This report covers the period from Thursday, May 4 through Wednesday, May 10.
May 4: Springfield 9 vs. NW Arkansas 1
Matt Pearce tossed eight frames of one-run ball as the S-Cards coasted to a 9-1 win over their "friendly-rival" NW Arkansas. Pearce yielded five hits and a walk, including a solo shot and fanned three. Adolis Garcia went 3-for-5 with a double and two RBI while Anthony Garcia and Alex Mejia both went 3-for-4 with two runs scored. Garcia slammed a two-run blast and Mejia doubled twice.
May 5: Springfield 4 vs. NW Arkansas 3
Jack Flaherty gave the home faithful another strong pitching performance, as the Cardinals won a close game against the Naturals. Flaherty hurled seven innings, giving up one run on two hits. He tied a career-high with 12 punchouts.
Adolis Garcia produced two RBI on two hits while Gabriel Lino went 2-for-3 with a RBI single.
May 6: Springfield 0 at Tulsa 6
In the first matchup against a National League team in 2017, the Cardinals bats were silenced by the Tulsa pitching staff, dropping the road-opener in a 6-0 blanking. All the offense could get was singles from Alex Mejia and starting pitcher Sandy Alcantara.
Alcantara yielded six runs in 5 2/3 innings, though he fanned eight and only walked one.
May 7: Springfield 4 at Tulsa 1
Stellar pitching with a balanced offense translated into a 4-1 victory over Tulsa on Sunday. Austin Gomber and Trey Nielsen combined on a two-hitter, with both allowed by the former during his seven innings. Gabriel Lino contributed a RBI double while Anthony Garcia and Thomas Spitz added RBI singles apiece.
May 8: Springfield 3 at Tulsa 9
Tulsa took a two-to-one series lead thanks to an eight-run eighth inning against a leaky Springfield bullpen with a 9-3 victory Monday morning. The Springbirds squandered a six inning shutout performance by starter Dakota Hudson along with an Oscar Mercado home run. Daniel Bard allowed three runs in one-third of an inning to take the loss. All five runs scored against Blake McKnight were unearned.
May 9: Springfield 1 at Tulsa 0
The Cardinals pitching staff boasted the best performance of the season by far on Tuesday, combining on a two-hit 1-0 shutout to take the series finale in Tulsa. Matt Pearce shouldered the load, punching out six over six strong innings of work. Relievers Tyler Bray, Kevin Herget, and Pedro Echemendia pitched scoreless innings.
The only offense was from Eliezer Alvarez, who launched his second Double-A home run, a solo blast.
May 10: league wide off day
Springfield resumes play on Thursday, May 11 on the road at Arkansas (SEA).
Oscar Mercado - After his 24-game on-base streak and team-record 20-game hitting streak came to an end on Saturday, Mercado has started on a new streak. He has been on-base in three consecutive games while hitting in two straight contests before his hitless night on Tuesday. The outfielder has multi-hit performances in six of his last 12 games. His .328 average is seventh in the league.
Gabriel Lino - Lino has become a mainstay on the "Who's Hot" feature in recent weeks. The former Phillies farmhand improved his season average to .344 (21-for-61) in 18 games this year. The catcher has multi-hit games in six of the 18 games as well.
His average is currently tops on the Cardinals, though he is slightly short of plate appearances to rank among the Texas League leaders. Otherwise, he would be third.
Alex Mejia - Despite being blocked by infielders at Triple-A Memphis, Mejia has provided plenty of value for the Cardinals in Double-A this season. The shortstop, who is referred to as a second coach on the field by his peers, is hitting .375 (15-for-40) over his most recent 10 games and paces the Texas League with 13 doubles.
Jack Flaherty – It is hard to envision a hotter pitcher in the Minor Leagues than Flaherty. In his one outing of the week, on Friday night, the righty matched a career-high with 12 strikeouts in seven innings in yet another dominating performance for Springfield.
Flaherty was named the Texas League Pitcher of the Month for April.
Austin Gomber - After his fourth straight quality start, Gomber carries a 2.39 ERA through his most recent 30 1/3 innings pitched since his abbreviated first start of the season. Overall, his ERA is 3.48.
Dakota Hudson - Hudson accomplished his best start of the season on Monday, posting six shutout frames against Tulsa to lower his ERA to 3.41.
Matt Pearce - The rotation doesn't stop at Hudson, either. The No. 5 starter is back to doing Matt Pearce things. Since April 28, the righty holds a 1.38 ERA during a stretch of three excellent starts, including going a season-high eight innings last Thursday.
Jacob Wilson - The struggles continue for Wilson, whose season-average has fallen from .234 to .196 in the matter of 10 games at the dish.
Dickie Joe Thon – The infielder scuffled this week in limited action, going hitless in nine at-bats.
Sandy Alcantara - Alcantara was the only starter to suffer a loss this week. The lively right-hander allowed six earned runs through 5 2/3 innings, elevating his season-ERA to 6.27 through six starts.
Chandler Hawkins - The pitfalls remain for Hawkins, who has given up a combined five earned runs spanning his last three appearances (three innings).
