Springfield Cardinals Notebook: 2015 Week 4

The Double-A Cardinals are improving offensively, but are still having trouble finding wins.

This report covers the period from Thursday, April 30th through Wednesday, May 7th.

The Springfield Cardinals are off to an unpleasant 6-20 start to the season. Through the first 26 games, they are off to their worst start in franchise history while trailing the Texas League North Division leaders Arkansas Travelers (LAA) and Northwest Arkansas Naturals (KC) by 11 games.

Manager Dann Bilardello is staying optimistic about this club’s chances for success going forward, as the former catcher preaches the players need to keep grinding and always be upbeat about their play on the field. Springfield garnered just one win this week against seven losses, and are riding a current four-game losing streak.

Thursday, April 30th, Springfield 2 at NW Arkansas 7

The NW Arkansas Naturals closed the four-game series with a sweep of the Cardinals. This loss was Springfield’s seventh consecutive and dropped them 10 games under the .500 mark with a full month of the season complete.

It was all Naturals throughout this game, as they led the entire way. Andrew Morales was touched for five runs (three earned) on 12 hits in 5 1/3 innings. Morales walked two and struck out two.

Joey Donofrio relieved Morales for the next 1 2/3 innings, Donofrio yielded two earned runs on three hits with a walk and two strikeouts. Iden Nazario displayed a nasty slider that was effective from his side-arm slot while pitching a scoreless eighth.

Springfield’s offense was blanked until they shattered the attempted shut-out in the ninth inning with two runs, but it was not nearly enough to overcome the seven-run deficit. All but three hitters in the Cards’ lineup were hitless as the offense managed seven hits, six of them singles, one a double off the bat of Mike Ohlman. Anthony Garcia was among the hitless, but the Puerto Rican contributed a sacrifice fly, while Patrick Wisdom produced an RBI via an infield single.

Friday, May 1st, Springfield 6 at Arkansas 7

The S-Cards’ ninth-inning rally fell just a tad short, resulting in a 7-6 loss to the Travelers in the first of four. Fourth-place Springfield (5-16) trailed Arkansas (LAA) by a whopping nine games and is in the midst of an eight-game losing streak.

Down 7-4 going into the ninth, the visitors generated four singles that pushed across two runs and put the tying run in scoring position with one out. But that is as close as they got. The S-Cards outhit their opponents 12 to 10 and did better with runners in scoring position but still lost.

Nick Martini was one of five Springfield players with a multi-hit performance, going 3-for-4 with a triple, run scored and two RBI. Charlie Tilson, Alex Mejia, Breyvic Valera and Jacob Wilson all had two hits in four at bats. Tilson and Mejia both touched home twice while Tilson and Wilson each worked a free pass. Valera scored once and Wilson drove in three. Martini and Tilson each swiped a bag.

Nick Petree took his second loss in as many decisions, surrendering five runs on six hits and a walk in four. Heath Wyatt worked two scoreless frames, fanning two but Corey Baker was touched for two runs, one earned, on three hits in the seventh. Justin Wright tossed a one-two-three eighth.

Saturday, May 2nd, Springfield 6 at Arkansas 0

Mike Mayers stole the show on Saturday night, dealing a complete-game shutout and quieting a thundering Arkansas lineup which has been one of the Texas League's best offensive forces so far.

This shutout put Mayers in select company, joining Brian Broderick as the only Springfield Cardinals to toss complete-game shutouts in the last five years. This was Springfield’s first complete-game since current St. Louis reliever Seth Maness did so less than three years ago.

Mayers was perfect through the first 2 2/3 innings and carried a no-hitter into the bottom of the fifth before it was broken up. The righty held the Travs’ to four hits, walked three and struck out five. He also had substantial success with groundballs, inducing 13 of his 27 outs on the ground and only needed 117 pitches to complete the impressive nine-inning shutout.

To support Mayers’ dominating performance, the Cardinals offense provided six runs. Uunearned runs on singles by Alberto Rosario and Patrick Wisdom got things started, followed by an RBI double by Jacob Wilson in the third inning. Nick Martini plated two with a single, followed by a sixth run on an error.

Sunday, May 3rd, Springfield 9 at Arkansas 11

Springfield (6-17) made it a two-run contest in the ninth but a four-run deficit was too much to overcome against a hot-hitting Travelers lineup that was the victim of a shut-out the previous night. The Double-A Cardinals have dropped nine of their last ten games.

Starter Thomas Lee had a very erratic outing, allowing six earned runs on eight hits, with four walks and three strikeouts, through a troubling 2 2/3 innings. Jonathan Cornelius didn’t fare much better, with 1 1/3 innings. The lefty yielded three earned on four hits.

