Springfield, MO – The Northwest Arkansas Naturals avoided being swept by the 1st-Half North Division Champion Springfield Cardinals with a 5-2 win before 6,283 fans at Hammons Field on Sunday evening.
St. Louis Cardinals All-Star INF Matt Carpenter and 1B Brandon Moss both suited up for Springfield in Rehab Assignments. Moss played all nine innings and delivered an RBI sacrifice fly in the second inning. Carpenter played five innings and went 1-for-3 with a base hit, a walk and a run. Carpenter is expected to continue his Rehab Assignment at Hammons Field on Monday, August 1 against the Tulsa Drillers.
The Naturals (19-18, 48-59) swung into an early lead with two runs against RHP Trey Nielsen (L, 7-8) in the top of the second inning. DH Frank Schwindel opened the inning with a walk, before RF Alfredo Escalera pulled a two-run home run to left field to propel the Naturals ahead, 2-0.
The Cardinals (16-21, 57-50) raced right back even with two runs in the bottom of the second inning against RHP Ashton Goudeau (W, 4-10). C Jesse Jenner sparked the rally with a leadoff single through the left side, the beginning of his 4-for-4 night with four base hits. Rehabbing St. Louis 2B Matt Carpenter then worked a walk, putting two on with no outs. After 3B Jacob Wilson advanced the runners with a sacrifice bunt, rehabbing St. Louis LF Brandon Moss brought in Jenner with an RBI sacrifice fly to right-center field. With Carpenter at second and two down, 1B Luke Voit ripped a game-tying RBI single through the left side, plating Carpenter for the 2-2 tie.
Nielsen and Goudeau exchanged a scoreless fourth, before the Naturals opened a new lead in the top of the fifth. C Cam Gallagher opened the inning with a single, followed by a base knock from SS Humberto Arteaga. After a sacrifice bunt advanced the runners, Nielsen intentionally walked CF Terrance Gore to set up the force at every bag with the bases loaded. However, 2B Corey Toups rifled his first pitch to left-center field for a three-run double, clearing the bases and lifting the Naturals into the 5-2 lead.
Nielsen retired the next two to limit the damage in the fifth, before the Cardinals received scoreless relief work the rest of the way. RHP Pedro Echemendia dealt scoreless sixth and seventh innings, before LHP Chandler Hawkins retired all six batters in a row through a perfect eighth and ninth, keeping the Cardinals within striking distance.
However, Northwest Arkansas also received scoreless relief. RHP Evan Beal took care of the sixth, followed by two scoreless stanzas from LHP Eric Stout. RHP Mark Peterson (S, 6) then worked around Jenner’s fourth hit of the night in a scoreless ninth, closing the 5-2 win for the Naturals.