Tag Archive | "Hitting Streak"

David Freese could be right-handed version of Matt Adams for St. Louis Cardinals

The moments of brilliance for St. Louis Cardinals third baseman David Freese come in flashes.

MLB: NLCS-San Francisco Giants at St. Louis Cardinals

He hit one of the most memorable home runs in franchise history in the 11th inning of Game 6 of the 2011 World Series against the Texas Rangers and just Monday he delivered a vital pinch-hit, two-run double to extend the Cardinals lead to 8-5 in the eighth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers.

But those moments are not enough for a player who the Cardinals have tried to make a cornerstone at the third base position. They are more fitting of a pinch hitter, such as first baseman Matt Adams, who has been a left-handed, pinch-hitting weapon for the 2013 Cardinals.

Sure, Freese is a good guy, he is considered a good teammate and he combined for a .295 batting average in 2011 and 2012, topping out with 20 home runs and 79 runs batted in during the 2012 season, but he has since become an average player, at best.

He started the 2013 season in a horrible rut. He bottomed out with a .163 batting average April 29 and a 20-game hitting streak between May 17 and June 11 raised his average to .284, but he is now back down to .265 with just six home runs and 46 RBIs.

Those aren’t horrible numbers and were good enough when the Cardinals did not have a replacement infielder outside of the .255-hitting Daniel Descalso, who also has a paltry .310 on-base percentage.

However, Freese also has a -0.4 Wins Above Replacement value, meaning he has played slightly worse than would be expected from a typical third baseman, and the Cardinals now have a replacement, although he comes in the form of a second baseman.

The team called up second baseman Kolten Wong from Triple-A Memphis last week, and manager Mike Matheny has started him in three of his first four games.

With Wong getting regular playing time at second, regular second baseman Matt Carpenter has had to move elsewhere. At first, Carpenter got a needed day off, but Matheny has continued to put Wong in the starting lineup so Carpenter has moved to his original position at third base and Freese has moved to the bench.

Freese isn’t buried on the bench, however. Matheny has given other regular starters extended time off throughout the season. He sat center fielder Jon Jay for several consecutive days in April and early May when he was struggling to fix his swing, and shortstop Pete Kozma didn’t play for several days in a row in late July and August when he went in an extended slump at the plate.

But a long-term view of the Cardinals infield suggests Freese could be the odd man out if Wong takes the starting job as second baseman and Carpenter becomes the everyday third baseman.

Carpenter plays solid defense and occasionally replaced Freese late in games in 2012 because Matheny wanted a stronger defensive player at that position in the late innings. Plus, Carpenter has hit .312 with 61 RBIs and has a WAR value of 5.1.

More than anything, the Cardinals figure to get more consistent production with Wong and Carpenter in the lineup than Freese, who has always been a streaky hitter.

Yes, he hit .390 in the 2011 postseason and was the Most Valuable Player in the National League Championship Series and World Series that year, but his batting average had also dropped from .326 to .297 in the six weeks that led up to the playoffs.

Instead of the everyday third baseman, Freese could take on the role Adams has for the Cardinals throughout the season. Adams has played in the field in just 46 of the 76 games he has played in during the 2013 season, but he has hit .277 with nine home runs and 34 RBIs while primarily coming off the bench.

Freese has some power and could give the Cardinals a reliable right-handed pinch hitter, which has been a lacking aspect of the team for much of the season.

Freese is a good player, but his value to the Cardinals might be higher in the late innings off the bench than throughout an entire game at third base.

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Playoff Preview: First-Round In-State Showdown

Playoff Preview: First-Round In-State Showdown
Naturals, Travs meet in postseason for first time since 2008

SPRINGDALE, AR – After more than five months and a rain-shortened 137-game schedule, the Northwest Arkansas Naturals and Arkansas Travelers prepare to open the Texas League Division Series on Wednesday night at Dickey-Stephens Park in North Little Rock. The teams will meet in the postseason for the second time – and first in three years – after a hotly-contested season series between the two teams.

Dickey Stephens Park

For the first time in their four-year existence, the Naturals lost the season series to their in-state foe, as the Travelers emerged with a 15-14 record in the clubs’ matchups. But after winning just five of 13 first-half meetings, the Naturals went 9-7 against the Travelers in the second half, including a mid-July sweep in North Little Rock and a 3-1 mark in the crucial final home series at Arvest Ballpark. Having won five of their last six games to clinch their fourth consecutive second-half division title, the Naturals enter the postseason in much the same way that they did in 2008.

In that year, Naturals ripped off an eight-game winning streak in late August to hold off the Springfield Cardinals. That season, the Travelers had won the first-half title courtesy of a tiebreaker before falling off to the tune of a 26-44 record in the second half. This season, the Travelers edged the Naturals by a game in the first half and again finished the second half under .500. The Naturals hope that the parallels between the two seasons stop there, as in 2008, the Travelers blew Northwest Arkansas out of the playoffs with a clean sweep.

As is expected in minor league baseball, the two teams have nearly entirely different compositions from when they met three years ago. But one player who spans the two seasons happens to be one of the Naturals’ hottest bats. Mario Lisson ended the regular season on an eight-game hitting streak that included five doubles and a pair of home runs. That impressive finish allowed him to share the final Texas League Player of the Week award with teammate Tim Smith, who has provided pop since returning from the disabled list. Hitting the shelf with a back injury right around the All-Star Break, Smith is 15-37 (.405) with three doubles and a pair of homers since returning from the disabled list. Smith and Lisson have helped to anchor a lineup that is without a true weak spot, from Derrick Robinson’s league-leading 55 steals to Jamie Romak’s 23 home runs and Wil Myers’ solid finish (.267, eight doubles, five home runs after Aug. 1).

