Tag Archive | "Unearned Run"

Game 6 Story: How I Almost Missed History

Editor’s Note: Game Six of the 2011 World Series may end up being one of the moments that people talk about for generations. “Where were you when….?” So, here at i70baseball, I ask you: Where were you when Game Six happened? Do you have a unique story about how you witnessed history? Share with us and we will draw one random entry. That winner will receive this World Series DVD. Just send your submission to: bill@i70baseball.com

Like virtually every other Cardinals fan old enough to watch and appreciate Game 6 of the World Series, October 27th, 2011 is a night I’ll never forget. It’s a game that thousands of Cardinals fans turned off before it was over and a game hundreds of fans left the stands early. I was almost one of those fans who gave up on the Cardinals that night… and was this close to missing the most exciting finish in World Series history. Then, a little bit of fate kicked in…

To refresh your memory a little bit, Game 6 was not exactly the most cleanly-played baseball game. As the 6th inning ended, I remember looking up towards the high ceilings of Buffalo Wild Wings and thinking to myself that this had to be the ugliest World Series game ever played. Cardinals left fielder, Matt Holliday, dropped a fly ball that directly led to a Rangers run, third baseman, David Freese, dropped a pop up the led to another unearned run, and now Matt Holliday had just gotten picked off 3rd base with the bases loaded, one out, and the score tied. You have GOT to be kidding me! Although the Cardinals had just “dramatically” rallied to tie the game on a bases loaded walk, it sure felt like the game was going to go the Rangers way. You just cannot make mistake after little-league mistake and expect to win the World Series. The score was tied, but it felt like the Rangers were in cruise-control.

And in the top of the 7th, Texas had appeared to seize control of the game for good. Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz hit back-to-back home runs to put the Rangers on top 6-4. The whole stadium was deflated. You just knew it was over. The Cardinals had their chance and gave it away, and now Texas would make team president Nolan Ryan’s prediction of “Rangers in 6” come true. At that moment, I was thinking that the Cardinals had played so poorly they didn’t deserve to win… and my frustration level was so high that I wouldn’t even be happy if they did come back and win.

Now as the Cardinals came to bat in the bottom of the 7th, I get a text message from my wife: “Out of diapers. Is the game almost over?” At the time, it was already 30 minutes past my son’s bedtime, and there was no way any respectable father, World Series on the line or not, would make his wife and toddler get in the car and make a late-night run to the store to get diapers. So while part of me was thinking “just let him wet the bed tonight, it’s the freakin’ World Series” I decided to go run to the store myself. When the Cardinals went down with a whimper in the bottom of the 7th, I told my buddy who was with me that I wouldn’t be back if the game got any uglier. Just as I arrived at my house to drop of a new package of diapers, the Rangers tacked on another run to make it 7-4 in the 8th, the proverbial nail in the coffin. Staying with the theme of the game, the Cardinals once again gift-wrapped the run for the Rangers thanks to a wild pitch that Yadier Molina should have handled, allowing a runner to move into scoring position who would eventually score.

Translation: it had gotten uglier, and I had just arrived at my house. My wife asked how the Cardinals were doing and I told her they were playing horribly and were basically giving away the World Series. She said she was sorry and thanks for dropping of the diapers and that I could go back to the bar if I wanted to, but I was pretty sure it was going to be a waste of my time and only add to the frustration. I had to work the next morning, and was about to call it a night when I realized Albert Pujols might have one final at bat. With his contract uncertainty, how could I not watch his final at-bat in a Cardinals uniform?

So with that and only that in mind, I headed back to the bar. While I was driving, I heard Allen Craig’s home run on the radio. 7-5. At that point, I still thought the Cardinals had no chance. In fact, it only infuriated me more because I felt like Matt Holliday should’ve been benched and Allen Craig should’ve been in the lineup to begin with. Craig wouldn’t have botched that fly ball and gotten picked off 3rd, would he? And now here’s Craig, filling in for the now injured Holliday (he jammed his hand/wrist sliding back into 3rd base on the pickoff play) and hitting a home run. Just great.

When I walked back into Buffalo Wild Wings, the table I had been sitting at and several others around it were empty. My friend had left… as had several other people. Many people had come to the same grim conclusion that I did, but I went ahead and decided to sit by myself and watch the end of the game anyway. The Cardinals ended up loading the bases but failed to score in the 8th.

Certainly it was over now. Certainly.

In the 9th, Albert Pujols came to the plate with the bases empty and 1 out. Any hopes of him hitting a dramatic, game-tying home run were lost. This was not officially a final farewell send-off. The crowd rose to its feet, flashbulbs were popping, and wouldn’t you know it – Albert laced one into the gap in left center. It was a nice way to end his hall of fame career in St. Louis if this was indeed the last time he was going to take a swing as a Cardinal. Lance Berkman followed Pujols to the plate and drew a walk, making Allen Craig the winning run at the plate. But his heroics were done (at least for Game 6) and he struck out.

