After enduring their worst day of the season with a doubleheader loss to the last-place Marlins last Saturday, the Gulf Coast League Cardinals started this week no better. In a rain-shortened 12-2 loss to the Nationals on Monday, the Cardinals committed four errors that led to five unearned runs, while their offense managed only two runs on six hits. Cardinals manager Steve Turco kept calm, though, and told his first-place team to relax and play the way they are capable. In winning four of their next five, the Cardinals outscored their opponents 22 to 10 and outhit them 48 to 23.
With his best outing to date, starting pitcher Ronnie Williams set a fresh tone Tuesday with four scoreless innings, allowing two singles and a walk, in a 4-0 whitewashing of the Nationals. Four pitchers combined to no-hit the Nationals on Wednesday, though it was not a shutout.
With 17 games remaining, the Cardinals (28-15) lead the Mets by 5-1/2 games and the Nationals by 6.
The Cardinals offense is first in the 16-team GCL in batting average (.283), on-base percentage (.370), OPS (.771) and triples. They are third in doubles and walks, while having the lowest strikeout total.
The pitching staff is first in shutouts (6), third in WHIP (1.20) and fifth in ERA (3.29). After allowing 15 walks during the week, their walks-per-9 innings rose to 2.09, but it still is the lowest in all of affiliated professional baseball because the next-best team last week, the Princeton Rays in the Appalachian League, went up from 2.09 to 2.18.
Transactions & Injuries
Jordan DeLorenzo, the Cardinals’ 12th-round pick in June out of the University of West Florida, was sent down from Johnson City, where he had struggled in his last few outings. DeLorenzo gives Turco a second left-hander on the pitching staff. With the recent promotions of Luke Weaver, Andrew Morales and Julio Mateo and the temporary shelving of Jorge Rodriguez due to injury, the GCL Cards pitching staff was a bit short-handed. Rodriguez, however, is expected to return to active duty this week.
Highlights of the Week
After badly losing three straight, the Cardinals nursed a 1-0 lead into the ninth on Tuesday when Joshua Lopez broke the game open with a three-run home run that ended an 0-for-16 slide. … In Wednesday’s no-hitter, Magneuris Sierra had four hits, drove in three runs, scored twice on wild pitches and stole two bases. The Cardinals led by only 2-1 until long doubles by Frankie Rodriguez, both off the left-field fence, keyed two-run rallies in the seventh and eighth innings. … After Mets lefty starter Adrian Almeida had blanked the Cardinals for five innings on Friday, David Washington, on a rehab assignment from A-Advanced Palm Beach, was glad to see right-handed reliever Flabio Ortega when he led off the sixth. Ortega’s first pitch, a fastball, came in at 90 mph, but Washington sent it out over the right-field fence at 105 mph for a game-tying home run. The Cardinals won the game in the ninth on an RBI single by Sierra, who had been 0-for-4 before squirting a one-out single just past third base. … Making his second start of the season, soft-tossing lefty Dylan Hawkins held the Mets to two hits and no walks in four shutout innings. Malik Collymore led the offense with three hits, including a two-run triple.
Who’s Hot & Not
Magneuris Sierra went 10-for-26 (.384), but that lowered his league-leading average to .389. A left-handed hitter, Sierra is batting .421 vs. lefties. … Malik Collymore was 9-for-20, pushing his average to .354. Collymore leads the GCL in OPS (.976, just ahead of Sierra’s .975), is second in batting average and third in RBI (30). … In two appearances totaling 5-1/3 innings, reliever Jery Then allowed no hits and one walk while fanning six. Then’s fastball touched 97 mph. … Steven De La Cruz, who was charged with 10 earned runs in his first 10 innings over seven appearances, allowed only one hit and one walk in four scoreless innings. ,,, Jake Gronsky struggled, going 1-for-14, but struck out only twice.
A Closer Look At
These capsules of three college pitchers signed as non-drafted free agents are based on interviews with GCL Cardinals manager Steve Turco:
Steven De La Cruz: A 21-year-old native of the Bronx, New York, De La Cruz was signed out of the New Mexico Military Institute Junior College, where he played outfield and hit .335. The Cardinals, however, are converting the 6-foot-1, 185-pound right-hander into a pitcher. “He’s a good athlete with a good arm,” Turco said of De La Cruz, who sports a fastball that sits at 92-93 mph and touches 95. “His slider helps his fastball.” De La Cruz is also working to develop a changeup, but in his current middle relief role he doesn’t use it much.
Kevin Alexander: The 23-year-old spent five seasons at Florida Atlantic University because he sat out the 2011 season with an injury, but rebounded to be a staff stalwart and serve as team captain and closer his final year. The 6-foot-1, 175-pound right-hander is from Coral Springs, Florida. “Alexander started out a little rough, but got better quickly and has done a very nice job for us,” Turco said. Throwing from a low three-quarters slot, Alexander has a fastball in the upper 80s, but with “sink and tail,” Turco said. He uses a slurve as his offspeed pitch against right-handed batters and a changeup against lefties. In 16-2/3 innings so far, Alexander has given up 19 hits, but only two walks.
Andrew Reidt: The 22-year-old is a native of Grey Summit, Missouri, about 40 miles west of St. Louis. Reidt (pronounced right) had completed his senior year at Cameron University in Lawton, Oklahoma, after attending St. Louis Community College before signing with the Cardinals. The 6-foot-6, 218-pound right-hander “has been a pleasant surprise,” Turco said. “He doesn’t throw very hard, but he’s got some deception and movement to his pitches. He needs to keep the ball down.” Throwing from an almost sidearm slot, Reidt’s fastball tops out around 88 mph so far, but he has a decent slurve and changeup. “He’s quick to the plate and moves off the mound fairly well for a guy his size,” Turco said.
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