Daniel Bard – One has to imagine the clock is running out on the Bard side-arm delivery experiment. The 31-year old has issued at least one free pass in eight of his nine outings, including five with two or more walks to give him 15 bases-on-balls over just 7 2/3 innings. His ERA sits at 9.39.
First-half standings - Texas League Northern Division
Currently, NW Arkansas (KC) holds control of first-place in the division with an 18-14 overall record. Springfield (16-14) trails by two games with Tulsa (14-17, LAD) down four and games while Arkansas (12-19, SEA) is back six and half in the cellar.
5/4: OF Nick Martini to Triple-A Memphis from Springfield - Martini has rejoined the Redbirds, up Springfield. The 26-year old first reached Triple-A in 2015, playing in 22 games there plus 86 last season.
5/4: OF Thomas Spitz to Springfield from High-A Palm Beach - Spitz is returning to Springfield from Palm Beach. The 25-year old made a four-game Texas League debut as an injury fill-in in 2016.
Andrew Morales - Morales remains at the Jupiter complex rehabbing an injury. Whether it is his shoulder is unconfirmed.
C.J. McElroy - McElroy is reportedly at the Jupiter complex rehabbing his still injured ACL. TCN is awaiting word on his official status from a source close to him.
Jimmy Reed - Reed appears sidelined for a lengthy amount of time due aggravating the prior condition that required Tommy John surgery, rather than a new injury.
The Cardinal Nation Top 50 Prospect Watch
#6 Sandy Alcantara - Although his line did not look good, Alcantara pitched better than it showed. From watching on MiLB TV, the righty only made one mistake through five innings, a home run to one of Tulsa's most prominent power hitters. He induced a lot of soft contact for his overwhelming stuff until he appeared to fatigue in the sixth inning.
His fastball was primarily at 94-96, up a few ticks from his last start in the cold weather. The heater touched 98-99 in his last inning of work. His sinker worked in the 91-94 threshold with a firm change at 89, a slider between 87-89, and curve at 81-84 which are pitches that are inconsistent but progressing in the right direction. Focusing on the little things such as controlling the running game will help him as he is still raw in many areas of his profile.
#7 Jack Flaherty - Flaherty has come a long way in a matter of two months. From dropping out of Baseball America's Cardinals Top 10 rankings for the first time in his career, the righty has asserted himself and then some. Flaherty attributes his progression to attacking the zone and having a smoother, athletic delivery.
With the way he has started out his Double-A career, Flaherty may wind up in Triple-A before long.
"I try not to think about that stuff," Flaherty told the media after his Friday night start. "It's been a good start to the season, but there's still a very long way to go, so I need to keep it going and continue to build off every start. My expectations of myself are higher than anyone else's, so I know it's work-in-progress and that there's still a lot of work left to do so that I can improve."
#8 Dakota Hudson - According to a source, Hudson was in total command of his start on Monday against Tulsa, looking effortless with his stuff and generating weak contact, including a whopping 10 groundouts off his 95 mph sinking fastball.
”He has a pretty good sinker,” Tulsa manager Ryan Garko told the Tulsa World newspaper. “He’s a real tough at-bat for a right-hander. He threw strikes. He knows what he’s doing.”
Hudson was sitting 91-93 mph on his fastball(s).
#14 Eliezer Alvarez - While the strikeouts have piled up, Alvarez has shown signs of waking up at the plate, cracking his second Double-A home run this past week. After skipping over a level of competition entirely, his OPS of .704 is acceptable, especially considering the strides he has made on the defensive side at the keystone with his backhand.
#15 Austin Gomber - As mentioned, Gomber has been solid of late, picking up his fourth consecutive quality start. St. Louis general manager John Mozeliak said Gomber is the top left-handed starting pitching prospect in the system, ahead of Marco Gonzales, and has the best chance at being St. Louis' next lefty starter in the majors.
On Sunday afternoon, Gomber threw more fastballs than normal at 89-91 mph, locating it at will to get ahead for quick outs.
“He did a good job; he has a little funk to him,” Tulsa manager Garko told the Tulsa World. “We hit some balls okay, but got a lot of balls in the air and that can be a lot of outs on a windy day."
#20 Adolis Garcia - Garcia went 5-for-22 (.227) this past week, recording one double and four RBI. Overall, the Cuban has a .278/.352/.433 slash line which is above the Texas League average of .255/.328/.387.
#40 Matt Pearce - See Who's Hot Above.
#50 Trey Nielsen - Nielsen is slowly getting acquitted to the bullpen after previously spending his entire professional career as a starting pitcher. Over his last two outings, the sinkerballer has gone a combined four scoreless innings while garnering six strikeouts.
Sleepers: Oscar Mercado and Gabriel Lino - See Who's Hot Above.
Following the 4-2 week, the Springfield used Wednesday as a travel day en route to North Little Rock, Arkansas to take on the Travelers at Dickey-Stephens Park. After concluding the eight-game road swing, the Springbirds return to Hammons Field on Monday to host Tulsa and NW Arkansas for a combined eight games.
Follow Derek Shore on Twitter @D_Shore23.
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