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Welcome again to Palm Beach Cardinals baseball! We’re back for a new season, and our beloved team is off to a hot start, going 5-1 in the opening week and cruising to a one game lead in the Florida State League South. Both the pitching and the offense were firing on all cylinders, as the Cardinals outscored their opponents 25-10 in their victories, with the only trip up a 10-0 loss to the Charlotte Stone Crabs in the second game of the season.
Let’s take a look at how the games went.
April 7: Palm Beach Cardinals 5, Charlotte Stone Crabs (TB) 3
Jack Flaherty led Palm Beach to an opening day win against the Stone Crabs, throwing five solid innings, allowing just two runs on six hits while striking out six and walking just one. Shortstop Oscar Mercado led the offensive charge, going 2-for-4 with a pair of singles, a couple of RBI, and a run scored. Alas, he was also picked off and caught stealing second, so his famed speed didn’t get off to the hot start along with his bat. Nonetheless, with some solid work from the bullpen, the Cardinals were able to pull out a 5-3 victory in their first game of the season.
April 8: Charlotte Stone Crabs 10 at Palm Beach Cardinals 0
In his opening start in the Florida State League, Austin Gomber pitched admirably, yielding just two runs over six innings while striking out six and walking just one. Unfortunately, neither his offense nor his bullpen had much to offer, as the Stone Crabs went on to win the game, 10-0. DH Danny Diekroeger, catcher Steve Bean, and right fielder Nick Thompson were the only three Palm Beach hitters to record hits in the game, although the team did manage to draw an additional four walks. They were unable to capitalize on their opportunities, and relievers Kyle Grana and Michael Heesch allowed eight runs, six earned, as the Stone Crabs stomped to an easy victory.
April 9: Palm Beach Cardinals 5 at Charlotte Stone Crabs 1
The first away game of the season enabled Palm Beach to get back on track, as they shut down the Stone Crabs for the second time in three days. Third baseman Diekroeger led the charge by going 2-for-5 with a double and two RBI and center fielder Michael Pritchard backed him up with a 3-for-4 night and two runs scored as the offense compiled 12 hits. The starter, Blake McKnight, only managed to go three innings, but combined with the outstanding effort of the bullpen, Charlotte was held to one run and the Cardinals took the night easily.
April 10: Palm Beach Cardinals 4 at Charlotte Stone Crabs 1
The Cardinals won their third game of the season to take the opening series over the Charlotte Stone Crabs. The Cardinals again collected 12 hits as starter Jacob Evans allowed just one run on six hits over seven innings on route to his first win in his first FSL start. Left fielder Pritchard stayed hot, going 2-for-4 with a double and a run scored, and second baseman Andrew Brodbeck went a perfect 3-for-3 with a walk, an RBI, and a run scored, as they carried the team to a 4-1 win.
April 11: Palm Beach Cardinals 7, Daytona Tortugas (CIN) 3
Matt Pearce kept the Cardinals’ hot streak going with a scoreless six-inning start. Mercado provided an offensive spark, going 2-for-5 with a double and a run scored, and finally getting his legs going with two stolen bases on the day. Third baseman Diekroeger and second baseman Dylan Tice each contributed two hits of their own, leading Palm Beach to a 7-3 victory over the Tortugas with a five-run eighth inning.
April 12: Palm Beach Cardinals 4, Daytona Tortugas 2
In the final game of this week, the Cardinals really showed off their speed as they collected three triples, and Mercado stole his fourth base of the season as they narrowly defeated the Tortugas, 4-2. Ian McKinney led the pitching with a solid five-inning performance, giving up one run on three hits. His control was a little spotty, with three walks, but his stuff was good as he managed to induce six strikeouts. All in all, it was a fitting way to end the week as Palm Beach moved to 5-1 on the season.
Outfielder Michael Pritchard had a stellar FSL introduction, going 7-for-16 with a double, a triple, a pair of walks, four runs scored, and an RBI. With a slash line of .438/.500/.625, Pritchard had easily one of the best offensive performances of the week and he helped the team get off to their 5-1 start. It is nice to see a relative unknown do so well, and we will be looking to see him keep it up in the coming weeks.
Catcher Steve Bean earned himself a spot on this list by drawing four walks in addition to a 5-for-14 week. Although all five hits were singles, reaching base half of the time is a great way to start the season, and if Bean can keep using that plate discipline to his advantage, he will be appear here frequently.
While the starting pitching was exceptional this week, Matt Pearce stood out above the rest, tossing six scoreless innings while striking out five. With an ERA of 0.00 and a WHIP of 0.83, Pearce led the team and easily earned his first win as a Beach Bird. While Palm Beach’s rotation isn’t quite as filled with star prospects as last season, Pearce showed that there are still pitchers worth fearing on the staff.
In a strong week for the Cardinals, outfielder Orlando Olivera had a pretty rough start. With just one base hit and four strikeouts in 13 at-bats, I imagine that he will look to reset in the coming week and give a better performance next week. After a solid season at rookie ball and low-A last year, there is plenty of reason to believe that Olivera can do better going forward, and we will definitely keep our eyes open for improvement.
I imagine that relief pitcher Michael Heesch will not be writing home this week, after yielding three earned runs and two unearned in just 2/3 of an inning worked. Giving up five hits and two walks isn’t the way you want to start your season, but luckily for Heesch, his bad luck easily falls under the umbrella of “small sample size” and a couple of good outings will easily mark this past week as just a bump in the road.
After just two games as a Cardinal, second baseman Andrew Brodbeck was placed on the seven-day disabled list on Monday. His replacement is his 2015 Gulf Coast League Cardinals teammate, Dylan Tice. Palm Beach now has six players on the DL, including four middle infielders.
Due to an injury at Memphis, the Cardinals shifted a number of reserve catchers throughout the system over the weekend. At Palm Beach, the Cards said goodbye to Jesse Jenner, moved up to Springfield, and welcomed Chris Rivera from Extended Spring Training camp.
In the coming week, the Cardinals will look to stay hot as they finish their series with the Daytona Tortugas before heading to face the Dunedin Blue Jays for four games and then to kick off another four game series against the Bradenton Marauders (PIT).
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