Springfield Cardinals Notebook: 2014 Week 14

The Double-A Cardinals received some roster reinforcements while second baseman Breyvic Valera is settling in.

This report covers the period from Thursday, July 3rd through Wednesday, July 9th.

With less than two months remaining in the season, the Springfield Cardinals are still searching for the consistency needed to become a force in the Texas League North race. With the off-day on Tuesday, they finished the week with a 3-3 record against the Corpus Christi Hooks, San Antonio Missions, and one game with the Northwest Arkansas Naturals.

The Cards are 8-11 in the second half and despite the losing mark are in a three-way tie for second, trailing NW Arkansas by just one game.

Thursday, July 3rd, Springfield 2 at Corpus Christi 4

The Cardinals losing streak reached a discouraging five games losing to the Corpus Christi Hooks (HOU) and dropping the first Texas road-series of two.

Jonathan Cornelius allowed one run in the fourth plus three in the fifth in his five innings pitched. The losing pitcher was touched for four hits and three walks, striking out three. Chris Thomas (two) and Ronnie Shaban (one) carried the relief duties with three scoreless innings combined.

In game two of the series, the Cardinals offense recorded only four hits. Starlin Rodriguez was perfect at the plate with two hits in two at bats with a two-run home run - the team’s only source of offensive production of the night. The home run plated Matt Williams, who reached via a base on balls.

Friday, July 4th, Springfield 0 at Corpus Christi 8

Springfield continued the rough patch of play with a blowout loss on the 4th of July, their sixth straight defeat.

Kurt Heyer yielded three runs on five hits and four walks through 5 2/3 innings of work with the final run scoring under Logan Billbrough in the sixth. Billbrough did not retire a single batter in his outing, allowing two unearned runs on a hit and three walks. Ryan Sherriff did the job that Bllbrough failed to achieve, limiting the damage by retiring the final out in the sixth, stranding the bases loaded. Lee Stoppelman worked around two hits in a scoreless eighth.

Designated hitter Cody Stanley smacked two of his team’s four total hits.

Saturday, July 5th, Springfield 2 at San Antonio 1

Coming off being swept two consecutive games, Springfield’s offense continued to look shaky, so it was the pitching of Kyle Hald which ended the six-game losing streak. Hald’s seven-inning, one earned run Saturday night performance included six hits, a walk and five strikeouts. Two runs were all the Cards needed for the game-opening victory over the San Antonio Missions (SD).

Justin Wright preserved the lead with two perfect innings including two strikeouts and dropping his ERA below 0.90.

In the third inning, Matt Williams ripped an RBI single to left field that plated Mike O’Neill and in the sixth inning, the advantage was doubled on a Starlin Rodriguez sacrifice fly. Rodriguez, David Popkins, and Matt Williams had six of the team’s ten hits but only one of those hits scored a runner.

Sunday, July 6th, Springfield 1 at San Antonio 2

The Cards dropped a game that was knotted up ongoing into the ninth inning. Springfield had opportunities with ten team hits but the Missions walked off to tie up the series at one.

Sam Gaviglio pitched extremely well with seven quality innings but took a no-decision. Gaviglio allowed an earned run on six hits, didn’t issue a walk (which is a good sign) and struck out four with ten groundouts induced. Ryan Sherriff got through the eighth scoreless, but gave up a one-out double in the ninth and was credited with the loss when Chris Thomas yielded the walk-off single.

Struggling to hit with runners in scoring position has been a challenge for Springfield this season and it continued on Sunday night as they were 2-for-12 with RISP. Breyvic Valera was a perfect 3-for-3 with an RBI single and walk.

Monday, July 7th, Springfield 3 at San Antonio 2 (11 innings)

On Monday night, the Springbirds scored what would be the game-winning run in the 11th, then Justin Wright slammed the door in the bottom half of the inning.

New to Double-A, Mike Mayers threw seven more quality innings on Monday, his fourth QS in four tries. Mayers worked around two earned runs on five hits with five strikeouts.

The bullpen was even more effective as Lee Stoppelman pitched a scoreless 1 2/3 innings with three punchouts. Mitch Harris retired the last batter in the ninth to force extra innings, and tossed a scoreless 10th inning. With the one-run advantage in the 11th, Justin Wright picked up his sixth save.

The bats came through with just enough at the right time for the series win. David Popkins produced the team’s first run with a sacrifice fly while Mike O’Neill plated the game-winner with an RBI double.

Tuesday, July 8th - no scheduled game

The Springbirds were off on Tuesday as they traveled home. They will play 12 of their next 15 at Hammons Field.

