Springfield Cardinals Notebook: 2013 Week 11

The Cardinals fought the weather and their opponents, but fell just short in their first-half title chase. James Ramsey is swinging a hot bat, with two home runs, a triple and five RBI in the past week.

After fighting so closely and tirelessly for the First-Half Texas League North Division Title, the Springfield Cardinals' hand was forced after a 3-4 week. On Monday, the Cardinals were forced to cancel their double-header that was postponed from Sunday due to unplayable field conditionals. By canceling the game, the Cardinals were forced to concede the first-half title to the Tula Drillers, who owned the tie-breaker.

The field conditions had deteriorated at Hammons Field after heavy rain fell on Springfield on Saturday followed by more damp conditions on Sunday and Monday, therefore not allowing the field crew, who worked long hours trying to get the field ready, enough time to get the field to a condition where the players' safety was not jeopardized.

With that, the Cardinals will begin their quest at a second half title on Tuesday carrying five of six organizational Texas League All-Stars on their roster. These recently named All-Stars include Ruben Gotay, Mike O'Neill, Tommy Pham, Deryk Hooker, Kevin Thomas, and current St. Louis Cardinal Keith Butler.

Tuesday, June 11th, Springfield 3 at Tulsa 4

The final week of the first half of the season opened with Ryan Sherriff on the mound. Sherriff kept the Cardinals in front through seven innings, allowing two runs on 10 hits, but the Drillers raced in front in the bottom of the eighth inning. Sherriff's excellent outing came to an end after giving up a leadoff single to start the eighth.

All-Star relief pitcher Kevin Thomas took over, but another Texas League All-Star, Kiel Roling, connected for an RBI double to right-center, making it just a 3-2 Cardinals lead. Thomas then alternated strikeouts around a walk, handing the ball to another All-Star in Deryk Hooker with two on and two down. Hooker surrendered a bloop RBI single just inside the shallow portion of the right-field line, tying the game and putting men at the corners. Next was a soft bouncer up the middle for a go-ahead RBI infield single, lifting the Drillers into the 4-3 lead.

The Cardinals got off to a quick start offensively, striking for an early run in the top of the first. All-Star Left-fielder Mike O'Neill, who had two hits, singled up the middle to start the inning and then All-Star Third-baseman Ruben Gotay brought O'Neill home with a perfectly placed RBI base hit to shallow center, lifting the Cardinals into the 1-0 lead. Chris Swauger nearly blew it open in the first when he crushed a fly ball that looked destined to fly over the left field fence. However, Tulsa's Delta Cleary, Jr. made a leaping catch reaching over the wall, robbing the home run but also firing the ball back to first base to double up Gotay and end the inning on a phenomenal play.

Springfield plated two more in the top of the fourth. Swauger led off with a single, before Xavier Scruggs reached on an error, putting two on with no outs. Starlin Rodriguez, who also had two hits, was hit by a pitch, loading the bases for Vance Albitz. Albitz came through with an RBI single to left field, plating Swauger and keeping the bases full. Sherriff then helped his own cause by lining an RBI single to left field for his first career RBI. The 3-0 lead for the Cardinals wasn't enough to hold onto in what became 4-3 loss.

Wednesday, June 12th, Springfield 9 at NW Arkansas 5

Wednesday afternoon saw Anthony Ferrara on the mound for the Cards. The lefty has had a few rough starts this season but gave a solid outing on Wednesday. After Ferrara kept the Naturals off the board through his first three innings, Northwest Arkansas struck for two runs in the bottom of the fourth but he kept the three-run advantage given to him intact through the remainder of his five innings. The lefty started ended the day having held the Naturals to those two runs on nine hits and struck out five.

Justin Wright followed with an inning and a third of scoreless work. Heath Wyatt allowed a run in the eighth followed by Lee Stoppelman who allowed another run in the eighth and Jose Almarante surrendered the final run in the ninth, hold the lead at 9-5.

The Cardinals racked up 15 hits en route to victory on Wednesday afternoon. Springfield swung in front early with three runs in the top of the third against the Naturals. With one away, James Ramsey reached on an error, before Gotay got on with a base hit. Swauger brought home Ramsey with an RBI ground out to second, getting the Cardinals on the board. After Scruggs worked a walk, he stole his way to second base to put both runners in scoring position allowing Jake Lemmerman to bring both in with a two-run base hit to center field. That stretched the lead to 3-0. In the top of the fourth, O'Neill reached first with two down and Ramsey launched a two-run home run to right-center field, putting Springfield up, 5-0.

