This report covers the period from Thursday, July 30th through Wednesday, August 5th.
The Springfield Cardinals struggled to handle divisional opponents Northwest Arkansas Naturals (KC) and Tulsa Drillers (LAD) this past week, going 3-4 combined. Momentum for Springfield was strong through the first two games of the Naturals series before it shifted to the opposition as NW Arkansas walked off on Saturday night and took the finale without issue. To open the homestand, Springfield surged in the opener against Tulsa, before the latter grabbed the final two games.
Due to losing six of their last ten games, second-place Springfield is back at .500 (20-20) for the second half and fell further behind division leader Arkansas Travelers (LAA), trailing by three games as of Thursday, August 6th. In the process, current third-place holder Tulsa took a series from the Cardinals and are just five games back with NW Arkansas down in the cellar, looking up at a seven and half game deficit.
Thursday, July 30th, Springfield 6 at NW Arkansas 3 (12 innings)
Springfield outlasted its friendly rival NW Arkansas through a 12-inning marathon on Thursday night. The win gave the Cardinals the series-opener with the final three to be played.
Precocious prospect Alex Reyes took the mound for his second Double-A start. The New Jersey right-hander was erratic early, but held the Naturals to just two runs, one earned, on four hits, two walks, and eight strikeouts in 4 1/3 innings.
Six relievers were used to cover the remaining innings as Ryan Sherriff, Thomas Lee, and Ronnie Shaban pitched a combined 3 2/3 until the ninth inning. Sherriff struck out two in 1 2/3 innings while Lee fanned four over two scoreless. Shaban blew the save in the ninth but was able to hold onto a tie.
Back from Memphis, Joey Donofrio was put to the task of logging 2 1/3 innings and did not allow any damage. Chris Perry took the reins from Donofrio with two runners on and promptly retired the side on two strikeouts for his first Double-A save.
The Cardinals went quietly through the first seven innings before erupting for three runs in the eighth and ninth innings. Despite plenty of opportunities squandered with runners in scoring position, they capitalized on a Naturals error that led to two unearned runs. Jonathan Rodriguez smashed his ninth homer, a two-run shot. Breyvic Valera and Mike O’Neill had multi-hit games as well as RBI, Valera had three hits and O’Neill two.
Friday, July 31st, Springfield 11 at NW Arkansas 1
Following a 12-inning marathon as well as coping with a taxed bullpen, Arturo Reyes absorbed eight dominant innings against NW Arkansas on Friday night to give the bullpen a night of recuperation. The blowout win in front of 5,889 fans gave the Cardinals the first two games of the four-game set at the Naturals.
Routinely sitting 93-97 mph with two effective offerings in a curve and change to off-set his improved velocity, Reyes dealt seven scoreless innings before his shutout was disrupted by an RBI double in the eighth. He did complete the eighth however, as the right-hander walked three and struck out seven for his seventh win.
It was a good overall effort from the Springfield offense in game two. Three multi-hit games were recorded as 11 runs were pushed across on just nine hits. Jonathan Rodriguez and Mike Ohlman contributed two hits and two RBI apiece while Charlie Tilson, Mike O’Neill, Anthony Garcia, and Aledmys Diaz each drove in one.
Saturday, August 1st, Springfield 5 at NW Arkansas 6
After Springfield had taken a one-run lead in the top of the ninth, NW Arkansas responded the following frame with a walk-off, two-run triple in bottom of the ninth for the comeback win in front of 5,005 fans at Arvest Ballpark. Through the first three games, Springfield held a two-to-one advantage over NW Arkansas, with the finale on Sunday.
Jimmy Reed pitched the first five innings and allowed four earned runs on seven hits and seven strikeouts. Corey Baker covered the next three frames while tossing shutout ball before reliever Chris Perry left as the losing pitcher. He yielded the two walk-off runs on a triple.
The Cardinals offense wasted a whopping 17 opportunities with runners in scoring position and left ten base runners aboard, not a recipe for success. Of the 14 hits banged out by S-Card hitters, 10 came from two-hit games from Mike O’Neill, Anthony Garcia, Michael Ohlman, Patrick Wisdom, and Aledmys Diaz. Wisdom had an RBI double while Garcia knocked in a run with a single. Breyvic Valera recorded a two-run double as well.
Sunday, August 2nd, Springfield 4 at NW Arkansas 9
The Cardinals closed out the four-game series against the Naturals by dropping the final two games for a series split. On Sunday, Kyle Hald yielded six earned runs through four innings of work, losing his fifth game.
Half of the offense came from home runs by Anthony Garcia and Aledmys Diaz, both solo shots. Diaz also had an RBI double. The Cardinals offense left just three runners on base.
Monday. August 3rd, Springfield 7 vs. Tulsa 6
Trailing by five runs in the middle innings to Tulsa, Springfield relied on their offensive firepower to break through and steal away the home-opener late in the game late. The key play was a disputed go-ahead two-run home run by Aledmys Diaz.
