The Gulf Coast League Cardinals (3-3) started the week by losing three close games to the hard-charging Mets, extending their slump to eight losses in nine games and cutting their East Division lead to 1-1/2 games. The Mets outscored them 11-5 and outhit them 33-19.
The Cardinals recovered in the second half of the week to sweep three from the Marlins and prevent the Mets, who swept three from the Nationals to complete a 6-0 week, from gaining any more ground. In the three games, the Cardinals outscored the Marlins 27-9 and outhit them 38-18. In the two series combined, the Cardinals committed only five errors, compared with 12 for their opponents.
Before losing 5-3 to the Cardinals on Thursday, the Marlins had staved off elimination by winning 10 straight. Cardinals manager Steve Turco said that loss seemed to let the air out of the Marlins.
With 58 hits for the week, the Cardinals hit .275, slightly lower than their league-leading .278 team average for the season. But they hit only .196 while losing three to the Mets and .229 while losing eight of nine before scalding the Marlins staff for a .345 average.
The pitching staff allowed 19 walks, increasing their rate to 2.29 per 9 innings, still the lowest in all of affiliated professional baseball. They are second in the 16-team GCL in WHIP (1.20) and third in ERA (3.23).
The Cardinals (32-23) play the Mets (31-25) on Monday and Tuesday, then a doubleheader Wednesday against the Nationals in Viera before finishing the season at home Thursday against the Nationals. If the Cardinals hold on to win the division, they would play a one-game semifinal round on Friday.
The other division leaders have 34, 33 and 32 wins, and only one of those leaders has an edge of more than 1-1/2 games with five or six games left, so figuring out the playoff seeding at this point is impossible.
Highlights of the Week
After getting swept three by the Mets to extend their slump to eight losses in their last nine games, the Cardinals were tied at 3 with the Marlins on Thursday going into the bottom of the seventh inning.
Magneuris Sierra started the inning with an infield single off the glove of reliever Joseph O’Gara, a Double-A pitcher making his third rehab appearance after spending two months on the shelf. Edmundo Sosa’s single to left sent Sierra to third. Sierra scored the tie-breaking run on Michael Pritchard’s ground out. With Jake Gronsky at bat, Sosa stole third and scored on a catcher’s throwing error. Dylan Hawkins, who had pitched a scoreless seventh inning, got two more outs in the eighth before Jery Then came in to earn his first professional save by striking out the last four Marlins batters, two called and two swinging.
Who’s Hot & Not
Jake Gronsky busted out of his slump with a flourish, going 10-for-18 with three walks and four RBI.
Eliezer Alvarez continued to produce from the ninth spot in the batting order, going 9-for-20 with three walks and five runs scored.
Derek Gibson was 7-for-19 with four walks and six RBI.
Michael Pritchard was 8-for-22 with four walks.
With an 8-for-25 week, Magneuris Sierra’s batting average fell to .366, but he still leads the league. Pritchard and Malik Collymore, who was 2-for14 with seven strikeouts, are tied for third at .333.
DeAndre Asbury-Heath was 3-for-11 with two walks.
Since Jery Then was touched for three hits, including a two-run home run, in his one-inning pro debut on July 24, he has made nine scoreless appearances totaling 17-2/3 innings and allowed only eight hits and five walks while fanning 22.
After compiling 68 strikeouts in 46 innings in high school, Bryan Dobanski was a little disappointed that he had fanned only nine batters in his first 17 pro innings, and none in the nine innings of his first two starts since going into the rotation. On Thursday, though, Dobzanski struck out five in five innings while holding the Marlins to two runs on three hits and a walk.
Elier Rodriguez was 1-for-15.
Edmundo Sosa was 5-for-24.
A Closer Look
The capsules of the following four players are based on interviews with Cardinals manager Steve Turco.
Michael Massi: Signed as a non-drafted free agent out of Mercer University in Macon, Ga., the native of Pittsburgh has not hit much this season but has been a reliable utility infielder. Massi, who turned 22 two days before the GCL season began, “looked overmatched at the plate” as he makes the transition to wood bats, Turco said, but “has done a nice job filling in all over the infield.” The 6-foot, 185-pound right-handed hitter has compiled a batting average of only .214 in 98 at-bats, but his 16 walks to only 14 strikeouts gives him a respectable .352 on-base percentage.
Ramon Santos: Signed in 2012, the 6-foot-2, 160-pound right-hander spent two seasons in the Summer League in his native Dominican Republic before making his first appearance on U.S. soil this season. Santos, who will turn 20 in September, has a fastball that sits around 91 and touches 94 with a downward angle. Santos also possesses a “major league quality” curveball, Turco said, “When he throws it for strikes, it’s tough to hit.” His changeup, conversely, is a work in progress.
Achieving consistency is Santos’ immediate goal. He may have taken a big step in that direction in his most recent outing Friday. He allowed no runs and two hits, though he walked five, in six innings to earn his first win of the season. In the first three innings, nursing a 1-0 lead, Santos threw only 24 pitches, allowing one single but retiring batters early in the count. After his offense opened a bigger lead, Santos started getting some strikeouts but also walking batters. Turco wasn’t sure whether Santos began challenging hitters more with the bigger lead, or perhaps lost some focus.
Bryan Dobzanski: The Cardinals’ 29th-round selection in June is a 6-foot-4, 220-pound 18-year-old from Delsea High School in Franklinville, New Jersey. Dobzanski is better known in his hometown as one of the most heralded high school wrestlers in New Jersey history, going undefeated including state titles in his junior and senior years.
Dobzanski is big, strong and “athletic for his size,” Turco said. “He is still raw, crude in his pitching skills, but the kid knows how to win. He’s been in pressure-filled situations and it doesn’t seem to bother him.” Dobzanski throws strikes with an 88-91 mph fastball “that should get harder,” a curveball with good rotation but which still needs some refinement, and a changeup he has confidence to throw even in the count. “He must have some deception in his delivery because he gets a lot of swing-and-misses,” Turco said.
Jery Then: The 19-year-old Dominican native was signed in June as an international free agent, though he pitched briefly and not especially well earlier this season for Western Oklahoma State College. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound right-hander has an unconventional delivery that “gives him a lot of deception and a lot of life on his fastball,” Turco said.
Then’s fastball sits at 93-95 mph, but he has touched 97 this season. “This guy will throw harder,” Turco said, noting that Trevor Rosenthal’s fastball was 90-94 when he was in the GCL in 2009. Then also throws a slider and a changeup, but both cut the same way at 81-84 mph. Then has worked his way into Turco’s mix of late-inning relievers. “When he’s out there, I feel confident the game is in very good hands,” Turco said. Then wants the ball. “He tells me all the time after he throws, ‘I’ll be ready tomorrow.’ ”
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