Up walked David Freese. Since I only text my mom when the Cardinals win games, I decided to do a desperate, pre-emptive strike on fate and sent a “good luck/here’s hoping” text. The Red Birds were going to need it. Texas closer, Neftali Feliz, was pumping heat all night… and was pounding fastballs in the upper 90s on the Cardinals 3rd baseman. Freese fell behind 1-2 in the count, the Cardinals were down to their final strike… and the rest… is history.

Triple. Tie-game. Rangers take the lead back in the 10th. The Cardinals again come down to their final strike. RBI Single by Lance Berkman. Tie-game. And Freese hits a walk-off bomb in the 11th. Unbelievable.

In the 3 ½ weeks since Allen Craig squeezed the final out of Game 7, the clock and calendar have slowed to a crawl. It feels like an eternity since the Cardinals won their 11th championship, but with the managerial change out of the way and the Pujols talks likely on hold during Thanksgiving week, fans have another chance to relive the magic. Tonight, Cardinal Nation is invited to sit back, relax, and relive all those wonderful memories at Major League Baseball and the Cardinals release the official 2011 World Series Movie. There’s a Red Carpet Event at the Peabody Opera House in downtown St. Louis. Cardinals VIPs including World Series MVP David Freese will be on hand as actor and St. Louis native, Jon Hamm, narrates us through 90 minutes of magic.

I will not be in attendance and will have to settle for watching the movie on a TV just as I watched the live drama play out on, but that’s OK by me. I just want to soak it all in again. The other day I caught myself daydreaming about Game 6 at work. I have the Springfield News-Leader’s sports page from October 28th at my desk, and the headline “Cards Win Instant Classic” caught my eye as I was going through my daily routine.

How did the Cardinals win that game?

Fortunately, I went back to the sports bar that night… and was able to see it for myself.

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Royals Farm Report: August 25th

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:

Triple-A

Omaha

The Omaha Storm Chasers (Pacific Coast League) went 5-2 last week, continuing to solidify a playoff berth that is not yet locked up. Since the PCL does not have any wild card postseason berths, Omaha must win the league’s American Northern division to play deep into September. As of this week’s report, Omaha holds a four-game lead over the Memphis Redbirds, putting their magic number at nine.

Who’s Hot

Slugging first baseman Clint Robinson elevated his game last week, hitting safely in six of Omaha’s seven games and clubbing three doubles and a pair of home runs. After a quiet July (.245, 1 HR), Robinson is hitting .385 with a .462 on-base percentage in the month of August. On the mound, Luis Mendoza continues to lead the way for the Storm Chasers, as he allowed just one unearned run over seven innings in his last start. Improbably, the win was Mendoza’s first home victory of the season. The righty lowered his league-best ERA to 2.18 in the process.

Who’s Not

Yamaico Navarro had another slow week at the plate, collecting just four singles in 18 trips to the plate. Since joining the organization at the trade deadline, Navarro has just two extra-base hits in 57 at bats. Lance Zawadzki has also struggled since last week’s report, and his on-base percentage has now fallen to .296. Mostly everything has gone right for Omaha’s pitching staff of late, though Mike Montgomery has yielded four or more runs in each of his last three starts.

Double-A

NWArkansas

It seems as though the Northwest Arkansas Naturals (Texas League) are heating up at just the right time. As of Wednesday’s action, the club had won 10 of its last 12 games to take command of the circuit’s North Division. The Naturals lead each of their division rivals by at least six games in the second half standings, and with 12 games left in the regular season the team’s magic number rests at seven.

Who’s Hot

Derrick Robinson had a day to remember on Wednesday night at Springfield. Robinson collected four hits and stole four bases, matching a franchise record for individual steals in a game. He now has 52 thefts in 2011, breaking his own mark of 50 set last season. Overall, Robinson racked up nine hits and seven stolen bases in the past seven days. Outfield prospect Wil Myers also had a productive stretch, notching three doubles and a pair of multi-hit games. Myers is batting .299 with a .390 on-base percentage and nine extra-base hits in August. Reliever Blaine Hardy continues to shred Texas League opposition, as his four scoreless innings this past week lowered his ERA to 1.11.

Who’s Not

Though he has been one of the team’s best run producers this season, Jamie Romak is working through a bit of a slump. The Naturals’ cleanup hitter has gone hitless in three straight games and is 2-for-19 in his last five. Also having a rough go at the plate is catcher Ryan Eigsti, who has not recorded a hit since Aug. 11, a span of 11 at bats.

Class-A Advanced

BlueRocks

The Wilmington Blue Rocks (Carolina League) put together a bit of a charge last week, sweeping the Salem Red Sox in four games over a two-day span. Unfortunately, the club then dropped two consecutive games at Potomac just before this week’s report. In order to make the postseason, Wilmington would need to erase an eight-and-a-half game deficit – while jumping over Lynchburg – in just 11 contests. Though not a mathematical impossibility, all signs point to an early end to the Blue Rocks’ campaign.

