Springdale, AR – In his return to Springfield from St. Louis, RF Magneuris Sierra collected four hits to help pace the Springfield Cardinals to the 4-2 win against the Northwest Arkansas Naturals before 4,017 fans at Arvest Ballpark on Tuesday night. With the win, the Cardinals increase their lead for 1st place in the North Division to 2.0 games over the Naturals with just 15 games remaining in the 1st Half.
RHP Zac Gallen (W, 1-0) made his Double-A debut and dealt 5.2 innings with just one run on four hits, three walks and four strikeouts. A 3rd round pick in the 2016 June Draft, Gallen had gone 5-2 with a 1.62 ERA with High-A Palm Beach prior to joining Springfield. Meanwhile, CF Oscar Mercado went 2×5 with a double and a triple, extending his current hitting streak to 16 games.
The Cardinals (30-25) jumped in front of the Naturals (28-27) with two runs in the top of the second against RHP Zach Lovvorn (L, 3-4). 3B Jacob Wilson led off the inning with a single, before racing all the way home on an RBI double from 1B Casey Grayson. One out later, Grayson took third on a wild pitch. C Gabriel Lino then brought Grayson home with an RBI single to left field, doubling the Cardinals lead to 2-0.
Northwest Arkansas responded with its lone run against Gallen in the bottom of the second. With runners at the corners and one away, CF Donnie Dewees lifted an RBI sacrifice fly to right field, slicing the Naturals deficit to 2-1.
Both Gallen and Lovvorn dug in with scoreless work through the rest of their outings, before both sides exchanged a run against the bullpens in the seventh. In the top of the seventh, the Cardinals struck against RHP Jake Newberry. After CF Oscar Mercado reached on a fielder’s choice, RF Magneuris Sierra moved Mercado to third with a double, Sierra’s third hit of the night. SS Alex Mejia was intentionally walked, before LF Anthony Garcia chopped an RBI fielder’s choice that allowed Mercado to sprint home for the 3-1 advantage.
Dewees and the Naturals swung right back within one run in the bottom of the seventh. With one down and the bases empty, Dewees sent a solo shot to right field, decreasing the Cardinals lead to 3-2.
Springfield, though, padded the lead once more in the top of the ninth. With one away, Mercado sliced a triple inside the right field line. Sierra then brought in Mercado with his fourth hit of the night, an RBI single to left field, increasing the Cardinals lead to 4-2.
RHP Pedro Echemendia took over for the bottom of the ninth and slammed the door with a perfect final frame, closing the 4-2 win for the Cardinals.