Andrew Morales tossed a clunker, as the righty served up three home runs to the Drillers and issued four walks through 3 2/3 innings. The Cardinals bullpen allowed three hits the rest of the way against Tulsa, eating 5 1/3 scoreless innings combined. Thomas Lee covered 2 1/3 innings, Ryan Sherriff retired one batter, Kurt Heyer pitched over the minimum in 1 2/3 innings, and Ronnie Shaban converted his fourth save in a crazy ninth.
Cardinals Player of the Month for July Anthony Garcia ignited the offense with two hits and three RBI while David Washington added two solo home runs, his 11th and 12th of the 2015 season. Diaz’s disputed shot went high over the left field foul pole and was immediately ruled a home run by the umpiring crew. It led to a lengthy and animated argument between Drillers manager Razor Shines and the umpires that led to Shines being thrown out in the end.
Tuesday, August 4th, Springfield 4 vs. Tulsa 9
The Drillers evened up the four-game series on Tuesday night by making an erratic Alex Reyes throw 84 pitches through just 3 1/3 innings. In Reyes’ shortest outing of his three-game Springfield career, the right-hander coughed up two earned runs on three hits, two wild pitches, three walks and six strikeouts. His first Double-A decision was a loss.
Four relievers followed with Joey Donofrio yielding five earned runs while dealing with some control issues of his own. Corey Baker pitched 1 2/3 innings while Chris Perry went two innings.
An offense that rallied to beat Tulsa Monday night couldn’t muster a late-inning comeback on Tuesday. The top-of-the-order contributed nine of the 12 hits with all four of the RBI. Charlie Tilson collected two singles, Mike O’Neill hit an RBI single, Anthony Garcia continued to rake with three hits and two RBI, and Jonathan Rodriguez had three hits with an RBI as well.
Wednesday, August 5th, Springfield 2 vs. Tulsa 6
Tulsa grabbed the early lead and didn’t look back, taking the rubber game in comfortable fashion over Springfield. Arturo Reyes was hit early for all three of his runs in the first two frames before settling in and tossing the next 4 2/3 scoreless. His offense failed to bail him out as they were shut down by the Drillers pitching staff to just two runs on six hits.
Five of the six Springfield hits came off the bats of Bruce Caldwell and David Washington. Caldwell had three hits along with a solo shot while Washington smacked two doubles, one for an RBI.
Michael Ohlman – Ohlman is hitting .353 (12-for-34) in his past ten games. Though the catcher struggled later in the week, but was able to snap that mini-skid with a base hit on Wednesday night, his only at-bat before leaving with an apparent injury. The 24-year old fouled a ball off his leg and was down for several minutes. He tried to convince manager Dann Bilardello to let him finish the at-bat, but Bilardello called for his backup Alberto Rosario. With help from a trainer, Ohlman was able to limp in the clubhouse, but we have no report on the injury’s severity yet.
Arturo Reyes - Reyes has thrown the ball exceptionally well of late. In his two starts this week against NW Arkansas and Tulsa, the right-hander logged 14 2/3 innings, allowing just three earned runs on 12 hits with 12 strikeouts. A 40th-rounder out of Gonzaga, Reyes was holding mid 90s velocity with an ability to touch in the upper 90s threshold a few times, per a scout's gun. Mixing in two other pitches, a changeup and slider, Reyes showed command for all sectors of the zone. Changing speeds with his three-pitch mix really threw off hitters’ timing.
Patrick Wisdom - Wisdom’s struggles lately have been primarily strikeout related. The third baseman has struck 15 times in his last 40 at-bats over a ten-game span, during which Wisdom hit just .175.
Joey Donofrio - Donofrio has appeared in three outings since his reassignment back to Double-A Springfield from Triple-A Memphis. The 26-year old has yielded seven earned runs on eight hits in 5 1/3 innings pitched.
Anthony Garcia - Garcia was named the Cardinals organization’s Player of the Month for July, his first time winning this prestigious monthly award in his professional career. The outfielder tore through the month of July while representing his home country of Puerto Rico in the Pan-Am Games in Canada. There, Garcia batted .393 and led the tournament with five home runs, 17 RBI, and a .964 slugging percentage. In 14 games with Springfield, Garcia batted .327 with a home run and 10 RBI. His August has started off with a bang, as he has hit safely in four of his five games with a homer and seven RBI.
Nick Petree was the Florida State League Player of the Week after tossing a one-hitter through seven shutout frames for the High-A Palm Beach Cardinals. Petree made 10 starts with Springfield earlier this season before landing on the DL with lower back soreness that held him out of action for less than a month.
