Springfield Cardinals Notebook: 2013 Week 21

Heath Wyatt has been a key part of the bullpen that allowed the Cardinals to remain in the divisional playoff race.

After building some momentum in the past few weeks to make a run at the playoffs, the Springfield Cardinals found themselves with the division lead to begin the week. Despite getting some outstanding starting pitching from three starters, the Cardinals were still only able to put together a 2-5 week.

With only seven games left, the Cards now trail by two games as they had to face the first-place Travelers for four games in Little Rock. The Cardinals will have to find more consistency in the final week of the season if they hope to have a chance to repeat as Texas League Champions.

Tuesday, August 20th, NW Arkansas 21 at Springfield 6

With 13 games remaining in the regular season and tied for 1st place in the North Division second half standings with the Arkansas Travelers, the Cardinals returned home to Hammons Field on Tuesday evening to face the Naturals. The Naturals also began the week just one game behind the Cardinals and Travelers - very much in the thick of the race.

Richard Castillo got the start on Tuesday but by no means was pitching a strength for Springfield. As a staff, the Cards allowed 21 runs on 15 hits. Castillo started by allowing three runs in the first inning but then settled in to throw 5 1/3 innings, allowing seven runs with only four of them earned. Castillo even retired 13 consecutive Naturals in that stretch.

Heath Wyatt followed by allowing two more runs without recording an out in the sixth before giving way to Danny Miranda who held the Naturals scoreless in an inning and two-thirds. Zack Russell entered in the eighth and surrendered another five runs in 2/3 of an inning. Justin Wright got out of the eighth and allowed seven runs in the ninth. Running out of pitchers, the Cardinals turned to newcomer infielder Matt Williams to take the mound for the final two outs of the ninth.

Offensively, the Cardinals got off to a fast start with four runs in the bottom of the first inning. Ruben Gotay got the Cardinals on the board with an RBI sacrifice fly to center field, plating Ramsey and moving Mateo to third base. Mateo scored on an RBI double from Xavier Scruggs, who then scored on an RBI base hit by Stephen Piscotty, tying the game. A double by Cody Stanley moved Piscotty to third base, before Starlin Rodriguez brought him home with an RBI sacrifice fly, lifting the Cardinals into the 4-3 advantage.

After Piscotty robbed a home run with a great leaping grab at the wall in the top of the second, he swatted one of his own in the bottom of the third, stretching the Cardinals lead to 5-3. After falling six runs behind, another RBI double by Scruggs in the bottom of the seventh cut the deficit down to 9-6 before the Naturals ran away with it in the eighth and ninth. Scruggs finished the night 3-for-4 with two RBI doubles.

Wednesday, August 21st, NW Arkansas 3 at Springfield 1

After being trounced on Tuesday, the Cards sent staff ace Tim Cooney to the hill on Wednesday to stifle the Naturals hitters. Cooney did just that, keeping Northwest Arkansas off the board through the first six innings. After recording the first out and allowing a pair of singles in the seventh, Cooney gave way to Jose Almarante who was on the mound when Starlin Rodriguez missed the catch on a pop fly allowing both runners to score. Cooney was responsible for those runs but the nature of how they scored made the runs unearned. Cooney's night was finished after 6 1/3 innings yielding those two unearned runs on six hits and striking out seven batters.

After allowing those two unearned runs in the seventh, Almarante was charged with another unearned run in the eighth. Kevin Thomas entered in the eighth and struck out all four batters he faced in the eighth and ninth.

All four runs in the game were unearned including the Cardinals one run that came in the bottom of the third. Colin Walsh started the inning with a walk, before Williams lined a single to right field that led to an error that enabled Walsh to advance to third and Williams to get to second on the play. Ramsey then drove an RBI sacrifice fly to center field, scoring Walsh from third for the 1-0 lead. Unfortunately, that lead would not hold as those were also the only two hits from the Cardinals.

Thursday, August 22nd, NW Arkansas 2 at Springfield 3

Zach Petrick shut down the Naturals bats through his first six scoreless frames, retiring nine straight from the fourth through the sixth. However, Petrick ran into a wall in the seventh when he allowed consecutive hits including a RBI single. That led to Thomas taking over on the mound. Thomas was greeted with an RBI base hit before digging in and retiring the next two in order without allowing any more damage. That kept the Cards up by one, 3-2. Petrick was responsible for the run allowed by Thomas, so he completed his night by going 6 1/3 innings allowing two runs on five hits and striking out seven.