Who’s Hot

Right-hander Tim Melville put together a strong start in his last outing, striking out seven over six innings in a win over Salem. Melville allowed just one earned run on six hits in what was his second straight quality start. One day later, Elisaul Pimentel fired six scoreless innings to beat the Red Sox as well. At the plate, Yem Prades has hit safely in four straight games, including a three-hit performance with a double and a triple in his most recent ballgame.

Who’s Not

Tyler Sample could not match the output of Melville and Pimentel against Potomac on Tuesday night. The 22-year-old was tagged for nine runs – five earned – in just three innings of work. The outing sent Sample’s ERA up to 5.66. At the plate, outfielder Tim Ferguson had just one hit in five games last week and does not have an extra-base hit since Aug. 6. First baseman Ryan Stovall also had a slow week, collecting two hits in 17 at bats while fanning seven times.

Class-A

KaneCounty

The Kane County Cougars (Midwest League) see-sawed last week, at one point enduring a three-game losing streak in going 3-4 since last week’s report. The Cougars have fallen into a tie with Clinton for second place in their division’s second half standings, one game behind first-place Quad Cities. Because the River Bandits won the first-half title, however, Kane County is almost guaranteed a wild card playoff berth.

Who’s Hot

Yet again, Brian Fletcher led the offensive charge for Kane County last week. Though he hit safely in only three games, all three were multi-hit performances. Fletcher cranked a pair of homers against Beloit on Aug. 19. Despite playing in just 80 of 127 team games, Fletcher leads the club with 30 doubles and 13 home runs this season. On the mound, 20-year-old Jason Adam threw five innings of one-run ball on Wednesday to pick up his first win in three weeks. Fellow starter Leondy Perez blanked Clinton over five three-hit frames in his last start.

Who’s Not

Brett Eibner launched his 12th home run of the season last week, but that long ball was one of just two hits for the outfielder since last week’s report. Eibner also struck out 12 times last week and has now fanned 78 times in 65 games. Almost always found in the ‘Who’s Hot’ section, Greg Billo did not make it out of the third inning, allowing eight runs – though just three were earned – on nine hits.

Short Season/Rookie

IdahoFalls

The Idaho Falls Chukars (Pioneer League) went 3-4 for a second consecutive week, never winning or losing more than two consecutive games. Now in fourth place in their division’s second half standings, there is a good chance that the Chukars do not make the postseason. Still, there is a pair of phenomenal individual performances worth tracking through the end of the regular season.

Who’s Hot

Heading into this past week, it seemed impossible for Edwin Carl to improve upon his incredible campaign. But Carl did just that, firing four scoreless innings in which he allowed just one hit and struck out 10 of the 13 batters he faced. In 31 innings with the Chukars, Carl has racked up 68 strikeouts while walking just three batters, an unbelievable K/BB rate of 22.7. At the plate, Nick DelGuidice has three multi-hit games in his last five contests and is now hitting .457 with five doubles in his first 10 games since a promotion from the Arizona League.

Who’s Not

A recent addition to the Chukars’ rotation, Eric Diaz gave up nine runs in just three innings his last time out, walking five while allowing seven hits. Diaz has now yielded 12 earned runs in seven frames over his first two starts. Recently moved into the bullpen, Willian Avinazar allowed three runs in each of his last two appearances, though he did fan seven over four innings the last time he pitched.

Burlington

The Burlington Royals (Appalachian League) went just 1-6 last week and are 3-11 in the last 14 days. Officially eliminated from playoff contention, Burlington will look to end their season on a high note in the final week of the regular season.

Who’s Hot

Murray Watts had just two hits last week, but they were a pair of home runs in the same contest. Hitting just .230, Watts has nonetheless paced the team with 14 homers, a figure that ranks fourth in the league. Right-handed reliever Andrea Pizziconi tossed 2 1/3 solid innings against Kingsport on Sunday, earning the club’s only win last week.

Who’s Not

Reliever Malcolm Culver allowed a total of eight runs in two appearances last week, yielded six in just an inning and a third the last time he took the mound. Starter Matt Ridings has also struggled of late, getting tagged for four or more runs in each of his last three starts.

AZL

Like Burlington, the AZL Royals (Arizona League) will see their season end at some point in this upcoming week. The club has won three of its last four games but rests well out of playoff contention. After their Aug. 29 finale, the focus at Kansas City’s complex in Surprise will shift to instructs, as the team’s most recent waves of draft picks get their feet wet in the organization’s methods and philosophies.

Who’s Hot

Terrance Gore continues to make a strong impression down in Arizona. Though he had just two hits in four games last week, he also collected one walk in each contest. Gore now boasts a .443 on-base percentage, has walked 14 times against 18 strikeouts and is a perfect 16-for-16 in stolen base attempts. On the mound, reliever Andrew Steuve put together a solid week, allowing just one run while racking up a pair of saves in three appearances.

