Springfield Cardinals Notebook: 2015 Week 10

The Double-A Cardinals near the break while playing their best ball of the 2015 season to date. Michael Ohlman is swinging a hot bat.

This report covers the period from Thursday, June 11th through Wednesday, June 17th. Since May 27th, the Springfield Cardinals have won 13 of their last 20 games, an extraordinary turnaround for manager Dann Bilardello and company, after losing 27 of their first 40 games to start the season. Springfield had been on pace for their worst start in franchise history, dating back to the inaugural year in 2005.

Bilardello and his coaching staff stayed upbeat during the club’s tough times, taking a “grinding” mentality game-by-game with positive results coming in only glimpses. Eventually, things came together in the month of June, as the Cards proved to be the hottest team in the North Division during a 15-game stretch this month in which they posted 10-5 record.

Despite a rain-shortened loss on Tuesday night, Springfield excelled on their recent road-trip, winning five of the eight games. Springfield started the trip with a three-games-to-one series win against the Arkansas Travelers (LAA), before splitting two rain-shortened and extra-innings games at the Tulsa Drillers (LAD).

On the trip, the Cards authored three shutouts, including the near no-hitter from RHP Arturo Reyes in the seven-inning game on Sunday. The Springbirds came home for the final game of this week’s edition to open an eight-game home-stand but fell to the NW Arkansas Naturals in game one.

Springfield passed Tulsa this week in the North Division and held sole possession of third place for one day, to only fall back into the cellar with two consecutive losses, one against the Drillers. Currently at 27-38 on the season, the Cards trail Tulsa by one game, and are a dozen games behind NW Arkansas, whose magic number is down to one to clinch the first half North Division title.

Thursday, June 11th, Springfield 1 at Arkansas 0 (11 innings)

This game seemed reminiscent of an extra-inning marathon against the Tulsa Drillers that went 17 innings. Instead, it finished earlier than that on Thursday night with Anthony Garcia breaking up a scoreless tie in the 11th inning to hand Springfield their ninth win in their last ten games and move them into a third-place tie with Tulsa.

In his second Texas League start, Jimmy Reed struggled with efficiency and was given the hook after just 4 2/3 innings. Reed didn’t allow a run to score, gave up four hits, walked a glaring five batters, and struck out one in his no-decision.

The relief corps followed with excellence, as they combined to amass 6 1/3 scoreless innings. Ronnie Shaban pitched 2 1/3 scoreless, with Chris Thomas covering three scoreless, and Kyle Barraclough barely picking up his fourth successful save of the season. Barraclough is known for his power stuff but with that stuff comes difficulty controlling it. He issued two free-passes and a bloop single that could have led to his first blown save at Double-A had Charlie Tilson not gunned down a runner at third just before the lead runner touched home-plate.

Friday, June 12th, Springfield 12 at Arkansas 15

Arkansas avoided a four-game home sweep at hands of Springfield on Friday night with a wild 15-12 win to conclude the series with a bang. Despite their six-game winning streak being snapped, Springfield collected their fourth straight series win and closed the game within three runs after facing a 12-run deficit. That hole was created when the Travelers dropped a 14-spot on the erratic Springfield pitching staff.

Making his first start off the 7-Day DL on Friday, Kyle Hald breezed through four scoreless before walking and hitting a batter to open the fifth. That opened the gates for the Travelers to drop seven earned runs on Lee Stoppelman, who walked five and retired just one batter. Jordan Swagerty took over and proceeded to allow five more earned runs on two hits, and three walks.

Springfield relied on Bruce Caldwell and Nick Martini, two position players, to pitch the rest of the way. They combined to pitch the remaining 3 1/3 innings with Martini allowing just an earned run.

The offense didn’t go down easy as they struck back in the later innings with a combined nine runs between the eighth and ninth innings to pull within three - but it wasn’t enough to overcome the deficit. Two-way player Nick Martini had three hits and three RBI coming off a triple, home run, and single. Aledmys Diaz cracked his second homer of the season and finished with two RBI on the night while Michael Ohlman drove in two off two singles.

Saturday, June 13th, Springfield 7 at Tulsa 8 (11 innings)

Kurt Heyer flipped back into the rotation from the pen for Springfield on Saturday night. Heyer surrendered seven earned runs on eight hits, three of them home runs, one strikeout and a walk in just 3 1/3 innings.

Iden Nazario and Joey Donofrio matched each other with 2 2/3 scoreless in relief. Ronnie Shaban took his first loss of the season by allowing the walk-off run to score in the 11th inning.

The offense started right out of the gates with a gaping hole, but scratched out runs to eventually tie the game. Yet they could never managed to throw the knockout punch despite opportunities in extras. Jonathan Rodriguez led the way with an RBI single and two-run shot, to account for the biggest chunk of offense. Jeremy Hazelbaker added a two-run double.

Sunday, June 14th, Springfield 8 at Tulsa 0 (7 innings)

After losing a close match-up the previous night, Springfield bounced back and blew past Tulsa in a shortened seven-inning affair, to even up the series at two apiece and division race for the third-place spot in the North Division. The Cardinals rode on Arturo Reyes’ dominance, as he no-hit the Travelers through the first 6 2/3 innings before giving up a single in the seventh inning, when he exited.

