The Northwest Arkansas Naturals, the Royals Double-A minor league affiliate, took Game 1 of the North Division Championship Series against the Springfield Cardinals, 9-6, before 2,647 fans at Hammons Field on Wednesday night. Game two is Thursday night in Springfield before the teams make the two-and-a-half hour trip south to Springdale, AR., for games three-five.
The Naturals grabbed a 4-0 lead in the third. St. Louis Cardinals SS Aledmys Diaz, on a rehab assignment, made a diving stop to help the Cardinals get out of the inning. Northwest Arkansas added a run in the top of the fourth.
Cardinals DH Bruce Caldwell hit a solo blast to left-center field, cutting the lead to 5-1. Springfield tied with four runs in the bottom of the fifth, but Northwest Arkansas went right back in front in the top of the sixth, 6-5.
The Naturals made it 9-5 in the eighth before Springfield scored once in the bottom of the ninth.
Diaz went 0-for-4 with an RBI. Diaz is in the final stages of his rehab from a hairline fracture in his right thumb. The biggest test was throwing the ball and he had no setbacks.