Meanwhile, the Travelers in the post-season will lack their offensive ignitor, Mike Trout, who was promoted to Anaheim. One of the consensus top prospects in baseball, Trout earlier today was named by Baseball America as the 2011 Minor League Player of the Year. They’ve also lost one of the top starters in the league in right-hander Garrett Richards, who is also now with the big club as well as their regular closer for the first three months of the season, Ryan Brasier, who left for Triple-A. Without those cornerstone players, the Travelers struggled offensively and sometimes even on the pitching side in the season’s second half.

The Naturals aren’t unscathed, either as they’ll be without their Pitcher of the Year. After leading the league with 161 1/3 innings pitched, Will Smith has reached his organization-prescribed limit. Still, each of the Naturals’ top three starters enter the postseason with individual momentum. Chris Dwyer pitched into the seventh inning against the Travelers on Sep. 1, allowing just a run on three hits. One day later, Jake Odorizzi held Arkansas hitless until the seventh, yielding a lone base hit in seven scoreless frames. Finally, Mario Santiago battled through six innings of one-run ball – with eight strikeouts – in the Naturals’ division-clinching game at Tulsa on Sep. 3. Supporting these starters is a bullpen led by Blaine Hardy, who has been nothing but dominant since returning to Double-A. In 19 appearances with the Naturals this season, Hardy has a 1.59 ERA and is holding opponents to a .194 batting average. In addition, the southpaw has worked multiple innings in 12 of those 19 games.

The rest of the Naturals’ pitching staff is somewhat in flux, as the club will call on a pair of left-handers who spent the entirety of the season with Advanced-A Wilmington. Justin Marks and Ryan Dennick joined the team in advance of Wednesday’s roster deadline and will provide a pair of fresh arms, replacing Elisaul Pimentel and Kevin Chapman, each of whom left their last outing due to injury. Marks spent most of the year in Wilmington’s rotation, and the 23-year-old is a candidate to start either Game 4 or Game 5. Dennick struck out 51 batters in 53 2/3 innings out of the Blue Rock bullpen.

To this point, the Naturals only announced a starting pitcher for the first three games of the series. Dwyer (8-10, 5.60) takes the mound in Wednesday’s series opener against Texas League Pitcher of the Year Matt Shoemaker (12-5, 2.48). Thursday’s second game features Odorizzi (5-3, 4.72) against Chris Scholl (4-3, 2.32).

The series moves to Arvest Ballpark on Friday, as Santiago (5-1, 2.23) will match up against Traveler right-hander Orangel Arenas (9-10, 4.48). Friday’s game begins at 7:00 p.m. Should they become necessary, Game 4 is slated for 1:00 p.m. Saturday with a decisive fifth game on tap for Sunday at 6:00 p.m.

The Northwest Arkansas Naturals are the Double-A Texas League affiliate of the Kansas City Royals and play at state-of-the-art Arvest Ballpark, located in Springdale. Visit our website, nwanaturals.com, for information on season tickets and ticket plans.

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Naturals Sweep Weekly Awards

Naturals sweep weekly awards
Lisson, Smith, Odorizzi honored as team wins division title

Texas League President Tom Kayser announced Monday that three Naturals combined to earn the Texas League’s weekly individual awards for the period of August 29-September 4, as Mario Lisson and Tim Smith shared Player of the Week honors and Jake Odorizzi was named Pitcher of the Week.

Mario Lisson

Lisson’ led the Naturals’ playoff-clinching surge last week, going 11-22 (.500) at the plate with five doubles and two home runs, including a game-tying blast in the seventh inning of the team’s clinching game on Sep. 3. Those two home runs also made Lisson the Naturals’ all-time leader in that category (31). Lisson ended the regular season on an eight-game hitting streak and overall, the 27-year-old native of Caracas, Ven. hit .293 with a .372 on-base percentage, 21 doubles, 15 home runs and 45 RBI.

Smith also finished the regular season with an eight-game hitting streak, as he was 14-30 (.467) with three doubles, two home runs and 10 RBI in the final week. A 25-year-old from Toronto, Ont., Smith played in 69 games for the Naturals in 2011, hitting .311 with 13 doubles, 10 home runs and 49 RBI.

Taking the mound against the Arkansas Travelers on Sep. 2, Odorizzi turned in his best pitching performance at the Double-A level. He held the Travelers hitless until the seventh, allowing just one hit over seven scoreless innings while striking out six and walking two. A 21-year-old resident of Highland, Ill., Odorizzi has made 12 starts for the Naturals since a mid-season promotion from Advanced-A Wilmington, going 5-3 with a 4.72 ERA. In 68 2/3 innings pitched, the right-hander recorded 54 strikeouts against 22 walks, holding the Texas League to a .254 batting average.

These three players become the fifth, sixth, and seventh Naturals to earn a weekly Texas League honor in 2011. Buddy Baumann was named as Pitcher of the Week for May 23rd-29th, the team swept the awards given for the week of May 9th-15th, as Nick Van Stratten earned Player of the Week and Will Smith was named Pitcher of the Week, and Salvador Perez was named Player of the Week for July 18-24.

