In the season's first full week, the Gulf Coast League Cardinals outscored the Nationals 13-12 and the Mets 12-10 in taking two of three from both opponents. At 6-2, the East Division-leading Cards have already opened a two-game lead over the Mets and Nationals, while the Marlins trail the pack at 2-6.
Highlight of the Week
In their win over the Mets on Friday, the G-Cards took a page out of the record-setting book of last season's Nationals team. In many of the Nationals' league-record 49 wins last season, they would hang close until their opponent made one crucial mistake to open the door, and then would burst through that door.
The Cards did exactly that Friday. They trailed 3-0 in the bottom of the eighth inning before DeAndre Asbury-Heath led off the inning by reaching base on a throwing error by the Mets shortstop. The shortstop's throw was in the dirt, but was not that tough a pick for their first basemen, who was unable to scoop it.
Cards first base coach Kleininger Teran said he told the Mets first baseman that if Asbury-Heath reached base, the Cards would win. He was proved right.
A wild pitch then sent Asbury-Heath to second, but it was made moot when Michael Massi, who is hitless in nine at-bats so far, drew a walk. Cards manager Steve Turco then sent up Michael Pritchard to pinch-hit for no. 9 hitter Frankie Rodriguez and Pritchard also walked to load the bases. Edmundo Sosa's ground single to left plated the Cardinals' first run as everyone moved up a base. At that point, Mets manager Jose Carreno had seen enough of pitcher Derrick Bernard, who was making his pro debut, and brought in Nabil Crismatt, who had two scoreless outings so far.
The Cards pulled within a run when Magneuris Sierra singled to right, leaving the bases still loaded. Elier Rodriguez's liner to right field wasn't deep enough to score Pritchard with the tying run. And when Pritchard was forced out at home on Malik Collymore's grounder to third, the Cards were one out from defeat.
Derek Gibson, however, walked on a 3-2 pitch to force home Sosa with the tying run for Gibson's team-leading seventh RBI.
Ricardo Bautista, who was only 2-for-11 at the point with one RBI, broke the game open with a grand slam shot over the right field fence.
Sasha Kuebel, a St. Louis native who was the Cardinals' 38th-round pick from the University of Iowa this year, then pitched a scoreless ninth, just as he had the eighth, to earn his first pro win.
Turco has the makings of a productive lineup, getting strong contributions from his double-play combo of Sosa and Collymore. Leadoff hitter Sosa has an on-base percentage of .455, while Collymore has established himself as the cleanup hitter with a .643 slugging percentage.
While the team is off to a good start, Turco said there is plenty of room for improvement, especially on defense. In eight games, the starting infield of Julian Barzilli (3B), Edmundo Sosa (SS), Malik Collymore (2B) and Elier Rodriguez (1B) have been charged with 10 errors.
Turco also said players need to communicate better with each other on the field.
A Closer Look At
This week's capsule scouting reports are based on interviews with the manager:
Malik Collymore: The Cardinals' 10th-round pick last year left the GCL before last season ended to play for the Canadian National Team. Now 19, Collymore looks physically stronger and more imposing than he did a year ago. "I think he's making improvements in all areas of his game," Turco said last week. "Last year you saw his strength and bat speed in batting practice, but now he is more able to apply that in game situations." Turco said Collymore improved his pitch recognition during extended spring training. If he continues to improve and perform as he has in the early going, Collymore is probably the first candidate to move up the chain.
Elier Rodriguez: A 14th-round pick in 2013, the 6-foot-2, 210-pound switch-hitting catcher is playing first base for now because the GCL Cards roster has three catchers and no true first baseman, Turco said. A 19-year-old Miami native, Rodriguez was not very experienced as a backstop, so he might stay at first base because "his bat is his carry tool and versatility will help him get more at-bats." Last season, Rodriguez showed more power from the left side, but made more consistent contact from the right side. Rodriguez is off to a slow start this year, so it remains to be seen what improvements he has made.
DeAndre Asbury-Heath: The Cardinals' 15th-round pick in 2013 missed most of the first week of games this season because of a sore left thumb he injured diving for a fly ball toward the end of extended spring training, Asbury-Heath started the last three games this week and had a single in each. Turco said the 6-foot-3, 170-pound right-handed hitting outfielder is "very athletic" and has baseball tools, but not much experience or knowledge of the game yet. "He's still figuring out his approach at the plate, but he's starting to make harder contact."
Still only 18, the South Carolina native is coachable because he works hard and has an enthusiastic, upbeat attitude, Turco said.
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