In Week 20's action, the Springfield Cardinals continued their rough spell, losing four of six for the second straight week. Since August 9th, the S-Cards are 5-9 while being outscored 81-69. They have fallen into the basement in the Texas League North Division with a 26-31 second half record, 3.5 games behind NW Arkansas (KC).
Fortunately for them, Springfield is already guaranteed a playoff spot in the divisional round of the Texas League playoffs after securing the first-half title in the North. Regular-season play concludes on August 5th. The playoffs will open up two days later with the Springbirds hosting the second half champions.
This report covers the period from Thursday, August 18th through Wednesday, August 25th.
Thursday, August 18th, Springfield 6 at Frisco 2
Four late tallies lifted Springfield past Frisco, 6-2, enabling the Cards to salvage the third and final game of the road series versus the Roughriders.
Jesse Jenner’s two-run double broke a 2-2 tie in the eighth, his only hit in four at-bats. Another double in the ninth, this one by Luke Voit, brought across Joey Hawkins (walk) with Jonathan Rodriguez driving in Voit for the final score.
Springfield banged out 12 hits, paced by Allen Staton who singled three times in four at-bats. Four players had two hits apiece: Paul DeJong, Vaughn Bryan, Rodriguez, and Voit. DeJong singled and doubled in five at-bats, touching home once while Voit went 2-for-3 with a walk, double, two runs scored, three RBI, one on a sac fly.
Johnny Walter was solid through 6 1/3 innings, permitting two runs on four hits, two walks, and a hit batsman. His final runner crossed under Ronnie Shaban’s watch, who allowed two hits and a free pass over 1 1/3. Josh Lucas gave up a hit over the final 1 1/3, stranding an inherited runner.
Friday, August 19th, Springfield 9 at Midland 3
Six early runs for the RockHounds against starter Corey Baker put the Cardinals in a hole from which they could not climb out. Baker lasted only four innings and took his seventh loss of the season. Chris Perry was pulled after loading the bases and walking in a run in the fifth.
Robby Rowland gave up a single that scored two inherited runners but retired the next batter to end the inning. Rowland pitched two more scoreless innings, and Justin Wright pitched a 1-2-3 ninth with a strikeout.
On the offensive side, Bruce Caldwell was 3-for-4 with two RBI. Allen Staton was 3-for-3 with a double. Luke Voit plated a run on a first-inning groundout.
Saturday, August 20th, Springfield 3 at Midland 11
The pitching of starter Daniel Poncedeleon was fine, as he gave up two runs on four hits in six innings pitched. It was the bullpen and the defense that derailed the game. After Rowan Wick pitched a scoreless seventh, reliever Chandler Hawkins gave up eight runs, four earned, in 2/3 inning. All of the damage came in the eighth inning as the RockHounds put nine runs on the board.
A throwing error by Alex Mejia led to the four of the runs being unearned. After Hawkins was lifted and position player Rodriguez was brought in to pitch, and a wild pitch, a walk and two singles brought home two inherited runners. Rodriguez then walked in a run of his own. Rodriguez did get the final out of the inning. Poncedeleon suffered his seventh loss of the season.
Sunday, August 21st, Springfield 3 at Midland 4 - 13 innings
Midland tied the game against Springfield's all-star closer Josh Lucas in the ninth and plated the walk-off run on a Chris Perry wild pitch in the 13th to secure 4-3 win and the series sweep over the S-Cards.
J.C. Sulbaran tossed 5 1/3 innings, allowing one unearned run on five hits. The righty struck out four and walked one in a wasted, but well-pitched effort. Lucas blew his third save of the season, giving up two earned runs on three hits over 1 1/3 innings before Perry suffered his second loss.
The Cardinals brought the lumber on offense with 11 hits, but left 12 runners aboard in all. Bruce Caldwell knocked in two with a RBI single. Jesse Jenner collected four hits in six at-bats.
Monday, August 22nd, league-wide off-day
Tuesday, August 23rd, Springfield 9 vs. NW Arkansas 5
Springfield fired the opening salvo in a big four-game set with the first-place Naturals, winning 9-5.
Matt Pearce tossed eight noteworthy frames, holding the opposition to two runs on four hits, including a solo bomb. He struck out 11 with four ground- and six fly-ball outs.
Robby Rowland ran into trouble in the ninth, permitting five hits that translated to three runs. Kevin Herget struck out his only batter faced, leaving two aboard and earning his eighth save.
Allen Staton finished a home run shy of the cycle, going a perfect 3-for-3 with a free pass and run scored. It turns out Staton was one of the few Springfield starters not generating a bomb. Jacob Wilson and Luke Voit both went 2-for-4, three of those four hits long balls. Wilson’s two home runs generated four RBI while Voit went yard with the bases empty. Four players had one hit each, including Bruce Caldwell and Paul DeJong, who both launched solo shots.
