In Week 18, the Springfield Cardinals proved Week 17 was no fluke even without the aid of big-league rehabbers. The S-Cards went 3-2 over this past week, winning two of three in a road series against Arkansas (LAA) shortened by a rainout before returning home and splitting the first two games against Frisco (TEX) with the rubber game set Thursday.
Including those five games, the first half North Division Champions have taken 11 of their past 15 games and ended the week's action 22-23 in the second half, 1.5 games behind first-place NW Arkansas (KC) in the Texas League North.
This report covers the period from Thursday, August 4th through Wednesday, August 10th
Thursday, August 4th, Springfield 3 at Arkansas 2 - 10 innings
Springfield scored twice in the top of the 10th and hung on to edge Arkansas 3-2 in the road series opener. It was the fourth consecutive win for the S-Cards.
The visitors used a lead-off double by Paul DeJong plus back-to-back-to-back singles by Luke Voit, Jonathan Rodriguez and Blake Drake for the scores. A one-out free pass loaded the bases but Springfield was denied more runs after Jhohan Acevedo grounded into a 6-2 double play.
DeJong and Drake paced the S-Cards, both going 3-for-5, DeJong doubling and scoring once while Drake drove in one. Defensively, Drake garnered an outfield assist after the center fielder's strong throw home nailed a runner at the tail end of a double play finishing the eighth. Shortstop Juan Herrera singled and doubled in three at-bats with two walks and a stolen base.
In his Springfield debut, Deck McGuire tossed a strong effort, fanning eight over seven frames and permitting an unearned run on two hits and three walks, one intentional. Pedro Echemendia jammed the sacks full on a hit and two bases-on-balls, one intentional, but benefited from Drake’s arm to escape the mess.
Kevin Herget picked up his third win in as many decisions despite allowing five hits in one inning plus and not retiring any of three 10th-inning batters. Ronnie Shaban entered with a run across, runners at first and second with none out, retiring all three faced – two on strikeouts for his 10th save.
Friday, August 5th, Springfield 6 at Arkansas 3
The S-Cards pushed across five runs combined in three consecutive frames en route to a 6-3 victory over Arkansas, claiming the first two games of the series and tying their season-high with five straight wins.
Bruce Caldwell and Luke Voit drove in two runners apiece. In his return off the DL, Caldwell had a sac fly and RBI double while Voit produced a two-run RBI single. Jonathan Rodriguez added another sac fly with Luis Cruz singling in a run to account for the game's scoring.
Corey Baker went five innings, allowing one earned run on two hits. Baker fanned seven and earned his fifth win for Springfield. The Cardinals bullpen surrendered two runs, as Rowan Wick, Chris Perry, and Chandler Hawkins combined to hurl the final four innings.
Saturday, August 6th, Springfield 4 at Arkansas 5
The Travs foiled the S-Cards’ attempt at a season-best six consecutive wins with a 5-4 defeat served up to the visitors at Dickey-Stephens Park on Saturday night.
Arkansas' pitching staff held off the late-surging Cardinals offense as they tied the game in the top of the eighth before the Travelers walked off in the ninth. Paul DeJong recorded two hits including an RBI single while Luke Voit hit 2-run RBI triple.
J.C. Sulbaran lasted five innings, surrendering four runs (three earned) on eight hits. Justin Wright dealt three perfect frames in relief before giving way to Ronnie Shaban who suffered his third loss via the walk-off.
Sunday, August 7th, Springfield at Arkansas - postponed
The series finale was postponed due to rain and will be made up as part of a doubleheader on August 31st, starting at 5:30 PM.
Monday, August 8th, league-wide off-day
Tuesday, August 9th, Springfield 16 vs. Frisco
Springfield opened a six-game homestand with a 16-4 romp over Frisco on Tuesday night.
The S-Cards banged out 17 hits and worked eight free passes, paced by three players garnering three hits apiece: Blake Drake, Bruce Caldwell, and Nick Martini, who each did it in five at-bats. Caldwell blasted a solo shot, crossed home twice and drove in four while Martini added a walk to an RBI and scored two times. All nine starters had at least one hit.
Meanwhile, Drake finished a triple shy of the cycle, launching his first career grand slam comprising four of his six RBI.
"I was seeing it well tonight," Drake explained after the game, saying it was a career offensive night. "I got into some hitter's counts and took some good swings."
Drake explained what he saw in his first career grand slam, off Roughriders reliever Richelson Pena.
"I went to 3-0, and he finally threw a strike in there," Drake said. "I was just looking for a good pitch to hit, and he threw it right where I wanted it. I got the bat head out and felt good."
That was more than enough firepower for Daniel Poncedeleon to pick up his ninth win against six losses. The righty was touched for four runs on seven hits and four walks through five. Kevin Herget, Rowan Wick, Chris Perry and Josh Lucas each tossed a scoreless frame, Lucas allowing a hit and base-on-balls.
Wednesday, August 10th, Springfield 1 vs. Frisco 8
A night after seeing the opposition push across a dozen runs and then some, Frisco roughed up Springfield starter Matt Pearce in his Double-A debut en route to an 8-1 win. The rubber game will be covered in next week's edition.
