Springfield Cardinals Notebook: 2013 Week 15

Chris Carpenter's rehab start was not the only highlight in the 4-2 week for the Double-A Cardinals.

Every so often, players at the minor league level get the unique opportunity to be around and learn from a seasoned big league veteran down to rehab from injury. Very rarely is this person also a former perennial All-Star, Cy Young Award winner, and multiple-time World Champion. However, that was the case on Monday evening as the young players with the Springfield Cardinals were positioned to pick up a thing or two from rehabbing superstar and St. Louis Cardinals legend, Chris Carpenter. Carpenter's arrival in Springfield brought so much excitement that phones started ringing off the hook in the club's offices the minute it was announced that Carpenter would be rehabbing with Springfield.

Carp's standing ovation

Along with the players, the crowd at Hammons Field realized the magnitude of the feat that was accomplished by Carpenter on Monday. The veteran's career was supposed to over but there he stood on the mound in Springfield providing a great example to the young players and fans - the example that hard work and determination can always pay off. Still though, with all the excitement in the air and coming off a four-game winning streak, the Cards fell to the Travelers on Monday night and they finished the week at 4-2.

Wednesday, July 10th, Springfield 5 at NW Arkansas 10

As I took in the sights from Springdale, AR on Wednesday evening, I had the opportunity to watch a high scoring back and forth contest between the Cardinals and the Naturals as the rain stayed just far enough south to get the game in.

Seth Blair got the start for Springfield and had a smooth first but then the Naturals broke through in the second by scoring three runs followed by two more in the fourth. Control was the issue for Blair as he walked four batters, allowing five runs on six hits in five innings.

Jose Almarante followed Blair by striking out the first batter of the sixth inning but loaded the bases with two outs before the Cardinals turned to Heath Wyatt. Wyatt, who had surrendered a long ball just a week before in the Texas League All-Star game in Arvest Ballpark, promptly allowed another to the Naturals' Orlando Calixte. Calixte's grand slam gave Northwest Arkansas the 10-5 advantage as Wyatt went on to throw an inning and a third before Corey Baker finished with a scoreless eighth.

The Cardinals got out to a quick start, striking for two runs in the top of the first inning. Mike O'Neill started the contest with a double to right field and was driven in on RBI sacrifice fly by James Ramsey. One out later, Xavier Scruggs slugged his league-leading 22nd long-ball, a solo shot landing in the picnic table area beyond the left field fence. Ramsey added another RBI sacrifice fly in the third to tie the game at three. After losing the early advantage, the Cards charged back in the sixth when Cody Stanley drove in Ruben Gotay on a RBI groundout followed by RBI double from Luis Mateo to tie the game at five. Three of the Cardinals' four hits were for extra bases.

Thursday, July 11th, Springfield 4 at NW Arkansas 3 (13 innings)

After dropping the first game on the series, the Cardinals looked to bounce back against the Natruals on Thursday with Anthony Ferrara on the mound. Unfortunately, Ferrara didn't last long. After throwing just 17 pitches and getting through two outs in the second inning, Ferrara called the trainer out and immediately left the game, heading for the clubhouse with a groin injury.

Baker entered for the second straight night and lasted 3 1/3 innings, allowing the Naturals to get to him in the 4th inning. After pitching through the fifth inning, Baker had allowed two runs on a hit before turning it over to Kevin Thomas who allowed the Naturals to tie the game in the seventh. After Thomas, Lee Stoppelman, Deryk Hooker, and Wyatt each threw two scoreless frames with Wyatt earning his second victory.

After trailing early, Springfield chipped away the deficit in the top of the fifth, starting when Mike O'Neill drove in Luis Mateo on a double-play ball. The Cardinals completed the comeback in the next inning when Cody Stanley launched a go-ahead, two-run home run over the right field wall, swinging the Cardinals in front, 3-2.

The Cardinals wouldn't score again until the 13th inning. Jake Lemmerman won the battle at the plate in the 13th, working an RBI walk to force in Scruggs from third base and lift the Cardinals back into the lead and the final score of 4-3. Scruggs and Mateo each had two hits apiece.

