The final week of the season was a little rocky for the Palm Beach Cardinals, but in the end, they accomplished what they needed to, edging out the Bradenton Marauders (PIT) to win the division and earn a spot in the Florida State League Division Championship Series.
Now, with one game down, the Cardinals look to advance to the League Championship Series and win the title.
September 3: Jupiter Hammerheads (MIA) 8 at Palm Beach Cardinals 6
Opening the critical final series for the Cardinals, Luis Perdomo struggled with the Hammerheads, lasting just 4 1/3 innings while giving up seven runs on 11 hits and a walk. The offense fought back, scoring six runs, including one in the bottom of the ninth, but ultimately fell short. The heart of the lineup produced the majority of the runs, with first baseman Luke Voit, left fielder Mason Katz, and catcher Carson Kelly going a combined 6-for-14 with two doubles, a home run, three runs scored, and four RBI. Chandler Hawkins and Harley Holt pitched well for the final 4 2/3 innings, but their effort was for naught as the Hammerheads held off the Cardinals.
September 4: Palm Beach Cardinals 4 at Jupiter Hammerheads 1
Ace Luke Weaver did exactly what his team needed with seven one-run, four-hit innings as Palm Beach cruised to an important win. After surrendering a run in the first inning, Weaver stymied Jupiter’s offense. Center fielder C.J. McElroy stole the show with a 3-for-3 performance, including a walk, a run, an RBI, and a pair of stolen bases from the bottom of the lineup. Kevin Herget tossed two perfect innings in relief and Palm Beach took the contest easily. Additionally, with the Bradenton Marauders loss, the Cardinals secured their spot in the Florida State League Playoffs.
September 5: Jupiter Hammerheads 2, Palm Beach Cardinals 0
Despite a solid start from Blake McKnight, who gave up just two runs on six hits over five innings, the Cardinals were shut out by the Hammerheads. With just five hits and two walks scattered throughout Palm Beach’s lineup, there weren’t any truly impressive performances to speak of, and designated hitter Collin Radack was the only batter to record an extra base hit: a double in the fourth.
September 6: Palm Beach Cardinals 8, Jupiter Hammerheads 3
In the final game of the regular season, the Cardinals broke through for an 8-3 win over the Hammerheads. Junior Fernandez and Kevin Alexander tossed three innings apiece, allowing just one earned run between them. The lineup performed well, with catcher Jose Gonzalez the only player to fail to record a hit. Third baseman Danny Diekroeger had a great night, going 2-for-4 with a run scored and two RBI. With the offense firing on all cylinders and the piecemeal pitching crew performing well enough, the Cardinals enjoyed an encouraging victory heading into the playoffs.
Division Championship Series
September 8: Charlotte Stone Crabs (TB) 14 at Palm Beach Cardinals 1
In the Cardinals’ only home game of the Division Championship Series, they were trampled by the Stone Crabs. Despite a last place finish in the second half, Charlotte came out swinging and was too much for the underpowered Cardinals. Corey Littrell earned the Game One start as the Cards avoided pitching Luke Weaver on short rest. The lefty was not up to his usual standards, as he gave up five runs on 13 hits over 5 1/3 innings. The rest of the pitching staff didn’t fare any better as Cody Schumacher, Nick Lomascolo and Harley Holt were shelled for nine runs over just 3 2/3 innings. While the pitching struggled to contain an explosive Charlotte lineup, the Cardinals’ offense stumbled its way to just one run. Left fielder Mason Katz was the only player to reach base twice, going 1-for-2 with a double, a walk, and Palm Beach’s only RBI.
Luke Weaver is the Palm Beach ace, and there’s no doubt about that. His seven-inning, one-run performance against the Hammerheads was just what the team needed to propel them to a spot in the playoffs. Tuesday night, just one game from elimination against the Stone Crabs, the young righty will have to prove his mettle again and keep the Cardinals active.
In the final games of the season and the first game of the playoffs, Mason Katz really heated up, going 7-for-15 with five doubles, a home run, three runs scored, and three RBI.
Center fielder C.J. McElroy is also on a tear, going 8-for-15 with a pair of stolen bases, four RBI, and two runs scored in the past week. Although the swift outfielder lacks the power potential of his teammate Katz, McElroy makes up for it can provide a lethal spark for the Cardinals.
Handed the ball for Game One of the Division Championship Series, Corey Littrell’s performance was a disappointment to say the least. When his team most needed him to provide the lights out stuff he’s shown for much of the season, he struggled, allowing five runs in 5 1/3 innings and opening the door for a 14-1 route by the Stone Crabs. I’m sure the right hander would like nothing more than an opportunity to redeem himself in the League Championship Series, but his team will have to pick him up over the next two games for him to get that opportunity.
Luke Voit is the Cardinals’ best offensive player, but he hasn’t looked the part over the past few weeks, going just 4-for-21 with three RBI and a run scored. Palm Beach’s floundering offense desperately needs every bit of thump it can get, and the big first baseman’s slump isn’t helping them any.
A mere week after throwing eight one-run innings against the St. Lucie Mets, Luis Perdomo collapsed. The lanky right hander was beaten around by the Jupiter Hammerheads for 11 hits and seven runs over just 4 1/3 innings. Ultimately, this reveals a lot about the Cardinals’ rotation, which is on its very last legs, having been stripped due to injury, promotion, and trade. Nonetheless, Perdomo can be a valuable asset for Palm Beach.
September 2: LHP Tyler Melling to Springfield Cardinals
September 2: RHP Jhonny Polanco to Springfield Cardinals
September 2: RHP Kevin Alexander from State College Spikes
September 2: LHP Chandler Hawkins from Johnson City Cardinals
September 4: OF Craig Aikin from State College Spikes
September 4: INF Casey Turgeon to Temporary Inactive List September 5: RHP Cody Schumacher to Springfield Cardinals
September 5: LHP Nick Lomascolo from Peoria Chiefs
September 8: Turgeon off TI List
September 8: Schumacher returned from Springfield
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 offense continued to be hit or miss, but with more missing than hitting. The one-run performance against the Stone Crabs was particularly uninspiring, but the entire lineup seems out of sync at times. As with most of the rest of the season, the pitching will have to carry the team if the Cardinals are to continue winning.
Unfortunately, the pitching that has been so good for most of the year is really struggling lately. Luke Weaver has been outstanding in every situation, but with Corey Littrell’s collapse in Game One, the young righty seems to be the only steady option in the rotation. The bullpen has been good at times, but with reliable arms being shipped out and novices shipped in on a seemingly daily basis, it isn’t as stable as it could be. Nonetheless, the talent that the Cardinals need is there, it just needs to shine.
The Cardinals managed to hold off the Bradenton Marauders and earn a trip to the playoffs to take on the first half South Division winners, the Charlotte Stone Crabs. Unfortunately, their first encounter was a blowout in the wrong direction and Palm Beach will need to bear down on the road if they hope to make it to the League Championship Series.
After a tough 14-1 loss in the first game of the series, the Cardinals head to Charlotte to finish it. With their backs against the wall, Palm Beach needs to figure out a way to slow the Stone Crabs offense while finding a little bit of their own.
Follow Chris Greene on Twitter @PBCBeat.
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