After winning six of their last nine games to close Week 13, the Springfield Cardinals stumbled, with five losses in the last seven games dating back to July 6th. They were outscored by just 37-30 over that stretch, but suffered three losses due to late bullpen woes and the offense was held to just 17 hits (.163 cumulative average) over the final three games of the week.
The first half North Division Champs are off to an 8-10 start in the second half of the 140-game Texas League season and are in third place in the North, 2.5 games behind NW Arkansas (KC).
This report covers the period from Thursday, July 7th through Wednesday, July 13th.
Thursday, July 7th, Springfield 3 vs. Corpus Christi 4
Springfield scratched one across in the ninth but fell short as Corpus Christi held on for a 4-3 win to claim the three-game set.
The game-deciding two tallies, which broke a 2-2 tie in the ninth, were yielded by Justin Wright, who allowed two hits, two walks and a miscue in 1 1/3. What proved to be the winning run scored on Kevin Herget’s watch, as the right-hander struck out two but allowed an RBI single.
The bullpen and defense spoiled a fine outing by Luke Weaver, who permitted two unearned scores over six innings. Weaver struck out seven and gave up two hits.
"It felt really good," said Weaver of his stuff following the game. "Early on it was a little dead, but as I kept going, I got a little more life and cleaner in my mechanics. The changeup was a huge key for me tonight. It's a pitch I haven't been throwing too much in past outings, and I feel that's my best secondary pitch.
"That coming off the fastball tonight was a really good combo for me. It paid off."
Springfield pushed across single scores in the first, third and ninth, putting the potential tying run in scoring position in the latter frame. Left fielder Jonathan Rodriguez led his team’s nine-hit effort, going 3-for-4 with a walk and RBI out of the leadoff slot. He swiped his first base of 2016 as well.
Friday, July 8th, Springfield 14 vs. Corpus Christi 5
Springfield enjoyed a franchise-best seven home runs from five different players to rout Corpus Christi, 14-5 and salvage the finale on Friday night at Hammons Field.
Luke Voit and Luis Cruz belted a pair of dingers apiece. Voit finished 4-for-5 with 5 RBI, and Cruz had three hits in four at-bats with 4 RBI. Paul DeJong added his 14th Texas League homer, a solo shot, while Allen Staton and Blake Drake hit their first Double-A home runs.
Daniel Poncedeleon worked 6 2/3 innings, scattering five earned runs on four hits, including two home runs and three walks. The righty struck out three and earned his fifth win of the season. Ronnie Shaban and Rowan Wick combined to cover the final 2 1/3 scoreless innings.
Saturday, June 9th, Springfield 2 vs. San Antonio 1
The S-Cards bested San Antonio, 2-1 in the series-opener behind an excellent Texas League debut from Austin Gomber, fresh from High-A Palm Beach.
Gomber pitched six innings, allowing only the lone run on four hits. He struck out five and walked three. Josh Lucas pitched two scoreless innings to earn the win, his fourth. Ronnie Shaban added a scoreless ninth for his sixth save.
The Cardinals tied the game in the fifth on a solo home run by Paul DeJong, his 15th of the season. Blake Drake was 2-for-3 with a double and a triple. The winning run crossed the plate in the eighth when Drake tripled and scored on a wild pitch.
Sunday, July 10th, Springfield 4 vs. San Antonio 6
Two runs yielded by Springfield’s bullpen sent the Cardinals to a 6-4 loss, evening the series with San Antonio at one game each.
Relievers Justin Wright and Kevin Herget stumbled after J.C. Sulbaran tossed eight solid frames. Coming in with a 4-4 tie, Wright gave up two hits while retiring one batter, both of whom scored on a two-out double served up by Herget. Sulbaran allowed four runs on eight hits and struck out seven.
The S-Cards generated eight hits with Blake Drake and Sulbaran accumulating two each. Each singled and doubled in four and three at-bats, respectively, Drake scoring once with an RBI and Sulbaran driving in two.