The Cardinals stretched the lead in the seventh and eighth. With two down in the seventh, Cody Stanley, who was 3-for-5, crushed an RBI double to right-center to make it 6-2. Then, with one down in the eighth, O'Neill belted a solo bomb over the right field wall, stretching it back to a five-run lead, 7-2. The Cards put it away with two more in the top of the ninth. Base hits by Swauger and Scruggs started the inning, before an RBI double by Lemmerman, who ended his day 2-for-4 with three RBI. Albitz then brought Scruggs home with an RBI grounder to account for the final score of 9-5 in the Cardinals win.

Thursday, June 13th (Game 1), Springfield 1 at NW Arkansas 8 (7 innings)

The first game of the double-header on Thursday saw All-Star lefty Tim Cooney on the mound. Cooney was not up to his usual par in the bottom of the first inning when he allowed three runs to the Naturals. Things wouldn't get a lot better for Cooney from there as he was done after 3 2/3 innings after surrendering seven runs on 11 hits. Newcomer Travis Miller carried the load they rest of the way, giving the Cardinals 2 1/3 innings out of the bullpen. He allowed one more hit and one more run in the 8-1 loss.

Things were not much better offensively for the Cardinals. Springfield's only run came when Ramsey, who had two of the team's five hits, started the inning with a triple into the right field corner. He was plated on an RBI grounder from Gotay. Lemmerman also had a double.

Thursday, June 13th (Game 2), Springfield 2 at NW Arkansas 3 (7 innings)

Just like the first half of the twin bill, the Naturals struck first again, plating three runs in the bottom of the third inning. This time it was against another Cardinal lefty in Jonathan Cornelius. That would be all Cornelius would surrender though in his 4 1/3 innings. Unfortunately, it would be enough to leave him on the hook for the loss. Wyatt followed Cornelius with 1 2/3 scoreless frames, allowing two Naturals to reach base on base hits.

The Cardinals put together their first charge in the top of the fourth inning. O'Neill, who was 2-for-4, got things started with a single. Swauger then laced an RBI single to right-center field, scoring O'Neill to make it 3-1. Springfield was not going down quietly at the end either, attempting the late comeback in the top of the seventh starting when Stanley reached first base on a fielder's choice, Albitz, who was 2-for-3, singled to center to extend the game and put two runners on. Lemmerman then entered the game as a pinch hitter and placed a two-out RBI single to shallow right field, scoring Stanley to make it just a one run game. However, O'Neill grounded out to second base and closing the 3-2 loss in seven to the Naturals. Gotay, who was 2-for-3, also laced his 21st double of the season.

Friday, June 14th, Springfield 8 at NW Arkansas 4

With Seth Blair on the mound on Friday, the Cardinals looked to bounce back from dropping both ends of the double-header on Thursday. 7,535 fans attended at Arvest Ballpark as the Cardinals remained just 1 1/2 games behind the 1st-place Tulsa Drillers with four games scheduled to be left in the First Half.

Despite allowing 10 hits, Blair actually delivered a productive outing by holding the Naturals to only two runs and striking out six batters. Thomas was the pitcher of record though when the Cardinals took the lead late. Thomas earned his third win by tossing two innings, allowing a run in the seventh and striking out the side in the eighth. Hooker took over and yielded another run in the ninth but preserved the 8-4 victory for Springfield.

On the offensive side, Ruben Gotay led the way when he channeled his inner Carlos Beltran, who did the same thing as Gotay in Miami on Saturday and hit a home run from each side of the plate. Things got started when the Cards tied it in the top of the third. Mike O'Neill, who reached base in all five plate appearances and scored four runs, singled to start the third frame. Gotay then struck for the first of his five RBIs with a sacrifice fly, plating O'Neill for the 1-1 tie. The Cardinals struck again in the top of the fifth for their first lead of the game. O'Neill sparked the charge with a leadoff double and took third on a wild pitch. Ramsey brought O'Neill home with an RBI sacrifice fly to center field, lifting the Cardinals into the 2-1 advantage.

The Cardinals responded in a big way in the top of the eighth. O'Neill again started the rally, this time drawing a leadoff walk. One out later, Gotay hammered a go-ahead two-run homer over the left field wall. Swauger followed with a single Scruggs worked a walk before Stanley ripped a two-out, two-run double inside the left field line, plating both runners to open a 6-3 lead.

Gotay struck again in the ninth after O'Neill again led off with another walk, and Gotay then crushed his second two-run homer off the right field foul pole one out later, increasing the lead and ensuring the 8-4 win.

Saturday, June 15th (Game 1), Springfield 8 at NW Arkansas 2 (7 innings)

In the last day of a extremely rare six-game series with the Naturals, the Cardinals sent their fourth lefty starter of the week to the mound in Nick Greenwood. Greenwood was outstanding, retiring the first 11 batters that he faced, and didn't allow a base hit until two-thirds of the way through the fifth. Back on the mound to finish what he started, Greenwood did surrender two late runs in the bottom of the seventh. However, he got through the rest of the frame with no problems and closed the 8-2 win with a complete game performance in Game 1.