Springbirds batting order
The first five spots in the lineup remained consistent throughout the week. Charlie Tilson started all seven games as the lead-off hitter while manager Dann Bilardello inserted Mike O’Neill at the two-spot for six of the seven games. Tilson and O’Neill form a contact and on-base oriented giant. Anthony Garcia was the regular three-hole hitter, a spot that has welcomed a number of names this season. Jonathan Rodriguez slots as the clean-up hitter and Michael Ohlman followed at the five-spot.
The bottom third of the order included Patrick Wisdom, who hit second once but mostly batted sixth, with his recent struggles dropping his placement in the order. David Washington mashed out of the seven-spot all week while Aledmys Diaz and Breyvic Valera rounded out the order at eight and nine, respectively.
7/30 INF Matt Williams transferred to AAA-Memphis from Springfield
The utility infielder was promoted to Triple-A Memphis following a brief 11-game stint with Springfield during which Williams batted .244 (10-for-41) with three home runs and seven RBI.
The corresponding move after Williams’ promotion was Nick Martini returning to Springfield later in the week.
8/4 OF Nick Martini transferred to Springfield from AAA-Memphis
To accommodate a roster spot at Memphis for Dan Johnson, who cleared waivers, Martini was then re-assigned to Double-Springfield. Martini fell victim to more experienced players at Memphis with limited playing time available.
In 21 games, the outfielder compiled a .392 average (22-for-56), seven extra-base hits, and 14 RBI since joining the Redbirds on July 4th.
Texas League North Division Standings (Second Half)
|Arkansas Travelers (LAA)||23||17||.575||-||13-10||10-7||7-3||L1|
|Springfield Cardinals (STL)||20||20||.500||3.0||9-10||11-10||4-6||L2|
|Tulsa Drillers (LAD)||18||22||.450||5.0||7-9||11-13||5-5||W2|
|NW Arkansas Naturals (KC)||15||24||.385||7.5||8-12||7-12||4-6||W1|
The Cardinal Nation Top 40 Prospect Watch
#2 Alex Reyes - Reyes made his second and third Double-A starts in this week, once against NW Arkansas and his second against Tulsa. Against NW Arkansas, the bonus baby showcased his swing-and-miss quality stuff with eight Naturals punch outs, however that did cost him in inefficiency through his 4 1/3 innings.
His third outing was the shortest, as the Drillers worked Reyes into many deep counts over just 3 1/3 innings, resulting 84 total pitches, 49 for strikes. Reyes cracked above 100 mph multiple times on the stadium gun, but the command of his fastball was inhibited by overthrowing and caused him to lean more and more on his signature curveball to work ahead instead of being utilized as a put away offering.
His stuff has been as advertised but adjusting to the high minors and commanding his fastball at will will take time and come with more Double-A innings. Through his first three starts, Reyes has notched 18 strikeouts in 11 1/3 innings.
#10 Charlie Tilson - Tilson has hit a rough patch in his past 10 games, as the outfielder is batting .191 (9-for-47) with three steals in six attempts. On a good note, he credited Willie McGee for playing a huge role in his development as a base-stealer. Tilson said of McGee, “He is one of the more down-to-earth individuals you will meet.”
#12 Aledmys Diaz - Diaz has hit safely in his last six games, a 9-for-20 (.455) hot streak at the plate. This week, the Cuban hit a pair of home runs to give him seven on the season. In the field, Diaz is looking more athletic by the passing day and his ability to charge in on slow rollers and sling off a clean throw has been impressive. His arm strength isn't exactly his strong suit, but the majority of his throws are on time and accurate.
#15 Breyvic Valera - Valera has steadily improved his average over the past ten games with a .321 average (9-for-28) and four RBI. The switch-hitter’s average went up eight points since July 23rd to .238.
#25 Mike Mayers - Mayers was placed on the 7-Day DL on July 29th. Coaches said that the right-hander is dealing with an “elbow issue”. No word on its severity or a timetable.
#27 Patrick Wisdom - Wisdom’s current tailspin is the first since his re-assignment in May to extended spring training. He should be able to stick with what works, get back what to works, or risk falling back into the old habits that sank him. This will be interesting, as the third baseman speaks confidently of his approach and was given Wednesday night off.
#35 Andrew Morales - After two positive outings that trended in the right direction, the right-hander reversed against Tulsa on Monday. Morales failed to complete four innings and allowed six earned runs on six hits with four walks.
Springfield finishes off a 26-game stretch of play without a day off with the weekend series against first-place Arkansas, a four-game set at Hammons starting on Thursday. For playoff aspirations, this series appears to be the biggest one yet for the Cardinals as it presents an opportunity to chew into the Travelers’ current three-game lead in the North Division.
Next Monday, the Double-A Birds will have an official day off, but will spend that day traveling out west to oppose the Midland Rockhounds (OAK) and Frisco Roughriders (TEX) of the South Division, for three games each next week.
Follow Derek Shore on Twitter @D_Shore23.
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