Pearce coughed up four earned runs on eight hits through 4 1/3 innings. The righty walked an uncharacteristic three batters and struck out three. Chandler Hawkins gave up four earned runs on four hits over the next 1 2/3 frames before Corey Baker and Chris Perry stopped the bleeding, holding the Roughriders scoreless over the final three innings.
Newcomer Vaughn Bryan produced Springfield's lone run by a RBI single. Nick Martini doubled twice in four at-bats while Jesse Jenner doubled and singled.
Luke Voit - After a terrific month of July in which Voit tallied his best monthly average of the year at .307, the first baseman has gotten off to a torrid start in August. He is slashing .400/.516/.680 with a homer and eight RBI while walking (five) more than he has struck out (four) in 25 at-bats this month.
The former Missouri State product has put together a career-season in the town where he played his college games. Voit, who ranks second in the league in average (.289), hits (114), and OPS (.838), will draw Texas League Player of the Year consideration at season's end.
Nick Martini - The corner outfielder continues to perform very well. Martini is hitting .375 (15-for-40) over his past ten games with a homer and 2 RBI. The left-handed hitter added two doubles in four at-bats on Wednesday night. He hit safely in all five games this past week.
Blake Drake - Drake went 8-for-22 (.363) through five games this past week, including a career game against Frisco on Tuesday night in which he slugged his first career grand slam and collected a whopping six RBI.
"I feel like I've been swinging it pretty well," Drake said. "I'm getting unlucky here and there. I'm going up there with a good attitude and just try to get the best swings I can in every at-bat."
Corey Baker - Since his return to Double-A, Baker has excelled in a swingman role, tossing 3 1/3 scoreless innings in relief before pitching five innings of one-run ball in a spot-start last Friday.
Deck McGuire - McGuire made an instant impact on the S-Cards pitching staff, hurling seven two-hit innings against Arkansas last Thursday night in his first start at Double-A this year. He punched out eight and walked three.
Jhohan Acevedo - Acevedo continues to hit in the cold, this time based on a 3-for-22 stretch (.136) over his past ten games.
Allen Staton - Staton remains in the freezer with a .133 average (4-for-30) over his past ten games.
Chandler Hawkins - Hawkins threw up zeros through two innings against Arkansas earlier in the week before Frisco got to him for four earned runs in 1 2/3 innings on Wednesday night.
Springbirds batting order
Nick Martini was the primary lead-off man for the second straight week while Casey Turgeon led off once before landing on the disabled list. Jacob Wilson slotted behind at two in three of the five games before his promotion on Tuesday. Paul DeJong took Wilson's place in the final two games of the week. The three-hole was a mixed bag, with DeJong, Bruce Caldwell, and Jonathan Rodriguez all getting at-bats throughout the week.
Steady Luke Voit continued to clean up with DeJong, Rodriguez, and Blake Drake seeing time behind him at five. Drake, Rodriguez, Turgeon, Luis Cruz, and Jesse Jenner were penciled in at six over this past week's action.
To round out the order, Jenner, Turgeon, Drake, or Allen Staton hit down in the seventh hole. Cruz, Staton, Juan Herrera, and Vaughn Bryan got time at eight with one of Drake, Jenner, Bryan, or Jhohan Acevedo concluding the order at nine.
Another week, another set of roster moves affecting the Cardinals organization top-to-bottom. In the notable moves of the week, the S-Cards welcomed back a mid-season all-star and young power arm to replenish veteran bullpen.
That being said, the move that caught the headlines was the promotion out of one of the organization's top pitching prospects. In turn, a pitching prospect with a Seth Maness-like mentality arrived on the scene from Palm Beach.
8/5: RHP Luke Weaver to Memphis from Springfield
8/5: RHP Rowan Wick activated off the DL
With reports surfacing of his promotion days before it was announced, Weaver was officially promoted to Triple-A Memphis last Friday night. Weaver made his Triple-A debut in Game 2 of a doubleheader on Monday against New Orleans (MIA) and now is scheduled to make his big-league debut Saturday for St. Louis.
Wick came off the seven-day disabled list last Friday after suffering general arm fatigue. I was told by a Cardinals official the reason for his DL time was to limit his workload in the first place.
8/5: INF Bruce Caldwell activated off the DL
8/5: INF Juan Herrera to Palm Beach from Springfield
With Caldwell’s activation, Juan Herrera was returned to High-A Palm Beach. The defense-first shortstop hit a wall at the Double-A level, struggling to the tune of a .167/.197/.200 with no homers and nine RBI through 46 games after missing nearly three months in 2016.
The injury-plagued S-Cards gained one of their stalwarts, Bruce Caldwell, back from the DL last Friday. Caldwell has been out with an oblique injury since July 25th, but returned to game action, manning shortstop and batting third in the series opener against Arkansas.
8/7: RHP Matt Pearce to Springfield from Palm Beach
The 22-year-old right-hander had pitched exceptionally well for the Beach Birds this season, posting a 2.42 ERA with a team-record and 2016 MiLB-best four complete games. Pearce had eight losses and four no-decisions in 20 starts due to lack of offensive support. Pearce struck out 81 and issued just 15 walks over his organization-high 136 2/3 innings pitched.
