It was a tough week for the Palm Beach Cardinals, although they managed to split their games 3-3. Unfortunately, all of their troubles came in a three-game series with the 14-22 Dunedin Blue Jays.
Now let’s take a look at how that happened.
July 29: Palm Beach Cardinals 9 at Brevard County Manatees (MIL) 0
In the final game of the series against the Manatees, Palm Beach’s offense came to life with nine runs. Starter Nick Petree allowed just one hit over seven innings while striking out five in a stellar start. The offense, led by designated hitter Derek Gibson’s three hits and center fielder C.J. McElroy’s solo home run, scored two runs in the second inning, one in the third, and then broke out for six runs in the fourth. That was more than enough to take care of the Manatees, who collected just two hits.
July 31: Dunedin Blue Jays (TOR) 7, Palm Beach Cardinals 0 (Game one - seven innings)
After Thursday’s game against Dunedin was postponed due to rain, the Cardinals played a doubleheader on Friday with each game shortened to seven innings. The first contest was a disappointing shutout defeat as two errors gave the Blue Jays four unearned runs in the first four innings. Luke Weaver took the loss, going just four innings and giving up one earned run on six hits. Second baseman Brett Wiley had a good game offensively, going 2-for-3 with a double, but the rest of the lineup struggled.
July 31: Dunedin Blue Jays 4, Palm Beach Cardinals 0 (Game two - seven innings)
In the second game of the doubleheader, the Cardinals were shut out again, this time on a two-hitter by the Blue Jays’ pitching staff. Starter Tyler Melling threw just three innings and gave up two runs on four hits while striking out three. Silfredo Garcia allowed another two runs in relief, one earned and one unearned, before turning things over to Robby Rowland, who threw a scoreless sixth inning to finish the game. Designated hitter Blake Drake and catcher Carson Kelly were the only two Cardinals to record hits, both singles.
August 2: Palm Beach Cardinals 4 at Dunedin Blue Jays 1 (Game one - seven innings)
After another rainout on Saturday, Palm Beach and Dunedin were forced to engage in another doubleheader on Sunday, each game again shortened to seven innings. Unlike in Friday’s twin-bill, the Cardinals got off to a good start, with a 4-1 victory in the first game. Daniel Poncedeleon pitched very well yet again, allowing just one run on three hits over six innings while striking out five. The offense was led by right fielder Collin Radack and first baseman Luke Voit. Each collected two hits and a run and Voit added a home run and three RBI.
August 2: Dunedin Blue Jays 2, Palm Beach Cardinals 0 (Game two - seven innings)
In a frustrating loss in the nightcap, Palm Beach allowed the Blue Jays to win with just two hits. Although Corey Littrell wasn’t his sharpest, giving up three walks, he still completed all six innings while allowing just two hits and two unearned runs. Errors from shortstop Robelys Reyes and first baseman Luke Voit ultimately cost the Cardinals the game, although the lineup didn’t help much either. Center fielder C.J. McElroy recorded his second multi-hit game of the season, going 2-for-3, but was unable to coax the rest of the offense into action, as Palm Beach had just three hits.
August 4: Palm Beach Cardinals 5, Charlotte Stone Crabs (TB) 4 (10 innings)
After an impressive outing against the Brevard Manatees to start the week, Nick Petree had a rough outing against the Stone Crabs, giving up four earned runs over six innings while striking out just four. Luckily, the offense refused to give up and got him off the hook with a walk off win in the 10th inning. Left fielder Collin Radack led the way with a five-hit night, including two doubles and two runs scored. First baseman Luke Voit backed him up by going 2-for-2 with a triple, a walk, and four RBI. Kevin Herget was credited with the win when right fielder Blake Drake knocked in third baseman Danny Diekroeger to score the winning run.
At it again this week, first baseman Luke Voit went 7-for-17 with a home run, a couple of walks, three runs scored, and seven RBI. His power and contact skills continue to make him one of the most potent bats in Palm Beach’s lineup as he leads the team in RBI, total bases, walks, runs, hits, and home runs. When Voit produces, the Cardinals’ offense produces.
Daniel Poncedeleon has done a phenomenal job for the Cardinals so far, and this week was no exception. The right-hander gave up just three hits and one earned run over six innings against the Dunedin Blue Jays. In four starts with Palm Beach, Poncedeleon is sporting a 1.39 ERA and a 0.84 WHIP in 32 1/3 innings. It is hard to be much better than that, and he will look to continue his impressive run this coming week.