Monday, July 11th, Springfield 3 vs. San Antonio 8 - 12 innings
San Antonio outlasted Springfield by plating five runs in the top of the 12th for the 8-3 series-clinching victory over the S-Cards at Hammons Field.
John Walter had a much better second start with Springfield, finishing at 6 1/3 innings. He yielded two earned runs on six hits with three walks against two strikeouts. Chris Perry and Heath Wyatt tossed 1 2/3 scoreless innings to take the game to the ninth.
Josh Lucas allowed the game-tying run in the top of the 9th, but had a scoreless 10th. Justin Wright held the Missions at bay in the 11th before they erupted for five runs in the 12th.
Offensively, the Cardinals were paced by a two-run homer from Anthony Garcia and an RBI single by Allen Staton. The Cards went 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position and were punched out 14 times.
Tuesday, July 12th, league-wide off-day
After the off-day for the MLB All-Star Game, Springfield resumed play on Wednesday night against NW Arkansas.
Wednesday, July 13th, Springfield 1 at NW Arkansas 6
Springfield dropped its third straight with a 6-1 loss to open the brief road series against NW Arkansas after an uncharacteristic bumpy effort from ace Luke Weaver.
Weaver's scoreless inning streak was snapped at 19 innings after he was tagged for two runs in the first. The righty settled in over the next three frames before yielding three runs (two earned) in the fifth and sixth innings. The righty suffered his second loss but managed to punch out eight batters while breaking out his full arsenal.
The S-Cards offense went down quietly, held to four hits. Luke Voit accounted for two, including a 4th inning solo shot for his club's lone tally.
Luke Voit - Voit's average declined following the all-star break to .267 at this time last week. The barrel-chested first baseman appears to be hitting his stride again as he is hitting .417 (15-for-36) over his past ten games, including a career four-hit performance on Friday night against Corpus Christi.
With the resurgent week, Voit now has a .284 batting clip for the season.
Allen Staton - Staton has taken advantage of the everyday playing time opportunity after the numerous roster changes. Since making his debut on July 2nd, the infielder, who has played all over, has a .324 average (11-for-34) with a homer, six RBI, and .910 OPS in 10 games for the S-Cards.
Jonathan Rodriguez - I forgot to mention Rodriguez in last week's edition. While the veteran has produced meager results at the plate over his past ten games, he is known as a glue-guy in the organization, instrumental in helping a number of Latin prospects in their development. For primary example, the first baseman turned temporary closer converted his first professional save in his second ever appearance against San Antonio (SD) on July 6th, a game that lasted 12 innings and the S-Cards were shorthanded in the bullpen.
Kevin Herget - Herget's performance is back on track after a bumpy stretch in his introduction to Springfield. He has not allowed an earned run since June 21st, covering six appearances and 5 2/3 innings pitched. The standout relief ace for Palm Beach earlier this season has a 1.13 ERA over his past ten games.
Bruce Caldwell - Caldwell has failed to record a hit all week (0-for-10) and has just four hits over his past 40 at-bats in his last ten games. The Texas League All-Star struck out in 19 times during that stretch.
Anthony Garcia - Following a .192 average in Triple-A Memphis, Garcia has returned to a rough patch of late. The Puerto Rican has a .147 (5-for-34) average over his past ten while his season mark has dropped from .282 to .238.
Juan Herrera - Simply put, Herrera has been overmatched offensively at the Double-A level. The Dominican shortstop has a minuscule .083 average (3-for-36) over his past ten games.
Justin Wright - Wright's first stint with Springfield since May 12th of last season has trended the wrong direction over his past three outings. The lefty tossed six scoreless appearances skewed by allowing eight earned runs over his last 4 1/3 innings pitched. His season-ERA has jumped to 7.45.
Lucas honored to be TL Pitcher of Week
On Monday, the Texas League named Springfield right-handed pitcher Josh Lucas as the league's Pitcher of the Week for July 5th through 10th.
Lucas, of course, was humbled by the honor, a rather unusual one for a relief pitcher.
It's an honor because there are a lot of good pitchers in this league that are having great seasons," Lucas stated. "To stand out just for one week is definitely an honor."
