Springfield Cardinals Notebook: 2014 Week 21

The Double-A Cardinals have been eliminated from the Texas League playoff race, though starting pitcher Mike Mayers remains consistently good.

This report covers the period from Thursday, August 21st through Wednesday, August 27th.

Following a stretch of winning 10 of the last 14 games going into last Thursday, the Springfield Cardinals completed a sweep on the road against the NW Arkansas Naturals (KC) but came back home to being swept themselves by the Tulsa Drillers (COL) in a three-game set. With the loss on Tuesday night, the Cardinals were eliminated from Texas League playoff contention.

There are a lot of positives and negatives that can be said about this season’s team with the biggest positive being getting a younger group of players acclimated before the season ends. As far as performance and consistency, it should be in finer shape next year.

As of Thursday, August 28th, the Cardinals are 30-34 in the second half, trailing 7 ½ games behind the second-half division winner Arkansas Travelers (LAA).

Thursday, August 21st, Springfield 8 at NW Arkansas 5 (12 innings)

Springfield rallied for a tie in the top of the ninth to force extras, following the NW Arkansas Naturals’ two-run outburst the previous half inning. The Cardinals eventually scored three in the 12th to take the series.

Springfield banged out 13 hits, with five players accumulating multi-hit performances. Rafael Ortega took the lead with three hits with a run scored. Jonathan Rodriguez was right behind him with two hits but more productive with a three-run blast. Cody Stanley, Alex Mejia, and Greg Miclat each had two hits with a run scored, Miclat and Stanley doubling once. Miclat and Stanley knocked two in each as well.

Sam Gaviglio allowed nine of the Naturals 13 hits on three earned runs through six solid innings of work. Gaviglio issued two walks and fanned two in that span. Dixon Llorens appeared briefly, retiring only one batter while walking two. Mitch Harris left both of Llorens’ runners on, retiring three batters.

Lee Stoppelman was unable to get out of a runner at second with one out situation, permitting a home run to the first batter faced that was one of two hits given up in an inning. Jeremy Berg went the final 3 2/3, allowing a hit and two bases-on-balls, upping his record to 2-0.

Friday, August 22nd, Springfield 3 at NW Arkansas 2

Springfield completed the four-game road sweep of NW Arkansas and extended its six-game winning streak with the 3-2 victory on Saturday night.

Four of the team’s eight hits were generated in the third, resulting in all three of Springfield’s runs. Brevvic Valera tripled home Rafael Ortega, who had reached on a single. Curt Smith’s single then drove in Valera. A single by Charlie Tilson brought across Jonathan Rodriguez for inning’s final score.

Mike Mayers gave the team his third consecutive quality start, evening his record at 5-5. Mayers held the Naturals to eight hits on two earned runs through six innings while walking two and striking out five.

Mitch Harris permitted a lone hit in two scoreless innings, striking out two. Joe Donofrio worked around a leadoff single by retiring three straight, two on swinging strikeouts, for his 13th save of the season.

Saturday, August 23rd, Tulsa 13 at Springfield 3

Springfield was creamed by the first-half division winner Tulsa Drillers in game one of the home-stand. It was due largely in part to the Drillers ability to knock in runners in scoring position, as they were successful eight of 15 times.

Ryan Sherriff was roughed up in his return to the Double-A Cardinals, allowing three earned runs in three innings. Sherriff walked one and fanned four. Seth Blair followed and was charged with two runs in two innings. Dixon Llorens was slapped around for five runs in only 2/3 of an inning. Outfielder David Popkins finished on the mound, allowing three runs, including a homer, in one inning.

From the leadoff spot, Breyvic Valera had three hits and scored a run. Alex Mejia singled twice in five at-bats.

Sunday, August 24th, Tulsa 5 at Springfield 0

Coming off the six-game winning streak, Springfield had suddenly cooled, dropping the first two games of the series to the Tulsa Drillers. It left them three games away from elimination with nine games remaining on the schedule.

The Cardinals’ offense mustered just three hits and one walk collectively with Jonathan Rodriguez collecting one of those three hits in a pinch-hit appearance.

Kurt Heyer allowed five runs (four of them earned) on nine of the Drillers ten hits with a single walk and six strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings. The two glowing marks of the game for the Cardinals came from outstanding bullpen performances by Lee Stoppelman and Sam Tuivailala. Both relievers struck out all but two of the batters they faced on the night, with Tuivailala blowing away his three hitters with 100+ mph fastballs.

Monday, August 25th, Tulsa 4 at Springfield 3

A run off the Cardinals’ pitching staff in the eighth broke a back and forth game with the Drillers executing the damaging three-game sweep over Springfield.

Kyle Hald fanned eight over six innings of two-run ball allowing five hits and the lefty issued two walks in a no-decision. Mitch Harris was charged with a run on two hits in the seventh before Chris Thomas gave up the game-winning run in the eighth inning.

The offense had to play catch up, answering the bell after the Drillers took the lead three times before they were blanked the final two frames. Jonathan Rodriguez, Alex Mejia, and Curt Smith each had two of the team’s eight hits, Rodriguez scoring one and Mejia driving one in on a sac fly.

Tuesday, August 26th, Arkansas 5 at Springfield 4

Springfield battled late with four runs in the last three innings but came up just short in the series-opener against the second half division winner Arkansas Travelers (LAA). With the loss, Springfield became the first Cardinals US affiliate to be officially eliminated from playoff contention.