Who’s Not

Cesar Ogando gave up a total of eight runs in six innings spread over two appearances last week, while Julio Morales blew a save and took the loss in his lone outing. At the plate, catchers Cameron Gallagher and Alexander Marquez are hitting .129 and .184, respectively.

Former Naturals outside the Kansas City organization

Backstop Jeff Howell is off to a scorching start with the Red Sox organization. In his first four games with Double-A Portland, Howell is 7-for-15 with two doubles, a triple and a pair of home runs. Howell’s last two games came against the Harrisburg Senators, for whom Chris McConnell has gone hitless in his last four games, dropping his batting average to .220.

Over in the Southern League, Ernesto Mejia continues to both hit and strike out at prolific rates for the Mississippi Braves. Mejia has hit safely in 10 of his last 11 games and has racked up 35 doubles and 21 home runs despite fanning 138 times in 126 contests. Mejia shares the M-Braves’ clubhouse with Ed Lucas (.270, 5 2B, 3 HR in 32 games) and Rowdy Hardy (3.14 ERA, 40 K, 19 BB). In Chattanooga, Corey Smith is now hitting .262 for the Dodgers’ Double-A affiliate.

Up in Triple-A, Ben Swaggerty has allowed runs in each of his last three appearances with Gwinnett. Also in the International League is Jordan Parraz, notched four hits last week for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, keeping his batting average at a solid .290.

On the other side of the country, Juan Abreu lowered his ERA to 1.86 and has racked up saves in each of his last two appearances for Oklahoma City. Also in the PCL is Blake Johnson, who was tagged for four runs in two innings his last time out – though he was pitching on a second consecutive day.

Reliever Dan Cortes was placed on the 15-day DL with a bruised ankle. Also out of commission is Jose Duarte, who has not played for the Jupiter Hammerheads since Jul. 29. Rounding out this week’s report is Harold Mozingo, who has fired four straight scoreless outings for 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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When It Comes To Errors, Cardinals Can’t Catch…A Break

The 2011 edition of the St. Louis Cardinals is not exactly a defensively sound bunch. Ok, let’s behonest, they’re pretty awful in the field. As frustrating as it is to see throws sail into the stands and easy infield pop ups most of us could corral by the 4th grade dropped (yes, I’m talking about you, Ryan Theriot and Tyler Greene), perhaps the most frustrating part of it all is how often the Cardinals are burned by the errors they make.

It seems like the majority of errors should be harmless. Though the proverbial “4th out” is about as big a baseball sin as swinging on 3-0 with the bases loaded, most hurlers can pitch around an error without any damage done. Cincinnati, for instance, only lets an unearned run score 44% of the time it commits an error. But for some reason, the Cardinals’ seem to pay for their errors every time.

Take Sunday’s loss to the Reds for example. Cardinals leading 1-0, runner at 1st, 1 out. A high chopper to 2nd leads to a rushed flip from Skip Schumaker… a throw errant enough to elicit a safe call from the umpire. Officially ruled E-4, the Reds had runners at 1st and 2nd with 1 out. Jaime Garcia struck out the next batter with a 3rd strike in the dirt, allowing the runners to move up 90 feet. Then before he got the inning ending ground ball, he threw another wild pitch to allow the tying run to score.

An error. A wild pitch. A second wild pitch. Tie game. The game eventually went to the Reds, 3-1.

It isn’t the first time an error has cost the Cardinals critical runs. A dropped 9th inning pop up led to a loss in Atlanta in early May. Another 9th inning error cost the Red Birds a game in Houston. It was driving me crazy, so I had to look it up. The results are not pretty.

For starters, the Cardinals have committed 66 errors in 95 games, good for 3rd worst in the National League. The only worse teams defensively are Houston and Chicago, who have combined for 154 errors and 123 losses. Not the best of company to be keeping.

Of the Cardinals 66 errors, they’ve allowed 42 unearned runs to score. That’s a 63.6% clip, and averages out to nearly 1 unearned run every other game. Further translation: that’s 1-2 unearned runs every series… and with 9 series remaining against the Reds, Brewers, and Pirates, many of those runs are certain to come back to bite the Cardinals.

So what can they do about it? I don’t really think there’s an answer. It’s not like a series of trade deadline moves will be geared towards shoring up the defense when the bullpen is as rocky as it is. They might just need some better luck. The good news is: The Cardinals have made it this far, playing the way they’ve played, and they’re still in the thick of the NL Central race.

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Royals Farm Report: July 14th

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:

 

Triple-A

In an abbreviated week of baseball, the Omaha Storm Chasers (Pacific Coast League) went 2-2 before breaking for the Triple-A All-Star Game. The Storm Chasers still stand a game and a half ahead of the Memphis Redbirds in what is essentially a two-team race in the American Northern Division. Omaha will head to Memphis for a pivotal four-game set that begins on July 18.