Reyes finished with two walks and eight strikeouts for his fourth victory at Double-A and lowered his ERA below 2.00. Following Reyes was Chris Thomas who faced a lone batter and retired him via a strikeout before a rain delay.

Springfield plated a pair in the first and third innings, before capping off scoring with four more runs in the seventh to blow the game open. Michael Ohlman produced two RBI doubles, for two RBI, and Jonathan Rodriguez knocked in two with a single and walk.

Monday, June 15th, Springfield 8 at Tulsa 4 (10 innings)

The S-Cards played a little long ball at Tulsa on Tuesday, resulting in an 8-4 win in extras. All eight of the visitors’ tallies were the products of four home runs. Patrick Wisdom launched two of them, his second a 10th-inning grand slam that proved decisive. The third baseman went 2-for-5 with five driven in. Jonathan Rodriguez went 2-for-4 with a walk and two-run bomb, touching home twice while Jose Gonzalez’ first home run of 2015 was his only hit in five at bats.

Springfield banged out 11 hits in all, led by Charlie Tilson who went 3-for-5 with a double, stolen base and was caught stealing once. Anthony Garcia doubled twice in four at bats, scoring once.

Making his second start in 19 appearances, Corey Baker held the Drillers scoreless on two hits and a base-on-balls through five. He left with his squad up 3-0, but the lead did not survive Jordan Swagerty’s stint.

Swagerty yielded two hits and two free passes, resulting in three runs in just a third of an inning. The final run charged to him crossed under Kevin Herget’s watch. Herget limited the damage by stranding two of three inherited runners and kept the opposition off the board in the seventh and eighth.

Kyle Barraclough fanned five in two frames but surrendered a run on four hits that sent the game into extras.

Tuesday, June 16th, Springfield 0 at Tulsa 2 (5 innings)

Tuesday brought a five-inning rain-shortened game, in which Tulsa prevailed with two runs in the bottom half of the fifth. The Drillers earned a split of the final road matchup against divisional foe Springfield. The Cards’ loss snapped their series win streak at four.

Jimmy Reed bounced back from a shaky outing with 4 2/3 solid innings, but proceeded to give up two RBI extra-base hits just right before the game-ending rain hit. In his first Double-A loss, Reed walked two and struck out four Drillers.

The offense managed just a hit through five innings against right-hander Jose De Leon, who is ranked as the 6th best prospect in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, according to Baseball America. The lone hit came off the bat of Texas League All-Star Michael Ohlman, who singled to extend his hitting streak to an impressive 14 games in his rise to the third-spot in the order.

Wednesday, June 17th, Springfield 3 vs. NW Arkansas 9

The Cardinals dropped Wednesday’s game against the NW Arkansas Naturals. It was the first of four between these two clubs, and the beginning of eight-games on the final home-stand of the first half. The Naturals used big innings in the first, third, fourth, and eighth to storm past Springfield.

Winless Kyle Hald was scorched for seven earned runs in just four innings. The lefty served up three home runs that accounted for six of his seven earned runs from the bopping Naturals offense.

Five innings were covered by relievers Iden Nazario, Jordan Swagerty, and Ronnie Shaban. Nazario was scoreless through three frames with four strikeouts, while Swagerty allowed two earned runs in a single inning of work and Shaban fanned two in a scoreless ninth.

The offense pushed out nine hits against their division rival, but eight were singles. With the club turning to station-station base-running to produce their offense, only three runs came across. Nick Martini smacked three hits, with the lone extra-base hit of the night, a solo shot. Patrick Wisdom also knocked in one via a single.

Who’s Hot

Michael Ohlman - Ohlman extended his month-long hitting streak to an impressive 15 games with a single on Wednesday night, going 22-for-52 (.423) with 3 home runs and 19 RBI during that stretch. The team record is 18 games, accomplished four times - by Travis Hanson in 2005, Tyler Greene in 2008, Tony Cruz in 2010, and Audry Perez in 2012. His resurgence garnered him the duties as starting catcher for the North squad in the Texas-League All-Star Game and a Texas League Player of the Week award as well.

Arturo Reyes - Overshadowed by the more-touted (Alex) Reyes in the organization. “Arturo” Reyes is quickly gaining his share of fans, too. The right-hander tossed a near no-hitter before the Drillers knocked him out of Sunday’s game with two hits in the seventh inning. The Gonzaga product has seven consecutive starts of going more than five innings of allowing no more than three earned runs in. He’s armed with a fastball in the low 90s with a slider that’s a good mix for advancing, assuming his fastball command improves. Keep a keen eye on his progress a second time through the Texas League, after his All-Star appearance.

Who’s Not

Breyvic Valera - Valera has had an up-and-down season, with his average spiking the previous week before plummeting this week. The Venezuelan is 1-for-his-last-15 at the plate with his last hit on Wednesday night, a single.