The Naturals will look for those contributions to continue as they have named Odorizzi their game one starter for Wednesday night’s playoff opener in North Little Rock.

The Northwest Arkansas Naturals are the Double-A Texas League affiliate of the Kansas City Royals and play at state-of-the-art Arvest Ballpark, located in Springdale. Visit our website, nwanaturals.com, for information on season tickets and ticket plans.

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Coming Up Just Short

After their toughest stretch of the season (against the Yankees and Red Sox), the Royals hit the road for an easier slate of games (Blue Jays, Indians, Tigers). The road trip went okay, as they finished 5-5, but it easily could have went excellent as every loss was by one run.

Moose And Hos

They came back to Kansas City last weekend for a quick three-game series against the Indians and the first game of the series produced the same result: a one-run loss.

Going 5-6 in 11 straight games seems like something the Royals have been doing for the majority of the year. However, having all six losses come down to one run is extremely tough to take for the team and the fans.

Of the Royals’ 83 losses so far this year, 31 of them have been by one run.

Yep… 31.

They have grown accustomed to building an early lead and losing it, or counting on their offense to make a comeback in the last few innings.

As disheartening as these losses can be, there is light to be shed on the situation.

First off, the Royals’ Runs Scored(RS)-Runs Allowed(RA) Differential is sitting at -53 after 142 games. This isn’t a great number by any means, but it is definitely surprising considering their record is 59-83.

Last year, they were at a -172 RS-RA Differential after 142 games, with a 58-84 record.

This means two things: 1) The 2011 Royals are one game better in the standings than the 2010 Royals and 2) The 2011 Royals are much, much more competitive than the 2010 Royals.

With the plethora of rookies on the current roster, there is no doubt in my mind that the improvement is going to continue into 2012.

This year, the Royals have been experiencing a ton of growing pains. Whether it’s the rookies in the bullpen blowing leads or the rookie hitters going through 0-20 slumps, 2011 has been more of a learning episode than anything.

Next year, look for the bullpen to hold onto more of the one or two run leads. Look for Mike Moustakas to go on a 15-game hitting streak filled with doubles and home runs rather than singles through the hole at 1st and 2nd. Look for Johnny Giavotella to be kept in the game during the 9th inning because he has improved his defense.

One-run losses are very frustrating when they are happening over and over. Nobody likes to lose, especially in that type of fashion.

Improvement has to start somewhere and being closer and more competitive in individual games is a great start.

As hard as these losses are to swallow this year, just know that they are actually stepping stones into much greater success in 2012.

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Royals Farm Report: September 2nd

Royals Farm Report: August 25th
Naturals, Storm Chasers, Cougars solidify playoff chances

Triple-A

Omaha

The Omaha Storm Chasers (Pacific Coast League) had a night to remember on Wednesday, as their win over Round Rock combined with Memphis’ loss allowed the Storm Chasers to clinch the American Northern Division title. This marks the first time since 1999 that the Royals’ Triple-A affiliate has made the postseason.

Who’s Hot

As he has all season, Luis Mendoza delivered for Omaha this week. He went six innings in each of his two starts since last week’s report, allowing a total of three runs. The 2011 PCL Pitcher of the Year has now won his last four starts, lowering his league-leading ERA to 2.18 in the process. Outfielder Lorenzo Cain had a big week at the plate. Though his 13-game hitting streak was snapped on Tuesday, Cain responded with a 5-for-5 performance in Wednesday’s crucial contest.

Who’s Not

Former Natural Cody Clark has slumped in recent days, as the catcher is just 1-for-23 in his last six games. Clark has not driven in a run since Aug. 18 and did not homer at all in the last month. Fellow backstop Manny Pina has just three hits in five games since rejoining Omaha following a stint in the big leagues.

Double-A

NWArk

Seven days ago, the Northwest Arkansas Naturals (Texas League) had a commanding six-game lead in the circuit’s North Division. At the time, the club’s magic number stood at seven. Since then, however, the Naturals have lost six of their last seven games and have fallen into a first-place tie with the red-hot Tulsa Drillers, winners of nine straight. The division’s second playoff spot will be decided from Sep. 3-5, when the teams meet in Tulsa on the final three days of the regular season.

Who’s Hot

The Naturals’ recent struggles are no fault of Tim Smith and Ben Theriot, as the two left-hand batters have hit well in recent days. Smith is 6-for-10 with a homer in his last three games, while Theriot is 8-for-11 in his last four. Third baseman Mario Lisson hit his 30th home run as a Natural on Wednesday, establishing a new franchise record. On the mound, southpaw Will Smith showed why he was selected as the Naturals’ Pitcher of the Year in his last start, allowing just an unearned run while racking up 10 strikeouts in a game for the first time this season.

Who’s Not

Promoted from Wilmington early this week, Elisaul Pimentel made his Double-A debut on Wednesday and got a rude welcome to the level. Pimentel allowed five runs in three innings, including back-to-back homers in a four-run first inning. Reliever Edgar Garcia allowed four home runs in the course of one outing on Monday, including two in the decisive tenth inning as the Drillers finished a sweep of the Naturals.

Class-A Advanced

BlueRocks

The Wilmington Blue Rocks (Carolina League) have been eliminated from playoff contention but did not go away quietly, posting a 4-3 record over the last seven days. The Blue Rocks have four more games in their 2011 campaign, which concludes at home on Labor Day against the Frederick Keys.

