having trouble repeating that success he experienced in the fall, Blair improved a little in his last start but seems to be firing with little life to his pitches. His problem seems to be a lot about location as many of his pitches are getting hit hard as they sit out over the zone.

#32 Mike O'Neill - O'Neill reached base 19 times this week which is why he is the Texas League Player of the Week.

#38 Audry Perez - The struggling catcher enjoyed three extra base hits this week including a home run and two doubles. It is possibly a sign he is coming out of his rough start to the season.

What's Next

On Tuesday, the Cardinals will make the two-hour trip to Northwest Arkansas to play the Naturals in a four-game set before returning to Hammons Field on Saturday to take on the Tulsa Drillers for four games at home.

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