How good was Springfield starter Jack Flaherty on Monday night at Hammons Field? When Max Schrock sent a sharp ground ball just foul wide of first base in the eighth inning, it was the fifth-best swing - and one of only a half-dozen times the RockHounds made solid contact - against the Cardinals right-hander all night.
Flaherty pitched into the eighth inning before departing, having allowed two hits and one walk while striking out nine.
Nick Martini's second home run in as many games, an opposite field drive to left off starter Heath Fillmyer in the first inning, would prove to be all the offense that Springfield would need. Leadoff doubles by Gabriel Lino in the fifth and Bruce Caldwell in the sixth, both off reliever Joel Seddon, would turn into insurance runs on RBI singles from Oscar Mercado and Alex Mejia, respectively.
The RockHounds threatened in the eighth and ninth, bringing the tying run to the plate in both innings, but Corey Baker closed the door both times, relieving Flaherty in the eighth and escaping a jam of his own making with an around the horn double play ending the game.
The RockHounds are 2-3 on their six-game road trip (1-2 at Tulsa and 1-1 at Springfield).
In an exhibition start just before the regular season opened, Jack Flaherty went four scoreless innings against the St. Louis Cardinals at Hammons Field. In his first three Texas league starts of 2017 (one at Frisco and home-and-home against the RockHounds), he has allowed one run (to the RockHounds at Security Bank Ballpark) in 21.2 innings. The St. Louis prospect is now 3-0, with a 0.42 ERA. Including the exhibition start, he has given up one run in 25.2 innings … a 0.35 ERA.
Springfield catcher Gabriel Lino may petition the league to keep the RockHounds in town. In two starts against the 'Hounds, he is 4-for-7 with two doubles and a triple.
J.P. Sportman was the bright spot offensively on Monday, going 2-for-4 with a double, but "should" have been 3-for-4. In his first at-bat, Sportman sent a sinking line drive to center, with Springfield's Oscar Mercado making a brilliant diving catch. Had the ball escaped the Cardinals' center fielder, it would have been at least a double (with one out in the first), making the "web gem" a critical play in the game.
Video: Oscar Mercado makes a nice catch for the Cardinals
In the final game of the three-game set on Tuesday at Hammons Field at 11:10 a.m., right-hander Sandy Alcantara will start for the Cardinals against the RockHounds tandem of right-handers Ben Bracewell (0-0, 1.29 in 2 G / 1 GS) and Kyle Friedrichs (0-2, 7.11 in 2 G / 1 GS). Alcantara is somewhat remarkable 1-1 (6.52 ERA) after two starts against Frisco. Alcantara went six shutout innings against the RoughRiders (four hits, one walk and four strikeouts) on April 7, but the Riders got to him for seven runs (all earned) on six hits over 3.2 innings on April 13 at Hammons Field. In that game, Alcantara walked two, struck out five and threw six wild pitches.
Next at home: Following their first road trip of the season, the RockHounds return for a four-game homestand (Thursday, April 20 - Sunday, April 23) at Security Bank Ballpark, hosting the San Antonio Missions (Padres affiliate). The series, which marks the beginning of division play, includes a "Thirsty Thursday," Schedule Pen Giveaway (Friday) and T-Shirt Night (Saturday) before concluding the series with a Sunday (Family Day) matinee. Start times are 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and 2:00 p.m. on Sunday.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.