Springfield Cardinals Notebook: 2014 Week 3

The Double-A Springfield Cardinals are holding onto a share of first place despite a .500 record overall.

The Springfield Cardinals took sole possession of first place last week-end by taking three-of-four against the Arkansas Travelers (LAA). Now they find themselves tied at the top with the Tulsa Drillers (COL) at 9-9 and look to finish off the Northwest Arkansas Naturals (KC) series on a good note with two games remaining.

Thursday, April 17th, Arkansas 1 at Springfield 2

Springfield came back home with a tight win against the former Cardinals Double-A affiliate, the Arkansas Travelers. Seth Blair got through six innings against the Travs, allowing one earned on five hits while walking four and striking out three. Blair was really helped out by his defense as they converted four double plays including standouts Jonathan Rodriguez and Luis Mateo, the latter fresh from Triple-A Memphis.

Relievers Logan Billbrough and Justin Wright kept the score intact with a combined three scoreless innings from the two Cardinals relievers.

Rafael Ortega was a staple for the offense, as the newly-acquired outfielder had a pair of singles and scored twice via Luis Mateo's RBI and Travis Tartamella's sac fly. That was Springfield's only offense of the night. This win tied Springfield with Arkansas atop the standings at 6-7.

Friday, April 18th, Arkansas 5 at Springfield 9

In the second game of the four game set, Springfield once again came out on top with more of an offensive game rather than a well-pitched game. Cardinals legend and now special assistant to the general manager Willie McGee was in town and helped out the Cardinals pre-game. Ground-ball machine Sam Gaviglio was the Friday winning pitcher as he hurled 5 2/3 innings, giving up three earned runs on six hits, walking three and striking out five.

Ryan Sherriff replaced Gaviglio with one out remaining in the sixth. Sherriff was the only reliever of the night to be scored upon as he gave up two runs on three hits in an inning. Joe Donofrio and Dean Kiekhefer followed, retiring all batters faced.

The Birds' offense jumped on top early on with four runs. The big blow was Aledyms Diaz' two-run bomb in the sixth, his only hit in five at bats. He apparently went down and reached for it as the ball traveled well over the LF wall. Jonathan Rodriguez also went deep with his third smash of the season.

Curt Smith was the only Springfield hitter to have multiple hits with three - two singles and a double. Mike O'Neill drove in two on a single and Patrick Wisdom plated one with a single. Springfield had sole possession of first place in the Texas League North Division as of Friday.

Saturday, April 19th, Arkansas 1 at Springfield 6

A first-inning two-run bomb by James Ramsey (his fifth) set Springfield's path to take the first three games of the four-game series. The win gave Springfield a two-game lead in the standings going into Sunday.

Lefty Jonathan Cornelius had a nice performance covering seven innings allowing one run on five hits with no walks and six strikeouts. It took the lefty only 86 pitches to get through seven quality innings. Danny Miranda finished off the game with two scoreless.

Mike O'Neill did his thing, getting on base all four times - walking twice, doubling and tripling with an RBI. Aledmys Diaz, Greg Miclat, and Travis Tartamella also contributed RBIs.

Sunday, April 20th, Arkansas 11 at Springfield 3

Springfield hoped to complete a four-game sweep over the Travelers but the visitors put that to rest as they scored seven runs in the final three innings. The Cardinals still managed three-out-of-four and captured first place for the first time this year.

Long-time Springbirds outfielder Adam Melker let it all out with a four-hit game that included a double, and homer to give him three RBI total. Kurt Heyer did his part with a six inning performance, holding the Travelers to one run on seven hits. He walked two and struck out six.

The bullpen was absolutely obliterated by the Travs offense in the final frames as they yielded ten runs (only seven of them earned) collectively. The relievers who gave up the damage on Sunday night were Anthony Ferrara, Joe Donofrio, Ryan Sherriff and Ronnie Shaban.

The offense couldn't do much before being shell-shocked in the late innings. However, Curt Smith had two hits with a solo homer, his first of the season. Luis Mateo drove in two, via an RBI single that scored Curt Smith and he also plated Rafael Ortega, who walked twice. Even though the sweep wasn't executed as hoped, the Cardinals had a really good series overall, taking over the Texas League Northern Division lead.

Monday, April 21th, Springfield 5 at NW Arkansas 2

On Monday night, the Cardinals began a four-game set at the Naturals of Northwest Arkansas. Called-up to take Zach Petrick's spot in the rotation after a series of moves made from Joe Kelly being placed on the shelf, Kyle Hald took the win in his Double-A debut. The lefty threw five frames, working around five hits, two runs (one earned), and four walks. Hald fanned two and induced one double-play.