Wednesday, August 24th, Springfield 4 vs. NW Arkansas 10
Big-league rehabber Lance Lynn could not stop NW Arkansas from routing Springfield, 10-4 and take the first two games of the four-game set at Hammons Field.
In his third rehab start, Lynn went three scoreless innings and struck out three Naturals batters. The right-hander, who is rehabbing from offseason Tommy John Surgery, threw 48 pitches with 30 for strikes.
The original starter, Johnny Walter, coughed up six earned runs on four hits over 1 2/3 innings following Lynn. Ronnie Shaban pitched a scoreless inning before Chandler Hawkins and Rowan Wick combined to give up four earned runs through 3 1/3 innings.
Luis Cruz produced the majority of the offense for the S-Cards, driving in three runs thanks to three hits. Paul DeJong went 2-for-5 with a double.
Allen Staton - Staton has turned the tide after Double-A competition adjusted to him. The middle infielder adjusted to the opposition in this instance, hitting .394 (13-for-33) over his past ten games.
Luke Voit - Voit has been a mainstay on this feature this month. The first baseman is hitting .375 (15-for-40) with two homers and 7 RBI over his past ten games. Entering Wednesday's action, the former Missouri State star has a slash line of .403/.488/.701 with four homers and 16 RBI through 18 games in August.
Bruce Caldwell - Caldwell was activated off the DL on Friday and immediately started hitting, collecting a five-game streak before it was snapped after a 0-for-4 on Wednesday. The second baseman batted .333 (7-for-21) during this past week.
Matt Pearce - Pearce punched out a career-high 11 batters, navigating through eight strong innings against NW Arkansas on Tuesday night. The control freak allowed two earned runs on four hits, earning his first Double-A win as a result.
Daniel Poncedeleon - Poncedeleon has maintained relative consistency throughout this season for Springfield. This past week, the righty went six innings, yielding two earned runs on four hits in a tough-luck loss to a powerful Midland offense. He struck out five and walked two.
J.C. Sulbaran - In a no-decision, Sulbaran pitched 5 2/3 scoreless innings against Midland this past week. The Curacao native fanned four and issued one free pass.
Alex Mejia - Mejia has not been treated kindly in his return to the Texas League. The shortstop is 2-for-16 through four games since being demoted from Memphis this past week.
Blake Drake - Despite showing intriguing pop, Drake has not followed through with his overall offensive performance for Springfield, especially over his past ten games. The outfielder is hitting .158 (6-for-38) since August 13th.
Chandler Hawkins - Hawkins has given up a combined six earned runs on nine hits in the span of three innings this past week.
Chris Perry - Perry surrendered four earned runs over 1 2/3 innings of work this past week.
Springbirds batting order
Vaughn Bryan led off until the end of the road-trip with Alex Mejia filling his place for the first two games of the homestand. One of Mejia, Paul DeJong, Bruce Caldwell, or Jacob Wilson had at-bats out of the two-spot at times this past week. Caldwell, DeJong, and Luke Voit received time at three.
Voit was mostly the clean-up hitter this past week, but Jonathan Rodriguez cleaned up once in his absence. DeJong, Rodriguez, and Blake Drake batted behind at five for much of the week. Rodriguez was the main six-hole hitter with Jesse Jenner hitting up.
To round out the order, Drake, Allen Staton, Luis Cruz were penciled in at seven. Cruz, Staton, Drake, Jenner, or Jhohan Acevedo had time at eight with one of Drake, Joey Hawkins, or Thomas Spitz at nine.
Lynn taking steps forward in rehab
St. Louis Cardinals rehabbing starting pitcher Lance Lynn made the most of his 50-pitch limit, only needing 48 pitches to complete three scoreless frames for Springfield in a 10-4 loss to NW Arkansas on Wednesday night.
Despite not going deeper, Lynn was particularly pleased with the results.
"(My arm is) good. I wish they would have put a few more in play early on, so I would have lasted a little longer," the Tommy John survivor told reporters after his start. "Another step; another ten-plus pitches added on. It felt good."
Of his 48 pitches, Lynn threw 30 strikes and fanned three batters. The next step will be a trip back to St. Louis on Thursday to check in with the medical staff. He anticipates making another rehab start next week, but the time and location are unknown at this point.
When asked about the chances of making it back to St. Louis before the end of the season, Lynn told reporters, "Slim, but we'll see."
8/19: INF Bruce Caldwell activated from 7-day DL
On Friday, Springfield activated Bruce Caldwell from the seven-day disabled list. The second baseman missed the minimum time with a facial injury, but it was his second DL stint in the last three weeks.
Springfield’s roster was at 24 players, so no other moves were required to activate Caldwell.
