Palm Beach Cardinals Notebook: 2015 Week 14

The Palm Beach Cardinals had another good week, going 4-2 and taking over first place. Unheralded Corey Littrell is pitching better than his more celebrated rotation mates right now.

The Palm Beach Cardinals had another good week, going 4-2 and finally gaining sole possession of first place in the Florida State League South. With a couple of stellar pitching performances, and a few offensive breakouts, the Cardinals had a pretty even keeled week while winning some close games against tough opponents.

Let’s dive into how they fared.

July 8: Palm Beach Cardinals 2 at Bradenton Marauders (Pittsburgh Pirates) 1

Left hander Corey Littrell gave the Cardinals a solid start against the Marauders as he tossed six scoreless innings, allowing just four hits and no walks while striking out seven. The offense managed eight hits, but only scored twice as center fielder C.J. McElroy and DH Danny Diekroeger collected back-to-back RBI in the second inning on a base hit and a groundout, respectively. The other offensive performance of note came from the bat of left fielder Collin Radack, who was the only player to accumulate two hits. Palm Beach’s bullpen did its job admirably as Silfredo Garcia and Kevin Herget scattered five hits and a run while striking out four to close out the game.

July 9: Palm Beach Cardinals 10 at Bradenton Marauders 0

Palm Beach trounced the Marauders to finish off the series as the heart of the Cardinals’ lineup carried the team. Second baseman Brett Wiley, left fielder Collin Radack, and first baseman Luke Voit filled the 3-4-5 spots in the batting order and went a collective 7-for-10 with five RBI, eight runs scored, a home run, and a stolen base. Right fielder Blake Drake, batting sixth, was the only other player to reach base twice, going 2-for-5 with three RBI and a double. On the mound, Nick Petree gave Palm Beach a fantastic start, striking out three and allowing just five baserunners over seven innings.

July 10: Palm Beach Cardinals 5, Tampa Yankees (New York Yankees) 4

The Cardinals managed to squeak past Tampa for a 5-4 win as Marco Gonzales made his first rehab start. Gonzales went two innings and struck out three, giving up just one hit in an otherwise perfect outing. Daniel Poncedeleon pitched 5 1/3 innings in relief and didn’t fare as well, giving up three earned runs on five hits and two walks. The offense struck early, and fared well thanks to good nights from Wiley, Radack, and Voit again, as all three collected two hits for the second consecutive night. Catcher Carson Kelly capped off the scoring with a two-run home run in the third. Reliever Silfredo Garcia closed out the game, throwing 1 1/3 scoreless innings and earning the save.

July 11: Tampa Yankees 3 at Palm Beach Cardinals 1 (10 innings)

Luke Weaver produced another good outing for the Cardinals, giving up just one run on six hits and a walk over five innings, while striking out three. Unfortunately, the offense didn’t fare as well. Designated hitter Casey Turgeon managed to tie the game at one run apiece with a base hit in the eighth, scoring right fielder Blake Drake, but ultimately the effort fell short. Although the Cardinals managed to take the game into extra innings, newly-promoted reliever Robby Rowland was unable to keep the Yankees from scoring in the 10th and Palm Beach’s four game winning streak was brought to an end.

July 12: Tampa Yankees 3 at Palm Beach Cardinals 2 (10 innings)

The Cardinals lost their second consecutive extra-inning game as the offense couldn’t deliver more than two runs. Rob Kaminsky was roughed up a bit by his high standards, giving up two runs on four hits and two walks while striking out just four in six innings. Left fielder Collin Radack had another multi-hit game and third baseman Michael Massi joined him. Without any extra-base hits, however, the team struggled to score runs and ultimately the bullpen was burned in the 10th inning again. Lee Stoppelman was given the loss, although Kevin Herget surrendered the losing hit.

July 13: Palm Beach Cardinals 5, Tampa Yankees 2

Palm Beach recovered in the final game and split the four-game series against the Tampa Yankees. Marco Gonzales got the start again, going 2 2/3 innings and giving up four hits and two unearned runs while striking out one. Corey Littrell took over in the third and finished, going 6 1/3 without giving up a run and allowing just 4 hits while striking out 7. Third baseman Danny Diekroeger was the only player to record more than one hit, including a home run, but the rest of the lineup still produced. With seven hits, three doubles, and three walks, the offense was firing on all cylinders and the Cardinals cruised to an easy victory.

July 14: off

Who’s Hot

After a mediocre start to the season, Corey Littrell has really heated up lately, capping it off with two scoreless starts this week. His command has always been stellar, as he’s walked just 11 in 78 2/3 innings this season, but he seems to have uncovered a way to get strikeouts as well. Over 12 1/3 innings this week, the tall lefty struck out 14 while walking none and giving up just eight hits. Over his last four starts, he has a K/9 of 9.38 and a WHIP of 0.667. Compared to his season mark of 6.86 K/9 and 1.14 WHIP, this is a marked improvement. If he can keep it up, he may become another elite starter for Palm Beach.

Left fielder Collin Radack has really seen the ball well in the past week, going 10-for-21 with four runs, three RBI, two walks, and a stolen base. Most impressive has been his ability to limit his strikeouts, whiffing just twice over the past six games. This isn’t new behavior for the outfielder, as he’s hit a solid .333/.446./347 with just 11 strikeouts in his first 75 at bats with Palm Beach. Radack has been a staple for the Cardinals offense since coming off the disabled list on June 30th.

