Springfield Cardinals Notebook: 2013 Week 22

Xavier Scruggs clubbed two home runs in the final game of 2013, ending this season with 29 and making him the lone career home runs leader for the Springfield Cardinals.

It does not quite have that storybook ending as in 2012 when we saw a dogpile at second base in Frisco following the Springfield Cardinals' first Texas League Championship. In fact, the 2013 season did not end well for the Double-A club.

Although many parts of the season up until late August brought hope, the Cards finished a dismal nine games back in the division race after beginning the final week of play just two games behind the first-place Arkansas Travelers.

However, while the Travs rode an eight-game winning streak to end the season, the Cardinals dropped all seven games of the week, concluding the season with a nine-game losing skid.

The one bright spot of the week came in the form of a record-breaking moment in Monday's season finale. The event was Xavier Scruggs' 28th home run of the season. It was also Scruggs' 58th career home run with the club, passing Steven Hill as the all-time Springfield Cardinals career home run leader.

Four innings later, Scruggs clubbed his 29th of the season and 59th with Springfield, sealing his record even further. Another bright spot for fans was the opportunity to interact with Cardinals big leaguers Tyler Lyons, Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha, who were present in the dugout for the Cardinals final homestand before they head for Cincinnati on Tuesday to rejoin the big club.

The week began with the news that seven Cardinals farmhands will be joining manager Mike Shildt in the Arizona Fall League, including five from Springfield. The class is headlined by 2012 first-round picks James Ramsey and Stephen Piscotty, both of whom had impactful seasons for Springfield this year. Joining Ramsey and Piscotty will be a trio of left-handed pitchers in Anthony Ferrara, Dean Kiekhefer and Lee Stoppelman. Stoppelman had been the late season closer for Springfield before his promotion to Memphis.

Tuesday, August 27th, Springfield 4 at Arkansas 8

Lefty Tim Cooney got the start on Tuesday to tip off the week in Arkansas as the Cardinals hoped to gain a game on the Travelers. After holding the Travs scoreless through the first two innings, Cooney lost his effectiveness and proceeded to allow seven runs over the next three frames. Cooney's night finished after six innings, allowing those seven runs on 11 hits while striking out five.

Justin Wright followed Cooney's effort in the seventh by allowing three hits and a run. Zack Russell then closed the door on a disappointing evening with a perfect eighth inning.

Springfield's offense got off to a powerful start in the top of the first. With two down, Xavier Scruggs belted a two-run home run to left-center, before Stephen Piscotty, who went 3-for-4, followed with a solo shot to left to swing the Cards into the 3-0 lead. The only other Cardinals run came as they chipped down the deficit to 7-3 with a solo blast by Colin Walsh in the top of the seventh. Luis Mateo had the Cardinals other multi-hit effort with two singles.

Wednesday, August 28th, Springfield 1 at Arkansas 3

Hoping to stop the bleeding of a three-game losing streak, the Cardinals sent Zach Petrick to stifle the Travelers. Petrick gave the Cardinals a solid start, keeping them in the game. Overall, Petrick went five innings, surrendering three runs on six hits while striking out five and walking two. Ultimately, it was a high pitch count that drove Petrick out.

Danny Miranda relieved Petrick with a scoreless sixth before giving way to Heath Wyatt, who threw 1 2/3 scoreless frames. Lee Stoppelman recorded the final four outs.

The Cardinals only run came in the top of the third inning when Xavier Scruggs worked an RBI walk, forcing in James Ramsey to square the score, 1-1. The RBI was Scruggs' 77th of the season. As a team, Springfield managed six hits, two of which came from Ruben Gotay. The club went 2-for-5 with runners in scoring position and fell to the Travelers 3-1.

Thursday, August 29th, Springfield 4 at Arkansas 6

With the Cardinals trailing the Travelers by four games with five games left, Thursday brought the opportunity for Arkansas to eliminate Springfield at home in Little Rock.

Anthony Ferrara was given the task of preventing elimination. Ferrara kept the Cardinals advantage intact through the bottom of the third and fourth frames, before the Travelers got the bats going in the bottom of the fifth. The lefty starter allowed four runs in the fifth, ending his day after the fifth surrendering five runs on four hits. Ferrara's control was again his biggest struggle, as he walked five batters.

Wright followed Ferrara with two innings of work, allowing another run in the sixth inning before Dean Kiekhefer recorded a scoreless eighth

Fighting for their livelihood, the Cardinals swung in front right out of the gates, plating a pair in the first inning. After Ramsey walked and Adam Melker doubled, Piscotty belted a two-run double to left-center field, opening the early 2-0 lead. Springfield stretched the edge in the top of the second inning. With one away, singles by Mateo and Matt Williams, along with a Ramsey free pass, loaded the bases. One out later, Gotay placed an RBI single to the left side of the infield that scored Mateo from third, making it 3-0.