Iden Nazario pitched well, despite two wals and a hit given up. Nazario struck out one and pitched 1 2/3 scoreless. Chris Thomas’s consecutive scoreless streak to open the season was broken up after he allowed a solo home run and RBI single. However, Thomas did punch out three Travelers.

An offense that had shown promising signs of waking up, did so with nine runs on 10 hits, scoring four of the 15 times they had runners in scoring position. They just couldn’t outscore the opposition and the pitching staff couldn’t play stopper against a robust Arkansas hitting attack.

Patrick Wisdom and Anthony Garcia finished with three RBI each, Garcia’s one hit was a three-run double, while Wisdom hit an RBI single and two-run double, and had three hits in four at-bats. Mike Ohlman also plated one with an RBI double and Aledmys Diaz drove in two with a two-base hit.

Monday, May 4th, Springfield 5 at Arkansas 6

Attempting to split a four-game series against the Travelers on Monday night, the Cardinals found themselves down by three runs early. In his Texas League debut, Arturo Reyes exited early after an inflated pitch count and a lack of control.

Springfield fought back from the deficit with three runs of their own in the third inning, then the score would go back and forth until the home-team (Travelers) walked off in the ninth, taking the series win.

Reyes pitched one one/third innings, allowing three runs (two earned) on five hits with three walks and a strikeout. Heath Wyatt would go on to cover the next two two/thirds innings of scoreless fashion.

Joey Donofrio allowed both the tying and go-ahead runners to score, with two earned in an inning. Ninth inning hurler Justin Wright was the losing pitcher with an earned run on three hits yielded.

This offense showed some fight but not enough in the later innings, as they were blanked through the eighth and ninth. The top of the order for Springfield did most of the lumber work as they accounted for all of the scoring. Breyvic Valera smacked two hits with two RBI, Jacob Wilson had a pair of hits with a sac fly, while Jonathan Rodriguez plated one with a single.

Patrick Wisdom also played a factor with two hits, a walk, and three runs scored. It was encouraging to see out of Wisdom showing signs of life with the bat after a dismal start to the season.

Tuesday, Springfield 3 vs. NW Arkansas 5

Springfield returned to Hammons Field after the miserable eight-game road-trip in which they managed just one win. On Tuesday, the Birds opened up a four-game home-series against NW Arkansas Naturals for the first time this season.

The Naturals scored two early runs and didn’t look back with two more in the fourth and fifth. Springfield got within a run but NW Arkansas scored an insurance run in the ninth to secure the first game of the series.

Andrew Morales allowed four of the five Naturals runs, all of which were earned. The righty pitched five innings, walked one and struck out six. This outing gave Morales his second loss of the season, even though pitched well despite two long balls.

Proving to be a staple in middle relief, Corey Baker tossed the next 3 1/3 innings. Baker held the Naturals to an earned run on three hits and fanned five. Chris Thomas had a scoreless outing, recording two outs while pitching out of a jam created by Baker.

Offensively, there weren’t many run-scoring opportunities. Springfield banged out eight hits, one of which was a double by Jonathan Rodriguez that plated two. The only other run came off a Jacob Wilson long ball, his fifth of the season in the first time he hit down in the order this season.

Wednesday, May 6th, Springfield 4 vs NW Arkansas 8

Springfield drew a sellout crowd during morning/noon baseball on Wednesday, mostly youngsters, as the promotion was Educational Day at the ballpark. The scuffling Cardinals trailed early and the Naturals doubled up their advantage in the later innings to run away with game two. The victory stretched the Naturals franchise-best winning streak to 11 games.

Nick Petree made his fourth professional start at his college backyard. He was effective enough for a quality start through those six innings, allowing three earned runs on eight hits, with a walk and four strikeouts, but his offense wasn’t able to bail him out with at least a no-decision.

Chris Thomas was tagged for four earned runs on six hits in two innings. This outing raised his season ERA from 1.17 to 3.12 – nearly two runs. Justin Wright tossed a quick and scoreless ninth to keep the Cardinals within striking distance.

Four of Springfield’s runs came via two-run shots by Anthony Garcia and David Washington. They were Garcia’s first and Washington’s third of the season.

Among those in the house were Cardinals special assistants Willie McGee and Jason Isringhausen.

Who Is Hot

Nick Martini - Martini went hitless in five at-bats on Tuesday, but in his last ten games, the outfielder has been mashing the ball, batting .412 (14-for-34). He hit in the three-hole this week as of result of having the hot hand.

Mike Ohlman – With Ohlman known for his offensive capabilities rather than his catch-and-throw abilities, the O’s parted ways with him in February after a down season in Double-A last year. The Cardinals received a backstop with a large physique and an ability to hit and hit for power. The Cards may be hoping for lightning in a bottle, and in his last ten games the catcher has hit as such, with a .361 average (13-for-35).

