While facing a couple of the best teams in the Florida State League, the Palm Beach Cardinals thrived, taking five of seven in the past week. Although the pitching staff had a couple of hiccups, and the offense wasn’t awe inspiring for the most part, the Cardinals still managed to retain a two-game lead in the South Division.
July 15: Clearwater Threshers (PHI) 9, Palm Beach Cardinals 1
Nick Petree struggled immensely against the Clearwater Threshers’ offense, giving up seven runs over five innings, including ten hits and four home runs. He has not struggled with the longball previously, so this disastrous outing was a bit surprising. Unfortunately, Petree’s offense wasn’t able to pick him up, with first baseman Luke Voit’s three-walk game standing out as one of the best offensive performances in a rough night.
July 16: Palm Beach Cardinals 3 at Clearwater Threshers 0
After an awful first game of the series, the Cardinals came back strong against the Threshers as Daniel Poncedeleon was phenomenal. Tossing eight scoreless innings and allowing just six hits and no walks, Poncedeleon simply mowed down Clearwater’s hitters in his most dominant outing of the season to date. Although the offense wasn’t stellar, both left fielder Collin Radack and catcher Carson Kelly collected two hits, including a solo home run off the bat of Kelly. Reliever Robby Rowland earned the save with a perfect ninth inning.
July 17: Palm Beach Cardinals 2 at Clearwater Threshers 0
Palm Beach showed off its superior pitching again as they shut out the Threshers for the second day in a row. In an effort to match his teammate’s performance, Luke Weaver went 7 2/3 innings without giving up a run while allowing just three hits and striking out eight. He didn’t walk a batter. Second baseman Brett Wiley and first baseman Luke Voit both contributed two-base hits and a stolen base, and Silfredo Garcia earned the save with a scoreless ninth.
July 18: Palm Beach Cardinals 7 at Clearwater Threshers 2
Although Corey Littrell’s performance wasn’t quite as dominant as the previous two starters, he pitched a solid five innings, giving up just two runs on a two-run home run in the second inning and striking out six. After falling into an early hole, however, the Palm Beach offense responded in a big way, putting up six runs in the final two innings to come away with the win. First baseman Luke Voit led the charge by going 2-for-4 with a walk, a home run, three runs scored, and two RBI, while catcher Carson Kelly contributed three hits, a run, and an RBI. After dropping the first game of the series by a large margin, the Cardinals surged back to win the next three games and the series.
July 19: Palm Beach Cardinals 3, Bradenton Marauders (PIT) 2
In a tight game against the second place Marauders, the Cardinals enjoyed victory on a walkoff hit from DH Casey Turgeon. In Alex Reyes’ first start since his stint on the disabled list, he went three innings and gave up two runs while striking out six. Although he wasn’t his usual dominant self, the outing was a solid return to the Florida State League. Lee Stoppelman and Silfredo Garcia also threw three innings apiece, contributing substantially to the win. On the offensive side, catcher Carson Kelly stroked a two-run double, and right fielder Blake Drake was 2-for-4 with a run scored.
July 20: Bradenton Marauders 5 at Palm Beach Cardinals 3
In another close game, Trey Nielsen and the Cardinals were unable to fend off Bradenton. Giving up three earned runs on seven hits over 5 ? innings, Nielsen was charged with the loss. Third baseman Danny Diekroeger carried the offense, going 1-for-3 with two RBI, and recently-returned shortstop Robelys Reyes contributed two hits and a run. Ultimately, the Cardinals’ bats never heated up and the team’s modest four-game winning streak was brought to an end.
July 21: Palm Beach Cardinals 7, Bradenton Marauders 4
After a terrible outing earlier this week, Nick Petree was given a chance at redemption and he took it. As the offense ran all over Marauders’ catcher Jin-De Jhong, accumulating four stolen bases, Petree gave up just two runs over seven innings while striking out five. Right fielder Collin Radack went 2-for-3 with a double, a run, an RBI, and a steal to lead the offensive production, but the team’s patience - drawing six walks - and speed really carried the day. Although reliever Robby Rowland gave up two runs in his two innings of relief to make things a little more interesting for the home team, the Cardinals came away with the victory and another series win.
Daniel Poncedeleon has to be on this list. Since being called up to the Florida State League, Poncedeleon has started three games. So far, he’s given up three earned runs over 19 1/3 innings while allowing just 11 hits and three walks. Although his 11 strikeouts are on the low end, it is a small critique given his miniscule 1.40 ERA and 1.03 WHIP. His scoreless eight-inning start this week was just another impressive outing from the 23-year-old right hander. It’s hard not to be excited about anyone putting up those kind of numbers. It will be worth watching to see if he can keep it up.
