In the words of Crash Davis in Bull Durham, “sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and sometimes it rains.” This week it rained. The Palm Beach Cardinals only played five of their seven scheduled games, suffering five postponements, a suspended contest, and two called games due to rain. In spite of the dearth of playing opportunities, the team was able to maintain their grip on first place with a solid 4-1 week.
July 24: Palm Beach Cardinals 3, Lakeland Flying Tigers (DET) 2 (DH game one)
The Cardinals played their first game of the week on Friday, although it was originally scheduled for Wednesday. Daniel Poncedeleon stayed hot, throwing seven innings while allowing just one earned run on four hits. Unfortunately, he did not get the win as the offense had to mount a late comeback to earn the victory. Catcher Carson Kelly and third baseman Danny Diekroeger collected three hits and an RBI apiece, but right fielder Blake Drake scored the winning run on a wild pitch in the bottom of the ninth after tripling to left field.
July 24: Palm Beach Cardinals 2, Lakeland Flying Tigers 1 (seven innings, DH game two)
In the second game of Friday’s unplanned doubleheader, Palm Beach emerged victorious again. Luke Weaver pitched well, striking out eight over six one-run innings, while allowing just six batters to reach base. Tigers pitcher Endrys Briceno helped the Cardinals’ offense with four hit-by-pitches, including catcher Jose Gonzalez twice. Otherwise, Palm Beach’s lineup only reached base seven times, including three walks and four base hits. Once again, rain interfered with play and the game was called after the top half of the seventh inning.
July 26-27: Brevard County Manatees (MIL) 4, Palm Beach Cardinals 2 (DH game one)
Begun on the 26th and finished on the 27th, the Cardinals suffered their only loss of the week. Although Rob Kaminsky started, he could only pitch 1 2/3 innings before the game was suspended due to rain. He did strike out three in that time, and walked just one. When the contest resumed the next day, Blake McKnight and Silfredo Garcia didn’t fare as well as Kaminsky, giving up four earned runs over the final 6 1/3 innings. Although the offense managed eight hits, including a 2-for-2 night from shortstop Robelys Reyes, the lack of walks and extra-base hits kept the team from scoring more than two runs.
July 27: Palm Beach Cardinals 2 at Brevard County Manatees 1 (seven innings, DH game two)
The second game of an unplanned doubleheader was again impacted by rain, as the Cardinals 2-1 victory over the Tigers was called after the seventh inning. Corey Littrell pitched six one-run innings, allowing just four baserunners and striking out four. Designated hitter Collin Radack powered the offense, going 2-for-3 with a double, an RBI, and a run scored. Ultimately, thanks to the efforts of Littrell and reliever Robby Rowland, the Cardinals were able to pull out the victory.
July 28: Palm Beach Cardinals 3, Brevard County Manatees 1
After a series of rough starts, Trey Nielsen was back in vintage form for Palm Beach’s victory, tossing seven shutout innings and allowing just four baserunners. The offense backed him up with three runs in the middle innings to give the Cardinals the victory. Both center fielder C.J. McElroy and second baseman Brett Wiley had multi-hit games including doubles and stolen bases to lead the charge. Although Lee Stoppleman gave up a run in the eighth, Josh Lucas stopped the rally before finishing the ninth inning and earning the save.
Carson Kelly continues his hot streak this week, going 4-for-8 with three RBI. After a terrible start to the season, Kelly is having a reasonable month, posting a .258/.303/.452 slash line in July. While that isn’t the most impressive line, it shows a huge improvement and is his best monthly OPS this season by .150 points. It is good to see the young catcher break out, and at just 21 years of age, he has plenty of time to turn around.
In four games for Palm Beach so far covering 26 1/3 innings, Daniel Poncedeleon has given up just four earned runs on 21 hits and three walks. If a 1.37 ERA and a 0.91 WHIP isn’t dominant, I don’t know what is. Although his strikeout numbers haven’t been great with just a 4.8 K/9, it’s hard to argue with his results to this point. He has become another stellar member of a phenomenal Palm Beach rotation.
First-round draft pick Luke Weaver continues to shine in his first full professional season as he hasn’t given up more than a run in his past four starts. This week’s edition included six innings of one-run ball with eight strikeouts. It’s the second time in two games that he’s matched his season high in strikeouts and it seems like he may have figured something out. If he can keep churning out Ks while keeping his walks and hits low, it’ll be hard to imagine him starting at Palm Beach for much longer.
Corey Littrell has not walked a batter in 58 innings, which is reportedly a new Florida State League record. The 23-year-old right-hander’s last free pass issued was on May 17th.
First baseman Luke Voit had a down week, going just 2-for-16 amidst the rain and drawing just one walk. Voit seems to be a streaky hitter who crushes the ball when he’s right, but falters a great deal when he’s not. Undoubtedly he will turn it around soon and be back to having big weeks and carrying Palm Beach on his shoulders.
In right fielder Derek Gibson’s return to Palm Beach, has struggled. The right-handed hitter managed to go just 1-for-10 with a walk and a run scored while playing in three games. When Gibson was promoted to Springfield, he was demolishing the Florida State League’s pitching, so it seems likely he will find his groove again sometime in the near future.
July 22: RHP Alex Reyes to Springfield Cardinals
After pitching extraordinarily well at Palm Beach, Reyes received a well-deserved call up. With Kaminsky, Weaver, Littrell, Nielsen, and Poncedeleon in competition for the available rotation spots already, there really wasn’t a place for the flame throwing righty after coming off the DL, and having already proved himself in the Florida State League, he earned himself a shot at the Texas League.
July 22: LHP Steve Sabatino to Peoria Chiefs
In order to make room for right hander Josh Lucas, Sabatino was sent to Peoria. He’d struggled some at Palm Beach (nine earned runs in last 8 2/3 innings) and was an easy choice for the demotion.
July 22: OF Derek Gibson from Springfield Cardinals
After a 12-game stint with Springfield, Derek Gibson has returned to Palm Beach, replacing Alex Reyes on the roster. The Cardinals had been operating with six starting pitchers and just three outfielders, so the swap evens out the roster a bit.
July 22: RHP Josh Lucas from Springfield Cardinals
After just 5 2/3 innings at AA, Josh Lucas has been sent down from Springfield in order to replace Sabatino on the roster. He will slot into the bullpen in a middle relief role going forward.
Palm Beach’s offense suffered a disturbing trend this week, drawing just four walks. With an offense that already struggles to make contact and lacks significant power, reaching base via the walk is incredibly important. The Cardinals will need to regain their patience and turn this trend around if they hope to have continued success.
In an unusual week, the Cardinals’ pitching staff failed to earn a shutout, but the pitching was strong nonetheless. Even without Alex Reyes, the rotation is more than capable of holding its own and the bullpen has been strong all year. Don’t expect this stingy bunch to start giving up lots of runs anytime soon.
With another strong week for the Cardinals, they’ve maintained their hold on the division lead. The Bradenton Marauders (PIT) sit just a game and a half back, so Palm Beach will have to keep their pace in order to keep their spot. Their 21-9 record is the best in the Florida State League, and has been built on an impressive 11-3 road record.
Weather permitting, the Cardinals will finish up their series against the Brevard County Manatees before continuing their road trip to take on the Dunedin Blue Jays (TOR) for four games. They’ll then return home for a day off before taking on the Charlotte Stone Crabs (TB) in a three-game set.
Follow Chris Greene on Twitter @PBCBeat.
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