This report covers the period from Thursday, May 7th through Wednesday, May 13th.
The Springfield Cardinals responded to one of their most dismal stretches of play in franchise history by turning things around their last six games, winning four. The key was much improved starting pitching and not having to rely on the offense to constantly bail them out night after night.
This week, Springfield finished up a four-game set with friendly-rival NW Arkansas Naturals (KC) by taking the final two contests for a split, and concluded the week’s action by settling for a four-game split against the Tulsa Drillers (LAD). The Cardinals still remain in the cellar of the Texas League North with a 10-22 record as they look up at division-leader NW Arkansas, which holds an 11 games lead.
Thursday, May 7th, Springfield 13 vs. NW Arkansas 8
Springfield outscored their opposition in an absolute slugfest which snapped their four-game losing streak and NW Arkansas’ 11-game winning streak.
After the best start of his career, Mike Mayers was beaten up for seven earned runs in his first three innings. Mayers made up for it by finishing strongly with three scoreless after that, thus giving the offense the chance for a comeback later on.
NW Arkansas’ final run came against Jordan Swagerty, who last pitched in 2013 and was activated last Wednesday. Swagerty pitched an inning and picked up his first win since June of 2011. Joey Donofrio and Heath Wyatt helped slam the door with scoreless eighth and ninth innings.
All but two hitters in the Springfield lineup recorded a hit on Thursday night, five of which contributed multi-hit games. Springfield had four of seven home runs, with David Washington slugging two, giving him four RBI on the night. Jacob Wilson knocked a two-run blast, and Anthony Garcia belted a two-run homer as well. Other notable performers were Nick Martini, who collected two hits with an RBI, Michael Ohlman, who plated two on a two-run single, and Charlie Tilson who struck for three hits out of the leadoff spot.
Friday, May 8th, Springfield 5 vs. NW Arkansas 0
Runs in fourth straight frames were enough to lift the Cardinals past the Naturals in the decisive game four, giving the home team a series split. This was Springfield’s third win in their last 15 games but the past two games indicate the team may be on the upswing.
Thomas Lee carried the Springfield pitching staff on Friday. The right-hander was within an out of a complete-game shutout, which would have been the second on the season and third in franchise history. Lee scattered six hits and two walks with five strikeouts and two hit batsmen on 110 pitches, 76 for strikes, while playing to the Naturals’ aggressive tendencies at the plate. Iden Nazario recorded the final out of the contest, stranding Lee’s runner at first.
Alex Mejia, was one of three Springbirds with a multi-hit performance. The shortstop busted out three hits with a run scored and RBI while batting eighth. Aledmys Diaz and Jonathan Rodriguez had two of the Cardinals’ 11 hits, as each doubled and crossed home once.
Saturday, May 9th, Springfield 1 at Tulsa 5
Springfield traveled south to Tulsa to take on the Drillers, now affiliated with the Los Angeles Dodgers after a 12-year partnership with the Colorado Rockies ended following the 2014 season.
This is the first series of many to be played this season between these two divisional opponents. Arturo Reyes had to deal with an hour rain delay before making his second start at Double-A, which covered five innings. Reyes surrendered four runs, two earned due to fielding errors, on five hits, three strikeouts and two walks. He was the tough luck loser, his first defeat as a Double-A pitcher.
Corey Baker retired three in order for a scoreless sixth inning. Showing the effects of missing substantial time, Jordan Swagerty took over for Baker in the seventh, and allowed a leadoff home run, the fifth and final run for Tulsa. Swagerty ended the inning with a strikeout, walk, double, and fly out.
The offense was unable to generate any type of firepower, as the only run came off a solo shot by third-hole hitter Jacob Wilson, his team-leading seventh home run of the year.
Sunday, May 10th, Springfield 2 at Tulsa 3
Springfield downed Tulsa with a game two win on Mother’s Day, but it didn’t come easy. Andrew Morales got off to an excellent start, keeping the Drillers offense off the board through the first four frames of his quality start.
Despite two solo home runs allowed to the Drillers, Morales pitched six effective innings with three walks and three strikeouts. He kept the ball on the ground more often than not with eight ground-outs and earned his second win of the season.
