The Gulf Coast League Cardinals were 1-2 in the final week to finish 24-35. The Cardinals were in second place at 17-15 on July 29, but lost nine in a row and won only seven of their last 27 games to finish one game behind the second-place Marlins and 25-1/2 games behind the Nationals, who won a GCL-record 49 games.
The Cardinals were 4-15 against the Nationals, losing their last 12 against the division champions. They were 13-6 against the last-place Mets, but 7-13 against the Marlins, with whom they share the Roger Dean Complex in Jupiter.
Unlike last season, when the GCL Cardinals won their first division title, they were officially eliminated from the race in early August after losing nine in a row. Unofficially, the Cards were out of the race weeks before that because of Nationals' domination of the division. Manager Steve Turco said that when the division title because an unrealistic objective, he had to refocus the team's attention on smaller goals.
Over the weekend, the Nationals swept the Red Sox in the two-game GCL finals to be crowned league champions. The sting of the Cards' 4-15 mark against the Nationals was lessened a bit by the fact the Nats rolled through the GCL playoffs as easily as they rolled through the East Division.
Highlight of the Week
The top moment of the final week was their four-run rally in the top of the eighth inning of Tuesday's game against the Mets in Port St. Lucie.
After losing to the Mets 18-3 the day before in Jupiter, the Cardinals trailed 5-3 going to the eighth. Rafael Medina started the inning with a walk and went to third on a double by Jose Godoy. A walk to Ricardo Bautista loaded the bases for Carlos Torres, who doubled home the tying runs.
The Mets replaced Ramon Estevez with Gaither Bumgardner, who fanned Chris Rivera. Pinch-hitter Elier Rodriguez singled in the go-ahead run before Anthony Ray reached on a throwing error that gave the Cardinals an insurance run. They tacked on four more runs in the ninth to defeat the Mets 11-6.
Though the Cardinals were in the middle of the pack in team batting average (.243), OPS (.647) and team earned run average (3.73), they were the least patient team at the plate, drawing a league-low 167 walks.
While their pitchers were third-highest in strikeouts (499), they were also third-highest in walks (214).
They were 12th in the 16-team league in stolen bases, but their success rate (60 percent) was among the worst in the league. It was better than the Marlins, though, who tried to steal only 30 times and were thrown out in 14 of those attempts.
The fleet-footed Nationals, on the other hand, stole a league-best 110 bases with a 70 percent success rate. Combine that with a league-leading .359 on-base percentage, a 2.45 ERA that led the league by a wide margin and only 26 unearned runs allowed (the Cardinals allowed 59, which was around the league average), and it is easy to understand why the Nationals had a record-setting season with an .845 win percentage. To illustrate how dominating that is, translate that to a 162-game major-league season and the Nationals would have won 137 games.
Finishing strongly - hitters
OF Anthony Ray finished the season with an eight-game hitting streak, during which he was 14-for-37 (.378). … In his last 10 games, OF Ricardo Bautista drew eight walks and was 13-for-30 (.433), including two doubles, his only extra-base hits of the season. Bautista had drawn only seven walks in his first 24 games while hitting .181. … C Jose Gomez had eight hits in his last 19 at-bats (.421) to push his season average to .320. … 3B Rafael Medina had 12 of his team-leading 50 hits in his final 39 at-bats (.308) to finish the season at .282. … After hitting .167 in both June and July, OF Carlos Torres hit .302 (19-for-63) in August. … C Elier Rodriguez was 10 for his last 29 (.345). … Even 1B Jacoby Almaraz picked it up at the end, going 8-for-28 in his final 10 games (.286) after starting the season in a deep hole with three hits in his first 53 at-bats (.057).
Finishing strongly - pitchers
RHP Jonathan Escudero, who was pummeled for four runs by the Marlins on August 3, allowed six hits and four walks while fanning 13 over his last six appearances covering 10-1/3 innings. The 20-year-old Colombian was especially effective against lefty hitters, holding them to a .200 average and 1.84 ERA this season. … In LHP Ian McKinney's final appearance, a Saturday morning start against the Marlins, he had 10 relatives in the stands who came from his Orlando, Fla. McKinney gave up two of the three earned runs scored against him all season to "balloon" his ERA from 0.34 to 0.89. … LHP Dylan Hawkins yielded two earned runs on 10 hits and two walks while striking out 17 in his final four outings covering 14-2/3 innings, including his first two starts as a pro. … In RHP Kender Villegas' final 10 appearances, covering 10-2/3 innings, he allowed one earned run on seven hits and two walks while whiffing a dozen.
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