That is exactly what happened for the Springfield Cardinals as Jake Westbrook took the mound on Tuesday at Hammons Field and they then faced Roy Oswalt on Sunday in Tulsa. Both provide a nice opportunity for players to learn from those who have been there and to gain confidence by facing big league stuff.
Unfortunately though, the success the Cards had against Oswalt was about their only highlight of the week, as they dropped five out of seven.
Tuesday, June 4th, Arkansas 4 at Springfield 2
Springfield began the week on Tuesday night with St. Louis starting pitcher Jake Westbrook on the mound in his first rehab assignment. Westbrook allowed a run in the first despite striking out the side, and kept it just the one-run deficit through the remainder of his outing. He ended his day after tossing 3 2/3 strong frames with five strikeouts and only the one run allowed.
Seth Blair, the slotted starter for Tuesday, took over on the mound with two down in the top of the fourth and struck out the final batter of the frame. Blair suffered the loss after allowing three runs, two earned, in three innings pitched. Justin Wright put out the fire in the seventh by getting the final out and the first out of the eighth before Jose Almarante threw 1 2/3 perfect frames the rest of the way.
The Cardinals were relatively quiet with the bat squeaking out just four hits total and not striking for their first run the fifth inning. Jake Lemmerman led off with a double driven just inside the right field line, before Audry Perez, who was 2-for-3, brought him in with an RBI grounder to second base, evening the score at 1-1. After falling behind 4-1, the Cardinals refused to go down quietly in the ninth inning. James Ramsey hit a solo home run over the left field fence, bringing the Cardinals within just two runs, but after back-to-back strikeouts, the game ended on ground out to the mound, sealing the 4-2 loss.
Wednesday, June 5th, Arkansas 6 at Springfield 2
After being unable to bounce back on Tuesday, the Cardinals looked to get right in front of a small crowd at Hammons Field on Wednesday night. Lefty Nick Greenwood got the start, looking for his second win. Greenwood delivered the Cardinals a chance to win, going 5 1/3 innings allowing four runs. Only two of them were earned after Mike O'Neill missed a catch in shallow left, then throwing the ball away, costing two runs. Following Greenwood, Heath Wyatt tossed two perfect frames before Lee Stoppelman and Kevin Thomas allowed a run each in the 8th and 9th innings.
Unlike Tuesday, the Cardinals took the early lead in the top of the first inning. O'Neill, who went 3-for-5, sparked the frame with a leadoff double and came home on an RBI single from Gotay to lift Springfield into the early 1-0 lead. The Cardinals struck again in the fifth, squaring the score as Cody Stanley, who went 2-for-4, doubled to deep left field to start the inning. An O'Neill double inside the right field line brought in Stanley to even the score. Ramsey was 2-for-5 in the loss.
Thursday, June 6th, Arkansas 4 at Springfield 3
Trying to stop the slide, the Cardinals sent lefty Ryan Sherriff to ground the Travelers. After the Cardinals gained an early lead, Sherriff kept the Cards in front through the remainder of his outing, finishing with six innings of work and allowing just the one run.
The combination of Jonathan Cornelius, Kevin Thomas, Justin Wright and Deryk Hooker provided scoreless relief for Springfield until an Arkansas comeback in the top of the ninth. With two away in the final frame, the Travelers drove a go-ahead two-run homer to center field against Hooker, sinking the Cardinals, 4-3.
Springfield got on board early when Xavier Scruggs, who went 3-for-4, crushed a solo home run over the left field fence in the second inning. The home run was Scruggs‘ 15th of the season. One out later, Stanley, who batted 2-for-4, belted a solo shot of his own on top of the Cardinals clubhouse beyond the right field wall. The Cardinals stretched the lead back out again in the bottom of the fourth when Gotay got things going with a double inside the left field line. Adam Melker brought him home with an RBI sacrifice fly to center field. With two down in the bottom of the ninth inning, Scruggs kept the game going with a double ripped into the left field corner. Stanley grounded out to end the game, however, stranding Scruggs at second.
Friday, June 7th, Arkansas 6 at Springfield 7 (16 innings)
In the second-longest game in Springfield Cardinals history, the Cards outlasted the Arkansas Travelers for the 7-6 victory in 16 innings before the standing-room-only crowd of 6,994 fans at Hammons Field on Friday night. With the win, Springfield moved back to within just one game of Arkansas for 1st place in the North Division with 12 games remaining in the first half.
Anthony Ferrara got the start in the series finale and delivered five innings before turning it over to the bullpen. Ferrara allowed three runs on four hits and two walks. Out of the bullpen, Wyatt was responsible for another run before Stoppelman allowed the Travelers to tie the game in the eighth inning. Cornelius, Wright, and Hooker each had scoreless outings with Almarante earning the win in the 16th after three innings of work.
The offense got started in the third when Nick Longmire, in his Double-A debut, placed an infield single up the middle and O'Neill worked a walk. Gotay ripped a two-run double inside the left field line, swinging Springfield in front, 3-2. Gotay then came home on an RBI base hit by Scruggs, capping the four-run rally for the 4-2 lead. After the Travelers mounted a comeback to take the lead 6-4, Springfield had an answer in the bottom of the 10th. Gotay belted a game-tying two-run homer over the right field wall, bringing the Cardinals back even at 6-6. Gotay also drove in the game-winning run on a walk-off walk in the 16th. Gotay's five RBI gave him 42, two behind Scruggs for the team lead.
