Palm Beach Cardinals Notebook: 2015 Week 20

Despite a 4-3 week, the Florida State League Cardinals increased their hold on first place. Carson Kelly is swinging a red-hot bat.

In a tough week for the Palm Beach Cardinals, the team alternated wins and losses, but still came out ahead in the end, going 4-3 and winning an important series against the second-place Bradenton Marauders (PIT). With a healthy four-game lead heading into the final games of the season, the Cardinals are in a pretty good position.

Let’s see what they did this week.

August 19: Palm Beach Cardinals 8 at Jupiter Hammerheads (MIA) 0

Led by Corey Littrell’s seven dominant innings, the Cardinals shut out the Hammerheads to finish the series. First baseman Luke Voit charged the offense with a 2-for-4 night, including a home run and four RBI. Catcher Carson Kelly was the only player to fail to reach base for Palm Beach, although the bottom four spots in the lineup didn’t record a hit and relied on walks. Ultimately the lineup collected nearly as many free passes (seven) as hits (eight), and the offense broke out for eight runs. Kevin Herget finished the game, allowing just one hit over two innings of otherwise perfect relief.

August 20: St. Lucie Mets (NYM) 5 at Palm Beach Cardinals 2

In his first start for the Cardinals, Jhonny Polanco struggled, giving up five earned runs in just 2 2/3 innings and taking the loss. The relief corps pitched admirably, but Palm Beach couldn’t score enough runs to come back from the early deficit. Center fielder C.J. McElroy tried to carry the Cardinals singlehandedly, going 3-for-4 with two runs scored, a double, and a home run, but his efforts fell short.

August 21: Palm Beach Cardinals 3, St. Lucie Mets 2

Nick Petree earned his fifth win with Palm Beach, though it wasn’t his best outing. The right-hander gave up two runs on eight hits and one walk over five innings while striking out just three. Fortunately, the bullpen didn’t allow another run, and the offense managed to come up with enough big hits to win. Catcher Carson Kelly paced the lineup, going 3-for-4 with a home run and a pair of RBI.

August 22: St. Lucie Mets 6, Palm Beach Cardinals 4

Luis Perdomo struggled in his third start for Palm Beach, allowing four earned runs over 5 1/3 innings while striking out just one. The Cardinals’ offense made a valiant effort late, scoring three runs in the bottom of the ninth, but it wound up being too little too late. First baseman Luke Voit had the best game offensively, going 3-for-5 with a double and an RBI, and second baseman Breyvic Valera contributed a triple, two walks, a run and a run driven in.

August 23: Palm Beach Cardinals 5, Bradenton Marauders 2

In the first game of a crucial series with the second-place Marauders, the Cardinals sent their ace to the mound and were rewarded with a victory. Although it wasn’t his best start, Luke Weaver managed to toss six innings while giving up just one earned run before turning the game over to Kevin Herget, who collected the rare three-inning save. Kelly went 3-for-4 with a double, an RBI, and two runs scored as Palm Beach’s offense cruised to an easy 5-2 victory and increase their division lead to four games.

August 24: Bradenton Marauders 8 at Palm Beach Cardinals 6

Although the offense surged for six runs, including three in the bottom of the ninth, Palm Beach’s pitching couldn’t keep Bradenton’s offense from exacting its revenge in the second game of the three-game set. Starter Blake McKnight lasted five innings, giving up four runs on seven hits and a walk while striking out five. Unfortunately, the bullpen had a rare off night as well, and three Palm Beach relievers allowed four more runs in the final four innings. The bottom of the lineup performed well as eight and nine hitters, shortstop Robelys Reyes and designated hitter Andrew Sohn, went a combined 4-for-8 with two hits apiece, three runs scored, three RBI, and a trio of stolen bases.

August 25: Palm Beach Cardinals 5, Bradenton Marauders 0

Corey Littrell shone in his second start of the week, holding the Marauders to just four hits and a walk over eight innings while striking out five, leading the Cardinals to a crucial series win. Red-hot Kelly went 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles and two RBI, and left fielder Collin Radack blasted a solo shot to left in the fifth inning. Although Palm Beach failed to score more than one run in any inning, the offense still came up with five runs. Josh Lucas took care of the final inning, tossing a perfect frame.

