In the first game of the series, on Thursday the RockHounds tripped-up the Cardinals 7-2. On Friday night Springfield clinched the season-series beating the RockHounds 6-3 at Citibank Park in Midland.
Randy Leek, starting on Friday, became the first pitcher in the Texas League to log 13 wins. Leek attempted to throw consecutive shutouts, after blanking Frisco last week at Hammons Field, Leek held Midland scoreless going into the sixth inning, but gave up two runs in the sixth and was taken out with a 4-2 lead. Leek had retired eight batters in a row before Mark Kiger, leading off in the sixth, laid-down a bunt single. A throwing error by Leek allowed Kiger to advance to third and a Daric Barton RBI single brought home the RockHounds' Kiger, making it 4-1, Springfield. Leek then hit consecutive batters to load the bases and got Andre Ethier to ground into a double-play, but not before allowing a run to score, making it 4-2. Leek (13-6), has now won his last three decisions and has allowed only two runs in his last 15 innings.
On Saturday night, the Cards saw their dream for making the playoffs fade, as the Midland RockHounds beat the St. Louis franchise 15-5. Pair that with a seven-run come-from-behind win for Arkansas over the Frisco RoughRiders and the Cards found themselves once again 4.5 games back of the Travelers.
Springfield's starting pitcher Chris Lambert (2-6), gave up a grand slam to Midland's Mark Kiger to give the RockHounds a 6-2 lead. Lambert, who walked three men in first, gave up a two-out single and then walked another man in the second, was lifted after only 1.2 innings and replaced by Josh Axelson. Axelson looked strong coming out of the bullpen, striking out Jeremy Brown to end the second inning. However, after pitching a scoreless third, Axelson allowed five runs in the fourth to give Midland an 11-2 lead.
Rick Ankiel hit his fourth homer in a Cardinal uniform leading off the sixth inning to make it 11-3, but Midland scored four times in the bottom of the sixth, off Alan Benes, to give the RockHounds a 15-3 lead.
Travis Hanson hit his 20th home run of the year in the eighth inning to make it 15-5. But, it was too little too late and the RockHounds won the third game, their second of the series.
The Saturday night game did mark the Double-A debut of Rayner Laya, who pinch-hit for Brendan Ryan in the sixth, and went 1-2, getting his first Double-A hit, a single in the ninth. Laya was added to the Cards' roster on Friday, filling the roster spot left vacant by Kevin Estrada. Estrada was placed on the disabled list with a dislocated knuckle on his right hand.
Sunday night, the Cards saw the Midland RockHounds beat them for the third time in the four-game series as they fell 5.5 games back of the Arkansas Travelers.
Midland scored a run in the second to make it 3-1, but in the fourth, fate seemed to be smiling on the Cards once again as Gabe Johnson hit his first of two solo home runs, giving Springfield a 4-3 lead in the fourth.
It was a twisted turn of fate though as Midland began their rally in the fourth, scoring two runs against Cardinals starter Stuart Pomeranz (4-6) to cut the lead to 4-3. Midland put up two more in the fifth, both unearned, to give Midland a 5-4 lead.
Haerther, with four RBI for the night, drove in a run in the sixth to tie it at 5-5. In the bottom of the sixth inning, Pomeranz walked Mark Kiger to open the bottom of the inning. Kiger was sacrificed to second base and Pomeranz struck out Steve Stanley--but on the final pitch to Stanley, the ball got past catcher Matt Pagnozzi allowing Stanley to reach first and Kiger to advance to third. Pomeranz was yanked and replaced by Andy Cavazos, who allowed the first four hitters he faced to reach base and allowed an RBI single to Daric Barton, putting the Hounds ahead 6-5. Fate then buried the Cards as Cavazos gave up a three-run shot to Brian Stavisky, giving Midland a 9-5 lead. Jeremy Brown hit a double to add another run for the RockHounds giving them a 10-5 cushion.
The Cards did threaten in the ninth inning as Gabe Johnson pounded his second solo home run of the night off Midland reliever Alex Santos and made the score 10-6. Rayner Laya got a one-out double to follow but, fate added the last shovel of dirt to the Cards grave as Santos retired the next two batters to ensure Midland's win.
Sunday's game marked the first one in which Gabe Johnson saw work behind the plate. Matt Pagnozzi started the game at catcher, but Johnson caught the eighth inning, his first action since breaking his right kneecap on April 17 at Wichita.
The Springfield Cardinals are now 25-31 for the second half of the season and 5.5 games back of Arkansas in the Texas League East Division. After a day off on Monday, they return home to face the Tulsa Drillers on Tuesday, August 23. The Cards look to end a two-game losing streak as they send Jordan Pals (5-11) to the hill. Game time is 7:10 p.m. and gates open at 6:10 p.m. The game can be heard live on Springfield's KWTO JOCK 98.7 or online at www.springfieldcardinals.com. Tickets are available for all of the four games against Tulsa at the Hammons Field Ticket Office, by calling (417-863-2143 or online at www.springfieldcardinals.com.
You can write John Brayfield at firstname.lastname@example.org