The Palm Beach Cardinals had a treading water-kind of week, winning three of five on the road before dropping their most recent two games at home. The club followed a three-game winning streak with a current run of three defeats, but remain firmly in the Florida State League South Division race.
The report covers the period of Wednesday, April 27 through Tuesday, May 3.
Wednesday, April 27: Bradenton Marauders (PIT) 6, Palm Beach 1
Starter Blake McKnight took the loss after pitching 6 2/3 innings and yielding five runs, four earned. The final two scored in the seventh inning after reliever Kyle Grana gave up a bases clearing double.
Six Cardinals contributed a hit including doubles by center fielder Blake Drake and right fielder Nick Thompson. Third baseman Danny Diekroeger reached base three times with a single and two walks.
Thursday, April 28: Palm Beach 3 at Bradenton 0 (10 innings)
Danny Diekroeger’s second double of the game broke a scoreless tie in the 10th inning. Darren Seferina swung the hottest bat, as the designated hitter went 4-for-5 with a double and a run scored. Michael Pritchard and Casey Grayson joined Diekroeger going 2-for-4.
Jacob Evans and Silfredo Garcia joined forces on a four-hitter. Evans scattered four singles over 7 2/3 innings before Garcia retired all seven batters faced.
Friday, April 29: Palm Beach 3 at St. Lucie Mets (NYM) 1
Matt Pearce’s pitching was excellent as the starter retired the first 14 batters, and finished at 6 2/3 innings with only one run allowed, unearned, on six hits. Pedro Echemendia and Kevin Herget (save) finished off the Mets.
Andrew Sohn’s two-run home run in the second inning was the difference. Casey Grayson added the first RBI on a first-inning double.
Saturday, April 30: Palm Beach 2 at St. Lucie 1
Starter Ian McKinney picked up his second win after going six strong innings, allowing just a first-inning run. Cody Schumacher, Rowan Wick and Kevin Herget (save) added a scoreless frame each.
The Cardinals managed just six hits, including two each by Darren Seferina (triple) and Danny Diekroeger (double), with each scoring a run. Diekroeger and Casey Grayson collected the two runs batted in.
Sunday, May 1: St. Lucie 5, Palm Beach 4
Starter Jack Flaherty was touched for three runs on five hits and two walks over 5 1/3 innings, taking his second loss of the season. Michael Heesch, Kyle Grana and Pedro Echemendia finished out the game on the mound. Heesch struggled, permitting two runs, one earned on four hits in 1/3 of an inning.
Palm Beach took the early lead with a run in the first but did not score again until they pulled to within a run in the seventh. Orlando Olivera, Steve Bean and Andrew Sohn each had two singles and a run scored. Sohn added an RBI.
Monday, May 2: Fort Myers Miracle (MIN) 8 at Palm Beach 3
Austin Gomber had his roughest start of the season, but still pitched six innings, yielding six runs, four earned. The lefty struck out four. Relievers Pedro Echemendia and Michael Heesch allowed no runs and two runs respectively, over the final three innings.
Mikey Reynolds paced the offense with a single and triple in four at-bats. Oscar Mercado chipped in two hits and Andrew Sohn, playing third base, singled, walked and stole a base.
Tuesday, May 3: Fort Myers 5 at Palm Beach 3
Palm Beach took an early second inning lead via small ball, on a wild pitch and a fielder’s choice. But the Miracle put up five on Beach Birds starter Blake McKnight in the third and fourth innings and the offense could not catch up. The Cardinals’ losing skid extended to three.
McKnight was knocked out after 3 2/3 innings with Cody Schumacher and Silfredo Garcia keeping the visitors from inflicting further damage over the final 4 1/3.
Right fielder Orlando Olivera paced the offense with a single, double, walk and two RBI, but the rest of the lineup managed just four singles in 28 at-bats.
The FSL South Division’s first-half title remains anyone’s to take. The 14-12 Cardinals are in a three-way tie for second place, one game behind division leader Fort Myers. In the tight six-team division, the Cards are only three games ahead of a share of last place with Jupiter.
Third baseman Danny Diekroeger is first in the FSL with nine doubles, ninth with 16 RBI, 10th in batting average at .311 and 12th in on-base percentage at .388.
Shortstop Oscar Mercado leads the league with 12 stolen bases (in 17 attempts), however his on-base percentage is under .300 (.297).
Though now on the DL, outfielder Michael Pritchard is second in the FSL with his .450 on-base percentage and is tied for second with 17 walks.
Through four starts, Jacob Evans’ 1.33 is fourth-best in the league. Austin Gomber is tied for seventh with 27 strikeouts.