Who’s Hot

Catcher Carson Kelly led the offense for the Cardinals this past week, going 11-for-24 with six RBI, five runs scored, and a home run, raising his batting average twenty points over the span to .217. It seems that Kelly is either hot or cold, and this week he was on fire. He couldn’t have picked a better week to do so, helping Palm Beach maintain its lead. It would be great to see the young catcher keep this tear up and carry some momentum into the playoffs.

With two scoreless outings this week, Corey Littrell lowered his ERA to a stellar 2.62 on the season. Allowing just nine hits and four walks over 15 innings, the tall left-hander was nearly impossible to solve. With all of the upheaval in Palm Beach’s rotation, Littrell has established himself as a reliable and crucial piece to the Cardinals’ success.

Second only to Kelly in production, first baseman Luke Voit went 8-for-26 with a home run and six RBI this week. Whenever the Cardinals’ offense comes to life, Voit seems to be at the center, and he has been the most consistent offensive contributor throughout this season. His high on base percentage and steady power show up game after game and if Palm Beach hopes to succeed heading into the playoffs, Voit will have to continue.

Who’s Not

Blake McKnight’s first few starts with Palm Beach were pretty good, but his outing this week was a struggle at best. Surrendering four runs on seven hits and a walk while striking out five was a far cry from his seven shutout innings in his previous start. The right-hander has the ability to shut down opposing lineups, and it would be good for him get back to that in his next outing.

In a strong offensive week for the Cardinals, Mason Katz didn’t contribute much. He was just 3-for-19 with a pair of RBI and four runs scored. He did manage to draw five walks, but for a player with his power hitting in the middle of the lineup, it was a disappointing performance.

The transition to the Florida State League has not been terribly smooth so far for Jhonny Polanco, and the move to starting wasn’t much better. In his first outing in the rotation, the righty made it just 2 2/3 innings while giving up five runs on four hits and four walks. His appearance in relief on Monday night was a little better, as he allowed just two runs over two innings, but Polanco will have to settle into a groove pretty quickly if he hopes to keep pitching regularly as Palm Beach chases a playoff berth.

Roster Moves

August 20: INF Andrew Sohn from Peoria Chiefs
August 23: INF Breyvic Valera to Springfield Cardinals

Injuries

Opening Day: RHP Cory Jones to 7-day DL
June 23: INF Juan Herrera to 7-day DL
June 25: RHP Will Anderson to 7-day DL
August 15: RHP Daniel Poncedeleon to 7-day DL

Team Hitting

The Cardinals enjoyed a stellar offensive week, average 4.7 runs per game and avoiding a shutout. Although they wound up short three times, it was good to see the lineup break through. If Carson Kelly can keep raking and the rest of the players continue to contribute steadily, the offense may be able to help get Palm Beach through some of the recent pitching woes.

Team Pitching

Palm Beach’s pitching was hit or miss this week, with outstanding performances from Corey Littrell and Luke Weaver wedged in between rough outings from Blake McKnight and Jhonny Polanco. It seems that the injuries, promotions, and trades have finally caught up to the Cardinals’ stellar rotation, and it is suffering a little bit of regression. Nonetheless, there is enough pitching left to keep Palm Beach in the hunt, even if it isn’t as abundant as it was earlier this season.

Standings

In spite of a 4-3 week overall, the Cardinals actually managed to extend their lead on the Bradenton Marauders to four games. With just ten games left to play, Palm Beach’s lead is looking increasingly secure, and they have a good shot at making the playoffs - barring a collapse.

What’s Next

The Cardinals hit the road this week, taking on the St. Lucie Mets for three games before trekking to Bradenton for a final showdown with the second-place Marauders. With a good week, Palm Beach could secure its playoff spot before finishing the season at Roger Dean Stadium against the Jupiter Hammerheads.





Follow Chris Greene on Twitter @PBCBeat.

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