Joey Donofrio and Justin Wright kept the score intact with a combined two scoreless innings, through the seventh and eighth innings. Donofrio retired four batters while Wright walked one but nailed down the last two outs in the eighth. Wright started the ninth with a leadoff walk which was quickly erased by a Heath Wyatt-induced double-play and foul-out to slam the door on the Drillers.
After the Drillers broke a scoreless tie in the fifth inning, the Cardinals offense scored three runs in the following frame, all with two outs. The rally was ignited by a Michael Ohlman RBI single and two-run RBI double by Anthony Garcia. Garcia has been showing extra-base pop lately but with an uninspiring average.
Monday, May 11th, Springfield 1 at Tulsa 0
Nick Petree and a trio of relievers combined to toss a 1-0 shutout for the Springbirds on Monday, holding the Drillers lineup in check. The Cardinals followed losing 12 of 13 by winning four of their last five games.
Petree dealt six scoreless innings to collect his first Double-A win. The former Missouri State standout gave up six hits, walked two and struck out three to lower his ERA to 4.63.
The bullpen followed suit with four innings of scoreless work combined. Chris Thomas pitched 1 2/3 innings, Corey Baker recorded an out, and Jordan Swagerty slammed the door for his first save since 2011. Returning from three season-ending procedures the past three years, Swagerty has reportedly hit as high as 96 mph on the gun, with a curveball and slider that have flashed the potential “plus” each had before.
Nick Martini played the role as spark-plug for the offense by doubling, drawing two walks, and coming around to score on an Anthony Garcia RBI double.
Tuesday, May 12th, Springfield 5 at Tulsa 6
Winners of four of their last five games coming into Tuesday night action, Springfield had all sorts of momentum on their side, but the home team ended it in dramatic fashion via a walk-off home run to avoid a series loss.
Springfield’s offense was opposed by the Dodgers’ precocious prospect Julio Urias. The lefty was knocked out before completing four innings of work. The five runs against him came via a bases-loaded walk by Anthony Garcia, a Garcia solo homer, an Alex Mejia two-run shot (his first of the season) and a Jonathan Rodriguez opposite field home run (his third of 2015).
After three scoreless innings by Mike Mayers, he lost his ability to generate swings and misses in his final three innings. The Drillers tagged him for a four-spot in the fourth and an unearned run in the sixth.
Side-winder Iden Nazario was effective in his scoreless frame, only allowing a single hit. Heath Wyatt took over from there for a scoreless eighth, before surrendering the walk-off home run that split the series.
Wednesday, May 13th, Springfield with scheduled off-day
Springfield used Wednesday as a travel day to head to NW Arkansas to finish off the eight-game road-trip. The Cardinals resume play on Thursday, May 14th with first pitch at 7:05 CT.
Who Is Hot
Anthony Garcia – Over this six-game span, Garcia is scorching the ball, hitting a healthy .388 (7-for-18) with two of his three home runs for the season along with nine RBI. The latter represents nearly half his RBI total through his first 20 games of the season.
Nick Martini - Martini is still hitting well, at .375 over his last ten games and all four of his RBI for the season. The lefty-swinger went 4-for-11 in this week’s action with two walks and was used in all three outfield spots to utilize his defensive versatility.
Nick Petree - In a loss recorded two outings ago for Petree, the strike-thrower still managed a quality start. Petree followed up his third loss with a six-inning shutout against NW Arkansas for his first win as a Double-A pitcher.
Who Is Not
Starlin Rodriguez - Seeing limited action with only eight at-bats in two games this week, Rodriguez is still having a tough time finding his stroke since his activation off the DL almost three weeks ago. The Dominican is 2-for-his-last-30 at the plate.
Alberto Rosario - Another part-time player who is not seeing results despite consistent playing time, the 28-year old catcher is 6-for-his-30 in his last 10 games. Rosario’s strength is his catch-and-throw ability, rather than his stick.
Mike Mayers – Mayers’ performance and numbers have fluctuated over his last three starts. In his two starts last Thursday and Tuesday night of this week, Mayers allowed seven earned runs and then four earned in six innings each time out.
