The 41-23 Palm Beach Cardinals started the week well, but by the end, their division lead had dwindled to a mere two games. The offense lost all of its power and the pitching struggled in the wake of seemingly endless injuries. Palm Beach stumbled through a very rough period of four straight losses, including being swept by second-place Bradenton.
Let’s look at what happened.
August 27: Palm Beach Cardinals 8 at St. Lucie Mets (NYM) 6
In spite of the fact that Nick Petree struggled and eventually left the game due to injury, the Cardinals came away victorious. Petree allowed four runs over two innings, giving up seven hits and a walk, but the offense picked him up. Shortstop Robelys Reyes and right fielder Blake Drake each collected three hits, with Reyes adding two runs, and Drake contributing a run, two RBI, a walk, and a stolen base. Although the bullpen struggled some later in the game as the Mets threatened to come back, ultimately Palm Beach earned the win.
August 28: Palm Beach Cardinals 5 at St. Lucie Mets 2
With a stellar start from Luis Perdomo, Palm Beach cruised to an easy road victory over the Mets. In just his fourth start for Palm Beach, Perdomo went eight innings while giving up one run on five hits and three walks. The Cardinals’ offense backed him up, with first baseman Luke Voit and right fielder Mason Katz leading the way with two hits apiece. The Mets’ defense didn’t do themselves any favors, as two errors led to three unearned runs on the night. Although Trey Nielsen gave up a run in the ninth inning, he was able to hold the Mets at bay and secure the win.
August 29: St. Lucie Mets 3, Palm Beach Cardinals 2
Luke Weaver gave the Cardinals another solid outing, but was unable to get the victory. Weaver tossed six innings, giving up two runs on seven hits and three walks, with all of the damage coming in the bottom of the third. Second baseman Casey Turgeon was the offensive spark, going 2-for-3 with a walk, an RBI, and a stolen base, but most of the rest of the lineup was flat. Jhonny Polanco pitched reasonably well over 2 1/3 innings, but ultimately was charged with the losing run and the loss after Josh Lucas gave up the walkoff hit in the bottom of the ninth.
August 30: Bradenton Marauders (PIT) 5, Palm Beach Cardinals 3
For the second time in two weeks, Palm Beach took on the second-place Bradenton Marauders in a crucial series. Unfortunately, the set did not start well for the Cardinals. Blake McKnight gave up all five runs (only three earned) over six innings before turning things over to the bullpen, which allowed just one walk over the final two innings. Catcher Carson Kelly was the only Beach Bird to record more than one hit, going 2-for-4 with a run scored, but that wasn’t enough.
August 31: Bradenton Marauders 4, Palm Beach Cardinals 3
The second game of the series was closer, but didn’t result in a Palm Beach win as Bradenton took the series. Corey Littrell wasn’t as sharp usual, giving up three earned runs over 6 2/3 innings, but nonetheless gave the Cardinals a chance to win. Unfortunately, as has often been the case this season, the offense wasn’t able to make up for a merely solid start, and Littrell was handed his ninth loss of the season. With just four hits on the night, the lineup wasn’t impressive, but first baseman Luke Voit did attempt a comeback with a two-run home run in the top of the ninth. Ultimately, it was too little too late as the Cardinals’ division lead slipped to three games.
September 1: Bradenton Marauders 4, Palm Beach Cardinals 3 (10 innings)
Looking to avoid a sweep, the Cardinals nearly overcame a three-run first deficit, but lost on a walk-off home run in extra innings. Starter Trey Nielsen made it just 2/3 of an inning and gave up three runs before being pulled, but Cody Schumacher and Junior Fernandez were stellar for the next 7 ? innings, allowing just two hits combined. In the meantime, Palm Beach’s offense roared back, led by catcher Carson Kelly’s two-run home run in the second. Right fielder Mason Katz contributed a double and a home run of his own to tie the game while going 2-for-4 on the night. The Marauders were too much, though, and Josh Lucas gave up a walk-off home run in the tenth inning.
Luis Perdomo’s eight inning, one-run start against the St. Lucie Mets was one of the few bright spots for the Cardinals this past week. It was just the youngster’s fourth Florida State League start, and although he’s been up and down so far, it was good to see how dominant he really can be. As the rest of the rotation falls to pieces, Perdomo at least showed the potential to be a good number three behind Weaver and Littrell.
Right fielder Blake Drake enjoyed a solid week, going a collective 5-for-15 with one run scored, two RBI, a couple of walks, and a pair of stolen bases. The 22-year-old outfielder has had a pretty rough season so far, with a .205 average at Palm Beach. Seeing him break out of his slump was good, even if the rest of the team slumped around him.
With a great 7-for-19 week, Robelys Reyes provided much of the limited offense that the Cardinals enjoyed. The shortstop added a pair of walks, an RBI, and three runs scored, and that was about as much thump as anyone offered.
Asked to come out of his temporary relief duty to fill in for Nick Petree and a depleted rotation, picking on Trey Nielsen almost doesn’t seem fair. Nonetheless, the former starter gave up four earned runs in just 1 2/3 innings, which an ERA of 21.60. In a week of disappointing performances, Nielsen stands out. We know that this isn’t who he is, so he shouldn’t have a problem bouncing back.
Center fielder C.J. McElroy was an atrocious 2-for-18 this past week. His single walk, stolen base, and RBI brighten the picture some, but not much. After a pretty good first half, McElroy has faltered in the past month or so, but the Cards need him to figure it out again heading into the playoffs.
Nick Petree landed on the 7-day DL after his start this week, and we’ll hope that his injury is to blame for his performance. Over just two innings of work, Petree gave up seven hits and a walk, allowing four runs in the process. To add insult to injury (or injury to insult, I suppose), Petree’s trip to the disabled list leaves Palm Beach’s rotation in pieces. After overcoming many other challenges, the loss of the righty seems to officially mark the end of Palm Beach’s pitching dominance.
Opening Day: RHS 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
August 28: RHP Keith Butler to 7-day DL
August 28: RHP Nick Petree to 7-day DL
The Cardinals’ offense wasn’t bad this past week, but it wasn’t very good either. In six games this week, the entire team collected five extra base hits, and three of those came in the last game. Palm Beach walks fairly consistently and hits some, but if you want any kind of power, look elsewhere.
The injuries to the pitching staff have really begun to take their toll. With Nick Petree on the DL as the latest victim and four starting pitchers on the disabled list in total, Palm Beach is really struggling to keep rolling. Luckily, Luke Weaver and Corey Littrell are still pitching well at the top of the rotation, giving the Cardinals a reason to have hope heading into the playoffs.
Even after being swept by the second-place Marauders, the Cardinals have a two-game lead in the division with just four games left. Nothing is set in stone, but with any luck at all, Palm Beach should be able to slip into the playoffs.
In the final four games of the season, Palm Beach will take on the Jupiter Hammerheads (MIA) for two games as the home team and two games as the away team (the teams share Roger Dean Stadium). Given that Jupiter has the second-worst record in the division, the Cardinals should be able to end on a high note with a couple of victories to wrap up their second-half title.
Follow Chris Greene on Twitter @PBCBeat.
© 2015 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com and scout.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.