The Springfield Cardinals Report: 05/09/08

Beat reporter John Brayfield's weekly report from the St. Louis Cardinals' Double-A affiliate in Springfield, MO. Closer Luke Gregerson has six saves on the season.

I have had a lot of heroes at the baseball park over the years, going all the way back to when I would lay on my grandparents' living room floor and watch the Cardinals play on my granddad's black and white TV, listening to Dizzy Dean sing the Wabash Cannonball while Pee Wee Reese tried to keep the game rolling along.


On Tuesday of this week, I met a different kind of hero - one of the good guys and one straight from the heart of Cardinal Country. The last day of the Cards latest homestand, I entered Hammons Field through the media gate, went up two flights of stairs, turned the corner and ran right into my insurance agent, Dave Willingham. 


He has always been a big supporter of the food drive that is held each year at Hammons Field and he even got to throw out the first pitch as an award for doing such a good job collecting food for the hungry. He told me that this year he had decided to work with the schools in Dallas County (he is from Buffalo, Missouri), to organize a food drive contest. He would take the class that collected the most food to a Springfield Cardinals baseball game. When all was said and done, he decided that the kids all did such a great job, that they all deserved to go. So, he took them all. He was there with 784 kids. Now that is a brave man. My new hero.


And that same day, the Cards got a big win that put them astride the .500 mark for the first time this season, just one piece of a week-long ride that pulled them into first place in the Texas League North Division.


Friday, May 2


Last Friday, the Springfield Cardinals pulled back into first place by a full game in the Texas League North Division by beating the Northwest Arkansas Naturals, 7-3 at home. The Naturals held on to second place.


Things moved slowly until the third inning when Springfield jumped to a 1-0 lead as Matt Pagnozzi reached base on an error and later scored on an RBI ground-out from Shane Robinson. The run was considered unearned.


Springfield's starting pitcher, Jaime Garcia, pitched well, giving up only one run on five hits over six innings. The sixth inning saw the Naturals tie the score when Geraldo Valentin scored from first on a Juan Richardson double. In the bottom of the inning, with two outs, Luke Gorsett got a RBI single to drive in Allen Craig to make it 2-1.


Bob Zimmermann took over in the seventh, but walked the first batter he faced, Ovandy Suero, who later scored on a Jose Duarte double, tying the game at 2-2. The tie was broken in the bottom of the inning when Pagnozzi hit his second home run in two days to give the Çards a 3-2  lead. The Cards held that lead through the eighth inning, adding five more runs to the margin. Allen Craig hit a three-run homer and Luke Gorsett blasted a solo homer in the eighth.


Northwest Arkansas seemed to feel like they had to make it interesting, as in the ninth, trailing 7-2, the first three batters reached base against reliever Zack Zuercher. Zuercher left the game and Luke Gregerson entered to strike out Jose Duarte for the first out, and then got Angel Sanchez to ground out for the second out, scoring Marc Maddox to make it a 7-3 game. Then with two on, and two out, Geraldo Valentin at the plate, and former Springfield Cardinal Juan Richardson, representing the tying run, in the on-deck circle, Gregerson struck out Valentin looking to end the game and give the Cards the 7-3 victory.


The game saw Jose Martinez extend his hitting streak to 10 straight while Jon Jay (12) and Shane Robinson (eight) saw theirs come to an end.


Saturday, May 3


Saturday's game was not a pretty site as the Arkansas Travelers came to town and forced Springfield into five double-plays, had 16 hits including a season high four home runs and beat the Cards 10-4 at Hammons Field. Adam Morrissey hit two home runs for Arkansas while Ben Johnson and Tim Duff went deep for the other two.


Cards' starter Clayton Mortensen (1-2) had not given up a run at Hammons in his two previous starts but made up for it when Arkansas rocked him for six runs in 4 1/3 innings. Arkansas struck early as Jordan Czarniecki and Nate Sutton got RBI singles, as the Travs took a 2-0 lead.


Springfield cut the lead in half on an unearned run in the second, but Johnson hit his homer the next inning to raise the score to 4-1. The Cards did manage to cut the deficit to 4-3 on a two-RBI double from Mark Shorey.


