No starter, no problem for Springfield
CARDINALS 6, NATURALS 2
SPRINGDALE —With ace pitcher Dakota Hudson “skipping a start,” Springfield manager Johnny Rodriguez challenged his team before Thursday’s 6-2 win against Northwest Arkansas at Arvest Ballpark.
It resulted in Springfield’s fifth consecutive win against Northwest Arkansas ( 52-52, 13-21 second half), which had a chance to steal momentum late thwarted by a second three- run inning by the Cardinals (57-47, 2212) in the ninth.
“Our starter couldn’t go today, so all the sudden we have a bullpen game with relievers pitching going,” Rodriguez said. “And I want to tip my hat to those four relievers. Outstanding job.
“I told these guys we need to be aggressive and get runs early on knowing we had a bullpen game, but their lefty starter pitched well. “
Northwest Arkansas starter Foster Griffin faced the minimum of 12 batters through the first four innings with the help of a double play and a runner caught trying to steal second base. However, the lefthander gave up four consecutive hits to begin the fifth. A leadoff double to John Nogowski was followed by a two-run homer to left by Randy Arozarena to give the Cardinals a 2-1 lead.
That was followed by back-to-back line drive singles by Anthony Garcia and Jacob Wilson. Just when it appeared Griffin may escape without any further damage thanks to a double play, Edman sliced an RBI double over right fielder Anderson Miller’s head to push the lead to 3-1.
Following Springfield’s three- run fifth inning, the Naturals were unable to get answer against relievers Tyler Bray, Corey Littrell and Landon Beck.
The best chance at a
rally came in the eighth when Northwest Arkansas loaded the bases with one out against Beck. Anderson Miller hit a sacrifice fly to score Nicky Lopez, who reached on a leadoff single. Beck then struck out Alfredo Escalera swinging at a full-count changeup to escape.
Another opportunity was in the sixth when Nick Dini, who was 3- for- 3 and celebrated his 24th birthday on Thursday, lined a one- out double down the left field line, but Littrell got Miller to groundout and Alfredo Escalera to popout to end the threat.
The Cardinals’ second big inning began when a hit by pitch, a walk and a popup that landed in short right field between three Northwest Arkansas players loaded the bases with no outs in the ninth inning. Jacob Wilson punched a two-run single through the infield, which was playing on the grass. A bunt single by Tommy Edman drove in another run to create the final margin.
“Fundamentally, you just have to be able to catch foul balls,” said Northwest Arkansas manager Vance Wilson. “It just kind of fell in that triangle and that’s fundamentals, so that falls on me. We’ll get it fixed.”
Hudson, a 2016 first-rounder out of Mississippi State, was rumored by Cardinals’ beat writers on Twitter to likely have been promoted when he didn’t take the mound for his scheduled start on Thursday. But Rodriguez said that wasn’t the case.
“If that happens in two or three days, then it happens. It happens to players all the time,” Rodriguez said. “But there was nothing to it other than him skipping a start.”
■ The Naturals struck first when Donnie Dewees Jr. hit a two- out, inside- thepark home run in the third inning. Dewees his a high drive into the gap in right center field. Both center fielder Oscar Mercado and right fielder Magneuris Sierra made leaping attempts to catch it, but missed. The ball bounced hard off the wall and gave Dewees plenty of time to churn around the bases.
But Dewees stumbled midway between third and home, which caused him to begin his slide where the dirt meets the grassline. He barely made it to the plate and somehow avoided the tag by catcher Jesse Jenner to complete the improbable homer and spot Northwest Arkansas a 1-0 lead.
It was the first insidethe-park homer in Naturals history, according to Dustin Dethlefs, the team’s director of marketing and public relations.
“That’s the great thing about Donnie; the way he runs the bases,” Wilson said. “He’s always trying to get the next base. If anybody was going to get one, it was going to be him.”
On Deck: The Naturals continue their seven- game homestand and four- game series against Springfield at 7:05 p.m. Northwest Arkansas sends right-hander Josh Staumont to the mound while the Cardinals counter with right-hander Sandy Alacantara (6-5, 4.85). Alacantara was the winning pitcher against Staumont during an 8- 3 win against NWA on July 18 at Springfield.
Today’s Promotion: Post-game fireworks.
On The Air: KQSM-FM 92.1
On The Web: www.nwa naturals.com
DRILLERS 12, TRAVELERS 2
Erick Mejia hit a pair of homers, leading the Tulsa Drillers to a 12-2 win over the Arkansas Travelers on Thursday.
Tim Locastro and Jose Miguel Fernandez also homered for the Drillers.
Mejia hit a three-run shot in the third inning off Nick Neidert and then hit a solo homer in the seventh off Kyle Hunter.
Eddie Gamboa (2-1) got the win with five innings of scoreless, two- hit relief while Arkansas starter Neidert ( 0-2) took the loss in the Texas League game.