Who’s Hot

One of three Storm Chasers named to the PCL’s All-Star team, second baseman Johnny Giavotella had seven hits in the last three games before the break. He leads the team with a .328 average and 26 doubles. Fellow All-Star Clint Robinson broke out of a mini-slump with four straight two-hit games, and though he has not homered in a month, Robinson’s .542 slugging percentage leads all of the team’s qualifiers. Right-hander Luis Mendoza, the team’s final All-Star, tossed seven innings of one-hit ball (allowing only an unearned run) against Oklahoma City in his last start.

Who’s Not

Lance Zawadzki is one of the few Storm Chasers currently struggling at the plate. Now playing third base, Zawadzki is just 3-for-24 in his last eight games. Also in a bit of a slide is outfielder Paulo Orlando, who is batting .235 and does not have a multi-hit game since June 22.

Double-A

The Northwest Arkansas Naturals (Texas League) followed a 3-3 homestand with a 3-3 road trip, as the team took two of three in San Antonio before falling twice in three games to the Corpus Christi Hooks. The Naturals are tied for third place in the North Division’s second-half standings, but still hold the edge in a potential wild-card race.

Who’s Hot

Few players in the Texas League are hotter at the plate than Nick Francis, who is batting .362 since his latest promotion from the Carolina League. Derrick Robinson has put together a five-game hitting streak that has included four multi-hit contests, a stretch that has raised his batting average to .280. Right-handerJake Odorizzi made his first two Double-A starts on the road trip, winning his first before delivering a quality start in what was ultimately a Natural loss.

Who’s Not

Wil Myers’ road trip was interrupted by a trip to Arizona to compete in the All-Star Futures Game, and perhaps as a result, the outfielder did not find a rhythm at the plate, going 2-for-18 on the road trip. On the mound, Chris Dwyer did not get out of the third inning against Corpus Christi (though the Naturals came back to win), while Zach Miner allowed eight runs in his most recent outing.

Class-A Advanced

The Wilmington Blue Rocks (Carolina League) went 4-1 last week, bringing their overall record back over the .500 mark. Though the team is just 9-10 in the second half, Wilmington sits just two games out of first in what is a crowded Northern Division.

Who’s Hot

Right-hander Justin Marks delivered one of his best starts of the year on July 11, firing six shutout innings against Myrtle Beach. Marks lowered his season ERA to 4.28 and now has 84 strikeouts in 88.1 innings. The next day, Tyler Sample topped Marks’ effort with seven scoreless innings against the Pelicans. Fellow starterElisaul Pimentel gave up just two unearned runs in six innings against Frederick on July 11.

Who’s Not

After a scorching start to his Carolina League season, Nick Van Stratten has slowed down a bit at the plate, going 1-for-13 in four games last week, while Kurt Mertins is hitting .188 in nine games with the Blue Rocks. Tim Ferguson (.202) and Deivy Batista (.198) have also struggled to get it going for a Wilmington club that has collectively hit just .239 this season.


Class-A

The Kane County Cougars (Midwest League) continue to lead their division’s second-half standings with an outstanding 13-6 mark. That comes thanks in part to a week that saw the Cougars go 4-2, including a three-game sweep of the first half champion Burlington Bees.

Who’s Hot

There are few players in the system in more of a groove than Cheslor Cuthbert is right now. The 18-year-old third baseman has hit safely in eight straight games, racking up multiple hits in five of those contests. Cuthbert drove in 10 runs in a three-game span and is now hitting .342. Righty Greg Billo fired six scoreless against Wisconsin on July 8, and now leads all qualifiers across affiliated baseball with a 1.37 ERA. Though he does not have enough innings to qualify, relieverChase Boruff lowered his earned run average to 1.30 with two scoreless innings of his own.

Who’s Not

Righty Leondy Perez lost both of his starts last week, including a forgettable performance on July 7, when he gave up nine runs on 13 hits against Wisconsin. He appears on the way to putting that behind him, however, as Perez tossed a quality start in a losing effort his last time out. At the plate, Juan Graterol and Yowill Espinal both have gone 1-for-11 in their last three games.

Short Season

The Idaho Falls Chukars (Pioneer League) endured a five-game losing streak last week before beating Helena on Wednesday night. One of the team’s biggest issues is consistency on the mound, as the team is carrying a 5.72 ERA through 23 games. At 10-13, the Chukars sit in third place in the league’s South Division.

Who’s Hot

The Chukars’ struggles on the mound have not extended to the batter’s box, as the team has posted a collective .291 batting average. In particular, Daniel Mateohas five hits in his last three games to bring his average to .387, while Richard Espy cranked three home runs last week, raising his team-leading total to four. Reliever Edwin Carl has yet to allow even a single run in eight appearances, converting both of his save opportunities.

Who’s Not

Starter Robert Penny got knocked around by the Orem Owlz on July 10, allowing eight runs in just two innings of work. Jonathan Dooley also had a rough go against Orem as he yielded five runs one day later. Catcher Tyler Smith will look to get his bat started, as he has just one hit in 13 at bats for the Chukars this season.

