Springfield Cardinals Notebook: 2015 Week 6

The Double-A Cardinals continue to struggle to find consistency, going 2-5 over the last week. Nick Petree is pitching well.

This report covers the period from Thursday, May 14th through Wednesday, May 20th

The Springfield Cardinals (STL) started the new season with a brutal first month, but have shown signs of promise in the month of May as the weather heats up. All-around play has varied throughout the season as the team that has yet to come together with consistency for a stretch of time.

Manager Dann Bilardello remains positive but he has also been very straightforward about this club's lack of success through the first six weeks. Bilardello expects them to turn things around and get over the hump but there is no indication of when.

In Week 6’s action, Springfield played seven games, winning two and dropping five. They lost the last series to conclude an eight-game road-trip against NW Arkansas by dropping three of four. In the current eight-game home-stand, Springfield won the first match-up but has since then lost the last two against the Tulsa Drillers (LAD).

The Springbirds have remained cellar dwellers since the first week. At 12-27, they trail the division leading NW Arkansas Naturals by 15 games. The latter has won five straight and nine of their last ten games.

Thursday, May 14th, Springfield 5 at NW Arkansas 9

NW Arkansas took advantage of a three-error sixth inning by a shaky Springfield defense, as the Naturals poured on five runs to take a comfortable lead and eventually the opening game of four at Arvest Ballpark.

Winless Kyle Hald went another start without a victory in the 2015 season. Hald pitched well despite one mistake, a wild pitch which scored the only earned run charged to him, but two of the other runs the lefty allowed were unearned on defensive miscues.

Jordan Swagerty blew the save, allowing five runs, all unearned due two more defensive miscues by the Cardinals defense. Joe Donofrio inherited three runners of Swagerty’s, but all scored via a bases-clearing three-run double. Donofrio bounced back with 1 ? scoreless innings.

The Springfield offense scored a pair of their runs early, then added three of their five scores in the sixth inning. In the ninth, there were a lot of sharp hits but nothing to show for it. Anthony Garcia blasted his fourth home run of the season, a solo shot that increased his RBI return to nine in his last 11 games. Michael Ohlman also contributed two runs from a two-bagger.

Friday, May 15h, Springfield 6 at NW Arkansas 5

Jaime Garcia dealt six strong innings of two-run ball against the Double-A Royals club on Friday night, making a formidable case at starting for St. Louis his next time up. The back-end of the bullpen faced a charging Naturals offense but they were able to cool them off in time to squeak past by one run, evening up the series at one apiece with two more to go.

Garcia allowed six hits, including a two-run homer, but controlled his natural heavy movement without a free pass and got six Naturals to go down swinging or looking. One of six hits yielded was off former Cardinals World Series Champion Rafael Furcal, who was rehabbing from the majors, but has since retired. The lefty threw 95 pitches, 65 for strikes with nine ground-ball outs and two flyball outs.

Kyle Barraclough, Corey Baker, and Heath Wyatt each pitched a frame. Barraclough and Wyatt held the Naturals scoreless, with the former making his Double-A debut. While Baker was touched for three runs on four hits in the eighth inning.

The Springbirds offensive attack broke out 12 hits with two apiece from Michael Ohlman, Jeremy Hazelbaker, David Washington, and Alex Mejia. Ohlman and Washington managed their singles in five at bats, Ohlman scoring twice and Washington knocking in two. Hazelbaker combined a solo shot with a single in four at bats while Mejia went 2-for-3 with a triple, walk and run scored. Aledmys Diaz doubled once in three at bats with two free passes, touched home once and knocked in two.

Saturday, May 16th, Springfield 2 at NW Arkansas 10

NW Arkansas scored single tallies in the first four innings before capping the game off with six more runs to blow past Springfield on Saturday night.

Thomas Lee pitched four innings, allowing a run in each of his four innings of work. Lee surrendered seven hits, including a solo home run, one walk, struck out four, and fell under .500 with a 2-3 record.

Chris Thomas tossed three no-hit frames in relief of Lee. Thomas walked one and struck out five to lower his ERA to 2.45 on the season. Attempting to keep the game within reach but failing was Jordan Swagerty, who only retired a batter, while allowing five runs (three earned) on four hits.

The Cardinals offense was contained by the Naturals pitching staff, held to just six hits, all singles. Aledmys Diaz produced the lone RBI of the night.

Sunday, May 16th, Springfield 2 at NW Arkansas 3

NW Arkansas took the series via a walk-off home run in extras to defeat Springfield in the finale. The Cardinals went 3-5 on the eight-game road-trip and are 14 games under .500, trailing the Naturals by 13 games following the four-game matchup.

Arturo Reyes was given the ball in the series finale. Reyes was solid through six innings. The former Gonzaga standout gave up an earned run on four hits, with two free passes and six strikeouts. Reyes left with the score tied and finished with a no-decision.

