The Palm Beach Cardinals didn’t enjoy an easy week, but they still managed to come away with more wins than losses and keep their three-game hold on first place. Some of the pitchers have struggled, but the staff as a whole continues to shine. Here’s how it all went down.
August 12: Palm Beach Cardinals 4 at Charlotte Stone Crabs (TB) 3
Blake McKnight enjoyed a strong start, going five innings while giving up one run on three hits and a walk. The offense struggled to get hits, collecting just four, but the Cardinals’ patience led to six walks and four runs. First baseman Luke Voit had the best night, with a 2-for-2 performance with a walk, a pair of RBI, and a home run. Although the bullpen did give up two more runs, Palm Beach completed the sweep of the Stone Crabs.
August 13: Palm Beach Cardinals 1 at Fort Myers Miracle (MIN) 0
Corey Littrell produced yet another outstanding start as he led the Cardinals to their sixth consecutive victory, throwing eight scoreless innings with six strikeouts and just one walk. This was Littrell’s second eight-inning start of the season. The offense was led by second baseman Brett Wiley, who went 2-for-3 with a double and the only RBI, driving in catcher Carson Kelly in the second inning. Josh Lucas closed the game out to earn his seventh save.
August 14: Fort Myers Miracle 3, Palm Beach Cardinals 2
Palm Beach’s winning streak came to an end as the Fort Myers Miracle scored the winning run in the eighth inning. Daniel Poncedeleon only made it four innings and gave up two runs before being removed from the game due to injury. Left fielder Casey Turgeon scored both of the Cardinals’ runs from the top of the lineup, curiously without recording a hit. Turgeon walked in the first and the sixth and scored both times. Second baseman Breyvic Valera and third baseman Danny Diekroeger both collected two hits. The bullpen finished the final four innings without allowing an earned run, as an error by first baseman Luke Voit in the eighth resulted in the winning score.
August 15: Fort Myers Miracle 5, Palm Beach Cardinals 1
Unearned runs hurt the Cardinals again on Saturday. Nick Petree threw five innings, giving up two runs on four hits and three walks before being relieved by Trey Nielsen, who allowed three unearned runs in two innings on two hits and a walk. Left fielder Collin Radack tripled and came around to score on a sacrifice fly from first baseman Luke Voit. The rest of the lineup managed to collect just one hit as the Miracle swept Palm Beach in the two-game series.
August 16: Jupiter Hammerheads (MIA) 2 at Palm Beach Cardinals 0
Despite out-hitting the Hammerheads 10-6 and receiving a strong outing from Luis Perdomo, the Cardinals were unable to come up with timely hits and a victory. Perdomo tossed 6 2/3 innings, allowing two runs on six hits and a walk while striking out five. Left fielder Casey Turgeon, second baseman Brett Wiley, and center fielder C.J. McElroy each collected two hits and right fielder Collin Radack and catcher Jose Gonzalez were the only two starters to fail to reach base, even though Palm Beach failed to score.
August 17: Palm Beach Cardinals 7, Jupiter Hammerheads 0
The Cardinals brought their three-game losing skid to an end with a 7-0 shutout of the Hammerheads. Every starter recorded a hit, six collected at least two hits, and left fielder Collin Radack went 3-for-4 with two RBI and a walk. Luke Weaver shut down Jupiter over 5 1/3 innings, giving up six hits and striking out seven before the bullpen finished the job. Right fielder Mason Katz had the only extra base hit, a double in the sixth inning, but the offense managed to push seven runs across without the help of extra bases.
August 18: Palm Beach Cardinals 6, Jupiter Hammerheads 1
The Cardinals continued their tear against Jupiter, as right fielder Mason Katz led the charge a pair of doubles, an RBI, and two runs scored. Designated hitter Collin Radack was the only player who failed to reach base, with four others joining Katz with multi-hit games. Blake McKnight carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning, ultimately allowing just two hits and an unearned run while striking out three over seven innings. Tyler Melling and Josh Lucas combined for two perfect innings and three strikeouts to close out the win.
Although Corey Littrell only started one game this week, it was absolutely fantastic. He threw eight scoreless innings while allowing just five hits and a walk and striking out six, bringing his ERA under 3.00 for the season. After joining the organization in the Allen Craig, Joe Kelly, and John Lackey trade, Littrell has really come into his own this year, improving his command and becoming one of the best pitchers in the Florida State League.
Blake McKnight was fantastic this past week, collecting his second and third wins since joining Palm Beach, including a two hit, seven inning shutout. On the whole, he tossed 12 innings, while allowing just one run on five hits, one walk, and seven strikeouts. The recent callup’s Florida State League ERA dropped to 1.50 and his WHIP fell to 0.900 with his stellar performances.
Utility player Breyvic Valera continued his hot streak, although he changed his methods a bit. Valera only collected four hits, but also managed to walk six times, so although his batting average sat at a poor .211, his on-base percentage reached an impressive .400 and he also scored four runs and drove in two. In a lineup that has struggled to produce, Valera is consistently finding ways to help his team win.
Daniel Poncedeleon had a fantastic start to his stint with Palm Beach, but his most recent start was a struggle, and he was placed on the disabled list afterward. (Editor’s note: I am told Poncedeleon experienced discomfort, with rest and rehab the current treatment plan for the undisclosed injury.)
Shortstop Robelys Reyes had a rough week, going 4-for-24 with no runs scored, no RBI, and just two walks. He did steal a base, but his bat was pretty cold this week. His position as the Cardinals starting shortstop isn’t in jeopardy, however, as Palm Beach lacks another shortstop on the active roster. It would be good to see him turn his bat around, but I’m not holding out a lot of hope.
August 14: RHP Robby Rowland to Springfield Cardinals
August 14: RHP Jhonny Polanco from Peoria Chiefs
August 15: RHP Daniel Poncedeleon to 7-Day Disabled List
August 18: INF Brett Wiley to Springfield Cardinals
August 18: RHP Cody Schumacher from Peoria Chiefs
In the past two games, the Cardinals’ bats really broke out. It seems that Palm Beach’s offense fluctuates fairly frequently, offering either a ton of runs or very few at all. Nonetheless, it was good to see some promise from the lineup and perhaps it can continue for the final few weeks of the season.
For the season, the Cards are 11th of 12 FSL teams in runs scored.
In spite of a number of tough losses, Palm Beach’s pitching continues to roll. Although not nearly as dominant as earlier in the season, the rotation continues to provide solid performances and find a way to keep the team in the game and keep the Cardinals winning.
In 2015, Palm Beach’s team ERA of 2.57 still leads the league. They are fourth in strikeouts and have issued the fewest walks.
The Bradenton Marauders remain in second place by three games, as the Cardinals have kept their grip on first. In the final weeks of the season, things are looking pretty good for a shot at the playoffs.
The Cardinals will conclude their series with the Jupiter Hammerheads Wednesday night before taking on the St. Lucie Mets and the Bradenton Marauders for three games apiece to complete the home stand. Palm Beach has a good chance to extend its lead in the coming week with a good performance.
Follow Chris Greene on Twitter @PBCBeat.
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