After Thomas collected the first out in the eighth, Lee Stoppelman took over with two runners on. Stoppelman got out of the jam and navigated through the ninth, retiring five straight outs to close the 3-2 win for the Cardinals. The save was Stoppelman's fifth of the season.

The Cardinals once again did not have much offense but managed just enough to scrape up the win, propelling them back into a tie for the division lead. Springfield swung in front against in the bottom of the second inning. Leading off the frame, Scruggs broke the scoreless tie by launching a mammoth solo home run, his 25th, beyond the left field fence. Scruggs also added a triple in the contest. Springfield widened the gap with another long-ball in the bottom of the fifth inning. With one down, Ramsey lined a single to right-center field, before motoring to second base with a steal. One out later, Gotay tatooed a two-run home run over the right field wall. That tripled the advantage to 3-0 and sealed the win.

Friday, August 23rd, NW Arkansas 12 at Springfield 0

After ensuring they would not be swept on Thursday, the Cardinals looked to salvage the series split by taking the final regular season game against the Naturals in 2013. Anthony Ferrara took the hill in front of a huge sellout crowd of nearly 10,000 at Hammons Field on Friday night.

Ferrara gave the Cardinals a chance early, holding the Naturals through the first two innings but then ran into trouble through his next three innings. Ferrara finished his day after 4 1/3 innings surrendering four runs on seven hits.

Wyatt followed Ferrara with 2 2/3 innings of scoreless work to get through the seventh. Danny Miranda started the eighth inning and allowed five runs while recording two outs. Russell relieved Miranda to get the final four outs but also surrendered three runs in the process.

Springfield was unable to plate in run in the series finale. As a team, the offense was 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position and they left 11 batters on base. Gotay and Stanley were both 2-for-4, accounting for four of the seven team hits. Walsh had the Cards only extra base hit with a double, his fifth since joining Springfield.

Saturday, August 24th, Springfield 4 at Tulsa 1

After dropping three of four at home to the Naturals, Springfield traveled to Tulsa on Saturday to take on the Drillers. The Cardinals earned their second win of the week by taking the opener.

Starter Jonathan Cornelius struck out a season-high nine batters through seven frames allowing just one run on three hits. In relief of Cornelius‘ outstanding start, Almarante followed with a perfect eighth inning, striking out one. Stoppelman followed by earning his sixth save with a hitless ninth, also striking out one batter.

The Cardinals swung in front early, tallying three runs in the top of the first inning. Ramsey and Walsh started with a single and a walk, respectively, putting two men on. A wild pitch moved both runners to second and third. Piscotty then launched a two-run double to right field, cracking the scoreless tie. Piscotty scored on an RBI single from Stanley, stretching the early lead to 3-0.

Springfield padded the lead with one more in the top of the seventh inning. Luis Mateo scorched a double down the left field side with only one away in the inning. One out later, Ramsey placed an RBI single to left-center, scoring Mateo for the 4-1 win.

Sunday, August 25th, Springfield 8 at Tulsa 10

Hoping to bounce back from a rough start at home to begin the week against the Naturals, starter Richard Castillo took on the Drillers on the road. Unfortunately for Castillo, the results were about the same. Topping his last start, Castillo did make it through the fifth inning, but this time was responsible for five runs, all earned, on 10 hits.

Wright threw a perfect sixth inning before giving way to Miranda for the seventh. Miranda continued his tough week by surrendering five runs in the seventh before recording a scoreless eighth. The loss was Miranda's first with Springfield.

Springfield's offense began by plating two runs in the top of the third inning. With Mateo on at second base and two down, Ramsey ripped an RBI single to left-center field, cracking the scoreless tie. Ramsey then raced all the way home on an RBI double by Adam Melker just inside the left field line, making it 2-0.