Who’s Hot

Allen Caldwell has pitched well since joining the Wilmington rotation about a week ago. In his most recent start, Caldwell allowed just one hit in 5 2/3 scoreless frames, striking out six in a win over Myrtle Beach. AZL Royals Pitcher of the Year Andrew Stueve made the jump to Wilmington last week and has not allowed a run through three innings with the Blue Rocks. Though he is hitless in his last two games, Yem Prades racked up a pair of multi-hit games within the last week and leads the team with a .297 batting average.

Who’s Not

In what has been another up-and-down season for the right-hander Tim Melville had a rough start on Tuesday, as he was tagged for four runs on six hits in just 4 2/3 against the Pelicans. Melville also issued five walks in the contest. Offensively, outfielder Whit Merrifield went just 3-for-20 in six games since last week’s report.

Class-A

KCC

Like Triple-A Omaha, the Kane County Cougars (Midwest League) wrapped up a playoff spot on Wednesday, in their case with a win over the Cedar Rapids Kernels. Former Natural and Northwest Arkansas resident Vance Wilson has a chance to get his club a Midwest League title in his first year as a minor-league manager.

Who’s Hot

Though he endured an 0-for-12 stretch earlier in the week, former Arkansas Razorback Brett Eibner helped Kane County secure their postseason future with a pair of multi-hit games in the last two days. Between Tuesday and Wednesday, Eibner went 4-for-8 with a double, a triple and three walks. On the mound, right-handerJason Adam has excelled of late, allowing just one run over five innings in each of his last two starts.

Who’s Not

Though his league-leading ERA remains below 2.00, Greg Billo has now been roughed up in three consecutive starts. On Aug. 27 against Peoria, Billo yielded four runs on a season-high 11 hits. The right-hander is expected to have one more start to right the ship before postseason play begins. 18-year-old Cheslor Cuthbertis experiencing the grind of a full professional season for the first time, and the lengthy schedule may be taking its toll. Cuthbert hit just .124 with four extra-base hits in the month of August, but his season stat line still shows a player who is holding his own as one of the youngest bats in the league.

Short Season/Rookie

Idaho

The Idaho Falls Chukars (Pioneer League) are the team in the organization that will play the deepest into September during the regular season. While all the full-season teams will wrap up by Labor Day, the Chukars’ 2011 campaign does not conclude until Sep. 8. Still technically alive for postseason play, the Chukars must make up a six-game deficit in a little over a week.

Who’s Hot

Right-hander Edwin Carl put the finishing touches on a ridiculous Pioneer League campaign with three strikeouts in two innings on Aug. 26 before a promotion to Kane County. Carl departs the Chukars with an absurd total of 71 strikeouts – against three walks – in 33 innings out of the Idaho Falls ‘pen. Named Idaho Falls Player of the Year, Runey Davis notched a hit in all but one of his games last week to keep his batting average level at .331 with an impressive .437 on-base percentage. Challenged by a promotion to this level, 2011 draftee Cameron Gallagher is 2-for-7 with a homer early into his stint with the Chukars.

Who’s Not

Reliever Jose Sanchez was tagged for a pair of losses in his last two appearances, allowing a total of nine earned runs in five innings of work. Even though nine of the runs he has allowed have been unearned, Sanchez still has a bloated 9.19 ERA. At the plate, catcher Tyler Smith has one hit in his last nine at bats and is hitting just .188 with a lone double in his time in the Pioneer League.

Burlington

One of two affiliates to conclude their respective seasons this week are the Burlington Royals (Appalachian League), who dropped their final three contests to finish the year at 24-44, tied with the Bristol White Sox for the worst record in their league.

Who’s Hot

Selected as Burlington’s Player of the Year, outfielder Jorge Bonifacio finished the season with hits in nine of his last 10 games. Bonifacio led the club with 20 doubles and finished tied for second with seven home runs. On the mound, Nick Graffeo ended his run with the B-Royals with a win over Greeneville in his final start. Posting a 2.04 ERA while splitting time between the ‘pen and the rotation, Graffeo was deservedly honored as the club’s Pitcher of the Year.

Who’s Not

Though he homered in the season finale, Murray Watts finished the season with just two hits in his final eight games. After struggling at Kane County earlier in the year, Watts hit just .222 with Burlington and will work through the offseason to realize the power potential residing in his 6’7” frame. Reliever Andrea Pizziconiended the season by allowing six runs between his last two appearances, taking the loss against Johnson City on Aug. 28.

AZL

The AZL Royals (Arizona League) also concluded their season this past week, finishing the complex league season in last place at 22-34. Still, the true purpose of the circuit should not be forgotten, as the past two and a half months have given recent draftees and international signees valuable reps in their first taste of professional baseball.

Who’s Hot

Terrance Gore put the finishing touches on a solid run with the AZL Royals with a three-hit game on Aug. 28 against the Padres’ affiliate. In 35 games in Arizona, Gore hit .340 with a .447 on-base percentage and was not caught in 17 stolen base attempts. D’Andre Toney matched Gore with a .340 average and finished the season even better. Toney had three hits in each of the last two games and totaled two triples, a homer and six RBI in those contests.

Who’s Not

Collectively, the club’s pitching staff had trouble finding consistent success, thanks in part to the notably hitter-friendly weather down in Arizona. The team’s pitchers combined for a 6.11 ERA. Cesar Ogando finished the season by allowing three runs in four innings, wrapping his stint in Arizona with a 10.52 ERA. With that said, at just 19 years old, Ogando’s best days of baseball are undoubtedly still in front of him.

