Springfield Cardinals Report: 04/11/08

Beat reporter John Brayfield's weekly report from the St. Louis Cardinals' Double-A affiliate in Springfield, MO notes the team has finally broken into the win column in 2008.

It took seven games to do it, but the Springfield Cardinals finally stepped into the win column beating the RoughRiders 12-5 on Thursday night in Frisco, Texas. Now, depending on what the Northwest Arkansas Naturals do, the Cards will either be in third place by themselves or in dead last.

As of Thursday, Tulsa, with a record of three wins and four losses, is in first place in the Texas League North, followed by Northwest Arkansas in second, with a record of 2-5; then Springfield and Arkansas tied for last place with records of 0-6. In the South, Midland RockHounds are in first place with a record of 7-0, Frisco in second with a 5-0 record; Corpus Christi in third with a record of 5-2; and San Antonio in fourth place with a record of 4-3.

Did you notice that not one of the teams in the Northern Division has a winning record? If I were anything other than a Cardinals fan, I would have already changed caps, burned season tickets and put up a series of bobble-head dolls for sale on e-Bay. But, I am a Cardinal fan and the fact that my team has lost their first six games of the season is of little concern. I will continue to sit in the rain, the snow, the sun and the splashings of beverages from overly exuberant fans and watch the Cards win and lose and I will continue to proclaim them as the greatest baseball team in world--but it would be nice if they could win one--and they did.

Looking back over the week, Saturday's game was once again tough on the players and the fans. The weather in the Ozarks was not kind. A short delay to the starting time of the game didn't help the pitching staff, and the damp, chilly weather didn't heat up the fans either.

The game started out with promise as Clayton Mortensen, making his debut start in a Springfield uniform, pitched five scoreless innings. He didn't get a lot of help from the men behind him who managed to score only two runs for him, one in the third and another in the fourth. Bob Zimmermann took over the mound in the sixth as the Cards led 2-0 to start the inning. But, as luck would have it, The RoughRiders' Taylor Teagarden sent a blast deep, after Zimmermann issued his first walk, and tied the game at 2-2. Then, as if to add insult to injury, Max Ramirez hit a solo home run to give Frisco a 3-2 lead.

Springfield allowed Frisco to take a 4-2 lead in the eighth on a throwing error, but spirits rose when Springfield got two runs in the last half of the inning to tie the game at 4-4--and that was not a pretty sight on Frisco's part either. Jose Martinez hit a single to score Luke Gorsett, then with Cody Haerther at third, RoughRider reliever Chris Michalak attempted a pick off at first that failed and Haerther scored the tying run.

The score remained tied until the eleventh inning, when the RoughRiders scored three runs (count them 1-2-3) to take the lead 7-4. The Cards went down three straight (count them 1-2-3) in the inning giving Frisco the win and the sweep of the three-game (count them 1-2-3) opening series.

Okay, the Cardinals were glad to see the RoughRiders mount their brooms and leave Hammons Field. But what swept through the gates on Sunday was not exactly what the Cardinals were needing. As one 3-0 team left the ballpark parking lot, another 3-0 ball club pulled right into their bus parking space. And the Springfield Cardinals handed the Midland RockHounds their fourth win of the season, leaving the Cards with an 0-4 start to the early season--their worst start in franchise history.

Jose Guzman really put it to the Cardinals, piling up four RBI on four hits. The RockHounds had a total of 13 hits in the game. The Cardinals had a respectable nine hits, but had only 29 in the first four games. It was Springfield that scored first on Sunday as Jose Martinez hit a ground-out to short to score Jon Jay from third. Cardinals led 1-0. That lead didn't last long though, as MIdland scored four times in the second inning off Cards starter Adam Ottavino.

Then Allen Craig hit his first home run of the season, making it 4-2. For a moment it looked like the sun would come out and the long balls would rain on the heads of Midland outfielders as Mark Hamilton smashed his first home run of 2008 to bring Springfield to within one run. But, the clouds came back out in the eighth as Midland scored three runs off Springfield reliever Fernando Salas.

The Cards did try in the ninth to pull out their first win of the year. An RBI double by Jon Jay made the score 7-4 with two outs and Jay on second, With the batter in the on-deck circle hoping for the chance to tie the game, batter, Jose Martinez stood in at home and hit a ground-out to third to end the game, leaving the Cardinals winless still. The loss went to Cardinals starter Ottavino with Midland's Borrell getting the win.

I have never been a fan of Mondays, but this Monday was ridiculous. The Cards were shut out by Midland 12-0. No win that day. This time, it was the pitching. After all, Cards starter Adam Daniels gave up three runs in his four innings pitched; reliever Zack Zuercher gave up a two-run homer to Casey Myers in the fifth; Jon Mikrut stepped out of the bullpen and gave up four runs in the seventh and two in the eighth when the RockHounds took a commanding 12-0 lead.

Tuesday looked like the weather gods had finally smiled on the Cards as an early morning rain that was surely going to postpone the play, magically stopped and the game was played in somewhat soggy conditions. Pitching was once again the story, but this time it was the great job done by Midland's pitching staff. They held the Cards to just three hits and beat Springfield 6-2.

Fielding errors were something that Springfield didn't need but, they got their fair share anyway. Shane Robinson tossed a fielded grounder to second that got away and scored a run. Allen Craig bobbled a ground ball to third that led to Midland's second run. A ray of hope once again beamed down on Hammons Field as the Cards tied the game in the fourth inning after Jose Martinez got a two-out walk and Jon Jay drove him in with a home run over the right-center fence, his first of the year. But the RockHounds prevailed.

So the RockHounds sweep and the Cards weep. And Midland left town 6-0 and the Cards left Hammons Field for Frisco, Texas, 0-6. But they now have their first win under their belts and on Friday the play Frisco once again. And, all I can think to say is--Go Cards!

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