Springfield Cardinals Notebook: 2014 Week 19

The Double-A Cardinals bounced back from a bad week with a strong 4-2 Texas road trip. Chris Thomas is pitching well in relief.

This report covers the period from Thursday, August 7th through Wednesday, August 13th.

The Springfield Cardinals took two of three in both series of the Texas road-trip against the Frisco RoughRiders (TEX) and Midland Rockhounds (OAK) this week. Both South Division clubs could have playoff action ahead after the season winds down through late August.

So far in the six-game homestand that followed, Springfield has split the first two games in the rematch against the RoughRiders.

After a rough 1-5 week last time, the Cardinals turned it around with a 5-3 record this week, including 4-2 in Texas and 1-1 at home. The Cards are still in fourth, last place, training the first-place Arkansas Travelers (LAA) by nine games.

Thursday, August 7th, Springfield 2 at Frisco 1

This game was an outlier from a series that had been a slugfest. Springfield scraped out two runs in the fifth and relied on Kurt Heyer’s five inning performance and the bullpen to give them the series win.

Heyer fanned five in five innings, giving up a run on four hits, two walks and two hit batsmen. It was another nice outing by Heyer against one of the better Texas League offenses. Don’t rule him out as a starter just yet.

Lee Stoppelman permitted a hit in a scoreless sixth before handing the ball to submariner Jeremy Berg, who worked around a hit in 1 2/3 scoreless innings. Joe Donofrio retired all four batters faced, including stranding Berg’s runner in the eighth, for his eighth save of the season.

Three of the Springbirds’ seven total hits were produced during the two-run fifth inning. Back-to-back doubles by Breyvic Valera and Cody Stanley brought in Valera, with Stanley scoring on Jonathan Rodriguez’s RBI single.

Friday, August 8th, Springfield 10 at Midland 6

Springfield crushed the Midland Rockhounds (OAK) in the opening game of the series even though their starter did not last four innings. The reason was that the offense went 9-for-16 with runners in scoring position. The Cardinals generated 20 hits, producing a double-digit score for the second time in their last three games. All nine batters got into the act, and the first six hitters in the lineup had multi-hit games. Charlie Tilson, Breyvic Valera, Cody Stanley, and Jonathan Rodriguez combined to go 11-for-17 with six runs scored, two doubles, a homer, and nine RBI. Rafael Ortega collected three hits and an RBI.

Struggling to find his first half of the season form, lefty Kyle Hald lasted just 3 1/3 innings, giving up three runs on six hits and a walk. Chris Thomas left the bases loaded in the fourth, full of Hald’s runners, before giving up a solo shot in the sixth. Thomas did pick up his first Double-A win.

Sam Tuivailala fanned three in the next two scoreless frames, yielding a hit. Next was Justin Wright, fresh off the disabled list and in his final Springfield appearance before being promoted to Triple-A Memphis on Saturday. The lefty was a bit shaky, allowing two earned runs on three hits in 1/3 of an inning. Joe Donofrio took over with one out in the ninth and left two inherited runners stranded while earning his ninth save of the season.

Saturday, August 9th, Springfield 3 at Midland 9

Over five innings, Sam Gaviglio was tagged for four runs (one earned) on six hits. The sinker-ball specialist walked one and struck out three inducing seven groundouts in his outing. Not given a lift by the offense, Gaviglio took his 11th loss of the season.

Mitch Harris followed, allowing two earned runs in his only inning of work. Seth Blair’s struggles following his conversion to the bullpen continued as the former first-round pick walked three and served up a three-run bomb.

Breyvic Valera and Jonathan Rodriguez collected a pair of hits with Rodriguez driving in one run. Travis Tartamella singled and finished with two RBI.

Sunday, August 10th, Springfield 9 at Midland 1

Springfield scored five runs in the first three innings and added four more in the fifth to give them the series-win over Midland.

Mike Mayers covered seven shutout frames, allowing only four hits and issuing no walks with four strikeouts. Mayers earned his third win in nine tries. Strikeout artist Dixon Llorens yielded an earned run on two hits in his Double-A debut in an inning of work with Jeremy Berg throwing the scoreless ninth.

What has been a season weakness for the Springbirds turned out to be the team’s most reliable asset on the six-game road trip. They went 6-for-14 with runners in scoring position on Sunday afternoon, leaving only six runners aboard total. Rafael Ortega produced the game’s best performance by collecting three hits, including a three-run bomb, as well as scoring twice. Alex Mejia and David Popkins had two RBI each while Patrick Wisdom singled in a runner.

Monday, August 11th - off

Springfield was off on Monday, August 11th due to a scheduled off-day league-wide. They resumed play on Tuesday night with three each against Frisco and Midland at home.