Closer Kevin Herget’s total of six saves is two more than any other pitcher in the FSL. The righty has yet to give up a run in 18 innings this season with 18 K’s and just one free pass issued.
After five starts, ace Jack Flaherty (0-2) has an unsightly 6.10 ERA despite 23 strikeouts in 20 2/3 innings.
Blake McKnight is still winless after five starts (0-3) as well, lugging a 5.24 ERA. The right-hander has just seven strikeouts against 10 walks in 22 1/3 innings.
Reliever Pedro Echemendia has a good 13:4 strikeout-to-walk ratio through 14 2/3 innings, but the Cuban has given up eight earned runs for a 4.91 ERA.
First base is a position that requires power but Casey Grayson isn’t delivering, with a batting average of just .192 and a slugging mark of .231 including no home runs for the season to date.
Outfielder Nick Thompson is another major struggler with a meager slash line of .171/.267/.237/.504 over his first 22 FSL contests.
Top System-wide Pitchers in April
Palm Beach hurlers took two of the three monthly Player of the Month awards from The Cardinal Nation, with Austin Gomber named the Starting Pitcher of the Month and Kevin Herget the system’s top Relief Pitcher during April.
The Cardinals are a middle of the pack team statistically to date in 2016.
The pitching is sixth of 16 FSL teams with their 3.33 ERA. The staff is tied for eighth in strikeouts and tied for the seventh most walks issued.
On the offensive side, Palm Beach is tied for seventh in runs scored, ninth in batting average (at just .228) and ninth in OPS at .610. The Cards have 30 steals in 42 attempts, fourth-best in the circuit.
Major Power Outage Continues
Amazingly, through 26 games, the Cards have just two home runs as a team, compared to league leader Tampa with 24. Accordingly, Palm Beach’s slugging percentage of .292 is dead last in the FSL.
It was a very busy week on the transaction front again, with four pairs of moves plus a couple of DL-related housekeeping ones.
4/26: OF Orlando Olivera from Peoria to Palm Beach
4/26: 3B Allen Staton to Palm Beach 7-day DL
Olivera is back after a brief period at Class-A Peoria and offers some thump potential to a power-starved lineup. Staton was really struggling before his DL stint with a line of .188/.238/.220/.458 over his first 15 games this season.
4/29: RHR Josh Wirsu to Palm Beach 7-day DL
4/29: LHR Michael Heesch from State College (extended spring training) to Palm Beach
Wirsu posted a 6.75 ERA in his three outings since joining Palm Beach on April 17. Heesch was returned to the Cardinals after just under two weeks in extended spring training. His pre-departure ERA was 12.47 and in his first post-return outing, the lefty picked up where he left off, yielding two runs, one earned, in one inning of work.
5/2: IF Mikey Reynolds from Springfield to Palm Beach
5/2: OF Michael Pritchard to Palm Beach 7-day DL
The activation of Alex Mejia at Springfield meant the return of Reynolds to the Beach Birds after a week of fill-in duty at Double-A. Pritchard was second in the FSL with his .450 on-base percentage this season, so is a loss to the lineup.
5/3: C Brian O’Keefe from Palm Beach to Peoria
5/3: IF Casey Turgeon from Peoria to Palm Beach
In these transactions, Palm Beach gave up one of its three catchers in favor of a fifth infielder. Steve Bean and Jesse Jenner remain on hand to handle catching duties. A true utilityman, Turgeon made his first Palm Beach start of the year in left field Tuesday night.
5/3: RHS Will Anderson from 7-day DL to 60-day DL
5/3: IF Andrew Brodbeck from Palm Beach 7-day DL to State College (extended spring training)
The move with Anderson, who has been out since last June, is paperwork. Brodbeck was an early-season fill in on the infield, but now that he is healthy, the club has other options, so he was returned to extended spring training.
In addition to the arrivals of Wirsu, Pritchard and Staton minus the departure of Brodbeck from the disabled list, four other Cardinals remain on the shelf - pitchers Anderson and Luke Weaver plus infielders Mason Katz and Juan Herrera.
If home cooking will help the Cardinals, this will be the week to fill up. All seven games will be held at Roger Dean Stadium, though one is an “away” game, with Jupiter designated the “home” team for Friday morning’s contest.
On Wednesday, Palm Beach will look to salvage the finale against Fort Myers. The next three will be against the Jupiter Hammerheads (MIA) before the arrival of the Charlotte StoneCrabs (TB) for a three-game series from Sunday through next Tuesday. I plan to cover the Jupiter series in person.
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