Springfield Cardinals Notebook: 2014 Week 16

The Double-A Cardinals head on the road after a 4-3 week at home. Since the start of June, Sam Gaviglio has been pitching especially well.

This report covers the period from Thursday, July 17th through Wednesday, July 23rd.

The Springfield Cardinals played a very average week of baseball, going 4-3 for the period against divisional opponents Northwest Arkansas Naturals (KC) and Tulsa Drillers (COL).

For the second half of the Texas League season, the Northern Division race remains close with all four teams within five games of the first-place Arkansas Travelers (LAA). Springfield currently is last.

Thursday, July 17th, NW Arkansas 4 at Springfield 6

A big-league performance by the back-end of the Springfield bullpen on Thursday night, covering the final three frames, helped secure a series-opening win. It ended a four-game slide that stretched back to the start of the Arkansas Travelers series.

Kyle Hald was pitching well with three early scoreless innings until the fourth inning occurred, when the NW Arkansas Naturals (KC) got to him for four runs. After that, Hald settled back down with a scoreless fifth and sixth to let his team get back in the game and eventually take the lead.

Kevin Siegrist struck out a batter and got pop-out in his ? of an inning. Sam Tuivailala finished off the seventh with no damage and pitched the eighth without allowing any runs. Tuivailala’s fastball registered at the highest speed of 102 mph on the stadium gun and broke off what manager Mike Shildt calls the “snapdragon,” a breaking ball. Justin Wright closed the game out in the ninth to pick up his eighth save of the season.

For the first time in recent memory, the offense strung together three consecutive innings of two runs or more to take the lead in a wild sequence of events. Starlin Rodriguez’s RBI single and Rafael Ortega’s double-play groundball got the first two home, and Jonathan Rodriguez’s RBI single in the fifth helped tie up the contest after Curt Smith’s double-play scored another run. The lead-taking runs came off a throwing error which scored Patrick Wisdom and Ortega then came home on a Mike O’Neill sacrifice fly.

Friday, July 18th, NW Arkansas 7 at Springfield 4

Six runs down going into the late innings was too big of a hole for the Cardinals to overcome as the series against the friendly rival Naturals was evened up at one each.

Sam Gaviglio, who had been pitching some of his best baseball the past two months, took a step backward, failing to finish even five innings. It is similar to how he pitched for stretches in the early parts of the season. Gaviglio allowed six runs (three earned), on 11 hits, and a walk. Iden Nazario fanned the last out in the fourth to help Gaviglio out of his mess, but yielded a run on a triple and sac fly the next inning.

Kevin Siegrist’s rehab back to the majors took huge leap forward on Friday night as he pitched another scoreless inning. In his first game after signing with the Cardinals, right-handed sub-mariner Jeremy Berg faced the minimum while Mitch Harris navigated around a hit and walk in an inning.

James Ramsey garnered the team’s only multi-hit game after being held out of action since the 15th with an intercostal muscle strain. The outfielder hit one of two solo long balls for Springfield. Alex Mejia was the other home run hitter, his first since joining Springfield.

Saturday, July 19th, NW Arkansas 2 at Springfield 0

Mike Mayers pitched well despite having no offense on his side in a NW Arkansas shutout. With the win, the Naturals took the series lead with Springfield to go for the split on Sunday.

Mayers allowed just two earned runs in six innings but his record fell to 1-4. In five of Mayers’ six outings, he has recorded a quality start. If that holds up, the wins will surely be coming.

Jonathan Rodriguez singled twice, accounting for half of the Cardinals’ hits.

Sunday, July 20th, NW Arkansas 0 at Springfield 3

Springfield’s pitching staff returned the favor to the Naturals in game four, forcing the split of the four-game series.

Jonathan Cornelius struck out five to negate four hits and two walks over five innings. Chris Thomas pitched a one, two, and three sixth inning. He gave way to powerful reliever Sam Tuivailala, who continued throwing smoke and being effective since his promotion from Palm Beach with 1 2/3 scoreless innings.