The offense didn’t get much of a shot with runners in scoring position as most of the production came via the long ball. Jonathan Rodriguez and David Popkins went deep with Rodriguez’s a solo shot and Popkins’ a two-run blast.

It was a tough task for Sam Gaviglio to make a start that would decide whether or not his team has a shot at postseason for another day. Gaviglio did his part, tossing 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball with a walk and seven strikeouts but the Springfield bullpen absolutely imploded in the eighth.

Sam Tuivailala was hammered, allowing four runs (two earned due to a Rodriguez throwing error) on three hits and two walks in just 2/3 of an inning.

Wednesday, August 27th, Arkansas 3 at Springfield 4

Mike Mayers was treated to throwing to the game’s best catcher on Wednesday night in Yadier Molina, who appeared in his first game rehabbing back toward the majors after a significant thumb injury.

Mayers spun six quality innings, yielding an earned run on three hits, walking only one and fanning five. The Springfield bullpen followed with the next three innings. Mitch Harris, Ryan Sherriff, and Joe Donofrio each appeared. Sherriff was charged with two runs, one earned, in the eighth to make it close.

In his second game back with Springfield, Greg Garcia ignited the top of the order with three hits. Two went for doubles and he came around to score once on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Curt Smith. Breyvic Valera added two RBI and one extra-base hit while Yadier Molina recorded two hits with an RBI and a strikeout.

Who is Hot

Mike Mayers – There are quality starts after quality starts on the stat sheet for Mayers since his promotion to the Double-A level. Mayers delivered yet another on Wednesday, going six innings yielding a lone run.

Jonathan Rodriguez - Rodriguez has faced an up and down 2014 campaign but that didn’t stop him from bringing his average up to .264 on the season this week.

Who is Not

Travis Tartamella - Tartamella is batting below the Mendoza line in his last ten games, but where he makes the greatest impact is receiving behind the plate. That is what has kept the minor league veteran in this organization.

Seth Blair - Blair has been scored upon in each of his last five outings dating back to August 5th. The right-hander has allowed nine earned runs in a total of 6 1/3 innings.

Team Transactions

8/22 LHP Jonathan Cornelius transferred to AAA-Memphis from Springfield
8/22 LHP Ryan Sherriff transferred to Springfield from AAA-Memphis
8/23 INF Ildemaro Vargas transferred to Springfield from High-A Palm Beach
8/23 RHP Chris Thomas activated from the DL
8/24 INF Greg Miclat transferred to AAA-Memphis from Springfield
8/25 INF Greg Garcia optioned to Springfield from St. Louis
8/26 OF Rafael Ortega was transferred to AAA-Memphis from Springfield
8/26 INF Matt Williams was activated from the temporarily inactive list
8/27 C Yadier Molina was sent out on a rehab assignment to Springfield
8/27 RHP Chris Thomas was placed on the 7-Day DL
8/27 RHP Dixon Llorens was assigned to High-A Palm Beach from Springfield
8/27 RHP Corey Baker was assigned to Double-A Springfield from Palm Beach

Texas League North Division - Second half

Club W L PCT GB Home Away L10 Streak
Arkansas Travelers (LAA) 38 27 .585 - 21-13 17-14 6-4 L1
Springfield Cardinals (STL) 30 34 .469 7.5 13-19 17-15 6-4 W1
Tulsa Drillers (COL) 30 34 .469 7.5 13-17 17-17 7-3 W5
NW Arkansas Naturals (KC) 27 38 .415 11.0 14-19 13-19 1-9 L4

Cardinals Top Prospect Watch

#9 Patrick Wisdom - Still hitting at the same slow pace as last week except a three-hit game was mixed in Wednesday night. The perfect performance at the plate included a walk. Was dropped to eighth in the order after missing a key bunt the night before.

#13 Charlie Tilson - It was good to introduce Tilson to the Double-A Texas League before next season. The Cardinals want him to learn to play a shallow center field and increase his aggressiveness on the base paths because of his speed. Tilson, 21, will headline the Cardinals’ positional players at the Arizona Fall League coming up in October and November.

#18 Lee Stoppelman - His strikeout numbers are fairly impressive if you consider the adversity he has faced this season. I still think there is some impact in his left arm that can made at the highest level but it just has not clicked.

#26 Sam Gaviglio - The numbers Mike Mayers has put up is what the Cardinals expected from Gaviglio this season. He has been solid in the second half, however.

#29 Jacob Wilson - Will be assigned to the Arizona Fall League to make up for lost time and recover from knee surgery.

#31 Breyvic Valera - Average has dropped 30 points in the last 10 games despite three multi-hit outings.

#36 Sam Tuivailala - Was beat up in his last outing, allowing two earned runs on three hits and not even completing the inning. He will make up for that in the near future.

What’s Next

Springfield is out of playoff contention but have two remaining at home with the Arkansas Travelers. Fans will get out to see five-time Gold Glove Award winner Yadier Molina rehabbing again on Thursday night. Right-handed phenom Michael Wacha will start on Sunday, working his way back from a shoulder problem at the Tulsa Drillers. This four-game set through Monday will close out the 2014 season.

Follow Derek Shore on Twitter @thebighurt_23.

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