Joe Donofrio pitched a scoreless seventh. Heath Wyatt followed Donofrio with a scoreless eighth, then blew the save by giving up the game-tying run in the ninth to force extras. Iden Nazario was the losing pitcher who took the knockout punch in extras.

For consecutive nights, Springfield had no problem getting guys on base and into scoring position, but struggled to get them across with just 2-of-12 scoring opportunities successful. Jonathan Rodriguez slugged his fourth home run while Alex Mejia produced a sac fly to account for the offense’s two runs.

Monday, May 18th, Springfield 7 vs. Tulsa 4

Springfield almost immediately began their four-game homestand in a 4-0 deficit, but they eventually broke on top with three-run fourth and eighth innings to claim a 7-4 season-opening victory.

Andrew Morales picked up his third win with his longest outing of the season by going eight innings. Morales got off to a bad start, yielding four earned runs in first inning but settled down with seven consecutive shutout innings following. The righty walked three and struck out five. Jordan Swagerty slammed the door with a perfect ninth for his second save.

Nick Martini and Breyvic Valera combined for five of the offense’s seven runs. Martini collected three hits in four at-bats with three RBI while Valera drove in two with singles. Anthony Garcia also got into the action with his fifth home run in the month of May while hitting out of the three-hole for the first time this year.

Tuesday, May 19th, Springfield 0 vs. Tulsa 1 (17 innings)

Springfield and Tulsa dueled it out for 17 innings, before the Drillers surged with a one-run win in the longest game of their franchise history. The winning pitcher was Drillers starting 1B Lars Anderson, who threw two scoreless innings in his pro pitching debut.

Nick Petree was the first of six Springfield pitchers. Petree was exceptional with seven shutout frames and deserved the win, but the pitching was that good on the other side as well. The right-hander gave up five hits, walked one and struck out five while only needing 87 pitches, 64 thrown for strikes.

A combined eight scoreless innings were logged by the next four Cardinals relievers to appear. Ronnie Shaban pitched one scoreless, while Kyle Barraclough added the next two scoreless, Corey Baker covered the following three innings along with seven strikeouts, and Chris Thomas the last two innings. The sixth and final reliever was Heath Wyatt, who pitched a scoreless 16th before the Drillers scored in the 17th.

The offense had several opportunities to walk-off but couldn’t execute the knockout punch, going 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position and leaving 12 stranded. Collectively the Drillers pitching staff held the squad to nine hits in 54 at-bats. Nick Martini (three) and Alberto Rosario (two) had five of the nine hits.

Wednesday, May 20th, Springfield 3 vs. Tulsa 6

Springfield got off to a fast start with a run but didn’t follow up until a run in the 8th, while Tulsa capitalized on four errors committed by the Springbirds defense. The Drillers logged three single-tally innings along with a three-run frame.

Kyle Hald was beat up for all six Drillers runs. Only four were earned because of rough defensive play, but the Drillers offense also touched Hald for 10 hits. The lefty did manage to get through six innings to conserve an overworked bullpen following Tuesday’s 17-inning marathon.

Joe Donofrio and Iden Nazario finished the contest. Donofrio completed two scoreless innings while Nazario fanned the side in the ninth.

The same offense that had nine hits in 17 innings Tuesday night followed up that lackluster performance with 12 hits in nine innings. The Cardinals failed to cash in on nine chances with runners in scoring position and left a whopping 10 runners on base, exposing the glaring flaw of this offense.

The top-of-the-order accounted for nine of the team’s 12 hits. Charlie Tilson had two including a double, Alex Mejia singled twice with an RBI, Nick Martini reached base with three singles, and Jonathan Rodriguez had a double, a single and an RBI.

Who is Hot

Nick Petree - Petree had perhaps one of his most impressive outings on Tuesday night. He pitched seven shutout innings and struck out five, with 64 of his 87 pitches going for strikes. The Missouri State standout one-upped his last outing, in which he pitched six shutout frames.

Nick Martini - Martini has a current seven-game hitting streak, during which he is hitting .419 (13-for-31). In his last three games, Martini has nine hits in 15 at-bats which is good for a .600 average. With the way the left-handed batter is swinging it of late, he’s found himself with consistent playing time out of the No. 3 spot in the batting order the past couple of weeks.

David Washington - Washington had a four-game hitting streak heading into Wednesday night’s game, during which the 6-foot-5 slugger appeared as a pinch-hit hitter and went hitless in his lone at-bat to snap the streak. He batted .428 (9-for-21) during this four-game stretch.

Who is Not

Breyvic Valera - Valera’s performance is sinking along with his place in the lineup. The Venezuelan is hitting .143 (6-for-42) over his last 10 games at the plate.

Charlie Tilson – Tilson’s average has plummeted from .307 in the month of April, to a .229 mark in the month of May. The outfielder did record two hits on Wednesday night, though.