Former Naturals outside the Kansas City organization

Last week brought one of the proudest moments in the baseball career of Juan Abreu, who made his Major League debut with the Astros on 8/29. Abreu became the 23rd player to reach the big leagues after playing for the Naturals. Though he allowed a run in two-thirds of an inning, Abreu fanned a pair and will have a chance to establish himself in the season’s final month.

In departing for Houston, Abreu left the Pacific Coast League, the circuit in which Blake Johnson is currently plying his trade. Johnson currently has a 6.17 ERA for the Colorado Springs Sky Sox, allowing a run in each of his last four appearances. Over in the International League, Jordan Parraz has continued his solid season for the Yankees’ Triple-A club. Parraz has hit safely in four of his last five games and carries a solid .361 on-base percentage with Scranton/Wilkes Barre. In the same league as Parraz is Ben Swaggerty, who so far has an 8.02 ERA in 14 games with Gwinnett.

At the Double-A level, Jeff Howell is hitting at a .370 clip with five extra-base hits through his first seven games with the Portland Sea Dogs, Boston’s Eastern League club. He now plays in the same league as Chris McConnell, who is now hitting just .213 for Harrisburg.

Down in the Southern League, Ernesto Mejia continues to lead the group of former Naturals now playing for the Mississippi Braves. Mejia knocked in three runs within the last week, giving him 89 RBI to go along with his 35 doubles and 22 homers. Among Mejia’s teammates with the M-Braves are Ed Lucas (.263 AVG, .335 OBP) and Rowdy Hardy (3.14 ERA).

At the Advanced-A level, Harold Mozingo has a solid 3.26 ERA for the Dunedin Blue Jays. Finally, a pair of former Naturals remains among the walking wounded, asDan Cortes (Seattle Mariners) and Jose Duarte (Jupiter Hammerheads) both reside on the disabled list.

The Northwest Arkansas Naturals are the Double-A Texas League affiliate of the Kansas City Royals and play at state-of-the-art Arvest Ballpark, located in Springdale. Visit our website, nwanaturals.com, for information on season tickets and ticket plans.

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Royals Farm Report: August 11

The fine folks at the Northwest Arkansas Naturals provide us with a brief rundown of the Royals farm system every week. The details are listed below:

Omaha

Triple-A

The Omaha Storm Chasers (Pacific Coast League) stumbled a bit over the last week, posting a 3-4 record that has seen the club alternate wins and losses over the past six days. With that said, the 65-53 Storm Chasers still hold a five-game lead in the PCL’s American Northern Division, putting them in good shape for postseason play.

Who’s Hot

Catcher Salvador Perez bashed his way through the Pacific Coast League in less than two weeks. The 21-year-old hit safely in his final seven games with Omaha before earning a promotion to Kansas City after Tuesday night’s action. Perez cranked five doubles and a home run in 12 games in the Pacific Coast League. Though he has yet to earn a look from the big club, David Lough continues to put together a strong season, as he owns a seven-game hitting streak at the time of this week’s report. Finally, after struggling as a starter in Double-A, Zach Miner has delivered out of the bullpen for Omaha, tossing 10 2/3 scoreless innings over his last four appearances. Miner now has a 1.46 ERA in five games with the Storm Chasers.

Who’s Not

Infielder Lance Zawadzki was just 2-for-16 at the plate over the last week, dropping his season batting average to .242. Though he has hit for power at times this season, Zawadzki has just two extra-base hits in his last 11 games. Though he ended up with a win on Wednesday, Mike Montgomery allowed five runs on eight hits in six innings of work, raising his ERA to 5.31.

NWArkansas

Double-A

With a 3-3 record over the last week, the Northwest Arkansas Naturals (Texas League) were unable to pad their lead in the North Division second-half standings. But thanks to the parity within the division, the Naturals didn’t lose much ground, either. With 25 games remaining, the Naturals are two games up on each of the other three teams in the North, setting up what could be a dramatic finish over the season’s final month.

Who’s Hot

Over the last three weeks, left-hander Chris Dwyer has looked like a completely different pitcher than the one who struggled to a 2-9 record to begin the year. On Aug. 5, Dwyer became the third Natural – and first since 2008 – to strike out 10 batters in one game as he earned his fourth straight win. In those four starts, Dwyer has allowed just six runs in 27 innings while fanning 29. Three days later, Will Smith fired eight scoreless innings against the Arkansas Travelers, striking out six against one walk. Though the Naturals eventually lost that game in extra innings, it was Smith’s sixth quality start in his last eight games.

Who’s Not

Unlike Dwyer and Smith, Jake Odorizzi had a rough outing against the Travelers his last time out. Odorizzi allowed a pair of two-run homers, giving up a total of six runs in 4 2/3 innings of work. The right-hander will look to snap a two-start losing streak when he takes the mound on Friday night. Outfielder Derrick Robinson is one of the most dynamic players in the league on the basepaths but has struggled to reach base in recent games. Robinson has just three hits in his last eight games as his batting average has fallen from .273 to .254.

BlueRocks

Class-A Advanced

Time may be running out for the Wilmington Blue Rocks’ playoff chances. The Carolina League club went 2-5 last week to drop to 53-61 overall and 17-28 in the second half. With the team now 10 games out of first and seven back of Potomac in a potential wild-card scenario, the Blue Rocks may need a historic run to reach the postseason in 2011.

