Salvador Perez continues his hot hitting in win

SPRINGDALE, AR - Reigning Texas League Player of the Week Salvador Perez drove in two runs and was 4-for-4 as the Naturals beat the Springfield Cardinals 5-4 Monday night to take three games of the four game series at Arvest Ballpark.

Further, they touched Springfield right-hander Shelby Miller (6-2) for four runs (three earned) over six frames and dealt him just his second Texas League loss. Miller is the top prospect in the St. Louis Cardinals system and one of the top ten overall prospects in the minors.

Northwest Arkansas (16-14, 51-46) fell behind early, facing a 3-0 deficit entering the bottom of the second against Miller and the Redbirds. But they knotted things up with two in the second and another in the third to tie the game before breaking through with the tie-breaking run in the sixth on a heads up play by Perez, who scampered home after Springfield first baseman Eric Duncan missed a relay throw on a bunt single by Derrick Robinson.

Although the Naturals' defense made a pair of miscues in the first inning that led to Springfield's first run, the defense was spectacular the rest of the way, turning four double plays, a couple of the spectacular nature, to help quell Springfield's potent offense.

Ryan Jackson led off the first with a single and took second on an error by Naturals' starter Jeremy Jeffress. After Jeffress fanned Eric Duncan, Alex Castellanos reached when his ground ball found its way in between Jeff Bianchi's legs at shortstop as Jackson came around to score for a 1-0 Springfield lead.

Charlie Cutler and Jermaine Curtis hit back-to-back singles to start the second and Daryl Jones walked to load the bases. Cutler scored as Chris Swauger grounded into a force out, and Curtis came in on a wild pitch to put Springfield up 3-0, but Jeffress got Ryan Jackson swinging and Perez fired it to second to nail Swauger attempting to steal.

Jeff Bianchi drew a walk off Shelby Miller with one out in the second and then stole second and scored on a two-out RBI single by Perez to bring the Naturals within two runs. One inning later, they knotted the score as Paulo Orlando hit a leadoff single and Derrick Robinson walked. Christian Colon sacrificed the runners to second and third and then Wil Myers then tripled off the wall in center scoring two more runs to tie the game at three.

Springfield (11-19, 43-57) knocked Jeffress from that game after just three innings of work and was poised to regain the lead in the fourth against Naturals' reliever Willy Lebron (3-1). After Charlie Cutler singled and Jermaine Curtis doubled, Daryl Jones bounced into a double play with Cutler being thrown out at the plate. Chris Swauger followed with a ground out to end the threat and Lebron was able to keep the game tied at three.

The Cardinals threatened again in the sixth off Lebron getting a lead off triple from Alex Castellanos, but Zack Cox struck out for the first out and after a walk, Jermaine Curtis bounced into a double play to end the inning.

Then, after taking the lead against Shelby Miller in the sixth, the Naturals were able to get another in the seventh as Jamie Romak singled off of Springfield reliever Francisco Samuel. A sacrifice bunt from Jeff Bianchi and a ground out from Anthony Seratelli moved him to third. Salvador Perez then came up clutch again by delivering an RBI single to left to add a big insurance run to the Naturals tab for a 5-3 lead.

They'd end up needing that one as Springfield got a homer from Alex Castellanos off Blaine Hardy in the eighth to cut the Naturals' lead to 5-4. But Hardy got the Cardinals in order in the ninth to wrap up the win and get his second save of the season.

With the series against Springfield complete, the Naturals now host the Tulsa Drillers for a three-game series that gets underway Wednesday evening. Left-hander Chris Dwyer (3-9, 6.80) will take the hill for the Naturals and face Tulsa southpaw Christian Friedrich (6-6, 3.72). Game time is 7 P.M, and the broadcast can be heard on ESPN 92.1 The Ticket. It can also be viewed on the internet on (subscription required).

By Frank Novak / Northwest Arkansas Naturals, 07/25/2011 11:59 PM ET