Tuesday, August 12th, Frisco 6 at Springfield 1

Frisco broke open a tie game with back-to-back shots in the seventh and poured on three more runs in the ninth as insurance to defeat Springfield in the first of three at Hammons Field.

Jonathan Cornelius pitched well enough for the win, holding Frisco to an earned run on six hits through six innings. But the Roughriders offense struck two solo bombs in the seventh for Cornelius’s tenth loss of the season. Chris Thomas retired all five batters faced but Seth Blair wasn’t nearly as good in his outing. Blair yielded three earned runs on three walks in just 2/3 of an inning.

Springfield managed only four hits, all singles, two of them by number nine hitter David Popkins. The only tally came in the fourth when Rafael Ortega singled, advanced to third on Matt Williams’ hit and scored on a passed ball.

Wednesday, August 13th, Frisco 1 at Springfield 2 (11 innings)

Springfield was well on their way to a shutout victory before the Frisco RoughRiders got a gift in the eighth, scoring on a Sam Tuivailala wild pitch. The game was put to an end when Curt Smith walked them off with his ninth home run of the season.

Kurt Heyer was excellent through five scoreless frames but inconsistent control of his arsenal led to an early exit. The 23-year old gave up four hits and struck out four. Lee Stoppelman relieved Heyer in the sixth, facing the minimum.

Tuivailala blew away the opposition with fastballs that registered in the 100-101 mph range multiple times through his two innings. Tuivailala did give up the only earned run by the pitching staff but punched out six batters. Joe Donofrio pitched three clean innings, picking up slack for a taxed out bullpen. Donofrio struck out four and earned his third win of the season.

Breyvic Valera and David Popkins combined for four of Springfield’s seven hits on the night. Popkins’ RBI single produced the team’s first run.

Who Is Hot

Chris Thomas - Thomas continues to put in great work out of the bullpen. On Tuesday, he tossed 1 2/3 perfect innings with one strikeout. The Kansas City, Missouri native started his Double-A career with 10 straight scoreless outings (13 1/3 IP) from 6/19 – 7/20 and has posted a 1-0 record with a 1.59 ERA through his first 16 appearances overall.

David Popkins – The outfielder has recorded multi-hit games in four of his last five starts against the Midland Rockhounds and Frisco RoughRiders. That streak has jumped his S-Cards average up by 20 points within those five games, from .220 to .240.

Who Is Not

Charlie Tilson – The centerfielder is still struggling to find his way at the plate in Double-A. Tilson’s average has dropped four points from .242 last week to .238 this week.

Kyle Hald – The struggling lefty departed early against the Midland Rockhounds, not even completing four innings. The lefty has compiled a 2-7 record with a 5.96 ERA over his last ten starts.

Team Transactions

8/7 OF Mike O’Neill transferred to AAA-Memphis from Springfield
8/8 LHP Justin Wright activated from the DL
8/9 LHP Ryan Sherriff transferred to AAA-Memphis from Springfield
8/9 LHP Justin Wright transferred to AAA-Memphis from Springfield
8/9 RHP Dixon Llorens transferred to Springfield from High-A Palm Beach

Texas League North Division - Second half


Cardinals Top Prospect Watch

#9 Patrick Wisdom – Wisdom’s raw power comes to light whenever he’s hitting well, but he has not yet realized the full potential of what his power could be. To maximize it, he will have to make adjustments to his overly-aggressive approach at times, which has led to 127 strikeouts over 111 games and 390 at bats this season. Teams are finding new holes in Wisdom’s swing following his adjustments.

#13 Charlie Tilson – The centerfielder probably struggled the most of anyone in the Cardinals lineup this week but that doesn’t take away from his defense, which has given Springfield have one of the better defensive outfields in the Texas League. The bat will come along once he goes through the transition.

#18 Lee Stoppelman – The lefty pitched two clean outings this week in a middle relief role. Stoppelman lowered his ERA below six with those two effective outings.

#26 Sam Gaviglio – The starter was faced with some tough luck in his most recent outing. Gaviglio allowed an earned run on six hits in five innings but wasn’t given any run support from his offense, thus falling to 5-11 overall.

#29 Jacob Wilson - Out for the season following knee surgery.

#31 Breyvic Valera – The infielder is consistently hitting in the .300 range now that he has acclimated to the Double-A level. All Valera needs is to keep playing and he’ll keep hitting -no question about that.

#36 Sam Tuivailala - The high-octane thrower threw a multitude of triple-digit fastballs on Wednesday night, striking out six over two innings of work. Tuivailala has struck out 87 batters in only 53 innings pitched this season between Palm Beach and Springfield, a very video game like number.

What’s Next

After the final game with Frisco, Springfield will welcome the Midland Rockhounds at Hammonds Field for three this week-end. The S-Cards will finish up the week’s play with four games down at NW Arkansas as the schedule winds into the latter half of August.

Follow Derek Shore on Twitter @thebighurt_23.

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