The Burlington Royals (Appalachian League) put together what was easily their best week of the season, going 4-2 as the team looks to erase their slow start to the 2011 season. Though the the team currently resides in the basement of the circuit’s East Division, they are only four games out of first with plenty of baseball to be played.

Who’s Hot

Any offensive struggles the Royals may have had are not the fault of Murray Watts, who racked up four straight-two hit games from July 8-11. He also cranked his ninth home run in 22 games and now has more than twice as many home runs as any of his teammates. Matt Ridings turned in a solid start his last time out, yielding two runs – both unearned – in five innings against the Bristol White Sox.

Who’s Not

Catcher Jin-Ho Shin had just two hits in five games last week, as his batting average fell from .211 to .189, while Kenny Swab is just 3-for-16 since joining Burlington on July 7. On the mound, Andrea Pizziconi has allowed at least two runs in each of his last three appearances, raising his ERA to 9.00.

In complex league action, the AZL Royals (Arizona League) went 3-2 over the last seven days, closing the week with back-to-back wins. At 8-10, the club sits 3.5 games out of first in the league’s West Division.

Who’s Hot

Somehow, Nick DelGuidice improved on his torrid start to the season, raising his batting average from .444 to .453 over the last seven days. Riding a nine-game hitting streak, DelGuidice has driven in 10 runs in his last five games. Nicholas Cuckovich has not kept up quite the pace of his teammate but is batting .358 with an active six-game hitting streak. On the mound, Julio Morales allowed just two hits in 4 1/3 scoreless innings last week.

Who’s Not

Right-hander Fernando Cruz had a rough outing on July 8 against the AZL Padres, allowing five runs in just an inning and a third. He has now been tagged for 13 earned runs in six innings with the club. Behind the plate, Alexander Marquez is off to a slow start with just one hit in five games this season.

Former Naturals outside the Kansas City organization

Released by Kansas City in late June, right-hander Blake Johnson signed with the Colorado Rockies organization and was assigned to Triple-A. Johnson debuted with the Colorado Springs Sky Sox on July 9, tossing a scoreless inning against Salt Lake. Also in the Pacific Coast League, Dan Cortes allowed three runs in one inning during his lone appearance last week, while Corey Smith has five hits in his last six games for the Albuquerque Isotopes.

In the International League, outfielder Jordan Parraz had a nine-game hit streak snapped in his last game but is now hitting .305 for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Meanwhile, in Gwinnett, Juan Abreu fired another scoreless inning in his lone outing last week and has still not allowed a run since June 8. Fellow G-Brave Ed Lucas had just two hits last week, but both of those came against Charlotte on July 10, the last time he took the field.

Down in the Southern League, Rowdy Hardy, Ben Swaggerty and Ernesto Mejia are all on the Mississippi Braves’ roster. Coming out of the bullpen, Hardy allowed one run in three innings spread over two appearances last week, while Swaggerty has not pitched since July 5. Mejia had a monster week at the plate, homering four times in a six-game span to raise his season total to 15. Mejia is now batting .314 in 2011.

In the Eastern League, Chris McConnell had just two hits last week for Harrisburg, lowering his batting average to .219.

Finally, Jose Duarte has hit safely in three straight games and is now batting .250 for the Florida State League’s Jupiter Hammerheads.

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: April 21

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:

Royals Farm Report: April 21st
A look at the Royals farm system after the season’s first two weeks

Triple-A
After beginning the season just 2-5, the Omaha Storm Chasers (Pacific Coast League) righted the ship this week, going 5-2 in the past seven days to climb back to the .500 mark. Thanks to an offense powered by top Royals prospects, the Storm Chasers sit just a half game back of first-place Iowa (7-6) in the PCL’s American North division.

Who’s Hot
Eric Hosmer hit well in the season’s first week but has turned it up even more of late, riding a nine-game hitting streak that has raised his average to .425. Clint Robinson has continued to mash everything in sight as he is batting .404 and leads the team with five doubles, four home runs and 11 RBI. After a somewhat slow start to the season, David Lough notched four two-hit games in the past week while Mike Moustakas has a hit in eight straight games. On the mound, Danny Duffy allowed just a lone hit over 4.2 innings in his last start while Mike Montgomery gave up only an unearned run over six frames in his most recent outing.

Who’s Not
The Storm Chasers have not received much production from the team’s catchers, as Lucas May has just one hit in 19 at bats while Manny Pina is batting just .130. Shortstop Lance Zawadzki is also off to a slow start, carrying just a .119 average through the season’s first two weeks. Starter Vin Mazarro (9.82 ERA) and reliever Steven Shell (9.35) have both struggled in the early going.

Double-A
The Northwest Arkansas Naturals (Texas League) were swept by the San Antonio Missions in their first road series of the season but recovered to take two of three from the Hooks in Corpus Christi. Despite the 2-4 week, the Naturals (7-5) remain in first place of the Texas League’s North Division, one game ahead of the Arkansas Travelers (6-6) entering Thursday’s action.