The 25-year old, who posted six scoreless frames over three appearances during the period, attributed his success to consistently hitting his spots and inducing weaker contact. He explained his slider has been his best pitch this season, a pitch he's able to throw in any counts.
The native of Lakeland, Florida has a 3.96 ERA over 27 games this season. Lucas has fanned 41 batters in 38 2/3 innings and has converted 10 of 12 saves while with Springfield. The 6-foot-6 hurler's ultimate goal is quite simple - to keep advancing.
"I just want to keep improving my pitches and get another chance at the Triple-A level," Lucas said. "It didn't go the way I wanted it to during my brief stint. I want to prove I can pitch at higher levels and ultimately at the big league level."
Springbirds batting order
Jonathan Rodriguez was the primary lead-off hitter in place of recently promoted outfielder Harrison Bader. Nick Martini led-off in the final game this week and looks to fill that void until further notice. Allen Staton hit at two all week. The slumping Bruce Caldwell slotted in the three-hole until also-slumping Anthony Garcia slid into his place to finish out the week's action.
Luke Voit continued as manager Dann Bilardello's clean-up hitter with Paul DeJong following at five. Garcia appeared in the fifth spot once during the week. Rodriguez appears to be the new six-hitter, but Luis Cruz hit there in the interim time.
To round out the order, Cruz, Blake Drake, and Jesse Jenner saw time at seven throughout the week with Drake hitting down at eight as well. New arrival Jhohan Acevedo also slotted there. Juan Herrera was the nine-hole hitter.
Another week marked on another period of significant player movement, including the promotion of the second top position prospect in as many weeks.
7/7: C Michael Ohlman to Memphis from Springfield
7/7: C Jose Godoy to Springfield from Low-A Peoria
The Triple-A club needed an immediate catcher with the recent call-up of Michael McKenry to the show. Ohlman, a strong hitter, but iffy receiver behind the plate, was hitting .350 (14-for-40) with 11 RBI over his past ten games with Springfield before his return to Memphis.
With the subtraction of one offense-first catcher, came another. Godoy carried a .301 average to Springfield from Low-A Peoria. In his only Double-A appearance, the backstop singled in a pinch-hit situation.
7/8: RHP Trey Nielsen to Memphis from Springfield
7/11: RHP Trey Nielsen to Springfield from Memphis
With Memphis needing a starter due to Alex Reyes' absence for the Futures Game, Nielsen stepped up from Springfield. The righty posted 5 1/3 innings of one-run ball against Round Rock (TEX) in his Pacific Coast League debut. He returned to Springfield on Monday.
7/8: LHP Austin Gomber to Springfield from Palm Beach
7/11: LHP Austin Gomber to Palm Beach from Springfield
Gomber filled in a start for Nielsen at Springfield. The big southpaw tossed six innings of one-run baseball against San Antonio (SD) on Saturday in his Texas League debut. Like Nielsen, the former FAU product returned to his prior level on Monday.
7/11: C Carson Kelly to Memphis from Springfield
7/11: C Jesse Jenner to Springfield from Memphis
Kelly received the promotion to Memphis following his participation in the Futures Game on Sunday. The catcher was 0-for-2 in San Diego but was robbed of a home run when Padres’ prospect Manuel Margot jumped to pull back a ball headed over the fence in deep center field.
Kelly took Jenner's place at Memphis, and the latter took the former's place in Springfield. The Californian native returned to Texas League action with a 0-for-4 on Monday night against San Antonio (SD).
7/13: C Jose Godoy to Low-A Peoria from Springfield
7/13: OF Nick Martini to Springfield from Memphis
Godoy returned to Peoria after being the third-string catcher at Springfield. In his lone Texas League at-bat, Godoy beat the shift with a single to the left side of the infield against Corpus Christi (TEX) last Thursday night.
After nine days with Triple-A Memphis, Nick Martini is sliding down to Springfield for his second Double-A stint this season. Martini was 5-for-25 (.200) in his most recent go-around with the Redbirds over seven games.