Jeremy Berg gets a major assist as he struck out both batters faced, stranding Tuivailala’s runners. Justin Wright escaped a bases loaded/none out jam for his ninth save of the season.

All three runs were produced in the second and were unearned because of a throwing error that allowed Curt Smith to reach base to open the frame. Springfield pounced, using a sac bunt, Patrick Wisdom’s sac fly plus singles by Rafael Ortega, Alex Mejia (RBI) and Jonathan Rodriguez (RBI) to push across three. Mike O’Neill was the only Cardinal with more than one of the team’s seven hits, with two singles.

Monday, July 21st, Tulsa 7 at Springfield 1

The Colorado Rockies Double-A affiliate, the Tulsa Drillers, came into Springfield to open a three-game series. It was a one-run game in favor of the Drillers going into the sixth, but the third time through the lineup for Springfield starter Kurt Heyer did not go well. It has been a season long difficulty for him as he gave up four of five earned runs in that sixth frame to put away the Cardinals.

Rehabber Kevin Siegrist pitched 1 1/3 innings. The lefty threw 27 pitches, 16 for strikes, with a pair of flyouts and pop-outs sandwiched between a single and walk. Lee Stoppelman gave up two earned runs in an inning of his work. Stoppelman walked the bases loaded and yielded a two-run hit.

The only productive hit of the night for the Springfield came via a Patrick Wisdom RBI single, plating Breyvic Valera who reached base via a one-bagger.

Tuesday, June 22nd, Tulsa 8 at Springfield 9

Rafael Ortega’s sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth in game two of three walked them off as Breyvic Valera’s slide around the catcher’s tag forced a rubber game matchup on Wednesday night.

Springfield seemed in control early as starter Kyle Hald had a perfect game through the first four frames. The third time around, the Drillers order got to Hald for five runs (three earned) on five hits in his 5 1/3 innings.

Chris Thomas blew his second save after allowing two inherited to score plus two of his own, one earned, on two hits and two walks. Thomas didn’t record an out as his 10-game scoreless streak was vanquished with this outing.

Ryan Sherriff finished off Thomas’s inning by retiring two batters but one of the two runners inherited from Thomas crossed on an error. In his return back to Springfield, Seth Blair faced the minimum in the seventh, but Mitch Harris let Tulsa tie it up with two hits in the first of a two-inning stint.

Springfield needed all of their 13 hits and five walks to secure the victory. Breyvic Valera was in the thick of things for the offense by collecting three hits, with three runs scored, the final in which came as a result of the walk-off sac fly by Rafael Ortega. Matt Williams had three hits as well, all singles, crossed home twice, and added two RBI. Curt Smith and Alex Mejia had two hits apiece, Smith doubling once, touched home once while knocking in one. Ortega drove in two, the other coming off an RBI single.

Wednesday, July 23rd, Tulsa 0 at Springfield 10

Springfield took it to the Drillers in the rubber game matchup on Wednesday night by pounding out 14 hits and scoring 10 runs to roll to the series-win.

Sam Gaviglio made the start and completed six shutout frames on two hits and one walk. The sinker-baller relied on his slider away and his sinker down, which has turned into a lethal combination as he logged nine punchouts. Sam Tuivailala, Lee Stoppelman and Chris Thomas backed Gaviglio in the quest to maintain the shutout with three scoreless innings.

For a younger team looking to find offense, this is certainly a positive sign, as they put up 10 runs against a talented Drillers pitching staff. Curt Smith had the biggest knocks of the game with two hits and five RBI, including a grand slam. Additional contributions came from Mike O’Neill, who had three hits and came around to score three times, while Alex Mejia and Travis Tartamella both had multi-games including an RBI.

Who is Hot

Alex Mejia - Recently promoted from High-A Palm Beach, Mejia has really come on strong offensively as his average has climbed to .298 through his first 17 games with the club.