Center fielder C.J. McElroy was 5-for-15 this week, including a home run, a pair of walks, and a stolen base. After a number of rough weeks, it was good to see the speedy outfielder return to form and provide a much needed offensive threat at the top of the lineup. Although McElroy only stole one base, as he finds his groove, that number should improve substantially as he has already stolen 29 bases this season. If his bat stays hot, he should see lots of opportunities to run and provide continued value on the base paths.
The entire offense has earned itself a spot here this week. Why? On Wednesday, Palm Beach scored nine runs on 12 hits. Over the next four games, Palm Beach scored four runs on 16 hits. It should be fairly obvious, but averaging one run a game for any period of time is atrocious. The Cardinals’ offense has been pretty bad all season, but this week brought a new low. We know the team can hit, as it showed at the beginning and end of the week, so hopefully it will do better this coming week.
In a bad offensive week, second baseman Brett Wiley’s performance stood out among the worst. The young infielder collected just four hits while striking out six times over 18 at bats. Wiley has had a pretty rough time of it at Palm Beach this year, slashing just .237/.311/.313 in 278 at bats. He has stolen 15 bases however, and that alone helps his value. Nonetheless, the speedy second baseman will need to avoid weeks like this if he wants to be productive.
Tyler Melling was thrust into a rough spot as he was taken off relief duty to fill in for Rob Kaminsky against the Dunedin Blue Jays. Unfortunately, he didn’t look much like Kaminsky as he gave up two earned runs in just three innings. I doubt that Melling will continue to fill in as a starter, but if he does, he’ll have to go deeper into games and limit the runs.
The Cardinals named Luke Weaver their Minor League Pitcher of the Month in July. The 6’2” right hander was 3-1 for the month, posting a 0.94 ERA and 0.94 WHIP over 28 2/3 innings. Incredibly, Weaver only walked two in that time, while striking out 27.
Nick Petree was named the Florida State League Pitcher of the Week after his impressive seven innings of one-hit, shutout ball against the Brevard County Manatees on July 29. Manatees catcher Dustin Houle was the only player to reach base in the game, as Petree didn’t walk a batter, and struck out five.
July 30 LHP Rob Kaminsky to Cleveland Indians
In one of the biggest moves that the St. Louis Cardinals made at the non-waiver trade deadline, Rob Kaminsky was dealt to the Cleveland Indians for first baseman/outfielder Brandon Moss. The Cardinal Nation ranked Kaminsky as the Cardinals’ fourth-best prospect, and he pitched very well for Palm Beach.
July 31 RHP Keith Butler from Memphis Redbirds
In a bit of an unusual move, Keith Butler was sent down from Memphis to Palm Beach and should be a useful piece out of the bullpen.
July 31 INF Mason Katz to Gulf Coast League Cardinals
Katz was shifted over to the Gulf Coast League club for some rehabilitation starts before returning to Palm Beach. Before long, he should be back in Palm Beach’s infield mix.
As outlined above, the Cardinals’ hitting struggled even more than normal this week. Although they broke out for nine runs against the Manatees to begin the week, the offense faltered after that and struggled to score runs. The final game offered a bit of hope, but it would be nice to see a more even distribution of hitting. Voit and Radack can carry the team when they’re hot, but they aren’t always hot enough.
The trade of Rob Kaminsky and the promotion of Alex Reyes has dealt a blow to Palm Beach’s rotation. Nonetheless, the other members have an opportunity to step up and show what they can do. Although Reyes and Kaminsky pitched well this season, Littrell, Nielsen, Weaver, Poncedeleon, and Petree are more than capable of carrying the team down the stretch.
In spite of a rough week, the Cardinals managed to hold on to their two-game lead over the Bradenton Marauders (PIT). Conveniently, the rest of the Florida State League’s South Division struggled at the same time, and Palm Beach didn’t lose any ground. Hopefully, they can get back to winning this coming week and extend their lead over the rest of their division.
In the coming week, the Cardinals will finish their three-game series with the Charlotte Stone Crabs before taking on the Fort Myers Miracle (MIN) for another three games over the weekend to complete the home stand. Starting on Monday, August 10, the team will travel to Charlotte for another three-game series against the Stone Crabs.
Follow Chris Greene on Twitter @PBCBeat.
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