The promotion of Florida State July Player of the Month helped the S-Cards reach its active roster limit at the time.
8/9: INF Casey Turgeon placed on 7-day DL
8/9: OF Vaughn Bryan to Springfield from Palm Beach
Springfield lost another middle infielder after placing Casey Turgeon on the seven-day disabled list. The transaction is retroactive to August 7. The 23-year-old played in 10 games since his promotion from Palm Beach on July 26. With the Double-A Cards, the left-handed hitter had more walks than hits, six to five, making for a slash line of .179/.343/.214/.557 in his first 28 Springfield at-bats.
Bryan, 23, has been hot recently, with his eight-game hitting streak broken on Monday. During his last nine games with Palm Beach, the switch-hitter went 12-for-33 (.364) with three walks, three steals and four runs scored. In multiple stints at both Peoria and Palm Beach this season, Bryan has compiled a line of .228/.295/.312/.607 and stole 19 bases in 25 attempts.
So far, the speedster is 3-for-9 (.333) with two RBI over two Texas League games for the S-Cards.
8/9: INF Jacob Wilson to Memphis from Springfield
8/10: RHP Pedro Echemendia to Memphis from Springfield
Jacob Wilson was returned to Triple-A Memphis following Dean Anna hitting the DL. Since being sent down to Springfield on July 27, the 26-year-old had an odd stint at the dish. Wilson had seven hits – three singles, four home runs - and nothing in between. The right-handed hitter also drew six free passes for a Double-A line of .200/.310/.543/.852 in 35 at-bats over 10 Texas League contests.
With an open roster spot at Triple-A Memphis following Alex Reyes' promotion Tuesday, Pedro Echemendia was summoned from Springfield on Wednesday afternoon. The right-handed reliever returns to the Pacific Coast League for his second stint after appearing in five games for the S-Cards in between.
Currently, Springfield is one below its active roster limit, so a corresponding move should be announced in the near future.
Casey Turgeon - Turgeon is out with a pulled muscle in his side. No timetable set for his return.
Trey Nielsen - My guess that Nielsen was placed on the 7-day to monitor his workload last week had merit. The sinkerballer was DL'd due to "tiredness". Would anticipate a brief stint.
Austin Gomber - Gomber suffered a finger issue last week and expected to start throwing this week. According to a source, the big lefty will likely miss 3-4 weeks from the date of his injury. As a Cardinal official put it, "hopefully he'll be ready sooner than later, but it will be a tough one to come back from."
Mason Katz - Katz remains out with a hamstring injury. A timetable for his return is undetermined.
Andrew Morales - Morales is set to begin a rehab assignment down in Florida with the Gulf Coast League Cardinals. If all goes well, the righty will then return to Springfield to be activated.
Chris Thomas - Underwent elbow cleanup surgery in late June.
Jimmy Reed - Reed is four months removed from Tommy John surgery. The lefty told The Cardinal Nation's Paul Ivice he expects to start playing catch next month and is on schedule to be ready for spring training in 2017.
The Cardinal Nation Top Prospect Watch
#13 Austin Gomber - Remains out with a finger injury. Read above for more details on his prognosis.
#15 Paul DeJong - DeJong manned shortstop for the three of the five games this past week. While he will always primarily be a third baseman, the former super-utility player at Illinois State possesses the athleticism to play up the middle, and the coaches think playing shortstop will only help him improve on the defensive side.
#22 Daniel Poncedeleon - Poncedeleon battled control issues because of mechanical inconsistencies in his start against Frisco on Tuesday night. When the righty is in sync with his delivery, everything plays up, and he has command of his pitches, but otherwise he loses his release point and the control slips.
#24 Trey Nielsen - Remains out due to fatigue. Read above for more details on his prognosis.
#28 Rowan Wick - As mentioned above, Wick was activated off the DL after dealing with general arm fatigue. He appeared in two games this past week, combining for 1 2/3 scoreless innings. The big righty yielded two hits and one walk while fanning two batters.
#36 Matt Pearce - Pearce received a much-deserved promotion after mastering the Florida State League. The righty with impeccable control and command had an abbreviated Double-A debut, uncharacteristically. He lasted just 4 1/3 innings against Frisco but averaged close to seven innings per start with Palm Beach and leads all of the minors with four complete games, including his first career shutout with the Beach Birds.
When asked about upcoming pitching prospects, general manager John Mozeliak recently singled him out in a radio interview:
"Pearce may not profile as an elite prospect, but he can flat out throw strikes," Mozeliak told 101espn. "He can flat out pitch. We have seen guys like Seth Maness type have success like that in the big leagues."
Following their 3-2 week, the Cardinals conclude a three-game set against Frisco with a rubber game matchup set for Thursday night at 7:10 PM CT. Springfield finishes the six-game homestand by opposing Midland (OAK) this weekend.
After an off-day on Monday, the third-place Birds' then set out on a six-game road trip against the same foes before returning home for an eight-game homestand against NW Arkansas and Tulsa (LAD) starting Tuesday, August 23rd.
Follow Derek Shore on Twitter @D_Shore23.
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