Mason Katz - Katz is out with a hamstring injury. A Cardinals official set no timetable for return but suggested he would not miss significant time. The infielder remains with the club.
Andrew Morales - Morales continues to deal with ongoing shoulder troubles. Again, no timetable for return was set, but an official said, "He will be out for a while." Possibly one to two months for the right-hander. Morales remains with the club as well.
Robby Rowland - Rowland started up his rehab with Low-A (short-season) State College on Saturday after having bone chips removed from his elbow in February. The right-handed reliever has appeared in two outings with the Spikes, giving up two earned runs in an inning on Saturday before fanning the side on Tuesday. (Editor's note: Look for our upcoming interview with Rowland.)
Chris Thomas - Underwent elbow cleanup surgery earlier this month.
Jimmy Reed - Underwent Tommy John surgery in early April.
C.J. McElroy - Suffered a torn ACL in June. The outfielder will likely miss the rest of the season.
The Cardinal Nation Top Prospect Watch
#4 Luke Weaver - Weaver had a tale of two differing outings this week. The righty tossed six two-hit innings against Corpus Christi on Thursday in front of Cardinals Assistant General Manager Michael Girsch. With a 19 inning scoreless streak on the line, Weaver allowed four earned runs in his Wednesday night start against NW Arkansas.
The former Florida State product maintained 90-92 velocity, touched 95 later on in his second start of the week. In the first, he was successful with just a fastball/change combo and utilized his full arsenal against the Naturals.
When asked if Triple-A Memphis was in the back of his mind, Weaver replied that he is more focused on the process.
"No, I don't think so," said Weaver. "I'm just going out there every start whether their ready, I'm ready, but until then I'm just going out to keep competing. I'm not perfect. I'm continuing to try and get better with all my pitches, so whenever they do feel I am then, I'll be ready to go."
#12 Carson Kelly - As mentioned, Kelly received a promotion on Monday. The Texas League mid-season All-Star will make his Pacific Coast League debut on Thursday night for Memphis.
#13 Austin Gomber - Gomber was returned to Palm Beach following an impressive debut on Saturday. The lefty hovered in the low 90s, topped 95 mph on the juiced Hammons Field stadium gun. Although he lost location in the fifth inning, Gomber, who also showed a curve and change, was effective thanks to a deceptive high arm slot.
The Cardinals 2015 Co-Minor League Pitcher of the Year will start for Palm Beach on Friday.
#15 Paul DeJong - DeJong had a relatively quiet week at the plate but added two more home runs to give him a team-leading 15 round-trippers on the season. The third baseman currently ranks fourth in the Texas League in home runs and with 54 RBI. He is slashing .248/.307/.450/.757 in 82 games after skipping High-A entirely.
#22 Daniel Poncedeleon - Poncedeleon gave up five earned runs over 6 2/3 innings against Corpus Christi in his only outing of the week. The righty is slated to make his 18th start of the season on Thursday against NW Arkansas.
#24 Trey Nielsen - Nielsen returned to Springfield on Monday following Alex Reyes' activation. The sinkerballer, who has a 7-6 record and 3.39 ERA in 16 starts this season, should make his next start on either Friday against NW Arkansas.
#28 Rowan Wick - Wick has improved steadily with each Double-A outing. The big-armed reliever has a 1.93 ERA with six strikeouts against three walks in 4 2/3 innings since his promotion from Palm Beach on June 21st.
#32 Anthony Garcia - Garcia has a slash line of .238/.330/.376 with three homers and 16 RBI since his demotion to Springfield on June 6th.
Following a tough 2-4 homestand at Hammons Field, the S-Cards will conclude a four-game road trip in NW Arkansas on Saturday after dropping the series opener on Wednesday night. They return home to host Arkansas (LAA) for five games, including a doubleheader on Monday.
Springfield then makes a U-Turn back to Arvest Ballpark in Springdale, Arkansas for four additional road games against the Naturals' starting next Thursday, July 21st.
Follow Derek Shore on Twitter @D_Shore23.
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