Jordan Swagerty - Swagerty’s struggles are common working back from significant time missed around four surgical operations that has delayed his development in recent years. The plan has been to pitch him every other night to “ease” him back into action, instead of force-feeding workload. The former second round pick has allowed 12 hits, 10 runs (five earned), with four walks and one strikeout in his first five innings back on the mound at Double-A.

Springbirds batting order

Charlie Tilson led-off in all seven games this week, while Nick Martini shared the two-spot with new arrival Jeremy Hazelbaker, who had been recently released by the Dodgers and played for the Tulsa Drillers. Jacob Wilson batted at No. 3 until moved up to Triple-A Memphis earlier this week and the emergence of a three-hole hitter has not yet occurred. Everyday 1B Jonathan Rodriguez continues to clean-up. Michael Ohlman has quietly been steady as the five-hitter but without much of the desired power from that slot.

The bottom three/four in the order was shuffled quite a bit this week among Anthony Garcia who has swung the hottest bat in the month of May, Aledmys Diaz, Breyvic Valera, Alex Mejia and David Washington.

Team Transactions

5/12 LHP Justin Wright transferred to AAA-Memphis from Springfield
5/13 RHP Mike Mayers placed on the DL
5/14 RHP Kyle Barraclough transferred to Springfield from High-A Palm Beach
5/14 OF Jeremy Hazelbaker signed by St. Louis and transferred to Springfield
5/14 C Adam Ehrlich activated from the DL
5/14 C Adam Ehrlich transferred to Short-A State College
5/15 LHP Jaime Garcia transferred to Springfield on MLB Rehab Assignment
5/18 INF Jacob Wilson transferred to AAA-Memphis from Springfield
5/18 OF Starlin Rodriguez released by St. Louis
5/18 INF Patrick Wisdom transferred to Springfield from Short-A State College
5/18 RHP Ronnie Shaban activated from the DL

Texas League North Division Standings

Club W L PCT GB Home Away L10 Streak
NW Arkansas Naturals (KC) 27 12 .692 - 17-3 10-9 9-1 W5
Arkansas Travelers (LAA) 21 17 .553 5.5 10-12 11-5 3-7 L3
Tulsa Drillers (LAD) 18 20 .474 8.5 9-9 9-11 4-6 W2
Springfield Cardinals (STL) 12 27 .308 15.0 5-12 7-15 4-6 L2

The Cardinal Nation Top 40 Prospect Watch

#10 Charlie Tilson – Tilson’s average has fallen off from May 9th when he was hitting .309. Since that frame the former second rounder has dropped to .269, even with two hits on Wednesday night. With that performance has come more strikeouts that is impacting the rest of his game as he is dependent on putting the ball in play with his running ability to make an impact on the bases.

#12 Aledmys Diaz - Through six weeks of play, Diaz has proven to be a very mediocre contributor. With his average falling, his batting spot in the order is falling down too and the less good pitches Diaz will be able to see.

#14 Jacob Wilson - Wilson was promoted after Sunday’s game. The former Memphis Tiger returned to his home-state and city where he played his collegiate ball. In his Redbirds debut, the right-handed hitter hit a two-run homer to help Memphis to a 5-1 win.

#15 Breyvic Valera – To note Valera is underachieving compared to his minor league career numbers is the prime example of an understatement. He is a young and proven .300 hitter at the lower levels but the transition to Double-A ball has gotten the best of him to date (.143 in his last 10 games and .211 on the season).

#20 Nick Petree - Petree is only improving with more Double-A starts under his belt. In his previous outing, the craftsman had tiptop command to the corners on both sides. That allowed him to work off his fastball to utilize his changeup which paid big dividends when he was ahead in the count.

#25 Mike Mayers - Mayers was shelved after his start on May 12th. It has been reported that Mayers is dealing with a right arm strain and in a note of caution, was moved to Florida for rehab.

#27 Patrick Wisdom - Wisdom returned to the Springfield lineup on Monday night after his reassignment almost two weeks ago to Florida. The adjustments were for a more consistent swing to improve his overall consistency at the dish. The third baseman has gone 3-for-13 with five strikeouts in his first three games since returning.

#35 Andrew Morales - Morales will be counted upon to be a workhorse atop the Springfield rotation this year. So far, the right-hander has pitched 40 ? innings, good for second on the starting staff behind Nick Petree, who has one more start against Morales.

What is Next

After an early schedule that was heavy on road games, Springfield opened a stretch on Monday night where it will play 22 of the next 36 games at Hammons Field. Springfield will entertain Tulsa for one more game on Thursday night for the finale, and host Arkansas for four games this weekend that will run until Monday afternoon. The Cards then head out West to take on the Frisco Roughriders (TEX) and Midland Rockhounds (OAK) for the first time this season.

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