The Springfield Cardinals Report: 04/18/08

Beat reporter John Brayfield's weekly report from the St. Louis Cardinals' Double-A affiliate in Springfield, MO. Andy Van Slyke has helped his club post a three-game winning streak.

I have said it before, and I will say it again - what a difference a week can make in the world of baseball! A team that couldn't score a run for love or money one week, scored a franchise record 20 runs in one game. The week didn't start off the best, but it certainly ended on a high note.

Back to that in a minute, as we recap a wild week for the Springfield Cardinals.

Springfield's joy over finally winning their first game of the season back on the Thursday the 10th, was short-lived as they lost their very next one, and in a most alarming way last Friday. Picture this: It is the fourth inning, the Cardinals are leading 1-0, Springfield starter Clayton Mortensen is having a stellar day on the mound as he takes the ball, with two men out. Then all hell broke loose.

Mortensen hit the next batter, Taylor Teagarden, and walked Max Ramirez on four straight pitches, and then hit Adam Fox. With the bases loaded with men who never reached on any kind of offensive endeavor, Steve Murphy stepped to the plate and ripped a two-run single to put Frisco ahead 2-1 and the RoughRiders never looked back. And the fourth inning was not over yet. Cory Ragsdale then bounced one off the top of the wall, scoring two runners to make it 4-1. Mortensen was finally pulled after Craig Gentry chased a ball and got a bloop single to right giving the RoughRiders a 5-1 lead.

The bullpen didn't shine either as they gave up a run in the fifth and another in the sixth, helped along by two Springfield errors. Tyler Greene did hit his first home run of the season, a two-run shot to left, to make it 7-3.

Frisco's Steve Murphy hit his first home run of the 2008 season as Luke Gregerson gave up a solo shot in the eighth to bring the score to the final 8-3. Frisco starter Michael Ballard got the win, giving up one run on five hits in six innings of work. Mortensen was saddled with the loss.

Now, if this doesn't shake up the baseball gods I doubt that anything will. Springfield lost their eighth game of the season on Saturday falling 4-2 in game two with the Frisco RoughRiders. And, with a record of 1-8, Springfield was only two games out of first place. Doesn't say much for the Texas League Northern Division, does it?

To say Springfield can't buy a break, is a real understatement. Springfield scored twice in the second inning when recently-activated Mark Shorey hit his first home run of the season tying the score, followed by a triple by A.J. Van Slyke, son of Andy, who then scored on a sacrifice fly by Pete Maestrales, giving the Cards a 2-1 lead. But, Corey Ragsdale hit a dinger off starting pitcher Adam Ottavino to tie the score 2-2.

In the sixth inning it got ugly as Springfield's thorn-in-the-side, Max Ramirez, hit a solo homer to break the tie. Jon Mikrut took over for Ottavino in the fifth and worked a perfect scoreless inning, but then i the sixth he have up the home run to Ramirez. Mikrut was replaced by Zack Zuercher in the seventh and he gave up a home run to give Frisco a 4-2 lead. Matt Scherer made his first relief appearance of the season and worked a 1-2-3 eighth. Scherer was just called up after coming off the disabled list.

The Cards, brokering for any kind of break they could get, did try in the ninth to get their second win in nine games as A.J. Van Slyke reached on a walk, then went on to third on a double by Jose Martinez. With Frisco leading 4-2, and the tying runs in scoring position, Tyler Greene struck out to end the game and give Brennan Gar his first save of the season.

At 1-8, the Springfield Cardinals finished 1-3 in Frisco and headed for Midland, Texas to face the RoughRiders in a three-game series.

On Monday, the Cardinals got their second win of the season, after falling 7-3 in the opening game of a three-game series with the Midland RockHounds. It was a Bryan Anderson night as the Springfield catcher drove in all three of the Cardinals winning runs, including a two-run homer in the 10th to break a 1-1 tie. But, the RockHounds weren't about to roll over and play dead. Closer Matt Scherer, took over in the bottom of the 10th and immediately gave up a home run to John Zerinque, With Midland within a run of tying the game again, Scherer struck out the next two batters and then gave up a single to Cliff Pennington. With a man on, and two outs, Justin Sellers popped up to left fielder Shane Robinson to end the game and give Springfield their second 2008 victory. Scherer earned the save, only the second of his career.

P.J. Walters started the winning game and pitched seven shut-out innings, allowing only four hits. Anderson got his first RBI in the eighth with a single that plated Tyler Greene to give the Cards a 1-0 lead. In the ninth, Springfield couldn't maintain that lead as Jesus Guzman hit a home run to tie the game. But Springfield held on for the victory, with Fernando Salas getting the win.

With an improving record of 2-8, Springfield faced Midland in the rubber-game on Tuesday night, with Jaime Garcia (1-1) getting the starting call to face Vincent Mazzaro (1-0). And this game was more like it as the Cardinals slayed the RockHounds 9-1 at Citibank Ballpark in Midland, Texas. Garcia allowed only one run on three hits in six innings as he pitched his best game ever at the Double-A level. He also struck out eight batters.

Shane Robinson did his part Tuesday night in the field and at the plate. He hit his first home run of the season and made an amazing throw from the outfield to gun down a runner at second and keep Midland from scoring.

In the first inning, Brandon Yarbrough scored on a Bryan Anderson RBI ground-out to make it 1-0. Springfield. The Cardinals scored three in the fourth, and four in the eighth to take a 9-1 lead into the ninth, and a two-in-row win. With back-to-back wins, a record of 3-9, and sitting two games behind front leader Tulsa in the Texas League North Division, Springfield prepared to take that momentum into Hammons Field and make up for some lost ground. After a day off on Wednesday it was business as usual for the Springfield Cardinals--or was it?

The team that couldn't buy a win last week won their third game in a row, embarrassing the Tulsa Drillers to the tune of 20-5. No, that is not a typo. The final score was Springfield 20 and Tulsa 5.

Clayton Mortensen got his first Double-A win, pitching six shutout innings and three Springfield players had four hits in the game. The Cards scored a run in the first and an unbelievable 10 runs in the second inning off greatly touted Ching-Lung Lo.

Mark Hamilton hit a three run home run; Jose Martinez hit a three run homer; Bryan Anderson had four hits; Brendan Ryan, in Springfield on rehab assignment for St. Louis, got four hits, including a solo home run in the seventh; Shane Robinson had four hits with three RBI.

Springfield actually carried a 20-0 shutout into the ninth inning, when Tulsa's (and former Memphis catcher) Brian Esposito hit a grand slam to add four to an earlier run in the inning to cap the score at 20-5. All five of Tulsa's ninth inning runs came against Kris Honel.

Now sitting at just one game behind front runner Tulsa, and taking on Tulsa on Friday night, Springfield could find themselves tied for first place. The possibility stands that the Cards could be two games in first place by the end of the four game series with the Drillers. It is a little early to say that the Cards have turned it around, but wow, what a change a few days can make - three wins in a row, a record of 4-9, and a chance to move into the top position.

The next three games should say a lot about the season. Stay tuned, it is going to get interesting.



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