The Cardinals added three runs in the top of the seventh. The inning began with consecutive singles from Gotay, Scruggs and Walsh, with Walsh's hit bringing in Gotay. After a sacrifice bunt by Mateo, pinch-hitter Starlin Rodriguez ripped a game-tying, two-run single down the left field side, plating Scruggs and Walsh for the 5-5 tie. Springfield chipped away with an RBI single by Piscotty in the eighth, before Gotay's two-run homer in the ninth got the Cards within only two runs of tying it. However, the Cardinals charge ended there.

Monday, August 26th, Springfield 4 at Tulsa 8

After missing his last start, Seth Blair made his first appearance in nearly two weeks for Springfield on Monday night. The layoff may have affected Blair's sharpness, as he allowed three walks in six innings while surrendering four runs on seven hits.

After a walk to start the seventh inning, Blair gave way to Almarante who promptly allowed an RBI base hit that tied the game and a two-run double, lifting the Drillers ahead, 6-4. Dean Kiekhefer recorded the final two outs of the seventh before Tulsa added two insurance runs against Wyatt in the bottom of the eighth inning.

The Cardinals put two runs on the board in the top of the fourth inning when Ramsey launched a two-run double into the left field corner. After Tulsa tied the game in the bottom of the fourth, Springfield swung right back in front in the top of the fifth as Starlin Rodriguez then ripped a two-out RBI base hit through the left side.

The Cardinals then stretched the lead with one run in the top of the sixth when Gotay crushed an RBI double to left-center field, scoring Ramsey from first base to make it 4-2. After losing the lead, Gotay led off the top of the ninth with a double to try to start a comeback, the next three Cardinals fell in order, closing the 8-4 loss to Tulsa.

Who's Hot

Tim Cooney - The lefty ace has only allowed two earned runs through 20 1/3 innings in his last three starts.

Zach Petrick - Allowed just two earned runs and struck out seven while earning one of two Cardinals wins this week.

Jonathan Cornelius - Struck out a season high nine batters and allowed only one run and three hits in his start at Tulsa this week.

James Ramsey - The center fielder and former first-round pck was 9-for-21 with five RBI this week.

Who's Not

Danny Miranda - After a great beginning in Double-A, Miranda allowed 10 runs in 4 1/3 innings through three appearances this week.

Team Transactions

July 20th - INF Vance Albitz sent to Triple-A Memphis
July 20th - INF Matt Williams received from High-A Palm Beach
July 26th - RHP Kevin Thomas sent to Triple-A Memphis
July 26th - LHP Dean Kiekhefer received from High-A Palm Beach

North Division Standings – second half

Texas League North W L PCT GB ELIM Home Away L10 Stk
Arkansas 33 30 .524 - - 16-13 17-17 6-4 W1
NW Arkansas 31 32 .492 2.0 6 16-14 15-18 5-5 L1
Springfield 31 32 .492 2.0 6 20-13 11-19 3-7 L2
Tulsa* 30 33 .476 3.0 5 16-18 14-15 3-7 W2
* Won 1st Half Division Title

The Cardinal Nation Top 40 Prospect Watch

#12 Stephen Piscotty - In 400 at bats this season between High-A and Double-A, the outfielder is hitting .285 with 37 extra base hits and 55 RBI. Perhaps a surprise is the seven stolen bases since joining Springfield for the big man.

#13 James Ramsey - Comparable to Piscotty, Ramsey now has 399 at bats between High-A and Double-A. Though more of his time has been spent at Double-A, Ramsey is hitting .273 with 36 extra base hits and 51 RBI.

#30 Seth Blair - After missing his last start and not pitching for two weeks, Blair's control wasn't there. As the team leader in innings and strikeouts, Blair now sports a 5.09 ERA on the season over 23 games.

#36 Colin Walsh - The second baseman has struggled at the plate since getting to Springfield. Through 108 at bats, Walsh has managed just 23 hits (.213), with six of them for extra bases.

#39 Tim Cooney - The staff ace continues to roll. With his most recent start, Cooney came within two strikeouts of taking over the team lead from Blair despite having thrown nearly 20 fewer innings.

What's Next

With seven games left, the Cards trail the Travelers by two games and will travel to Little Rock to begin a four-game set with Arkansas on Tuesday that could decide the season for Springfield. After four games in Little Rock, the Cardinals will return home on Saturday to wrap up the regular season against the Tulsa Drillers for three games at Hammons Field.

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