Jordan Swagerty – It is encouraging that the Cardinals keep giving Swagerty opportunities at the Double-A level. But the former top relief prospect has allowed ten earned runs in his last three outings, in only 1 1/3 innings. His ERA currently sits at 14.73 for the season as leash at Double-A appears to be nearing a halt.

Springbirds batting order

One of those who can literally play every day, Charlie Tilson got a rare day-off on Sunday evening but still led-off in five of the six games this week. A lead-off hitter in prior years, Mike O’Neill, is back for his third and most likely his last go-around as a Springbird. O’Neill, 27, batted in the two-spot this week when he didn’t spell Tilson at lead-off. A pesky, disciplined approach is what to be expected from O’Neill. He slots right in front of Michael Ohlman, who has mashed his way up the order to the potent third-spot, with the catcher’s riding a current 15-game hitting streak.

1B/DH Jonathan Rodriguez remains at clean-up, outfielder Jeremy Hazelbaker batted fifth this week but also hit at the top-of-the-order as well, with the sixth hitter often being mixed-and-matched among Anthony Garcia, Aledmys Diaz, and Nick Martini. To round out the order, Patrick Wisdom, Breyvic Valera, and new-arrival Bruce Caldwell have all been moved around, with manager Dann Bilardello trying to squeeze as much production from the bottom-half as possible.

Team Transactions

6/12 LHP Kyle Hald activated from the DL
6/12 RHP Thomas Lee transferred to AAA-Memphis from Springfield
6/14 LHP Lee Stoppelman transferred to High-A Palm Beach from Springfield
6/14 RHP Kevin Herget transferred to Springfield from High-A Palm Beach

Texas League North Division Standings

Club W L PCT GB Home Away L10 Streak
NW Arkansas Naturals (KC) 39 26 .600 - 25-11 14-15 7-3 W1
Arkansas Travelers (LAA) 32 31 .508 6.0 15-17 17-14 2-8 W1
Tulsa Drillers (LAD) 27 36 .429 11.0 14-17 13-19 5-5 W1
Springfield Cardinals (STL) 27 38 .415 12.0 12-17 15-21 6-4 L2

The Cardinal Nation Top 40 Prospect Watch

#10 Charlie Tilson - With the tutelage of former Cardinal great and stolen-base fanatic Willie McGee this past spring. Tilson has stolen the most bases of his career through the first 59 games this season, 22 out of 28 attempts. His previous career-high was 15 stolen bases in 2013 in 109 games. This was a part of Tilson’s game that needed the most refining, and so far this season, the extra work has really payed dividends.

#12 Aledmys Diaz - Diaz’s performance seems to be heading in a positive path with the bat. In the field, the Cuban is showing an ability to charge in on balls and make tough off-balance throws that major-league shortstops make. His range and at times footwork are questioned as to whether he can stick or not, but for the most part his defense has come on strong in his first full season away from showcases and injuries.

#15 Breyvic Valera - As mentioned above, Valera is experiencing the first up-and-down season of his career. The kicker will be whether or not the middle infielder can overcome some “speed bumps” and play through them to find success for the long haul. Double-A Ball is the dividing line for prospects and it is where a player either gets it or doesn’t.

#20 Nick Petree - Petree remains on the DL and his injury appears to be more significant than initially reported. His timetable is currently unknown.

#25 Mike Mayers - Continues to rehab an arm strain back at the complex in Florida.

#35 Andrew Morales - Morales didn’t pitch at all this week, with his last outing on June 10th. The youngest pitcher on the staff, Morales may have been skipped to fine-tune his stuff during side sessions this week. Also, he hasn’t been scheduled as a probable starter for this weekend, but is not on the disabled list, either, so it doesn’t rule anything out.

Texas League All-Stars

The Texas League announced on Monday the rosters for the 79th annual Double-A Texas League All-Star Game. Eight Springfield Cardinals were named to the North Division squad, with the opponent being the South Division squad. The Cardinals contingent includes four position players, all starters, and four pitchers.

Springfield will be well-represented in the All-Star Game, with catcher Michael Ohlman and outfielders Jeremy Hazelbaker, Charlie Tilson, and Nick Martini, who was a late-replacement to the North team. Right-handers Kyle Barraclough, Joey Donofrio, Texas League Pitcher of the Week Arturo Reyes and Chris Thomas will carry the flag for the Cardinals pitching staff.

The 2015 Texas League All-Star Game will be played in Corpus Christi, Texas, home of the Hooks, the Houston Astros Double-A affiliate. The Double-A mid-summer classic is scheduled on Tuesday, June 30th at 7:30 CT, with the North facing the home South. Full rosters of both squads can be viewed here

What’s Next

After one of their best stretches of the season, Springfield will look to shake off two straight losses against Tulsa and NW Arkansas, as they head into the All-Star break. A half dozen games remain in the first half, and Springfield still trails Tulsa by just a game in the standings.

The Cardinals started the first of eight games at home on Wednesday night, dropping the opener to NW Arkansas. The four-game series will conclude on Saturday, and Springfield will welcome Tulsa for four more to decide the first-half winner of third place in the North Division.

Join the minor league discussion with other Cardinals fans here

Follow Derek Shore on Twitter @D_Shore23.

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