Sam Gaviglio - Since June 1st, Gaviglio owns a 2.51 earned run average. That is more than four runs lower than where he was at the end of May. The sinker-baller completed six shutout innings against the Tulsa Drillers on Wednesday night.

Who is Not

James Ramsey - In a season that has been disrupted by injuries, Ramsey is really feeling the middle-season effect of long season. The former FSU standout is hitting .219 in nine games this month going into Wednesday night’s action.

Lee Stoppelman - Even though he pitched effectively on Wednesday night with a scoreless frame, Stoppelman has been handed some bruises lately while allowing more than two earned runs in four of his last 10 outings.

Team Transactions

7/18 RHP Ronnie Shaban transferred to High-A Palm Beach from Springfield
7/18 RHP Jeremy Berg signed by St. Louis and assigned to Springfield
7/19 RHP Seth Blair transferred to Springfield from AAA-Memphis
7/19 LHP Iden Nazario transferred to High-A Palm Beach from Springfield
7/22 OF Starlin Rodriguez placed on the DL
7/22 OF Charlie Tilson transferred to Springfield from High-A Palm Beach

Texas League North Division Standings - Second half

Club W L PCT GB Home Away L10 Streak
Arkansas Travelers (LAA) 17 16 .515 - 7-7 10-9 6-4 L1
NW Arkansas Naturals (KC) 16 17 .485 1.0 9-10 7-7 4-6 W1
Tulsa Drillers (COL) 15 18 .455 2.0 7-9 8-9 6-4 L2
Springfield Cardinals (STL) 12 20 .394 5.0 8-9 5-11 4-6 W2

Cardinals Top Prospect Watch

#8 James Ramsey - Falling into a habit of pulling pitches on the outside corner has cost Ramsey some of his average and power. He took those outside pitches last year to the opposite field sharply. This year is a different story and it is understandable because of two DL stints. Batting .294 on the season.

#9 Patrick Wisdom - Wisdom’s average has dropped off the table, down to a .220 mark as of July 21st, which is the last game he played. The third baseman’s ability to hit for average looks like it will never be a strong suit.

#13 Charlie Tilson – The newest member of the Springfield team as of Tuesday, July 22nd is 2-for-his-first-10 but it is very early. Tilson could be a spark atop the order with his ability to get on base, cause havoc on the base paths and also be a very valuable defender with his speed in centerfield.

#18 Lee Stoppelman - The lanky lefty’s control issues seem to being getting only worse and worse. However on a positive note, he did pitch an effective scoreless outing on Wednesday night. He is definitely not progressing as the organization anticipated going into the season.

#26 Sam Gaviglio - For a sinkerballer with a tremendous amount of downward movement, you wouldn’t expect Gaviglio to rack up strikeouts and be a league leader among Texas League pitchers. But the right-hander has found an approach of going slider away, then sinker down and in to both sides of the plate that has proved to be effective since June.

#29 Jacob Wilson – It was reported by the Springfield-News Leader that Wilson, who underwent knee surgery, will not make a late-season return to the team. Better to play it safe.

#31 Breyvic Valera – His average is down to .263 after Wednesday’s 0-fer. Valera has too much of track record of offensive success not to find his groove at the plate. Double-A is tough transition to make, even though it is a hitter-friendly league.

#36 Sam Tuivailala - Tuivailala reached back this week and hit 102 mph multiple times in several outings. He provides an intimidating presence in the pen with that live heater and what coaches call the “snapdragon,” referring to his sharp breaking pitch that is tough to pick up and offers a good complement to his fastball.

#TBD Aledmys Diaz - A shoulder injury has kept him out since June 30th after he missed almost two months with it previously. We certainly can call it an injury-plagued season as Diaz continues to work out at the complex in Florida to try to get back into action.

What’s Next

Springfield looks to build off the two consecutive victories against the first-half division winner Tulsa Drillers to win the series at home as they open a seven-game road trip through Northwest Arkansas for four and to the Tulsa Drillers for three.

Follow Derek Shore on Twitter @thebighurt_23.

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