Who’s Hot
Jeff Bianchi has torn the cover off the ball of late as he carries a 10-game hitting streak that includes eight extra-base hits. Catcher Salvador Perez’ bat has started to come around, as the 20-year-old picked up six hits between the last two games of the road trip. Though he hit for a decent average in the season’s first week, Wil Myers found his power stroke last week as he hit his first two Double-A homers. Starter Chris Dwyer turned in his best outing of the season last week, allowing just one run over six innings at Corpus Christi, and reliever Blake Johnson, who now is in possession of the Naturals’ franchise record for appearances, has now opened the year with 12 consecutive scoreless innings.

Who’s Not
Shortstop Christian Colon struggled at the plate this week as his average has dipped to .205, though he does still have more walks (8) than strikeouts (5). Kurt Mertins had just two hits in the five games he appeared in as well. The entire Naturals pitching staff had a rough day in a 26-5 loss to San Antonio, as starter Will Smith will look to rebound after giving up six runs in one inning in that game.

Class-A Advanced
The Wilmington Blue Rocks (Carolina League) matched their opening-week record of 4-2 in the past seven days, and at 8-4 have opened up a two-and-a-half game lead on second place Frederick (5-6). The Blue Rocks’ hot start is largely due to a pitching staff that has put up an overall 2.94 ERA through 12 games.

Who’s Hot
Last week’s offensive star, Rey Navarro, has continued his torrid start to the season with 21 hits in his 46 at bats this year, good for a .457 average. Navarro leads the Blue Rocks with seven extra-base hits, including three triples. Whit Merrifield had three two-hit games this past week and his current seven-game hit streak has him up to .310. Perhaps the biggest standout on the Blue Rocks’ dominant pitching staff has been Noel Arguelles, who in his professional debut has yet to give up a run in eight innings over two starts. Tyler Sample took the loss in his last start but boasts a 2.03 ERA through 13 1/3 innings, while reliever Michael Mariot is holding opposing hitters to just a .077 average.

Who’s Not
The Blue Rocks’ raised their team batting average from .208 to .231 this past week, but several players are still finding their way offensively, including Alex McClure (.119), Deivy Batista (.138), Tim Ferguson (.154) and Jose Bonilla (.168). Starter Tim Melville was roughed up by the Kinston Indians in his last start as he allowed four runs on 12 hits in just 4 1/3 innings.

Class-A
After a 2-5 opening week, the Class-A Kane County Cougars (Midwest League) put up a 3-4 mark in the past seven games. Managed by former Natural Vance Wilson, at 5-9 the Cougars are 5.5 games out of first place behind the 10-3 Burlington Bees.

Who’s Hot
Ryan Stovall paced the Cougars’ offense this week as he has seven hits in his last four games, a burst that has raised his batting average to .417. Alex Llanos also picked up multiple hits in three different games last week, as he checks in at .333 with a team-best two home runs. In part time duty, Ryan Jenkins has a .364 average through 22 at bats. The Cougars’ best starting pitcher has been Leondy Perez, who despite an 0-2 record checks in with a 2.00 ERA and 12 strikeouts through three outings.

Who’s Not
Geulin Beltre has played in all 14 games but has yet to see much offensive success as he is hitting .191 through two weeks. Other Kane County players struggling offensively include Yowill Espinal (.146), Angel Franco (.156) and Lane Adams (.219). Reliever Chaz Byrne will look to bounce back from his last appearance in which he yielded four runs in one inning against Burlington.

Former Naturals outside the Kansas City organization
A number of former Naturals have found new homes in the Atlanta Braves organization, including reliever Juan Abreu, who has yet to allow a run through seven innings this season for Triple-A Gwinnett. One of Abreu’s teammates is infielder Ed Lucas, who is hitting .214 as a member of Gwinnett’s everyday lineup. Joining Abreu and Lucas in Atlanta’s system are first baseman Ernesto Mejia (.354, 2 HR, 6 RBI) and left-hander Rowdy Hardy, (0-2, 3.86), both of whom are on the roster of Double-A Mississippi.

Competing against Mejia and Hardy in the Southern League is Corey Smith, who is off to a .313 start through two weeks with the Chattanooga Lookouts, the Dodgers’ Double-A affiliate. Reliever Dan Cortes is in the Mariners’ system, where he has a 3.86 ERA through five appearances for Triple-A Tacoma, while infielder Chris McConnell his hitting .219 for the Nationals’ Triple-A affiliate in Syracuse. The first batter in Naturals team history, Jose Duarte has struggled in the early going, hitting just .185 for the Marlins’ Florida State League affiliate in Jupiter.

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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Jeff Suppan: An Appreciation

On October 3rd, Jeff Suppan made his last 2010 start for the St Louis Cardinals. It may also have been his last start in the majors. Suppan was a key figure in the last Cardinal title run, so as he rides into that sunset here’s an appreciation of his time as a Cardinal.

