Published: May 5, 2014
Oscar Taveras feels those eyes watching him.
The St. Louis Cardinals have a strong following everywhere in the middle of the country, and their top prospect is closely monitored by those fans everywhere he goes. For three nights, he had mostly left them disappointed.
Not on Monday.
Taveras and Memphis left Colorado Springs on a high note, pounding the Sky Sox 15-2 with a 21-hit effort. Taveras had three of those hits as drove in three runs and smacked a pair of doubles.
"Everybody knows me and there are a lot of Cardinals fans here," Taveras said. "I'm happy when people come to the game to see me. I try to get a good at-bat and play hard every time. That's what I do. My ankle feels fine and I'm 100 percent and ready to play to the big leagues."
Taveras, a native of the Dominican Republic, is a career .320 hitter in the minor leagues with a slugging percentage of .518. Baseball America lists him as the No. 3 prospect in the game.
But fans at Security Service Field hadn't seen any of that yet. He was 1 for 8 in the first two games of the series, then sat out Sunday's game.
It was in his second at-bat Monday that Taveras finally busted out against Sky Sox starter Tyler Matzek.
It was one of those high-profile matchups that, for those looking for them, are rare treats in minor league games. Matzek, a former top pick, got ahead 0-2 in the bases-loaded, nobody-out situation before Taveras laced a double into the right-field corner.
"He's a good pitcher for the Pacific Coast League," Taveras said of Matzek. "He threw a slider down the middle and I saw it hang. I hit it hard."
Matzek had already been victimized by a pair of errors in that inning - including one of his own - and the two-run double seemed to be the backbreaker. Four runs crossed in that frame, two in the next and four in the next. Matzek was finally lifted after throwing 99 pitches and surrendering 11 runs (eight earned) and 13 hits in five innings.
Matzek fell to 1-2 and his ERA rose from 3.04 to 4.83.
Kyle Parker homered for the Sky Sox, one of the few highlights on a night where the Sky Sox had just six hits and didn't score their first run until they trailed 11-0.
It was just a showcase night for Cardinals prospects.
Kolten Wong also had three hits, including a homer, and drove in three. Catcher Audry Perez had three hits and a pair of RBIs. Xavier Scruggs homered among his three hits.
Afterward, a number of Cardinals fans were waiting to congratulate the Redbirds before they left town.
"Good luck, Oscar, we need you," someone shouted to Taveras.
Sure enough, they were watching.