The fifth inning saw Morrissey hit his first home run, a two-run blast to right field, which made the score 6-3 and chased Mortensen from the mound. Fernando Salas came in relief, but did not fair much better against Morrissey, as he delivered a solo home run in the seventh to give Arkansas a 7-3 lead.


In the eighth, Josh Dew allowed a pair of runs to give the Travs a 9-3 lead. Springfield would add their final tally in the bottom of the inning as Mark Shorey plated Jose Martinez on an infield single to make it 9-4.


Zack Zuercher served up a solo home run in the ninth, to give Arkansas their 10-4 final score. The five double-plays turned by Arkansas were the most in franchise history.


Sunday, May 4


Sunday was more like it, although the first three innings made it hard to keep down a hot dog and a favorite beverage. The game started out with right-hander Tyler Herron, just called up from Palm Beach, starting in place of P.J. Walters, who was promoted to the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds during Saturday's game.


Herron gave up a solo home run in the first to Hainley Statia and a two-run double to Ben Johnson in the third to give Arkansas an early 3-0 lead. In the third, the Cards rallied to tie the game 3-3 as A. J. Van Slyke, son of Andy, who reached on a bunt, scored from third on a wild pitch, while Brandon Yarbrough and Jose Martinez both got RBI singles.


In the fifth Allen Craig hit a two-out ground-rule double to drive in Yarbrough to break the tie and put the Cards in the lead for good. In the same inning, Luke Gorsett hit a two-run single to center to give Springfield a 6-3 lead.


In the sixth, Tyler Greene homered (his fourth of the year) and Jon Jay drove home a run as Springfield took a commanding 8-3 lead that would hold up to give the Cards the win and put them back in first place in the Texas League North Division.


The bulllpen did an astounding job Sunday holding off the Travs in the final 5-1/3 innings. Bob Zimmermann, Nick Webber and Marco Gonzalez, combined to allow only two hits in their five-plus innings. Herron got a no decision as he gave up three runs on five hits.


Monday, May 5


The pitching staff did it again on Monday night as Springfield beat Arkansas, 4-1.  Cory Rauschenberger (1-2) earned his first win of the season, and Luke Gregerson, who pitched a scoreless ninth, collected his fifth save in as many attempts. Josh Dew and Fernando Salas would both do their part in the bullpen's four scoreless innings. Dew got into a bases-loaded one-out jam in the seventh, but Salas came in and fanned Coby Smith then got Hainley Statia to ground out to end the inning. Salas worked a perfect eighth inning before Gregerson took over in the ninth. Gregerson did allow two men to reach base, but pitched a scoreless ninth to earn the save.


Arkansas took an early lead when Nate Sutton's two-out double scored Cliff Remole in the second to give Arkansas a 1-0 advantage. Springfield equaled the lead in the fourth when Jose Martinez brought Allen Craig home with a sacrifice fly, tying the game at 1-1.


Mark Shorey scored in the fifth on a Shane Robinson RBI double to give the Cardinals a 2-1 lead. Jon Jay followed with an RBI ground-out which scored Tyler Greene from third, giving Springfield a 3-1 lead. In the sixth, with one out, Brandon Yarbrough tripled, then scored on an RBI single by Luke Gorsett, to give the Cards their final tally of 4-1, keeping them in a tie for first place with the Northwest Arkansas Naturals.


Tuesday, May 6


The win on Tuesday was the third straight for Springfield. They still remained in a tie for first place, as Northwest Arkansas beat Tulsa earlier in the day. The two top teams were slated to play four games in Springdale, Arkansas beginning on Wednesday.


The Cardinals struck early against Arkansas as they jumped on starter Fernando Rodriquez with three runs in the first inning. Shane Robinson singled to lead off the game, then stole second and scored on a Jon Jay RBI single. Brandon Yarbrough hit a two-run single to put Springfield on top 3-0.


The Travelers got two in the second, but Springfield came back in the bottom on the inning to erase those two runs with two of their own. Jay and Allen Craig each had RBI to put the Cards in front, 5-2.


