The good news is that if the Cards win and the Travs lose, then Springfield would host Arkansas at home for a five-game series. The bad news is--it must be a five-game sweep. Not impossible, but about as close as one can get.
It has been a rough, up and down week for the Cardinals. They began a four-game road trip to Wichita on Saturday after taking three of four from Tulsa at home. In those four games at Hammons Field, the Birdhouse's own Cody Haerther and Rick Ankiel took matters in their own hands. In the opening game on Aug. 23, Ankiel was 2-for-4 with a double, a home run and three RBI in an 8-2 win by Springfield over Tulsa. Haerther hit a solo home run and scored twice to help the cause. Jordan Pals, Cards starter, got the win and Josh Kinney and Cory Doyne both threw a perfect inning to clinch the win.
On August 24, Randy Leek, Cardinals starter, allowed five runs on eight hits as Springfield fell to Tulsa, 5-2. Leek gave up his league- leading 28th home run of the season to Manny Ulloa, a two-run blast. Alan Benes and Kevin Ool put together four innings of shutout play, but Aaron Herr's two-run single in the eighth inning was all the offense the Cards could muster.
The next night (Thursday) saw Chris Lambert take the mound and wind up having his best Double-A outing ever, striking out eight batters, allowing just five hits and one unearned run as the Cards beat Tulsa 3-1. Catcher Brad Cresse was the man-of-the-hour as he hit a two-run double to put the Cards ahead. Gabe Johnson also had a productive night going 2-for-4 with a run scored.
Friday night, the Cards played before a franchise-record 9,723 fans at Hammons Field, as once again Cody Haerther came through for the team and the fans going 3-for-3 with two home runs, and three RBI and two runs scored in a 4-1 win over Tulsa. Springfield starter Stuart Pomeranz and relievers Josh Kinney and Cory Doyne combined to allow just four hits on the night. Kinney and Doyne hurled three perfect innings between them to close out the win.
It was pinch-hitter Cody Haerther taking control again in the first game with Wichita on Saturday, as he hit a two-run homer in the seventh inning to give Springfield a 2-1 lead over the Wranglers. Shaun Boyd followed only two batters later with a solo blast to give the Cards a 3-1 win over the Wranglers at Lawrence Dumont Stadium in Wichita.
On Sunday, in the first of a double-header, Rick Ankiel was the man offensively in an 8-6 win over Wichita, as he went 4-for-4 with two doubles, a home run and four RBI. Aaron Herr went 3-for-5 as he added to the 17 Springfield hits with a double and an RBI. Cody Haerther, Brad Cresse, Tyler Parker and Brendan Ryan each had two hits in the game. The second game of the double-header was canceled, after a 90-minute rain delay, because of lightning. The game was tied 4-4 when it was canceled with the Cards batting in the top of the second inning with Travis Hanson at the plate.
Because Sunday's game was canceled, the Cards and Wranglers played a double-header Monday night in a must-win situation for the Cards to stay alive in the race for the Texas League East Division title. In the first game, the Cards hammered the Wranglers 12-4, but Wichita got their revenge in the second game, scoring twice in their last at bat, in the bottom of the seventh inning, to end the Cards five-game winning streak and beat Springfield 6-5.
Rayner Laya did get his first four-hit game of the year going 4-for-4 with two RBI and two runs scored. Randy Leek got his 14th win of the season going the distance for the third time this year. Shaun Boyd hit a grand slam in the fifth inning.
The game remained tied until the seventh and final inning. The Cards got a run without the aid of a hit to take a 5-4 lead when Wranglers reliever Drew Endicott hit Shaun Boyd in the shoulder to open the inning. Endicott then gave up two back-to-back walks to Papo Bolivar and Aaron Herr. With the bases loaded and no outs, Travis Hanson hit a sacrifice fly to left field, driving in his league leading 93rd RBI of the year, giving the Cards a 5-4 lead.
In the bottom of the seventh, Springfield reliever Cory Doyne loaded the bases with only one out. The Wranglers took advantage of a Springfield error, a bloop base hit and an intentional walk as Mitch Maier stroked a sacrifice fly to right field, scoring Josh Pressley from third to tie the game. On the same play, Mike Aviles tagged and moved to third. Doyne walked Shane Costa with two outs to again load the bases and Brennan King followed with a sharp ground ball to the right of shortstop Brendan Ryan. The ball hit in and out of Ryan's glove, and after having a hard time gaining control of the bobbled-ball, his throw to second base was late, allowing Aviles to score from third giving Wichita the win.
With the split, the Cardinals now have a second-half record of 31-33. Mathematically, the Cards are still alive, but the clock is still ticking and High Noon is quickly approaching. The Cardinals must beat Wichita tonight (Tuesday) and Tulsa must win over Arkansas. The good news--if a miracle happens and both of those things were to occur, then Springfield would face Arkansas in a five-game home stand beginning Wednesday night (Aug. 31). at Hammons Field. The not-so-good-news--the Cards must sweep the Travelers in order to claim the East Division title.
Springfield's Chris Lambert (3-6) will take the mound tonight against Brian Bass (11-8). Game time is 7:10 p.m. and can be heard live on KWTO JOCK 98.7 or online at www.springfieldcardinals.com.
Tickets remain for all five up-coming final games of the season. Tickets can be purchased at the Hammons Field Ticket Office, by calling (417) 863-2143, or on line at www.springfieldcardinals.com.
You can write John Brayfield at email@example.com.