The Palm Beach Cardinals started the week within striking distance of first place and with a good week could find them atop of the Florida State League South.
On Friday, the team dropped a 2-1 match up with Clearwater. Arquimedes Nieto allowed only two runs in 6.1 innings but was still hung with the loss. The team collected only four hits while Niko Vasquez had the only extra base hit, a double.
The Cardinals bounced back the next night with a convincing 5-1 victory over the Threshers. Kyle Conley led the charge with a double and a two-run home run. Starlin Rodriguez had three hits out of the leadoff spot while Rainel Rosario added a pair. Richard Castillo picked up his first victory of the season after spinning six shutout innings.
As has been the case many times this season, the Cards could not keep any momentum and dropped the next day affair. Also which has been the case many times this season, Eric Fornataro was tagged with a loss. The right-hander is now 6-10 after allowing three runs in seven strong innings. Greg Garcia had three hits including a double to go along with an RBI. Robert Stock added two singles.
As the calendar changed, the Cardinals saw a change in their fortunes. Carlos Martinez took the ball on the first day of August with eight strikeouts in six innings of work. It was his third victory since joining Palm Beach. The Cardinals offense plated seven runs against Clearwater pitching with Domnit Bolivar driving in three of them. The shortstop managed three hits including a two-run home run.
Palm Beach has struggled to string together wins but did manage a second consecutive victory Wednesday night. The Cards topped Charlotte 10-3 with Luis De La Cruz leading the charges with four hits. Xavier Scruggs hit his 11th home run of the season, a three-run blast. Tyler Lyons picked up the victory after laboring through five innings of work. Daniel Calhoun was strong out of the pen with three shutout innings.
On the final game of the week, the Cardinals dropped an interesting affair. Tied at one in the bottom of the 14th inning, reliever Chris Corrigan threw a wild pitch that allowed the winning run to score. Arquimedes Nieto allowed only one hit in seven shutout innings. Reliever Jordan Swagerty was charged with a blown save after allowing a tally in two innings of work. Niko Vasquez, Greg Garcia, and Xavier Scruggs each collected a pair of hits.
Luis De La Cruz has hit in nine of his last ten games for a .400 average during the stretch. The former Top 40 prospect is hitting .315/.351/.384 in his last 22 games.
The Cardinal Nation Top 40 Prospect Watch
#40 Niko Vasquez. It has been a disappointing season for the young infielder from Nevada. In 59 games at Palm Beach, Vasquez is hitting an anemic .226 and has struck out in almost 25% of his at bats.
#39 Robert Stock. After a red-hot streak after being promoted from Quad Cities, the backstop has cooled off as of late. Over his last 36 at bats, Stock is hitting .222/.282/.333.
#30 Rainel Rosario. The 22-year-old is now hitting .276/.344/.409 with nine home runs and 64 RBI. #24 Jordan Swagerty. The right-hander is now 2-2 with a 1.89 ERA in 52 innings. Swagerty has racked up 50 strikeouts and 16 walks while picking up four saves along the way.
#5 Carlos Martinez. The phenom is now 3-1 with a 4.45 ERA. In 30.1 innings, he has amassed 31 strikeouts while struggling with 16 walks.
Around the League
The Cardinals are now 22-19 in the second half and sit two and a half games behind first-place Bradenton.
Offensively, Palm Beach ranks tenth in team average, eleventh in on base percentage, and ninth in slugging percentage. On the mound, the team is fourth in ERA and third in strikeouts.
Rosario is tied for ninth in the league in RBIs. Scruggs is ninth in strikeouts. Fornataro is twelfth on the circuit in ERA while being tagged with the third highest walk total.
Palm Beach will finish up a series with Charlotte before returning home to host Fort Myers on Saturday. The team will then welcome Charlotte for a three-game set before hitting the road to Fort Myers.
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