Friday, July 12th, Springfield 4 at NW Arkansas 0

Friday night brought a brilliant pitching performance for lefty starter Tim Cooney as he dealt a season-high nine strikeouts to help pace the Cardinals to the shutout win against Northwest Arkansas. Cooney kept the Naturals bats at bay through his 5 2/3 innings, including striking out the side in the third inning. Justin Wright picked up right where Cooney left off, dealing 1 1/3 scoreless innings before Jose Almarante blanked the Naturals through the final two frames. It was the Cards ninth shutout victory of the season.

The Cardinals offense struck right away in the top of the first as Stanley forced in the first run with an RBI walk, scoring Gotay. Stanley and the Cards struck again in the top of the fifth inning. Scruggs started with a double and Stanley chopped an RBI base hit through the middle of the drawn-in infield, plating Scruggs to double the lead to 2-0. Springfield's final blow was dealt in the top of the sixth as Adam Melker contributed an RBI free pass of his own, forcing in Scruggs from third base and advancing everyone 0 feet. Later in the inning, Ramsey came home on a wild pitch from J.C. Sulbaran accounting for the 4-0 final score in the shutout win. O'Neill had two hits for the Cardinals and Casey Rasmus collected his first Double-A hit.

Saturday, July 13th, Springfield 7 at NW Arkansas 4

After losing the opener, the Cardinals earned a series win on Saturday by winning three out of the four in Springdale. The Cards handed the ball to Richard Castillo, who is looking for more consistency after a couple of rough outings. Castillo got off to a shaky start in the first, allowing a couple of runs but then he seemed to settle in. Castillo didn't really find himself in trouble again until the seventh. As his evening finished, Castillo was charged with three runs on eight hits in 6 1/3 innings.

Thomas followed Castillo to get the final two outs in the seventh before throwing a scoreless eighth. Hooker then followed Thomas in the ninth and surrendered a solo home run before striking out the side and closing out the victory.

Springfield's bats struck right away in the top of the first inning as Ramsey launched a solo home run, his ninth of the season, over the right field wall. After losing that slim early lead, the Cardinals raced back in front again with four runs in the top of the seventh inning. It began as Cody Stanley hammered a bases-clearing, three-run double to right-center field. Stanley was brought in by Adam Melker, who added a RBI sacrifice fly for the 5-2 advantage. The Cardinals stretched the lead back out in the top of the eighth inning when Scruggs brought home two more runners in with a two-run single to left field, increasing the Cardinals lead to 7-3.

Sunday, July 14th, Arkansas 3 at Springfield 6

Cardinals starter Jonathan Cornelius dominated the Travelers bats through his first six scoreless innings, scattering only four hits. Arkansas got on the board in the top of the seventh though, on a two-run home run. Cornelius finished his start at 6 1/3 innings, allowing two runs on five hits.

Lee Stoppelman entered after Cornelius to get the next four outs for Springfield. After a scoreless eighth, Wyatt retired the first two in the top of the ninth, but surrendered a solo homer to close the gap to three runs. After another base hit, Hooker took over on the mound and got the strikeout to close the 6-3 win for the Cardinals. The save was Hooker's sixth of the season.

As they have all week, the Cardinals offense broke out early, striking for three runs in the bottom of the first inning. With the bases loaded, Stanley got things starting by ripping a two-run single just inside the first base line, plating O'Neill and Ramsey. An RBI fielder's choice by Mateo brought in Gotay, capping the first inning rally for the 3-0 lead.

Springfield stretched the lead with two more runs in the bottom of the sixth inning. Gotay started the frame with a double, then Mateo ripped an RBI single through the left side, plating Gotay. Melker then brought home Mateo with an RBI base hit to center field, making it 5-0.

The Cardinals did their final scoring with a run in the bottom of the eighth when Melker lined another RBI single to center field to bring in Stanley for the 6-2 lead. O'Neill, Gotay, Stanley, and Melker each had two hits for the Cards.