The Cardinals started the first game in a powerful way swatting two home runs in the top of the first inning. O'Neill worked his typical magic in a walk to start the game and Ramsey pulled a two-run shot over the right field wall to start the scoring. One out later, Swauger launched a solo home run to dead center, increasing the early lead to 3-0. After Scruggs belted a two-run bomb in the sixth, the Cardinals stretched the lead even further with three more runs in the top of the seventh. With Albitz at second base and one away, O'Neill lined an RBI double to center field. One out later, Gotay and Swauger struck for consecutive two-out RBI singles, padding the lead to 8-0.

Saturday, June 15th (Game 2), Springfield 1 at NW Arkansas 6 (7 innings)

Springfield newcomer Corey Baker was called up from Palm Beach just to start the second game of the double-header. Baker threw scoreless innings through the first two before the Naturals cracked the tie in the bottom of the third. With one out in the bottom of the fifth, Wyatt took over for Baker on the mound. With the rain coming down, Wyatt attempted a pick off throw to first, but fired wide and allowed a runner to score from third, stretching the Naturals lead to 3-1. After Wyatt hit the batter with the next pitch, the umpires called for the tarp and sent the game into the rain delay. Wright took over on the mound after the delay, and the Naturals added an unearned run on a missed catch by Perez at the plate. Northwest Arkansas added two more unearned runs in the bottom of the sixth

Springfield was able to put a runner across in the top of the fifth. Luis Mateo reached first with one down, Audry Perez drove a double, his ninth of the season, off the right field wall, putting runners at second and third. O'Neill then placed an RBI grounder to second base, enabling Mateo to dart home for the Cards only run. Rodriguez and Albitz had the only other two hits for the Birds.

Sunday, June 16th, Tulsa at Springfield (postponed because of rain)

Monday, June 17th (Game 1), Tulsa at Springfield (postponed because of field conditions)

Monday, June 17th (Game 2), Tulsa at Springfield (postponed because of field conditions)

Who's Hot

Ruben Gotay - With eight RBI this week, the veteran Texas League All-Star propelled himself to second in the Texas League with 52 RBI.

Nick Greenwood - The lefty tossed all seven innings allowing just two runs in Game 1 of the double-header in Saturday.

Who's Not

Adam Melker - The streaky outfielder had just four hits in his last 30 appearances before being demoted to Palm Beach this week.

Team Transactions

June 13 - INF Tyler Rahmatulla placed on DL
June 14 - RHP Travis Miller received from High-A Palm Beach for double-header
June 15 - RHP Travis Miller sent to High-A Palm Beach
June 16 - RHP Richard Castillo received from Triple-A Memphis
June 16 - RHP Corey Baker received from High-A Palm Beach for double-header
June 17 - RHP Corey Baker sent to High-A Palm Beach
June 17 - OF Tommy Pham activated from DL
June 17 - OF Adam Melker sent to High-A Palm Beach

North Division Standings – first half

First half final W L PCT GB Elim Home Away L10 Stk
Tulsa 34 34 .500 -- -- 21-15 13-19 7-3 L1
Springfield 33 35 .485 1.0 E 14-18 19-17 4-6 L1
Arkansas 33 36 .478 1.5 E 16-17 17-19 3-7 L2
NW Arkansas 25 45 .357 10.0 E 15-21 10-24 6-4 W3

The Cardinal Nation Top 40 Prospect Watch

#13 James Ramsey - Seems to be finding his power stroke after clubbing two home runs and a triple to go with five RBI this week.

#17 Starlin Rodriguez - The slick-fielding second baseman has four hits in 10 at-bats since returning from the DL.

#30 Seth Blair - Blair now leads the team in innings pitched and has shown a lot more consistency in his last four starts. Maybe the Arizona Fall League standout is finally settling in at Double-A.

#32 Mike O'Neill - The newly named Texas League All-Star outfielder was on base 14 times out of 29 at-bats this week. If he can continue what he has done all along, he has found his ticket.

#38 Audry Perez - The catcher is now sharing time with Cody Stanley and is still quiet with the bat. He did have two doubles and a home run this week though.

#39 Tim Cooney - The lefty had easily his worst start of the season this week only giving the team 3 2/3 innings and surrendering seven runs.

What's Next

The Cardinals will begin the second half of the season on Tuesday with Ryan Sheriff on the mound against the Tulsa Drillers. They will play two against the Drillers before welcoming the Travelers to town on Thursday.

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