Who’s Hot

Justin Marks turned in one of his best outings of the season on Monday in earning one of his team’s two wins last week. Making the start against Winston-Salem, Marks tossed 5 2/3 scoreless innings with eight strikeouts, allowing just three hits. Acquired from the Red Sox at the trade deadline, reliever Kendal Volz has yielded just two hits in his first two outings with the Kansas City organization. At the plate, outfielder Yem Prades carries a five-game hitting streak into the writing of this week’s report.

Who’s Not

Though he bounced back with a strong showing on Wednesday, lefty Noel Arguelles endured his roughest outing of the season on Aug. 5. In that game, Arguelles allowed six runs on seven hits in just 2 2/3 innings, raising his ERA to a high water mark of 3.36. Tim Melville also struggled in two starts last week as he did not get out of the third inning on either occasion, allowing a total of 10 runs.

KCounty

Class-A

The Kane County Cougars (Midwest League) were not able to establish any momentum in either direction last week, as the team has alternated wins and losses since Aug. 4. Now 27-18 in the second half, Kane County remains one game behind the Quad Cities River Bandits in the circuit’s Western Division. The two teams to not meet again in the regular season, so the Cougars must finish strong and hope for a little bit of help.

Who’s Hot

Though it may sound repetitive at this point, Greg Billo put together a pair of dominant outings this week. After a no-decision on Aug. 5, Billo yielded just one hit in six innings on Wednesday, earning his fourth win of the year and lowering his ERA to a microscopic 1.40. Antonio Cruz is another trade acquisition who is off to a strong start in the Royals organization. Cruz tossed five scoreless innings between two games last week and has not allowed a run in 13 1/3 frames since joining Kane County. Outfielder Brian Fletcher continues to impress, as he had a four hit game and two three-hit games last week, blasting a pair of home runs as well.

Who’s Not

Kane County catcher Juan Graterol is mired in a slump, as the 22-year-old is just 1-for-16 in his last five games. This stretch has dropped his batting average to .177 and on-base percentage to .233. Fellow catcher Kevin David had three hits last week but has now drawn a walk since Jul. 28. On the mound, Santiago Garridoyielded six runs in 8 1/3 innings over two starts last week.

Short Season/Rookie

Idaho

The Idaho Falls Chukars (Pioneer League) rallied from a four-game losing streak to win each of their last two games last week, but a 3-4 mark over the last seven days dropped them to 21-28 overall. Though the Chukars are currently four games back in the South Division’s second-half standings, there is still time for the team to turn their season around and get back into the race.

Who’s Hot

Reliever Edwin Carl continues to be one of the most consistent hurlers on the Idaho Falls staff. Carl gave up just one run in four innings last week and is now a perfect three-for-three in save opportunities this season. Starter Aaron Brooks turned a dominant outing against Casper on Tuesday, striking out 10 while walking just one in 5 2/3 scoreless innings. At the plate, Runey Davis is now 5-for-12 in his last three games, raising his batting average to .328.

Who’s Not

Recently moved into the bullpen, Robert Penny followed his first scoreless outing of the season by allowing three runs in just an inning and a third on Aug. 7. Though he has struck out better than a batter per inning with Idaho Falls, Penny’s ERA now stands at 10.86. Outfielder Darian Sanford has hit a bit of a rough patch over the last few days, as he is just 2-for-15 in his last four games.

Burlington

Like Idaho Falls, the Burlington Royals (Appalachian League) lost four games in a row at one point last week. In going 2-5 over the last seven days, the club is now 18-31 and in the basement of the East Division. Barring an incredible stretch run, Burlington is likely to be on the outside looking in when the postseason begins.

Who’s Hot

Right fielder Jorge Bonifacio found a bit of a groove last week, as the 18-year-old racked up three multi-hit games and hit his fifth home run of the Appy League season. Though his plate discipline needs to improve (43 strikeouts, seven walks), Bonifacio is hitting at an impressive .298 clip. Right-hander Matt Ridings had a bit of a rough start on Tuesday but fired six scoreless innings the previous Thursday, and continues to pace the Burlington rotation with a 3.16 ERA.

Who’s Not

Reliever Abel Gonzalez was tagged for four runs in each of his last two appearances, the first of which encompassed just one inning. Gonzalez now has a 10.80 ERA through six games with Burlington. Utilityman Derek Hamblen went hitless in six at bats last week and is now just 3-for-45 this season without an extra-base hit.

AZL

In complex league play, the AZL Royals (Arizona League) went 2-4 last week to drop their overall record to 16-25. A lack of pitching has been the story of late, as the team has lost its last two games by scores of 16-14 and 11-10.

Who’s Hot

Though he is not a member of the club’s regular roster, southpaw Buddy Baumann made a pair of rehab starts for the AZL Royals over the last ten days. He excelled on Aug. 7, allowing just one hit with four strikeouts in three innings of work. Baumann has now been activated from the disabled list and has re-joined Double-A Northwest Arkansas. At the plate, Nick DelGuidice is still hitting over .400 and has shown impressive strike zone judgment, striking out just 10 times in 34 games in the Arizona League.

Who’s Not

Christian Witt had a day to forget on Tuesday, as he yielded 8 runs in a relief appearance in that 16-14 loss against the Giants’ complex league club. 2011 draftee Cameron Gallagher is hitting just .179 through seven professional games, but should dramatically improve as he adjusts to a much higher level of competition.

