In a strange week for the Palm Beach Cardinals, as the pitching staff struggled some, but the offense pulled through and led the team to a 6-1 record. The return of Mason Katz from the disabled list and the return of Breyvic Valera from Springfield helped spark the Cardinals’ lineup and gave Palm Beach the jump start they needed to excel this past week.
Let’s take a look at how it all went down.
August 5: Palm Beach Cardinals 2, Charlotte Stone Crabs (TB) 0
Luke Weaver continued to roll for the Cardinals as he tossed six shutout innings with six strikeouts while allowing just two hits on the way to his fifth win of the season. Although the lineup struggled to score runs, third baseman Danny Diekroeger’s two hits and Luke Voit’s solo home run in the fifth inning provided all the offense that Weaver and the bullpen needed. Reliever Robby Rowland earned his third save since joining Palm Beach, giving up just one hit in an otherwise perfect ninth inning.
August 6: Palm Beach Cardinals 4, Charlotte Stone Crabs 3
In his first start of the season, Blake McKnight pitched well, striking out four over five innings without allowing a run. Although Lee Stoppelman and Keith Butler gave up the Cardinals’ lead in the fifth, the offense fought back and came away with the win. Left fielder Mason Katz went 2-for-3 with a double and a run in his return to action. His double was one of four two-baggers the lineup produced on the night, and those extra-base hits combined with three walks led Palm Beach to a close victory and sweep of the Stone Crabs.
August 7: Fort Myers Miracle (MIN) 13 at Palm Beach Cardinals 5
In a rare collapse, Palm Beach’s pitching staff had a disastrous night against the Fort Myers Miracle. Beginning with Corey Littrell’s seven earned runs over five innings, the Cardinals’ pitchers struggled to handle the Miracle hitters all game. The offense had a reasonably good game, putting up five runs. Left fielder Collin Radack led the way with a 3-for-5 night with two doubles, two runs, and two RBI, but shortstop Robelys Reyes, second baseman Brett Wiley, and first baseman Mason Katz also contributed multiple hits. Unfortunately, it simply wasn’t enough against Fort Myers’ surging offense.
August 8: Palm Beach Cardinals 4, Fort Myers Miracle 1
After a rough Friday night, Daniel Poncedeleon got the Cardinals’ pitchers back on track Saturday, allowing just three baserunners while striking out six over six innings. The offense, led by third baseman Danny Diekroeger’s two-RBI triple, scored four runs on just six hits and three walks. Although Kevin Herget did give up a run over two innings of relief, it was the only run Palm Beach’s pitching staff allowed.
August 9: Palm Beach Cardinals 3, Fort Myers Miracle 2
The Cardinals’ nearly wasted starting pitcher Nick Petree’s eight-inning, one-run effort, but a late surge in the eighth inning gave Petree his fourth win of the season. Center fielder C.J. McElroy and shortstop Breyvic Valera combined for five hits in eight at bats from the 1-2 slots in the lineup and accounted for all three of the Cardinals’ runs. Josh Lucas earned his sixth save with a scoreless ninth inning as Palm Beach won a tough series against the Fort Myers Miracle.
August 10: Palm Beach Cardinals 8 at Charlotte Stone Crabs 7 (12 innings)
The Cardinals defeated the Stone Crabs for the fourth consecutive time. Palm Beach sent six pitchers to the mound in the 12-inning game, with Trey Nielsen working the most with four innings in relief. Recently-promoted Luis Perdomo started the game, but only made it through one inning before the game was delayed by rain. Left fielder Breyvic Valera paced the offense from the leadoff spot, with a 3-for-6 night, including a walk, a double, a run, and three RBI. First baseman Luke Voit added a two RBI triple and two walks, and C.J. McElroy scored the winning run as a pinch runner for catcher Jose Gonzalez as the Cardinals won their third game in a row.
August 11: Palm Beach Cardinals 2 at Charlotte Stone Crabs 0
In Luke Weaver’s second start of the week, he pitched another gem, throwing seven scoreless innings with five hits and two walks while striking out six. Allow the offense struggled some, recording just five hits, they managed to score enough for Weaver to earn his sixth win of the season. Left fielder Mason Katz drove in one run with a double in the first, and Voit drove in the other with a sacrifice fly that scored Katz in the third. Robby Rowland was credited with the save after getting the final out.
Mason Katz returned from the DL this week and instantly provided the Cardinals some much needed offense. The super utility player went 6-for-19 with three runs, three RBI, and a couple of walks. Hopefully, Katz’ numbers will get even better as he gets back into a groove, and he can be a dangerous hitter when he starts to hit for power again.