8/20: INF Alex Mejia to Springfield from Memphis
8/20: INF Joey Hawkins to State College from Springfield
With the return of Dean Anna to Memphis’ lineup, infielder Alex Mejia was returned to Double-A Springfield. The 25-year-old had been in Triple-A since May 28 but missed most of June and July due to a broken wrist. Mejia had opened the season with Memphis but was sent down on April 19.
Infielder Joey Hawkins was returned to short-season ball from Springfield, with his temporary Double-A assignment that began on August 12 ended by the arrival of Mejia. However, the 23-year old received a promotion in the process, being re-assigned to State College after opening the season with Johnson City.
Editor's update: On Thursday, the Cardinals shifted Hawkins back to his original location, Johnson City. He had two singles and a double plus two RBI in seven at-bats over three New York-Penn League games in between his time at Springfield and return to the Appalachian League. That also makes Hawkins the only Cardinals farmhand to have at-bats at four different levels this season, at least to my knowledge - JC, State College, Palm Beach and Springfield. Former Springfield teammate Jesse Jenner is among those at three.
8/23: INF Jacob Wilson to Springfield from Memphis
8/23: OF Jhohan Acevedo released by the Cardinals
After being returned to Memphis on August 9, Jacob Wilson was sent back down to Springfield just 14 days later. The middle infielder arrived with a bang, collecting two home runs and four RBI in four at-bats in the S-Cards 9-5 win over NW Arkansas (KC) on Tuesday night.
To accommodate Wilson, the Cardinals granted outfielder Jhohan Acevedo his release from Double-A Springfield's roster after hitting a cumulative .184 in his seventh season with the organization.
8/24: RHP Lance Lynn sent on rehab assignment to Springfield
Who needs 12-18 months of recovery time following Tommy John surgery, when you are Lance Lynn? Ten months removed, Lynn has made two starts (albeit brief ones) for High-A Palm Beach and made his third start for Double-A Springfield on Wednesday night.
Casey Turgeon - Turgeon is out with a pulled muscle in his side. No timetable set for his return.
Trey Nielsen - Nielsen was DL'd due to fatigue. One might have anticipated a brief stint, but he has been sidelined for three weeks now.
Austin Gomber - Gomber suffered a finger issue. According to a source, the big lefty would miss 3-4 weeks from the date of his injury (DL'd August 3rd). He could be activated next week.
Mason Katz - Katz was shut down with leg problems and will miss the remainder of the minor league season. He is expected to be healthy and ready next spring.
Andrew Morales - Morales began a rehab assignment with the GCL Cardinals two weeks ago. The righty was expected to be activated after two rehab starts in Florida, but that has not occurred.
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.
C.J. McElroy - McElroy suffered a torn ACL in June. There have been no updates on his rehab. If healthy, the outfielder is an ideal candidate for the Arizona Fall League or Winter Leagues to make up lost time in 2016.
The Cardinal Nation Top 40 Prospect Watch
#12 Austin Gomber - Gomber remains on the DL with a finger issue. The big lefty could come off sometime next week.
#15 Paul DeJong - DeJong parked his team-leading 21st home run on Tuesday night against NW Arkansas. The third baseman now ranks third in the Texas League with as many big flies. He's currently slashing .244/.310/.445 with 68 RBI and showing plenty of extra-base pop to boot - 45 of his 111 hits have gone for more than one base this season.
#27 Daniel Poncedeleon - Poncedeleon is finishing his 2016 on a strong note, hurling two consecutive quality starts his past two times out. The deceptive right-hander has turned in 11 quality starts this season for Springfield.
#28 Trey Nielsen - Nielsen remains out due to fatigue. No recent word on his status.
#34 Matt Pearce - Pearce put together his flashiest outing of the season on Tuesday night. The control expert struck out a career-high 11 batters against NW Arkansas. He had never fanned more than six this year, or eight in any game as a pro. The slider will be a key pitch for him as he advances.
#37 Rowan Wick - Wick saw mixed results in his two outings over this past week. In the first, the power arm gave up a base hit and walk, but wound up pitching a scoreless inning. On Wednesday night, the Canadian gave up two earned runs on two hits in an inning of work.
#41 Luke Voit - In case you missed it, Voit placed within TCN's top 50 monthly prospect update - and for good reason. The barrel-chested first baseman ranks among league leaders in several major offensive categories and could become Springfield's first Texas League Player of the Year honoree since Matt Adams and Oscar Taveras claimed the awards back-to-back in 2011 and 2012, respectively.
Pro scouts suggest Voit will hit his way into a big-league opportunity, but ultimately view his future as an organization power bat.
Following their 2-4 week, the Cardinals look for improved results in the final two games against the Naturals over the next two days. They complete the final regular season homestand by hosting Tulsa (LAD) starting Saturday for three games.
They finish the season on the road with five games against Arkansas (LAA) and four with Tulsa which begins next Tuesday, August 30th, and the regular season finale is Monday, September 5th.
Follow Derek Shore on Twitter @D_Shore23.
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