Former Naturals outside the Kansas City organization

Right-hander Dan Cortes remains in the Seattle Mariners’ bullpen, though his last big-league outing was one to forget, as Cortes gave up hits to both batters he faced and was tagged with the loss on Aug. 5 against the Angels. The next former Natural to make a major league bullpen could be Juan Abreu, as the right-hander allowed just one run in three appearances for Houston’s Triple-A squad in Oklahoma City this past week.

Elsewhere in Triple-A, Blake Johnson had his roughest outing since joining the Colorado organization, allowing seven runs – six earned – on eight hits last Thursday. But since then, the right-hander has bounced back to allow just an unearned run over his last two appearances. In the International League, Jordan Parraz notched a pair of multi-hit games last week and is hitting .298 for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees.

Down in the Southern League, Ernesto Mejia homered on Wednesday night for the Mississippi Braves, his 18th long ball of the season. Though he has struck out 124 times in 114 games, Mejia has put together a solid season with 29 doubles and a .375 on-base percentage. Also on the M-Braves roster are Ed Lucas (.271, 3 HR in 20 games), Rowdy Hardy (3.19 ERA, 39 K:18 BB) and Ben Swaggerty (4.26 ERA, 32 K in 19 IP).

Also in the Southern League is Corey Smith, who has hit safely in each of his six games with the Chattanooga Lookouts since being sent down from Triple-A Albuquerque. In the Eastern League, Chris McConnell has doubled in two straight games for the Harrisburg Senators. Finally, in the Florida State League, Jose Duarte is currently on the disabled list for Jupiter while Harold Mozingo is carrying a 4.09 ERA through eight games with the Dunedin Blue Jays.

The Northwest Arkansas Naturals are the Double-A Texas League affiliate of the Kansas City Royals and play at state-of-the-art Arvest Ballpark, located in Springdale. Visit our website, nwanaturals.com, for information on season tickets and ticket plans.

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Former Natural Hosmer Selected As AL Rookie Of The Month

The following is a press release directly from the Northwest Arkansas Naturals. It is reprinted here in its entirety.

Former Natural Hosmer selected as AL Rookie of the Month
Louis Coleman also nominated for award for month of July

Hosmer

KANSAS CITY, MO – Kansas City Royals first baseman and former Natural Eric Hosmer has been voted the July recipient of the Gillette presents American League Rookie of the Month Award.

Hosmer led A.L. rookies with 34 hits and 12 doubles in 27 games during the month of July. The 21-year-old also added five home runs, 19 RBI, 12 runs scored and three stolen bases with a .523 slugging percentage and a .358 on-base percentage.

Hosmer, who was the third overall selection in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, recorded a career-best 11-game hitting streak from July 19th-30th, batting .426 (20-for-47) during the streak with a home run, five doubles, eight RBI and seven runs scored.

The left-handed-hitting slugger posted 10 multi-hit contests during the month, including a four-hit contest on July 3rd at Colorado in which Hosmer tied a career-best with four RBI. Hosmer has now collected 27 multi-hit games on the season to lead all A.L. rookies. On July 15th at Target Field in Minnesota, Eric connected on a game-winning, two-out, two-run home run in the top of the ninth to give the Royals a 2-1 victory over the Twins. In a four-game set against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park from July 25th-28th, Hosmer batted .421 (8-for-19) with two doubles, a home run and five RBI.

Of Hosmer’s ten home runs since being called up to the Majors on May 6th, four have given the Royals a lead while two have tied the game. The Florida native leads the Royals with 16 go-ahead RBI and nine game-winning RBI this season. Among A.L. rookies, Hosmer ranks first in on-base percentage (.333) and walks (23); second in hits (89), doubles (19) and total bases (142); third in batting average (.284), home runs (10), RBI (47), slugging percentage (.454) and extra-base hits (31); and fourth in runs (33).

Hosmer hit 13 homers, drove in 35 runs, and batted .313 for the Naturals in the second half of last season before erupting for six homers during the Texas League Playoffs, tying a league record as the Naturals won the Texas League Championship.

Another former Natural, Hosmer’s teammate Louis Coleman, was among the nominees for the award. Coleman, who has been stellar in the Royals’ pen all season, posted an 0.61 ERA in ten appearances. The right-handed sidewinder and 2010 Texas League All-Star reliever allowed just nine hits and five walks while fanning 15 in 14 2/3 innings.

Hosmer will receive a specially designed trophy, suitably engraved, to commemorate his Rookie of the Month performance.

The Northwest Arkansas Naturals are the Double-A Texas League affiliate of the Kansas City Royals and play at state-of-the-art Arvest Ballpark, located in Springdale. Visit our website, nwanaturals.com, for information on season tickets and ticket plans.

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Finding The Path Again

For the first two and a half weeks of the season, the Royals seemed to have found the path towards becoming a successful ball club in the 2011 season. However, in the last week though, they seemed to have lost their way. Lack of offensive production and quality innings out of the starting rotation took the Royals from several games above .500 and a half game out of first down to below .500 and 4.5 games out of first place.

It is not all bad news from this past week; a few individuals are setting both personal and league records with their bats. Alex Gordon’s hitting streak ended at 19 games but saw his fellow teammate, Jeff Francoeur, keep his streak alive. This dynamic hitting duo has done something only one other pair of teammates has done since 1900 in the month of April. Both of them had streaks of more than fifteen games, and only Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez can claim to have also completed this feat (They did so in 2007). That is some good company to be in my friend.