Saturday, June 8th, Springfield 0 at Tulsa 3
After the energy spent in the 16-inning marathon victory at Hammons Field on Friday night, the Cardinals didn't have much left in the tank in front of a huge crowd in Tulsa on Saturday night.
Tim Cooney took the hill for Springfield and did what he does, delivering a quality start for Springfield after tossing six innings with just the three runs allowed. Cooney struck out five batters and did not issue a walk. Wyatt took over to throw two perfect frames after Cooney.
Tired and listless from the late night before and the bus ride that followed, the bats were still asleep when they got to Tulsa. Only one hit from a position player was managed which was a double off the bat of Scruggs. Springfield's only other base runners came from starting pitcher Cooney, who went 2-for-2 at the dish in the shutout loss.
Sunday, June 9th, Springfield 5 at Tulsa 0
After playing reliever to Westbrook on Tuesday, Seth Blair and the Cardinals topped Major League pitcher Roy Oswalt in what was easily Blair's best start so far this season on Sunday afternoon. Blair dominated through his seven-inning performance, striking out seven while only allowing three hits and two walks. He retired 13 consecutive batters from the third through two-thirds of the seventh, completely shutting down the Tulsa offense. After Blair's seven scoreless innings, Cornelius and Thomas both added a scoreless frame apiece, closing the 5-0 shutout win for Springfield.
Springfield struck in the second against the big leaguer Oswalt when Scruggs crushed a solo home run beyond the left field wall, lifting the Cardinals into the 1-0 lead. The home run was Scruggs's 100th career long ball and his 46th with Springfield, just 12 away from passing Steven Hill for the all-time team lead. Springfield added two more in the top of the fifth inning when Jake Lemmerman scored on an errant throw from Oswalt at third and then O'Neill bounced an RBI fielder's choice to third. In the eighth, Chris Swauger laced an RBI single to left-center, plating Gotay for the 4-0 advantage. Perez, who was 3-for-4 at the dish, put on the finishing touch with a solo homer in the ninth, lifting the lead to five runs.
Monday, June 10th, Springfield 5 at Tulsa 3
The Cardinals ended the week on Monday as Nick Greenwood made his second start of the week for Springfield, still seeking that second win. Greenwood though was tagged again early as Tulsa slammed a two-run homer over the right field wall, swinging the Drillers ahead, 3-1 and setting Greenwood up for his fourth loss. He threw five innings, allowing three runs on five hits. Wright entered in the sixth and surrendered two additional runs in 2/3 of an inning before Almarante put out the fire. Almarante also threw a perfect seventh before Stoppelman threw a perfect eighth inning.
The Cardinals chipped down the deficit in the top of the fifth inning. Ramsey started the frame with a double tucked just inside the left field line. He scored on an RBI liner from Swauger, bringing the Cardinals within one run, 3-2. Springfield chipped away again in the top of the eighth inning. Leading off, Scruggs belted a double into the left field corner. He came home on an RBI fielder's choice that was blooped to shallow center field by Luis Mateo, who was 2-for-4.
Xavier Scruggs - With two home runs and four RBI this week, Scruggs in still among the top three in both categories in the Texas League
Nick Greenwood - Untimeliness and bad defense behind him cost him two losses this week. The lefty is now 1-4 with a 4.94 ERA since joining Springfield.
June 7 - OF Tommy Pham sent to DL with a torn labrum
June 7 - OF Nick Longmire received from High-A Palm Beach
June 9 - OF Chris Swauger received from Triple-A Memphis
June 9 - RHP Chris Perry received from GCL Cardinals
June 10 - INF Vance Albitz received from Memphis
June 10 - 2B Starlin Rodriquez was activated from Springfield's DL
June 10 - OF Nick Longmire returned to Palm Beach from Springfield
June 10 - RHP Chris Perry was returned to State College from Springfield
North Division Standings – first half
|Arkansas Travelers (LAA)||30||31||0.492||-||-||14-12||16-19||4-6||L4|
|Springfield Cardinals (STL)||30||31||0.492||-||-||14-18||16-13||5-5||L1|
|Tulsa Drillers (COL)||30||32||0.484||0.5||9||20-15||10-17||7-3||W1|
|NW Arkansas Naturals (KC)||20||41||0.328||10||E||12-17||8-24||5-5||W3|
The Cardinal Nation Top 40 Prospect Watch
#13 James Ramsey - Although the first-round drafted outfielder seems to have a knack for timely hitting on and getting on base, he has begun to struggle at this level, hitting just .227 and striking out 33 times already.
#17 Starlin Rodriguez - Was sidelined for most of the past week with a stint on the DL.
#30 Seth Blair - Delivered his most impressive Double-A outing yet as he out-dueled Roy Oswalt with seven scoreless innings while striking out seven.
#32 Mike O'Neill - O'Neill is still setting up the offense in the leadoff spot by getting on base at an impressive rate. His defense suffered a bit though this week as he might have cost a game with a pair of miscues in left field.
#38 Audry Perez - Now over the Mendoza line, the catcher has delivered several multi-hit games lately with some timely hitting.
#39 Tim Cooney - Strangely enough, lefties are hitting Cooney better than righties, with a .306 batting average compared to .233.
The Cardinals wrap up their four-game series against Tulsa on Tuesday with Ryan Sherriff on the mound against the Drillers. After wrapping up in Tulsa, the Cards will make the short trip to Springdale, Arkansas to take on the Naturals for six games, including double-headers on Thursday and Saturday.
Follow me on Twitter: @BrandonJMahler
© 2013 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com and stlcardinals.scout.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.