After weeks on the “Who’s Not” list, Carson Kelly has finally turned in a solid week for Palm Beach. In the past week, Kelly was 7-for-18 with a home run, five RBI, three runs scored, and two walks. Although that isn’t the most impressive performance imaginable, his power was really on display, with a .722 slugging percentage, a 1.172 OPS, and a .333 isolated power. This week offered a little bit of insight into why the young catcher is one of the Cardinals’ top prospects. Hopefully he can build some momentum and keep the production coming.
Much like Poncedeleon, Luke Weaver has been impressive of late. His three-hit shutout of the Clearwater Threshers over 7 2/3 innings, however, was on another level. His eight strikeouts showed a kind of dominance that he hadn’t frequently had previously, and seeing a performance of this caliber against one of the best offensive teams in the league is nothing short of great. It looks like the 2014 first-round pick may have taken a big step forward. If he can keep up the strikeout rate, I find it hard to imagine he will stay with Palm Beach for very long.
First baseman Luke Voit had a great week, mostly because of his patience. Although his 7-for-22 at the plate was pretty good for the big man, his six walks gave him a monstrous .483 on-base percentage and made him a force to be reckoned with. Add to that a home run, six runs scored, three RBI, and even a stolen base, and this was a week well worth writing home about. His combination of power and patience can make him a dangerous hitter, and the fact that he has six home runs in the power-starved Florida State League makes him even more impressive. This week’s performance wasn’t a fluke, and we should see more of the same from Voit.
After an absolutely stunning streak of impressive starts, Trey Nielsen has faltered. The Utah native has given up 12 runs over his most recent 12 1/3 innings, and his ERA has ballooned from 1.85 to 2.80 over his past three starts. Although his most recent start was easily his best of the three, it was by no means up to his former standards. Although he has been pretty awful recently, it is still hard to believe that this latest rough patch is anything other than a bump in the road due to his track record. Look for the right hander to turn things around and start firing on all cylinders again.
Center fielder C.J. McElroy has had a rough couple of weeks, and his last few games haven’t helped him much. A second consecutive two-hit week has dropped his batting average .226, and although his speed is still a great asset, it’s awfully hard to run when you aren’t on base. His struggles with hitting have extended to his patience lately, and this past week he struck out 10 times in 28 at bats while failing to draw a single walk. The speedy center fielder seems like a strong candidate to turn it around, however, and a short hot streak should give him some confidence and help him right the ship.
Although Nick Petree redeemed himself some with a seven-inning start on Tuesday, he still had a pretty rough week. The right-hander gave up nine earned runs over 12 innings while only striking out six. In six games at the Florida State League, Petree has had somewhat mixed results, either pitching dominantly or surrendering at least a couple of runs. Hopefully, he can figure something out and settle into a groove in the coming weeks. It would be great to see the 25-year-old develop and thrive in his Palm Beach return.
July 15: LHP Marco Gonzales to Springfield
After a one-game rehab stint with Palm Beach, Marco Gonzales is climbing back through the ranks, stopping at Springfield next.
July 18: RHP Alex Reyes from 7-day DL
After a substantial time on the disabled list, since June 25, Reyes returned to Palm Beach and will slot back into the starting rotation. Although the starting pitching has been a little chaotic of late, the return of Reyes should stabilize it some.
July 19: INF Andrew Sohn to Peoria
Originally called up to fill a need at shortstop, Sohn struggled immensely. He’s returning to the Peoria Chiefs as Robelys Reyes was returned from Springfield.
July 19: INF Robelys Reyes from Springfield
Reyes has returned to Palm Beach after a brief stint with the Springfield Cardinals. He will be replacing Andrew Sohn as the everyday starting shortstop in the absence of Juan Herrera.
Although the Palm Beach offense had a couple of reasonably good games this past week, they rank last in the league in batting average, slugging percentage, and runs scored. The unfortunate fact of the matter is that the Cardinals are a bad offensive team in a bad offensive environment, so they don’t score many runs.
Unlike the offense, the Cardinals pitching staff thrives. With a collective ERA of 2.67, just 254 earned runs allowed, and 709 strikeouts, the pitching staff is one of the best in the FSL at preventing runs. Additionally, the team is phenomenal at limiting home runs having given up just 20 on the season.
With an 18-8 record and a .692 winning percentage in the second half, the Cardinals have kept their hold on first place. Although this last week should have been a challenge as they took on the Clearwater Threshers - who are in first place in the North Division - and the second place Bradenton Marauders, the Cardinals simply took the opportunity to strengthen their position.
This coming week, the Cardinals will stay at home for a four-game set against the Lakeland Flying Tigers (DET) before heading on the road to take on the Dunedin Blue Jays for another four-game series. As these teams are both in the basement of the North Division, it should provide a good opportunity for Palm Beach to extend its lead.
Follow Chris Greene on Twitter @PBCBeat.
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