Suppan was drafted right out of high school in 1993 (second round), but by the time the Cardinals signed him as a free agent 10 years later, he had bounced around on 4 different teams. He was primarily known as an innings eater, having thrown 200+ innings in his previous 5 seasons. He would thrive, however, in St Louis.

2004 – Beginnings

Based solely on won/loss record, 2004 was the finest season of Suppan’s career. The most remarkable thing about this season was his success on the road. The Cardinals lost only 2 of his 14 road starts; in one of those losses, he allowed 1 run in 8 innings. He continued his magic in the post-season, beating Los Angeles in Los Angeles to clinch the NLDS. The only team to best him when the Cardinals were a visitor turned out to be Houston. They handed him his only regular season road loss on 29 Sept, then beat him in NLCS Game 3 17 days later. Suppan also started Game 7 of that series, and appeared to be on his way to a bitter loss until Jim Edmonds’ spectacular diving catch robbed Brad Ausmus, snuffing out a second inning rally. Suppan held Houston in check over the next 4 innings (1 unearned run), and the Cardinals rallied to win the game and the series.

The World Series was forgettable for Cardinal fans, and probably Suppan too, especially after he got caught off third in the third inning of Game 3 to kill a rally, then gave up 3 runs over the next 1 2/3 innings. However, his reputation as a big-game starter was beginning.

2005 – Building

Statistically this was Suppan’s finest season. He won the same number of games as he had in 2004, but his ERA was a half-run better (his FIP was almost the same, 4.77 in 2004 and 4.53 in 2005), and his ERA+ was a career best 119 over the full season. Jeff did not post the gaudy road record he did in 2004 (9-5; how pedestrian), but his ERA improved by almost a run and a half on the road. Jeff was superb down the stretch everywhere, going 7-3 with a 2.78 ERA the second half of the season. From 31 August to the end of the season he gave up 1 ER or less in 5 of his 6 starts. He only got one post-season start – Game 4 of the NLCS in Houston – and he continued the trend, allowing 1 ER in his 5 innings. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, Brendan Backe was just as good, and the Cardinals eventually lost the game 2-1. Houston would go on to win the National League pennant.

Still, Suppan had been very good over the season, and had pitched well in his lone post-season opportunity, setting the stage for the 2006 campaign.

2006 – Breakout

Suppan statistically was the second best Cardinal starter in 2006 behind Chris Carpenter. His 12 wins were second most on the club. His 4.12 ERA was second lowest, and his FIP of 4.66 was third lowest amongst the starters (Mark Mulder posted a 4.49 FIP before his arm troubles started). His season mirrored his 2005 campaign. He struggled mightily in the first half (6-5, 5,83), but dominated in the second (6-2, 2.39). He did continue a trend of struggle on the road, however, posting an ERA of almost 6 in 15 road starts, and getting cuffed around to the tune of a .331 BABIP.

His regular season, however, is not what cemented his legacy in St Louis. It was that October. He began badly, losing the only game the Cardinals dropped to San Diego in the NLDS. After that, he became a dynamo. Suppan threw 8 shutout innings in Game 3 of the NLCS, beating the Mets and giving the Cardinals a 2-1 series lead. In Game 7, he allowed two hits, a walk, and a run in the first, then threw six no-hit innings. He did walk 4, two in a highly adventurous sixth inning which saw the Mets load the bases with one out (the other runner reaching on a rare throwing error by Scott Rolen). He struck out Jose Valentin and enticed Endy Chavez to fly harmlessly to center, ending the threat. Yadier Molina’s HR, and Adam Wainwright’s curveball, gave St Louis the win and the pennant. It is, however, no understatement to say without the start Jeff put together for seven innings, the stage would not have been set for those ninth inning heroics. Jeff was named the MVP of the NLCS for his two superlative starts.

His World Series Game 4 win is almost an afterthought, but it gave the Cardinals a 3 games to 1 lead. St Louis would win the title the next night.

Aftermath

Suppan would cash in on his three great years with the Cardinals, but it would not be St Louis who paid him. He signed as a free agent with Milwaukee. Sadly he did not continue to show the form he had displayed the previous 3 seasons. Ultimately he was banished to the bullpen this season, then released. He came back to the Cardinals mid-season. He didn’t recapture his 2004-2006 form, and statistically he was the same pitcher in St Louis as he was with the Brewers, but he did find a small measure of success down the stretch for the Cardinals.

Jeff is due $12.75M in 2011, with a $2M buyout clause. That is considered by many too much for the Cardinals to carry with their current roster configuration, so most expect the club to exercise the buyout. He’s pitched 15 years in the majors and is on the back slope of his career, which is why there might not be much interest in his services. Cardinal fans should remember that, for the 2004-2006 teams, Jeff Suppan was one of the most reliable starters we had, and his 2006 post-season performance made him one of the unlikeliest heroes in Cardinal history.

Posted in Cardinals, FeaturedComments (1)


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