In six games for Palm Beach so far, Daniel Poncedeleon has given up more than one run just once. This past week, the right-hander tossed his third shutout of the season, lowering his ERA to a staggering 1.17. As some of the Cardinals’ rotation runs into problems late in the season, Poncedeleon just keeps getting stronger.
In two starts this week, Luke Weaver threw 13 innings without giving up a run. He allowed seven hits, walked two, and struck out 12. In short, Weaver continues to roll. With Rob Kaminsky and Alex Reyes both out of the rotation, the first-round draft pick has taken the opportunity to show just how good he can be as a number one starter and continues to deal. His 1.78 ERA is the second-best mark in the league, and he is undoubtedly one of the best pitchers around.
Although he played in just four of the seven games this week, Breyvic Valera had a huge impact on the Cardinals offense, going 8-for-18 with three runs scored, three RBI, and a walk. After struggling in Double-A, Valera is feasting on Florida State League pitching again, which is good because Palm Beach needed an offensive spark.
Corey Littrell had one of his worst starts of the season this past week, giving up seven runs in just five innings against the Fort Myers Miracle. The lefty allowed 11 hits, including a home run, while striking out just two batters in the abnormal start. Surprisingly, he didn’t allow a walk, but his command of the strike zone didn’t help him much as the Miracle beat him around and quickly ran him out of the game. Littrell has been very good all season, so expect him to bounce back in his next outing.
After a couple of solid weeks, catcher Carson Kelly is slumping again. The powerful backstop collected just three hits in 12 at-bats this week without drawing a walk. He did score a run and drove in an RBI, but his overall performance was uninspiring to say the least. It will be interesting to see if Mason Katz’s return will cut into his playing time any, or if he will continue to get the lion’s share of starts behind the dish. Regardless, the Cardinals could use Kelly’s offense, so it would be good to see him turn it around for the final month of the season.
Luke Voit wasn’t so much bad this week, as surprisingly uninvolved. Usually, when the Cardinals’ offense is hot, Voit is hot, but the big first baseman was just 6-for-24 with three runs scored and six RBI. He did walk four times, and launched a key home run against the Charlotte Stone Crabs, but in a week where the Cardinals scored 28 runs, Voit seemed like a supporting character rather than a central part of the offense. It is actually good to see the lineup thrive apart from Voit, and hopefully the burden of offense won’t sit quite so squarely on his shoulders in the weeks to come.
August 6 INF Michael Massi to Peoria Chiefs
Michael Massi was returned to the Peoria Chiefs to make room for Mason Katz’s return from the DL.
August 6 INF Mason Katz from Gulf Coast League Cardinals
Mason Katz returned from a short rehab assignment with the Gulf Coast League Cardinals and can hopefully add a much needed boost to Palm Beach’s lackluster offense. He was playing all over the diamond before hitting the DL, and that will likely continue as the season continues.
August 8 OF Derek Gibson to Peoria Chiefs
Derek Gibson was demoted to the Peoria Chiefs as part of an organizational shuffle that brought Breyvic Valera from Springfield and Luis Perdomo from the Chiefs.
August 8 RHP Silfredo Garcia to Springfield Cardinals
Silfredo Garcia was promoted to Springfield after a strong season pitching in relief for Palm Beach.
August 8 RHP Luis Perdomo from Peoria Chiefs
After putting up good numbers with Peoria, Luis Perdomo was promoted to the Florida State League in an effort to rest some of Palm Beach’s other starters (Trey Nielsen, in particular).
August 8 UT Breyvic Valera from Springfield Cardinals
After struggling at Springfield, Valera was demoted to Palm Beach and will fill in around the diamond where he can.
The Cardinals’ hitting this week was solid. After a number of down weeks, the offense managed to average about four runs per game compared to their season average of 3.3 runs per game. The addition of super utility players Mason Katz and Breyvic Valera seemed to give the offense a much needed spark. Hopefully this improved offense will stick around for the final month of the season.
The pitching staff struggled a little this week, at least by Palm Beach’s high standards. In particular, the 13-5 blowout against the Fort Myers Miracle stands out as unusual. There were still highlights, including Weaver’s performances and Poncedeleon’s start, but the rest of the pitching staff will look to return to their dominant form this coming week.
The Cardinals extended their lead over the Bradenton Marauders (PIT) this week to three and a half games. As they head into the final month of the season, Palm Beach is in pretty good shape. As the team keeps finding ways to win, it gets harder and harder for the rest of the league to keep up.
The Cardinals will finish their series against the Stone Crabs Wednesday night before heading to Fort Myers for another three-game series. Then they will return home to take on the Jupiter Hammerheads (MIA) for a four-game set.
Follow Chris Greene on Twitter @PBCBeat.
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