The Cardinals added another run in the top of the third. Scruggs and Piscotty knocked consecutive singles to start the inning before Mateo grounded an RBI single through the right side of the infield to stretch the lead back to three runs, 4-1. Unfortunately, that cushion would not hold as the Cardinals were officially eliminated from playoff contention.

Friday, August 30th, Springfield 1 at Arkansas 4

After being eliminated on Thursday, the Cards turned to Jonathan Cornelius hoping to salvage a game in the final matchup with the Travelers. Cornelius gave the Cardinals the start they were looking for. He closed his season with a strong start, going 5 1/3 innings surrendering one run on seven hits striking out five.

Cornelius strong start was spoiled during 2 2/3 innings of combined relief effort from Russell and Miranda. In the seventh and eighth innings, the Travs plated three unearned runs on multiple errors from Jake Lemmerman and Scruggs.

Trailing by one run early, the Cardinals evened things up in the top of the fifth when Adam Melker placed an RBI groundout to first base, for the 1-1 tie. Springfield managed just three hits as a team with those coming off the bats of Melker, Scruggs, and Lemmerman. The one run was unfortunately not enough was the Cardinals dropped their sixth in a row.

Saturday, August 31st, Tulsa 7 at Springfield 6

Nearly 10,000 fans packed the house on Saturday night at Hammons Field as Seth Blair took the hill for the Cardinals for the opener of the final series of the 2013 season. With Lyons, Wacha, and Martinez in the dugout, Blair made his final start of the season against the Tulsa Drillers.

No doubt Blair would have liked to have seen both better results from himself, but also better defense behind him, as once again errors proved the demise of Cardinals pitching. Of the five runs on nine hits Blair allowed in his six inning start, only three were earned as a result of a missed catch from Starlin Rodriguez, who is still making the transition to left field.

Following Blair, Wright provided two innings of scoreless work to preserve the lead. However, Kiekhefer entered in the ninth to surrender the loss to Tulsa on two unearned runs from an error by Scruggs.

The bats got on the board in the bottom of the second, starting the frame with four straight hits. Scruggs led off with a solo home run, followed by three straight singles from Piscotty, Stanley and Melker, loading the bases. Matt Williams plated Piscotty from third with an RBI sacrifice fly, evening the score at 2-2. Blair followed Williams with an attempted a sacrifice bunt. The Drillers fielded the ball and tried to get Stanley at third base, but fired the throw down the left field line for an error that allowed Stanley to round third and score for the 3-2 lead.

After the Drillers tied it with an RBI single in the top of the fourth, the Cardinals opened another lead in the bottom of the frame. With runners at first and second base and two away, Mateo ripped an RBI double down the left field side to bring home Melker from second and lifting Springfield ahead, 4-3. After a walk by Rodriguez loaded the bases with two down, Gotay knocked a two-run single to increase the advantage to 6-3. The Cardinals again could not hold onto that lead though as they dropped their seventh straight.

Sunday, September 1st, Tulsa 2 at Springfield 1

After a rough start in Little Rock, Lefty Tim Cooney looked to show his true colors in his last effort of 2013. Cooney shined, alternating scoreless innings with a trio of Drillers to keep it 0-0 through the first seven innings. Cooney ended up going eight frames, striking out eight batters and surrendering only one earned run.

Two runs scored with Cooney on the mound but again an error from Rodriguez in left field led to an unearned run and might have made the difference. Cooney finished the season with a 3.80 ERA in his first Double-A campaign. Wyatt entered in the ninth to throw a perfect inning, striking out two.

The Cardinals offense attempted a comeback in the bottom of the ninth inning. Gotay worked a walk to start the inning, before darting to second on a wild pitch. After a groundout advanced Gotay to third, he came in on an RBI sacrifice fly to center field by Piscotty, bringing Springfield within just one run, 2-1. Melker and Rodriguez were both drilled with two down. They completed a double steal to take third and second base, but the Drillers induced a game-ending groundout off the bat of Williams, closing the narrow 2-1 loss to Tulsa.

Monday, September 2nd, Tulsa 8 at Springfield 4

After an impressive climb through the Cardinals system in 2013, Zach Petrick was given the honor of being the starter for the final game of the Springfield Cardinals 2013 season.

Petrick hoped to give the Cardinals something they hadn't been able to do in over a week; take home a win for the season finale. Petrick gave the Cardinals the chance they needed to take the victory but yet it wasn't enough. Petrick delivered five strong innings, allowing two runs on four hits.