Mike Mayers - In his most recent outing, the right-hander put together a complete-game shutout, joining Brian Broderick as the only Springfield Cardinal to have a complete-game shutout in the books.

Who Is Not

Starlin Rodriguez - Rodriguez is off to a slow start after his activation off the DL. In his first eight games, Rodriguez is batting 2-for-22, a .091 average.

Anthony Garcia – The outfielder is showing signs of breaking out of his long slump, Garcia has hit .133 in his last ten games but had two hits on Monday and his first home run on Wednesday.

/b> Chris Thomas - Thomas was one of Springfield’s most effective relievers in the first month, but so far in May the hitters are battering Thomas with six earned runs and a .417 opponents’ average.

Springbirds batting order

During week four of the minor league season, Dann Bilardello shuffled the lineup card. With Nick Martini now playing every day, he is batting in the third-hole because of his current hot hand, .417 in the last ten games. Charlie Tilson is still the leadoff hitter. Breyvic Valera has hit up and down in the order but was slotted in the two-hole this week a lot of the time. Jonathan Rodriguez has been a steady presence as the clean-up hitter and he’s shown a strong swing with the ability to hit to the opposite field with authority.

Jacob Wilson was dropped down to fifth in the order, as it seems the middle infielder could be pressing. Aledmys Diaz and Mike Ohlman are still swapping the sixth and seventh spots in the lineup. The DH has been in play most of this week with David Washington carrying the duties and hitting seventh at times with Anthony Garcia batting eighth.

Team Transactions

4/29 RHP Seth Blair activated from the DL and released by St. Louis
5/1 RHP Arturo Reyes transferred to Springfield from High-A Palm Beach
5/2 LHP Kyle Hald transferred to AAA-Memphis from Springfield
5/5 3B Patrick Wisdom transferred to Short-A State College from Springfield
5/6 RHP Jordan Swagerty activated from the DL and assigned to Springfield from EST

Texas League North Division Standings

Club W L PCT GB Home Away L10 Streak
Arkansas Travelers (LAA) 17 9 .654 - 7-7 10-2 6-4 W1
NW Arkansas Naturals (KC) 17 9 .654 - 11-2 6-7 10-0 W11
Tulsa Drillers (LAD) 13 13 .500 4.0 7-6 6-7 3-7 L1
Springfield Cardinals (STL) 6 20 .231 11.0 2-10 4-10 1-9 L4

The Cardinal Nation Top 40 Prospect Watch

#10 Charlie Tilson - Tilson had a rough period, batting a modest .238 in his last ten games, which slipped his season average under .300 for the first time this season. Part of this has to do with Texas League pitchers playing to his leadoff aggressiveness which could impact his hitting performance at times.

#12 Aledmys Diaz - Diaz hasn’t been bad at the plate, but he also hasn’t been all that good either. There have been some issues with his approach as pitchers have gave him fits with breaking and off-speed stuff at times. Defensively, he is improved from where he was last year as a defender but his footwork has been stocky at times.

#14 Jacob Wilson - Wilson increased his average by 16 points over a week’s span, but still could improve more. Hitting in the fifth spot could prevent him from pressing as much as he did as the third-hole hitter and maybe give him confidence going forward.

#15 Breyvic Valera - Valera has recorded four multi-hit games in his last six from the two-hole of the lineup. I think this move should boost his average up.

#20 Nick Petree - Petee pitched a quality start against NW Arkansas on Wednesday but wound up as a tough luck loser. So far, the former Missouri State star hasn’t quite lived up to expectations but it is still early in the season.

#25 Mike Mayers - Mayers pitched quite possibly the best outing of his career on Saturday with a complete-game shutout against the division leader and strong-hitting Arkansas Travelers. Next will be for the Mississippian to be more consistent between starts.

#27 Patrick Wisdom - Wisdom was reassigned to Extended Spring Training on Tuesday night. The timing of this made it interesting, as Wisdom had seven hits in his last four games. The reasoning behind the reassignment is to give Wisdom intensive one-on-one instruction to improve his consistency as a hitter. The move is expected to last a short time but could be potentially beneficial for Wisdom.

#35 Andrew Morales - Morales has been hit around in his last two outings. Morales gave up 19 hits in 10 1/3 innings in his last two starts, compared to 12 hits in 17 innings over his first three outings. The former second-round pick depends on contact outs, but to be successful, he is going to need to give up softer contact.

What is Next

Springfield replicated its 1-6 record from two weeks ago, but made improvements offensively this week. They just need better efforts from their starters and relievers.

In the next two days, the club will finish off the four-game series with division rival NW Arkansas, hoping for a better end result than the first two games. The Cards then head out for an eight-game road-trip to Tulsa and NW Arkansas next week.

Join the minor league discussion with other Cardinals fans here

Follow Derek Shore on Twitter @D_Shore23.

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