Second baseman Brett Wiley had a solid week, going 6-for-20 with three runs scored, two RBI, two walks, and two stolen bases. Although he hasn’t had a great season so far, Wiley has the tools to hit reasonably well and it would be great to see him turn it around. If the 23-year-old can improve the contact some and raise his batting average, he also has the speed to steal a few bases and be a game changer on the base paths, as he showed this past week.

Who’s Not

Since being called up on July 7th from Peoria, shortstop Andrew Sohn has had a rough go of it, filling in for Juan Herrera. He’s 1-for-21 with two walks and one RBI across seven starts. He hasn’t been great in the field either, with five errors in 65 innings and a fielding percentage of .884. While his performance has been nothing short of disastrous so far, Sohn likely isn’t going anywhere and should continue as the starting shortstop until Herrera is healthy again.

C.J. McElroy had another rough week, recording just two hits in 21 at bats with two runs scored and no stolen bases. After a good start, the speedy center fielder has really slowed down lately (.156 in July), but that should turn around. He has a lock on Palm Beach’s leadoff spot, and will have as much time as he needs to get back in the groove again.

Catching prospect Carson Kelly just hasn’t been able to work himself off this list. He managed just three hits in 18 at-bats, although that did include a two-run home run. The most disturbing development has been the young catcher’s lack of patience, with just one walk in the past five games. One has to wonder how long he will continue to be Palm Beach’s everyday catcher, and I would guess that Jose Gonzalez will start to see more time.

Roster Moves

July 10: LHP Marco Gonzales from Memphis Redbirds
Marco Gonzales is on a temporary rehab assignment and shouldn’t pitch more than a game or two at Palm Beach.

July 11: RHP Josh Lucas to Springfield Cardinals
Having pitched to a 1.55 ERA with 30 strikeouts over 40 ? innings, Josh Lucas has been a stalwart of Palm Beach’s bullpen. Hopefully, the rest of the Cardinals’ bullpen will be able to pick up the slack.

July 11: RHP Robby Rowland from Peoria Chiefs
With nine saves on the season, Rowland was one of Peoria’s two closers, and now he’s been called up to fill in for Josh Lucas in the bullpen. He was pitching well in Peoria, so hopefully he’ll be a useful addition at Palm Beach.

July 12: C Jose Gonzalez to Springfield
In a shuffle that has already happened before this season, Gonzalez was called up to fill in at Springfield.

July 12: C Stephen Zavala from Gulf Coast League Cardinals
Replacing Gonzalez as Palm Beach’s backup catcher, Zavala was called up to fill in for a few days.

July 13: RHP Alex Reyes RHP to Gulf Coast League Cardinals
Reyes was sent to the Gulf Coast League on a rehab assignment. Although he hasn’t returned to Palm Beach yet, he did throw three perfect innings with three strikeouts on Monday. He should return to Palm Beach’s rotation very soon.

July 14: C Jose Gonzalez C from Springfield Cardinals
Having served his purpose at Springfield, Gonzalez is back with Palm Beach and will resume his role as backup catcher.

July 14: C Stephen Zavala to Gulf Coast League Cardinals
As Gonzalez was sent back to Palm Beach from Springfield, so Zavala was returned to the GCL Cardinals.

Injuries

Opening Day: RHP Cory Jones to 7-day DL
June 2: UT Mason Katz to 7-day DL
June 23: INF Juan Herrera to 7-day DL
June 25: RHP Will Anderson to 7-day DL
June 25: RHP Alex Reyes to 7-day DL -- rehab assignment to Gulf Coast League Cardinals

Team Hitting

The Cardinals continue to struggle as an offensive unit, trailing the rest of the league in batting average and hits. Most concerning is the lack of slugging, and Palm Beach is second to last in the league with a .306 slugging percentage. In short, the Cardinals are allergic to hits, especially of the extra-base variety. Luckily, they draw a lot of walks (third in the league) and keep winning, so it’s hard to complain too much.

Team Pitching

Although the Palm Beach pitching hasn’t been as great in recent weeks due to injury and a couple of cold streaks, they still pace the Florida State League by and large. They’re second in ERA, third in WHIP, and have allowed just 13 home runs all season (the second place Jupiter Hammerheads have allowed 21). With the return of Alex Reyes and a couple of hot streaks, Palm Beach’s pitching staff shouldn’t struggle to remain the class of the league.

Standings

The Cardinals are in first place and have a one game lead over the Fort Myers Miracle in the Florida State League South second half standings. Although they’ve struggled at home, with a record of 6-5, they’ve excelled on the road, winning seven and losing just one. All in all, they have a record of 13-6, which certainly keeps their playoff hopes alive.

What’s Next

In the coming week, Palm Beach will head on the road to take on the Philadelphia Phillies’ farm team, the Clearwater Threshers, for a four-game series before returning home to face the Bradenton Marauders for three.

The Threshers could pose a challenge, as they have a second half record of 14-5 and are first in the North Division, but the Cardinals will work to continue their stellar road performance thus far and take them down a notch.





Follow Chris Greene on Twitter @PBCBeat.

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