It was Russell who suffered the loss as he entered in the sixth and surrendered five runs on six hits. The Drillers added another against Wright in seventh to make it 8-4 before Shildt turned it over to Corey Baker and Dean Kiekhefer for a scoreless eighth and ninth respectively.

On the offensive side, Scruggs hit two home runs, surpassing Steven Hill as the Cardinals all-time leader in homers with 59 in his powerful career. Scruggs hit a career-high 29 home runs this season.

The Cards notched two tallies in the bottom of the fourth. With one down in the frame, Scruggs lined his first home run of the day over the right field wall. Piscotty followed with a double, racing home next on an RBI double from Melker, lifting the Cardinals into a 2-1 lead.

Scruggs delivered another blow in the bottom of the eighth inning. After Gotay led off with a base hit, Scruggs belted a two-run home run over the center field wall, bringing the Cardinals within four runs of tying it, 8-4, but the charge would stop there as the Cardinals watched their season end on a nine-game losing streak. In addition to Scruggs' two monster hits, Melker and Piscotty also had two hits apiece.

Who's Hot

Xavier Scruggs - Scruggs powered his way through the final week of play with three home runs, allowing him to join the ranks of Springfield Cardinals history with his 59th career home run with the team.

Tim Cooney - The lefty made a statement with his last outing of the season by rebounding from a rough start in Little Rock by delivering eight strong innings, striking out eight and allowing just one earned run.

Who's Not

Jake Lemmerman - With three more errors this week, the shortstop ended the season with 25 errors at a defensively important position.

Zack Russell - Russell was the losing pitcher in both of his relief appearances this week while surrendering seven runs in two innings.

Team Transactions

August 30th - RHP Richard Castillo sent to Triple-A Memphis
August 30th - RHP Carlos Martinez received from Triple-A Memphis
August 31st - RHP Micheal Wacha received from Triple-A Memphis
August 31st - LHP Tyler Lyons received from Triple-A Memphis
August 31st - LHP Anthony Ferrara sent to GCL Cardinals
August 31st - OF James Ramsey sent to Triple-A Memphis
September 1st - LHP Jonathan Cornelius sent to Johnson City Cardinals
September 1st - INF Tyler Rahmatulla activated from DL
September 1st - INF Vance Albitz sent to Triple-A Memphis

Final Division Standings (Overall)

Texas League North W L PCT GB Home Away L10 Stk
Arkansas # 73 66 .525 - 39-30 34-36 9-1 W8
Tulsa* 68 70 .493 4.5 37-33 31-37 6-4 W4
Springfield 64 74 .464 8.5 34-34 30-40 1-9 L9
NW Arkansas 59 81 .421 14.5 34-36 25-45 4-6 L4

* 1st half division title
# 2nd half division title

The Cardinal Nation Top 40 Prospect Watch

#12 Stephen Piscotty - In Piscotty's first two months in Double-A, he posted solid numbers, ending the season with nearly 200 at-bats. He raised his average to .299 with nine doubles, six home runs and 24 RBI. Defensively, after switching to the outfield this season, Piscotty showed a strong arm and made some outstanding plays, including an outstanding catch two weeks ago to rob a home run at Hammons Field. Piscotty will head to the Arizona Fall League in a few weeks.

#13 James Ramsey - In nearly 350 Double-A at-bats, Ramsey put up strong and somewhat unexpected power numbers, clubbing 15 home runs to go with 11 doubles and two triples. Ramsey drove in 44 runs and stole eight bases. He needs to cut down on the strikeouts, as he fanned 108 times in 347 at-bats, but his performance was enough to earn him a brief promotion to Triple-A to end the season. Ramsey will join Piscotty heading west for the Arizona Fall League next month.

#30 Seth Blair - Overall, Blair had a solid season for Springfield, but not an outstanding one. He was the team leader in games started and innings pitched with 129 2/3 innings. He was second on the team to Cooney with 117 strikeouts. Keeping runs off the board was a problem for Blair all season long as he posted a 5.07 ERA with a 3-9 record.

#36 Colin Walsh - Walsh struggled quite a bit in his first taste of Double-A pitching. Hitting just .220 through 118 at-bats, the second baseman did hit his second Double-A home run during this final week of play.

#39 Tim Cooney - The lefty secured his place as the staff ace with his final start of the season. Cooney finished the season as the team leader in strikeouts with 125 after surpassing Blair by eight, exactly the number Cooney had in his final start. Cooney was also the staff leader in ERA among starting pitchers, finishing with a 3.80 ERA in 20 starts.

What's Next

The season has ended for Springfield but look for the season recap and the Players of the Year reports to come in the next few weeks. Check back often at TheCardinalNation.com.

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