Wednesday, July 9th, Springfield 4 vs. NW Arkansas 1

Following the Tuesday day-off, Springfield opened up a four-game home-set against friendly rival the NW Arkansas Naturals on Wednesday night. All the home-team would need was three runs and tacked on the fourth run in the sixth for the win.

The Naturals probably haven’t been too fond of facing southpaw Jonathan Cornelius, who throws as hard as Jamie Moyer and makes Texas League hitters way out in front and off balance when he is able to pitch ahead with the ability to change speeds. Cornelius held the Naturals to one run on six hits in his six innings pitched. He had pinpoint control, indicated by no walks and four strikeouts.

Chris Thomas gave the ‘pen a lift with two scoreless frames, allowing a hit and fanning four. Justin Wright too gave up a leadoff hit in the ninth but then retired the next three on ground-ball outs to notch his seventh save.

Batting in the two-hole with James Ramsey activated off the DL, catcher Cody Stanley ripped two solo shots in three at bats which give him ten home runs on the season. Stanley lfet in the seventh after getting hit by a ball on his mask. Rafael Ortega provided the other production with a 2-run shot, his first since coming off the DL.

Who is Hot

Breyvic Valera - Followed a perfect 3-for-3 performance on Sunday with two more hits on Monday, finishing the series in San Antonio by going 5-for-7 over the last two games. The Montalban, Venezuela native has hit safely in eight of his 11 games since joining the Cardinals on June 25, and has increased his season average to .306 in an 11-for-36 start.

Chris Thomas - With two more scoreless innings on Wednesday night, Thomas has been unscored upon through 9 2/3 innings as a Double-A pitcher.

Who Is Not

Jonathan Rodriguez - Rodriguez recorded several hit games this week, but his average for the last ten games is below the Mendoza line and the power unexpectedly vanished.

Logan Billbrough - Hadn’t appeared since July 4th after giving up multiple hits and runs in his past four outings. Was sent down to Palm Beach on Wednesday.

Team Transactions

7/9 OF David Popkins transferred to High-A Palm Beach from Springfield
7/9 RHP Logan Billbrough transferred to High-A Palm Beach from Springfield
7/9 OF James Ramsey activated from the DL
7/9 RHP Sam Tuivailala transferred to Springfield from High-A Palm Beach
7/9 LHP Iden Nazario transferred to Springfield from High-A Palm Beach

Texas League North Division Standings – Second Half

Club W L PCT. GB Home Away L10 Streak
NW Arkansas Naturals (KC) 9 10 .474 - 6-6 3-4 4-6 L2
Arkansas Travelers (LAA) 8 11 .421 1.0 3-7 5-4 3-7 L7
Springfield Cardinals (STL) 8 11 .421 1.0 3-4 5-7 3-7 W2
Tulsa Drillers (COL) * 8 11 .421 1.0 4-5 4-6 4-6 W1
* First-half winner                

Cardinals Top Prospect Watch

#8 James Ramsey - Was activated off the disabled list before Wednesday's game. Was hitless in his return back to action as it will probably take quite a while for his timing to where it was before he went on the DL on June 20th.

#9 Patrick Wisdom - Wisdom’s average has stayed right around the .230 mark all season long. Hasn’t taken a walk in the last ten games and his OBP is .277 for the season. His over-aggressive tendencies at the plate could easily be defeated at the higher levels.

#18 Lee Stoppelman - Had some rough outings in late June, but tossed two scoreless outings this week.

#26 Sam Gaviglio - You really do not know what to expect from Gaviglio. He can have one really mediocre type of start then come back with an outstanding one like on July 6th where he went seven innings and gave up only a run. Command is the name of the game for any pitcher but for a sinkerballer, it is vital.

#29 Jacob Wilson - Nothing new. He had knee surgery and the team hopes he can return before the season ends.

#31 Breyvic Valera - Showed some flair with glove on Wednesday night robbing a base-hit on a dive up the middle. Valera is also figuring it out on the offensive side in the Texas League with an average of .306.

#36 Sam Tuivailala - Perhaps the hardest throwing pitcher in the organization was promoted to Springfield on Wednesday. Tuvailala struck out over 15 batters per nine innings against Florida State League hitters at High-A Palm Beach. It will be good to give him a taste of Double-A Texas League.

#TBD Aledmys Diaz - Recurring shoulder issues have prompted another DL move. In terms of development, a lot has been missed.

What’s Next

With the addition of Ramsey off the DL and if they don’t lose Stanley for a stretch, the Cards appear ready to play more consistently in the Texas League North Division’s second half. They have three games left with NW Arkansas, then head out for a four-game road trip against the Arkansas Travelers starting on Sunday.

Follow Derek Shore on Twitter @thebighurt_23.

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