For those who’ve been following this roller-coaster ride that is the Gulf Coast League East Division season, the Gulf Coast League Cardinals (21-20) won four of seven to recover from their worst week of the season (1-4).
Perhaps the Cardinals weren’t feeling quite snake-bit during that low point of the season, but they could certainly have felt snake-threatened. Their July 29 home game against the Marlins was briefly interrupted when a five-foot snake climbed up and along the fence and snuck into its nest in the rolled-up awning that provides shade over the bench where manager Steve Turco, his coaches and the pitchers designated as batboys and ballboys that day are seated.
There was no sign of the snake this past week, which the Cardinals began by sweeping three from the Marlins to pull within a half-game of the first-place Mets, who were being swept by the Nationals. The Cardinals and Mets then split a doubleheader Thursday, but the Mets won Friday and Saturday. All four games in that series were decided by one run – 3-2, 2-1, 6-5, 1-0.
The Cardinals outscored their opponents 27-17, and made fewer errors (seven to opponents’ nine), but they were outhit for the fourth consecutive week, though this time only 55-52. They lost their league lead in hits (350), overtaken by the Marlins (353), even though they outhit the Marlins 27-23 in sweeping that series.
In the percentage categories, they fell from first in the 16-team GCL in batting average to third (.256), fourth in on-base percentage (.329) and OPS (.677) and fifth in slugging (.348).
The pitching staff posted a 1.83 ERA, their best week this season, which dropped the season-to-date ERA to 3.93 -- below 4.00 for the first time this season. That still ranks 12th in the league and last in the East Division.
The pitching staff happily lost their lead in runs allowed, but they still lead the GCL in unearned runs with 51. This is important since if the Cardinals were to finish the season tied for the division lead, the first tiebreaker is defensive runs allowed.
Call the Plummer
Though Nick Plummer, the Cardinals’ first-round draft pick in June, leads the GCL in walks (26), hits have been hard to come by for the 19-year-old center fielder from suburban Detroit. A few days after Plummer pushed his batting average to a season-high .197 with a 7-for-23 run, he fell into an 0-for-24 slump, during which he drew four walks and fanned seven times. Plummer said he didn’t get discouraged because for the most part, he was putting the ball in play but not getting anything to fall.
Plummer said he has had a good batting eye and plate discipline since he began playing baseball as a youngster. He said he is trying to be “more aggressive and swing earlier in the count, so you don’t let the umpire take your at-bat away.”
“The whole thing is a process, and I’m just working through the process,” Plummer said after Friday’s game. “I feel a lot better where I’m at now.”
He ended the slump gradually Wednesday in a win over the Marlins. Leading off the first, he was caught looking at a third strike. His next at-bat, it looked like he had beaten out a slow roller to the second baseman, but didn’t get the call. He hit a sacrifice fly to center field in the fifth inning, then lined an RBI single a single to center in the seventh. In the eighth inning, he was called out on a 3-2 pitch that very well could have been ball four. The following day, Plummer had two singles, his third multi-hit game of the season.
Plummer said Turco “let me play for the first month, then suggested I should use my legs more by bunting.”
If Plummer is successful in getting some bunt hits, that will force the corner infielders to play in closer, “and that will open up the field more,” he said.
Coming and going
Frederis Parra was moved up to Johnson City, leaving behind a 10.50 ERA with 32 hits and 21 runs, all earned, allowed in 18 innings, but he had righted himself in his last two outings – two hits and no walks in 3-2/3 innings.
Ryan McCarvel was reassigned from Johnson City. McCarvel was brought over to help out behind the plate because catchers Frankie Rodriguez (bruised knee) and Stephen Zavala (sprained finger) were banged up, but by Saturday’s game McCarvel was at first base in place of Luis Bandes, who had injured his left elbow Friday in a collision with a baserunner.
Ronald Medrano, a 19-year-old Nicaraguan right-hander who was signed in August 2012, was promoted from the Dominican Summer League, where he was 3-2 with a 2.20 ERA after sitting out 2014 with an injury. In his debut on U.S. soil, Medrano was used in piggyback relief of Jake Woodford on Thursday against the Mets, entering a 1-1 game in the bottom of the fifth inning. Medrano gave up a tie-breaking single run in the fifth and then a triple followed by a walk off single in the ninth to take the loss.
Mason Katz went 5-for-10 in three games while on rehab before returning to the Palm Beach Cardinals.
Max Foody’s star-crossed baseball career may have come to an end. The lefty from Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, was the Cardinals’ 12th-round pick in 2012, after attending The Pendleton School, a sports academy in Bradenton. Foody had natural movement on his fastball, not only because he was a lefty but also because he lost part of a finger on his pitching hand in a dirt bike accident several years earlier.
In his debut season, Foody struggled with control during eight appearances before missing the rest of the season and all of the next two seasons with a variety of injuries. Foody was making good strides in his comeback this season before incurring an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery, which prompted him to retire.
Two players appeared in all seven games this week:
Bladimil Franco had at least one hit in every game, finishing the week 9-for-28, dropping his average to .365, still second in the league. Franco is also fourth in slugging (.453) and OPS (.853).
Dylan Tice went 6-for-12 to lead the sweep against the Marlins, but then was cooled off by the Mets, against whom he was 1-for-16.
Jordan DeLorenzo had a win and a save in two appearances totaling 2-2/3 scoreless innings in which he allowed two hits and no walks.
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