Logan Billbrough and Justin Wright followed with a combined three scoreless innings. Billbrough gave up a hit and walked a batter with a strikeout over the next 1 1/3 of an inning, while Wright fanned two in the final 1 2/3 of an inning. Dean Kiekhefer converted his third save that included a strikeout and a hit.

Jonathan Rodriguez and Curt Smith had six of the Cardinals' 14 hits. Two of Rodriguez' were doubles. Rodriguez and Smith had one RBI each. Mike O'Neill, Rafael Ortega, and Luis Mateo had two hits apiece with Ortega's triple being the only extra base hit of the three. Mateo had an RBI and Ortega helped out with one driven in as well.

Tuesday, April 22nd, Springfield 2 at NW Arkansas 3

After taking the opener, Springfield looked to take game two from the home-team Naturals in the four-game series. Seth Blair gave the Cardinals all he could in 6 2/3 innings, allowing two earned runs on five hits, walking four and striking out three Naturals. The former supplemental first rounder got that deep into the game throwing right at 100 pitches, though only 54 were strikes either called or swinging.

Reliever Joe Donofrio mowed down all four of the opposing batters he faced. Then came the ninth inning with the game tied at 2-2. Ronnie Shaban put away the first two outs but the chance to go into extra innings evaporated when Shaban gave up a walk-off home run to Naturals first baseman Mark Threlkeld.

Springfield certainly had their chances but they just couldn't find any situational hitting except from a small outburst in the third inning when Aledyms Diaz doubled in Rafael Ortega. The outfielder walked three times and singled in his five plate appearances. Their second run came on a Jonathan Rodriguez solo shot, his fourth of the season. The Birds finished the game 1-for-14 with runners in scoring position.

Who is Hot

Luis Mateo – Not letting the April 15th return to Springfield bother him, Mateo lifted his hitting from a .077 average at Memphis in 10 games to a .364 average in his first six games with Springfield. He's also collected four runs batted in, one for a walk-off.

Curt Smith – Working on an improbable comeback with the Cardinals organization, Smith has scorched the baseball since April 17th, going 11-for-21 in that span of four games.

Who is Not

David Popkins – This is the outfielder's second straight week on this part of the list. Popkins continues to scuffle at the plate, hitting .138 on the season. He did collect a single on Tuesday night but also fanned three times.

Ronnie Shaban – The late inning reliever's ERA is now up to 17.36 on the season after giving up the walk-off home run Tuesday night.

Team Transactions

4/20 – LHP Kyle Hald assigned to Springfield Cardinals from Palm Beach Cardinals
4/20 – RHP Zach Petrick assigned to Memphis Redbirds from Springfield Cardinals

Texas League North Division Standings

Club W L PCT GB Home Away L10 Streak
Springfield Cardinals (STL) 9 9 .500 - 4-6 5-3 6-4 L1
Tulsa Drillers (COL) 9 9 .500 - 4-6 5-3 6-4 W3
Arkansas Travelers (LAA) 7 11 .389 2.0 2-6 5-5 1-9 L2
NW Arkansas Naturals (KC) 5 13 .278 4.0 1-7 4-6 3-7 W1

The Cardinals Top 40 Prospect Watch

#8 James Ramsey – Ramsey can all but feel a return to Triple-A Memphis. The outfielder just needs to keep doing what he's doing at plate and trying to make more contact in order to lessen the strikeouts. Ramsey is batting .343 with five home runs and 14 RBI.

#15 Patrick Wisdom – The third baseman has yet to homer on the new season in the hitter-friendly Texas League. I am not too worried at this point as long as there are results at the end of the season. Wisdom is hitting .254.

#16 Zach Petrick – This is his last week included in this weekly prospect watch as he was promoted to Memphis on Sunday. The right-hander debuted with a quality start against the Oklahoma City Redhawks.

#24 Mike O'Neill – What more can I say? O'Neill has reached base in every game played dating back to April 10th.

#26 Sam Gaviglio - Gaviglio will be fine once he controls the strike zone better as the walks and strikes-to-balls ratio are Seth Blair-like right now. The right-hander beat a decent Travelers lineup last time out.

#37 Seth Blair – Had his best outing of the season on Tuesday night against the NW Arkansas Naturals. Making progress but if the velocity is still dipping in the low 90s with his inconsistent command, I am not sure how far that will take him.

#TBD Aledmys Diaz – Has only two extra base hits since last week as his average has dropped below the .300 mark at .288.

What is Next

Currently tied for first in the Texas League Northern Division at 9-9 with the Tulsa Drillers, Springfield has two games remaining on the road against NW Arkansas then travel further down into Arkansas to play the Travelers for four. They will return home against NW Arkansas starting on Tuesday.

Follow Derek Shore on Twitter @thebighurt_23.

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