In the fourth, Craig and Jay both drove in runs to make it 7-2 Springfield. Robinson, Jay and Craig, batting in the top of the order, combined for eight hits, five RBI and five runs scored.


The Travs rallied back in the fifth as they chased starter Adam Daniels and scored three times to make it a 7-5 game. In the seventh, Arkansas scored against reliever Zack Zuercher to make it 7-6. Zuercher walked the lead-off man in the eighth, but Marco Gonzalez retired the final two batters and Arkansas wound up leaving the tying run in scoring position. Luke Gregerson pitched a perfect ninth, as induced Corey Smith to pop up to end the game.


St. Louis native Bob Zimmermann collected his third win of the homestand working 1 2/3 innings of scoreless relief. Daniels got a no decision, allowing five runs on six hits over 4 1/3 innings.


Wednesday, May 7


When it comes right down to it-- Mother Nature always rules. The forecast before Wednesday nights game with Northwest Arkansas at Arvest Stadium in Springdale called for rain, rain, and more rain, However the rain held off long enough to start the game, but not long enough to finish it, as Springfield beat the Naturals 8-1 in a rain-shortened game.


In the seventh inning, Springfield was leading 8-1 after Allen Craig hit a two-run homer. Josh Dew came out of the bullpen to start the eighth, but never even got to toss a warm-up pitch. The game was delayed for a short time, but nature did in the Naturals and Springfield came away with a win, their fifth in a row.


Springfield starting pitcher Jess Todd gave a strong performance. Todd, the former Arkansas Razorback, got into some trouble with his control, but still managed to pitch 3 1/3 innings of scoreless ball. He struck out six batters, allowing only three walks and two hits.  Nick Webber worked the final 2 2/3 innings, allowing just one unearned run on two hits. It was his third win of the year.


In the third inning, Springfield took a 1-0 lead when Shane Robinson singled against Naturals' starter Rowdy Hardy to plate A.J. Van Slyke, son of Andy. It was the third straight three-hit game for Robinson.


The Cards broke the game open in the fourth inning by scoring five times. Leading off the inning, Craig got his first of two homers on the night to put Springfield ahead, 2-1. Mark Hamilton doubled and scored on Tyler Greene's double for a 3-0 lead. Brandon Yarbrough stroked an RBI single to make it 4-0. Casey Rowlett had an RBI triple, then scored on a Van Slyke RBI groundout, making it 6-0.


The Naturals managed to get on the board with an unearned run in the sixth. With the score 8-1, the rain came and the players went to the locker room to shower. The Cardinals were then one game over .500 (17-16) and would play Northwest Arkansas three more games before moving on to Little Rock to play the Travelers four games before returning to Hammons Field on May 16.


Thursday, May 8


So, on Friday, May 9, 2008, the Springfield Cardinals are once again in a tie for first place in the Division with Northwest Arkansas, after losing to the Nats, 6-2 at Arvest Park in Springdale, Arkansas.


The Naturals ended the Cards' winning streak at four games and also set them back to .500. Cards starter Clayton Mortensen (1-3) gave up five runs, four of them earned, in just 3 2/3 innings. In the first inning, Kila Kaaihue hit a two-run homer to center field to give the Naturals an 2-0 lead. Mortensen was removed from the mound in the fourth after Northwest Arkansas scored three more runs. Mario Lisson hit a grounder to third basemen Allen Craig, who made the play, but his throw to first was off the mark and Juan Richardson, who led off with a double and moved to third on Kaaihue's single, scored. Ed Lucas and Brian McFall turned in a couple of RBI singles, making it 5-0.


In the sixth inning, Springfield's Tyler Greene and Shane Robinson opened with back-to-back doubles. Robinson drove in Greene and Robinson scored on a sacrifice fly by Luke Gorsett, making it 5-2. In the bottom of the inning, Brian McFall scored Lisson to make it 6-2. The score would hold up until the end of the game.


The win went to Naturals' Dusty Hughes, who started, allowing two runs on five hits in five-plus innings. Robinson finished the game 2-for-3, snapping his string of three straight three-hit games. He continues to lead the Texas League in batting with an average of .429.


The Cards will play two more in Springdale, and then take on the Arkansas Travelers in Little Rock for four games.



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