The Springfield Cardinals Report: 06/20/08

The Cardinals' Double-A club lost a heart-breaker to fall just short in the first-half divisional race and now begin a new season within a season.

There is nothing quite like the excitement of winning a championship - the fans cheering, the players ecstatic on the field, fireworks going off, the manager and owner beaming from ear to ear. Yes, the Springfield Cardinals were on a tear, roaring into first place and setting themselves up for a big game in Arkansas that would clinch the title.


After last Friday's (June 13) game was rained out, Springfield played a double-header on Saturday against the Northwest Arkansas Naturals, sweeping the double-header, a franchise first, beating the Naturals 4-0 in the first game and 5-3 in the second. Game one starter Mark Mulder, making his third rehab start of the year for Springfield, pitched well over five scoreless innings, allowing five hits while throwing 73 pitches. Mulder, who earned his third win in a Springfield uniform this year, struck out three without allowing a walk. 


Game two saw Matt Clement notch his first win as a Springfield Cardinal, as he allowed three runs on five hits over five innings in his second rehab start. Clement didn't allow a hit over the first three innings, but ran into some fourth-inning trouble.  Kila Kaaihue and Juan Richardson had back-to-back RBI singles, making it 5-2.  With the bases loaded and no outs, Clement got Marc Maddox to ground into a double-play, bringing home a run to make it 5-3.  After hitting Ovandy Suero to put the tying run aboard, Clement got out of the inning by getting Adam Donachie to fly to center. Clement (1-0) picked up the win, allowing a total of three runs on five hits over five innings.  He struck out three and hit two batters, throwing 74 pitches. 


After losing on Sunday to the Naturals 3-1. the Cards moved on to North Little Rock to play the Arkansas Travelers in a four-game series, which, as it turned out, would determine the winner of the first half of the season. The Cards would win three of the four games--just not the one that mattered the most. They took Monday's game by a whopping score of 10-5, Wednesday's game by an unbelievable score of 15-4, and won Thursday's game, 9-8, in 11 innings.


All the Cardinals had to do was win the one game on Tuesday night to take the first half championship. But, unfortunately, all they had to do was lose that game to lose the division title too.


It was going so good in the beginning. The Cards were leading 3-0 in the third after Springfield took advantage of the many fielding errors made by the Travs. In the second, Arkansas starter Fernando Rodriquez issued a lead off walk to Tyler Greene, who later scored on a Jose Martinez ground-ball, to put the Cards up 1-0. Allen Craig then hit an RBI single to score Shane Robinson, giving Springfield a 2-0 lead. Rodriquez was pulled and replaced by Daniel Davidson, who allowed Craig to score on a wild pitch, putting the Cards up 3-0.


In the fourth, Craig again put the hurt to Davidson, hitting a double off the top of the center field wall to bring in Jon Jay to score, giving the Cards a 4-0 lead. It seemed like everything was going Springfield's way. Their starting pitcher, Jess Todd, pitched well, giving seven innings of solid work. The offense looked superb, scoring the first four runs of the game. The defense was errorless. You could smell victory in the air. But, that was before the ninth inning.


The Travs began to pick away at the Cardinal lead in the fifth as Adam Czarniecki took Todd's first pitch of the inning over the fence in left-center field to make it 4-1, Springfield. Then, in the sixth, Corey Smith scored Ben Johnson on a two-out single to make it a 4-2 game. That was when the game went into the toilet. Someone, somewhere, made a decision to not have Todd return to the mound in the eighth and sent out Fernando Salas to pitch to lead-off batter Nate Sutton, who immediately pounded one for a home run to close the gap to 4-3.


Then in the ninth inning, with Salas still on the mound, a guy who had done it all year for the Cards, the Travs down to their last out, Michael Collins took Salas for one into the Arkansas bullpen to tie the game at 4-4 and send it into extra innings.


Then the sun seemed to come out and shine through the night right on the Cards as Matt Pagnozzi got the ball rolling by earning a walk. Back-to-back doubles by Shane Robinson and Jon Jay would chase Pagnozzi across the plate with Robinson right on his heels, to make it a 6-4 lead for Springfield.


For the Travs, down to their final out again in the 11th, Adam Greenberg singled over right-fielder Casey Rowlett's head, driving in the winning run, capping a three run inning.   

Luke Gregerson (3-4) couldn't hold onto the lead, as the first four Arkansas hitters reached via singles.  Corey Smith' drove home Brian Stavisky to make it 6-5.  Jordan Czarniecki followed with an RBI single to bring home Ben Johnson, tying the game at 6-6.  Michael Collins followed with a sacrifice bunt, moving the runners up to second and third. 

Gregerson was removed in favor of left-handed reliever Justin Fiske, who entered and promptly issued a walk to Brian Walker to load the bases.  With the bases loaded and just one out, Greenberg singled over the drawn-in Cardinal outfield for the game-winner, scoring pinch-runner Anderson Rosario. 

The sight that greeted the Springfield Cardinals on Tuesday night, along with the Arkansas Travelers' fans, owner and manager, was fireworks showering over Dickey-Stephens Park, as the the Travs won the first-half crown of the North Division of the Texas League. Funny how things look different from the opposite dugout.


And so the game goes on, and the Cards marched into the second half beating this same team on Wednesday night by a score of 14-5. Go figure.

The Springfield Cardinals are now 2-0 in the second season and move on to play the Tulsa Drillers.


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