Three every day players are hitting at .315 or above but unfortunately, you cannot send those three up to the plate every inning. The Royals have moved up to third in terms of team batting average going into Friday night’s contest but the poor pitching has left them near the bottom of the food chain (Soria did not have a save opportunity all week). The defense has continued to improve and only made one error during this horrendous road trip.

Another come from behind win late in the game on Friday night against the Twins and the Royals are back on the winning track. Despite the nearly week-long skid, the coaching staff does not want to make any drastic changes to the current roster at this time because they have already experienced more success than most anticipated this early in the season.

If the Royals continue to follow the method of winning baseball (solid pitching and defense combined with timely hitting), they will continue to turn heads in May just as they have in April. Will they be in contention come September? Nothing is for sure in this crazy game, but why not the Royals? The past few seasons the team that has won the division has finished just a handful of games above .500 and the Royals are a team that is capable of playing at that level.

However, in order to be a .500 or better team you have to win division games and series. You also have to be able to play on the road and the first significant road test of the year, the Royals failed. The good news is that the Royals will not be road tested until after Mother’s Day, but when they do go on the road, it will be against a perennial post-season team in the New York Yankees. However, they will have a chance to build some momentum at home against the Twins, Orioles and Athletics.

A solid start by both individuals and a young, enthusiastic ball club is just what Royals fans have been looking for.

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Let’s Go Streaking

It’s tough to talk about the Royals this week. Usually a daily topic among my friends and I, even in the winter, we’ve found it hard to talk about the Royals this week. There’s simply nothing else to discuss. A precipitous falling back to earth has occurred. There is a myriad of topics that if they were the proverbial horse and we beat them anymore, PETA would be in front of www.I70baseball.com Headquarters protesting the cruelty to said horse.

Streakers can be entertaining

But I made a promise to write something every week. So this week I’m going to talk about streaking. Not the type of streaking that happens in less civilized Major League Stadiums. The type of streaking the Royals as a team, and Royals players have been doing. Alex Gordon went on a 19 game hitting streak. Certainly the longest of Gordon’s career, and one of the longest in recent memory for any Royals player. Last September Gordon declared to the Kansas City Star that he expected “to dominate next year”. Since then my friends and I have been calling him The Dominator. At first it was in jest, mocking Gordon’s domination of the American League. Now we call him The Dominator because he is actually dominating. Of Course, it’s only one month of domination. We reserve the right to switch at any time.

Not to be out done: Jeff Francoeur, at the time of this writing has at least a 17 game hitting streak. It’s the longest of Francoeur’s career. Francoeur and Gordon’s hitting streaks are the second time since 1900 teammates have had hitting streaks of longer than 15 games in April. Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez did in April 2007. Even if Francoeur’s streak ends, hopefully he continues on his hitting tear, and let’s a teammate become the Fan’s whipping boy this season.

Despite the awesome streaks from individual players. The Royals are on a six game losing streak. Another American League team had a six game losing streak to begin the season and you would have thought the sky was falling. Royals fans go through a six game losing streak and just assume that it’s supposed to happen. Certainly any baseball team can go on a six game losing streak and still have a nice season. Most of us understand the expectations were low for this season anyway. However, it’s frustrating to see a team give everything back in one road trip, and as of this writing the streak has not ended.

Like I wrote last week. This team is going to be a roller coaster. Right now we’re on the first big drop. But do not fear. Coasters usually go back up….at some point. They way the starting rotation is going, come June I expect the young arms in Omaha to ditch their Nexrad Radars and mesonets for crowns and scepters. At least I hope so. If not, the next time I go to Kauffman Stadium I’m going to root for a real streaker.

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Kansas City Fantasy Report Week 4

A split of a four game series with the Indians was fine but a 3-game sweep at the hands of the Rangers drops the Royals to 12-10.

This week, the Royals will pay Cleveland a visit for a three game set after an off day Monday. They will return home for another three versus the Twins. Kansas City has truly faced some tough opposing pitching the first month of the season, that doesn’t change for week 4. It’s Masterson, Tomlin and Carmona again from the Indians then Duensing, Pavano and Liriano from the Twins.

Injury Front:

Robinson Tejeda threw a bullpen session last week but remains off the radar for this week.

Playing Time:

Mike Aviles’ playing time is still hit and miss. He sat the first two against the Rangers and then exploded in the last game going 3-4 with 2 HR, 4 RBI and a SB. He’s frustrating to owners, playing second fiddle to Wilson Betemit. Even with a huge game Sunday, he’s only worth a spot on your bench until playing time clears up.

HOT:

Alex Gordon might actually be for real. He extended his hitting streak to 18 games this week, the longest active streak in the AL. There may be no better time to deal Gordon as hit hot start has his trade value at an all time high. He is currently sporting a .435 BABIP and although he is making better contact than ever (80%) he is chasing a lot of pitches outside the zone (35%). Also, at this point, his home run pace only lands him at about 10-15 for the season.

Jeff Francoeur has a fourteen game hitting streak of his own. His numbers are a little more substantiated than Gordon’s as he has not been chasing as much and has improved his contact at the plate thus far. He’s worth a spec claim in deeper leagues.

NOT:

There is no one exactly frigid on this week’s list, only a warning that you must pick your spots wisely with the Royals starting pitching. Sunday’s start for Bruce Chen in Arlington would not have been a wise one. Luke Hochevar getting rocked against Cleveland was hard to see coming. He does have a favorable two-start week pitching in Cleveland then facing a punch-less Twins team at home.

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