Springbirds batting order
First-year manager Dann Bilardello has used the same regular lineup for the most part, although the order can vary when a regular is in need of an off-day.
Charlie Tilson led off for five of the six games this week, with Breyvic Valera spelling the lead-off spot when Tilson needed a rest. The two-hole spot is up for grabs and has not been designated to a specific player, but Nick Martini and Alex Mejia were both penciled there twice in the six games, with Aledmys Diaz and Valera batting there once. Jacob Wilson, still scuffling at the plate, is back in the three-hole after the manager tried to jump-start his bat by hitting him lower in the order a week ago.
1B Jonathan Rodriguez continued to pound the leather off the ball out of the clean-up spot. David Washington and Michael Ohlman hit fifth and sixth in most of the games, while Anthony Garcia is giving Bilardello a case to hit him higher in the order with his recent hot-hitting, with Alex Mejia playing third base and hitting eighth mostly since Patrick Wisdom’s reassignment.
5/12 LHP Justin Wright transferred to AAA-Memphis from Springfield
5/9 LHP Jonathan Cornelius released by St. Louis
5/9 LHP Kyle Hald transferred to Springfield from AAA-Memphis
Texas League North Division Standings
|NW Arkansas Naturals (KC)||21||11||.656||-||11-2||10-9||8-2||W4|
|Arkansas Travelers (LAA)||18||13||.581||2.5||7-11||11-2||4-6||L4|
|Tulsa Drillers (LAD)||15||16||.484||5.5||9-9||6-7||3-7||W1|
|Springfield Cardinals (STL)||10||22||.313||11.0||4-10||6-12||4-6||L1|
The Cardinal Nation Top 40 Prospect Watch
#10 Charlie Tilson - Tilson is slowing up at the plate after hitting .307 in April, down to .286 in May. The speedy outfielder is still getting on base at virtually the same clip from month to month with only a 10-point differential in on-base percentage. That is important for the lead-off hitter.
#12 Aledmys Diaz - Another week and the $8 million dollar investment has been very ordinary at the plate. A hole in his swing has also been exploited by Texas League pitching, as the book is that Diaz looks for the fastball and chases soft stuff, particularly out of the zone. The Cuban had a track record of hitting in his home-country, but that has yet to be translated stateside.
#14 Jacob Wilson - Wilson has continually showed his mix of RH power and defensive versatility which can be valuable at the upper levels, but he has not been able to maintain a consistently high average. He is not not striking out at an increased rate from past years and his walk total is up, so maybe he is just hitting into bad luck. More at-bats will give us a more definitive answer.
#15 Breyvic Valera - Valera is playing all over the diamond and is up-and-down in the order. His versatility is impressive, but Valera is hitting a career-low .221 in 113 at-bats, far below his .300+ career minor league batting average. On the bright side, Valera is still young for the Texas League and has plenty of season left to boost his average and hits.
#20 Nick Petree - Petree is starting to pitch like the former Missouri State ace. The right-hander picked up his first Double-A win as of result of his best and longest outing to date with Springfield.
#25 Mike Mayers - Per his manager, Mayers realized that he does not have to throw all his off-speed and secondary pitches so much, but rather command his fastball, and locate it and can have pretty good success. The 23-year old’s performance has been inconsistent in his last three outings, but he is most effective when he is challenging and attacking hitters with two fastballs, one with giddy-up, and the other with sink that produces ground-outs.
#35 Andrew Morales - Morales isn’t pitching like the youngest hurler on the pitching staff, at 22 years of age. The second-round pick last year won his most recent outing, allowing two earned runs on five hits, with three walks and three strikeouts in six solid innings.
What Is Next
Springfield finished this week winning four of six games played, two against NW Arkansas and the final four against the Tulsa Drillers. They finish up their eight-game road-trip with a series against the NW Arkansas for four. The Cards will be welcomed back at Hammons Field in Springfield for an eight-game homestand against divisional rivals Tulsa and Arkansas.
Follow Derek Shore on Twitter @D_Shore23.
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