Monday, July 15th, Arkansas 5 at Springfield 3

St. Louis starter and former Cy Young Award winner Chris Carpenter made his much anticipated first rehab start for the Cardinals on Monday night in front of a sellout crowd of 9,709 fans at Hammons Field. The packed house that came to see Carpenter was the second-largest crowd of 2013 and fifth-best regular season crowd in team history.

Carpenter ended up going 2 2/3 innings with five strikeouts and three runs but only two were earned after he dealt the first two frames in scoreless fashion. Carpenter finished having thrown 54 pitches with 38 of them for strikes and left to a bone-chilling standing ovation from the Springfield faithful who realized the significance of seeing Carp on the mound after his career was deemed over.

After Carpenter wrapped up his rehab outing, Jose Almarante took over on the mound. Almarante got the Cardinals out of the third and through the fourth inning in scoreless fashion.

Seth Blair took over for the fifth and kept the Travs from adding to the advantage, but Arkansas struck in the top of the sixth. Blair allowed two runs in the fifth but threw the final five innings to keep Springfield in the game.

Showing their resilient nature, the Cards refused to go down without a fight, rallying once again in the bottom of the ninth. Melker and Lemmerman kept the game alive with consecutive walks. O'Neill, Ramsey and Gotay then strung together three straight RBI singles, bringing the Cardinals within just two runs. Unfortunately, that was all the comeback the Cards had in them as Chris Swauger struck out to end the charge and the game. Ramsey was 3-for-5 in the losing contest while Stanley was 2-for-4.

Who's Hot

Cody Stanley - With Audry Perez's move to Triple-A, the playing time Stanley is seeing is helping him get locked in. Stanley was a huge contributor this week as he batted .333 with 10 RBI.

Tim Cooney - Struck out nine and held the Naturals scoreless in his last start. That makes 23 strikeouts in his last three starts.

Who's Not

Adam Melker - The friendly outfielder is struggling at the plate this season, now hitting .221 after getting just two hits in 15 at-bats this week.

Jake Lemmerman - Hitting just .227 at the plate and has committed 19 errors at shortstop.

Team Transactions

July 10 - C Audry Perez sent to Triple-A Memphis to fill Rob Johnson's roster spot after Johnson was promoted to St. Louis
July 10 - C Casey Rasmus received from High-A Palm Beach to fill Perez's roster spot
July 12 - LHP Anthony Ferrara sent to DL (groin strain)
July 13 - OF Stephen Piscotty sent to DL (hamstring)
July 13 - OF Chris Swauger received from Triple-A Memphis to fill Piscotty's roster spot
July 15 - RHP Chris Carpenter received from St. Louis for rehab start

North Division Standings – second half

Texas League North W L PCT GB ELIM Home Away L10 Stk
Arkansas 15 9 .625 - - 7-5 8-4 6-4 W1
NW Arkansas 12 12 .500 3.0 44 5-5 7-7 4-6 W1
Springfield 12 12 .500 3.0 44 8-6 4-6 5-5 L1
Tulsa* 10 14 .417 5.0 42 3-9 7-5 3-7 L1
* Won 1st Half Division Title

The Cardinal Nation Top 40 Prospect Watch

#12 Stephen Piscotty - Landed on the DL with a strained hamstring. Expected to miss the next two weeks.

#13 James Ramsey - Was only 5-for-20 this week but also clubbed his ninth home run and took several walks in key game moments.

#30 Seth Blair - Allowed five runs in a start on Wednesday for the first time since May 24th.

#32 Mike O'Neill - Seeing a sharp decline in his walk rate recently, therefore his on base percentage has suffered slightly.

#39 Tim Cooney - Has only allowed seven runs in his last 24 2/3 innings, lowering his ERA to 3.82.

What's Next

The Cardinals finish their four-game set at home against the Travelers on Tuesday and Wednesday before heading back to Springfield on Thursday to begin another four-game road set with the Naturals. After the short trip to Northwest Arkansas, the Cardinals will return home on Monday the 22nd to face the Drillers and the Naturals in a pair of three-game series at home.

Follow me on Twitter: @BrandonJMahler

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