Weekly news from the St. Louis Cardinals’ Florida State League affiliate in Jupiter

On the heels of a 2-15 May record, the Cardinals’ Florida State League affiliate has fallen 6 1/2 games out of first place. Blake Drake plated one-third of Palm Beach’s runs for the week.

The Palm Beach Cardinals’ May struggles continued this past week. The club’s losing streak had stretched to 10 games before a Wednesday win that was followed by five more losses.

The offense scored just eight runs in total over those five defeats, and the defense committed a whopping 14 errors in the seven games. That created a very small margin of error for the pitching, which overall has been ok.

The current period ended Tuesday evening with a solid overall showing by following a formula that was expected to be much more common in 2016 from the Beach Birds – a dominating performance from the starting pitcher coupled with timely hitting and no miscues in the field.

With a 2-5 record for the week as part of an overall 16-24 record, the Cards have fallen two games deeper into the division cellar, 6 1/2 games out of first place.

The report covers the period of Wednesday, May 11 through Tuesday, May 17.

Wednesday, May 11: Palm Beach 10 at Charlotte 3

The Cardinals ended their 10-game losing streak with their biggest offensive outburst of the season to date in a road win over the Stone Crabs (TB).

Casey Turgeon walked, singled, doubled and hit a home run. Blake Drake had a pair of singles and a triple. Darren Seferina singled, stole a base and launched a solo home run. The three plated eight runs among them.

Matt Pearce went 5 2/3 innings, allowing two runs and striking out four. Reliever Cody Schumacher yielded one run. After Kyle Grana struck out the side in the eighth, Rowan Wick fanned two more in the ninth.

Thursday, May 12: Charlotte 7, Palm Beach 3

The offense went back to its small ball ways, and it was not enough. Vaughn Bryan led the way with three hits and two runs scored. Casey Turgeon added a double and a run scored and Blake Drake plated three on a pair of singles.

Starter Ian McKinney allowed five runs, three earned, on six hits and four walks in 4 2/3 and newcomer Chandler Hawkins surrendered a two-run home run during his 1 1/3-inning stint.

Darren Seferina had two errors, with Oscar Mercado and Steve Bean adding one each.

Friday, May 13: Bradenton 13 at Palm Beach 1

The Cardinals were again hurt by shaky defense, as this was the Beach Birds’ second consecutive game with four errors.

In reality, nothing went right, as Jack Flaherty was not sharp, either. The starter went five innings, giving up seven runs, three earned, on 10 hits. Michael Heesch and Kyle Grana combined for three innings of relief, allowing six more runs between them.

Casey Grayson had three of Palm Beach’s four hits and drove in the only Cardinals run.

Saturday, May 14: Bradenton 2 at Palm Beach 1

The Cardinals scored in the first inning on a leadoff double by Casey Grayson and an Orlando Olivera RBI single. That run would be it for the offense, which managed just five hits and one walk for the game.

Starter Austin Gomber went six innings, giving up one run on five hits and striking out six. In his Palm Beach debut, Landon Beck added 1 2/3 scoreless innings. Another recent arrival, Chandler Hawkins, gave up the winning run in the ninth.

Sunday, May 15: Bradenton 3 at Palm Beach 2 (11)

The visiting Marauders completed their three-game road sweep of the Cardinals. The Beach Birds managed just five hits for the second consecutive game. Oscar Mercado singled and walked, but did not advance past first either time, first caught stealing and then picked off. Darren Seferina and Vaughn Bryan were also erased trying to steal.

Reliever Nick Frey took the loss, allowing a run on four hits over two innings. Starter Blake McKnight deserved more than a no-decision after permitting just two runs, one earned, on eight hits and a free pass through seven. Rowan Wick added two scoreless frames to carry the game into extras.

Monday, May 16: Lakeland 5 at Palm Beach 1

Starter Jacob Evans tossed seven innings, giving up four runs, but none earned, and fanned two. The defense let the Cards down again as third baseman Joey Hawkins committed two errors and shortstop Oscar Mercado’s throwing miscue was his 11th of the season.

Leadoff man Vaughn Bryan singled, walked, stole a base, and scored the only run, which was driven in by Blake Drake, of course. Cole Lankford and Casey Grayson reached base twice.

Tuesday, May 17: Palm Beach 6, Lakeland 0

Matt Pearce was the club’s stopper, allowing just two base runners to reach second and retiring 14 of his last 15 batters in his complete-game shutout. The right-hander allowed just five hits, one walk and fanned six.

Blake Drake doubled twice, walked, scored, drove in two, stole a base and probably parked cars in the garage before the game. Chris Rivera had both his hits and his lone RBI for the week.

Standings

The FSL South Division’s first-half title remains up for grabs with a five-way battle that only excludes the Cardinals. The 16-24 Cardinals remain in last place, 6.5 games behind Fort Myers and four games out of a share of fifth place. In other words, the top five teams all remain within 2 1/2 games of a share of first.

The Cardinals have a decent road record at 9-8, but continue to lose two-thirds of their games at home, where they are just 10-20. Perhaps when the schedule balances out and Palm Beach spends more time on the road, their fortunes will actually improve. It could hardly get worse.  

Who’s Hot

http://www.scout.com/player/190213-blake-drake?s=321

Blake Drake not only led the Beach Birds with nine RBI, his total last week topped the entire Cardinals system. It is all the more impressive when considering that Palm Beach scored just 27 runs all week, meaning Drake plated one-third of them. The outfielder batted .333 during the period, going 8-for-24.

http://www.scout.com/player/190017-cole-lankford?s=321

New arrival Cole Lankford was the only other .300-hitting Cardinal last week, going 5-for-16 (.313), all singles, in his initial Florida State League action.

Vaughn Bryan and Casey Turgeon reached base last week at a .414 clip while each hitting .292.

http://www.scout.com/player/169883-rowan-wick?s=321

Reliever Rowan Wick continues to quietly perform exceptionally well. Last week, the right-hander tossed three scoreless frames, while allowing no hits and two walks. Wick fanned five of 11 hitters faced. The 23-year-old’s season ERA is 1.17 with 22 K’s against six walks in 15 1/3 innings.

Starting Pitching is (Mostly) Hot

With a six-man rotation and seven games scheduled, only Matt Pearce made two starts last week. The right-hander allowed just two runs in 14 2/3 innings for a 1.23 ERA.

http://www.scout.com/player/191574-matt-pearce?s=321

Right alongside were Jacob Evans (seven innings, no earned runs), Blake McKnight (1.29, seven innings), and Austin Gomber (1.50 in six frames).

http://www.scout.com/player/175632-jacob-evans?s=321

The only outliers were Jack Flaherty (5.40 ERA in five innings) and Ian McKinney (5.79 in 4 2/3).

Who’s Not

The defense. For the week, the Cardinals committed an unsightly total of 14 errors. Needless to say, no club will win often when averaging two errors every game.

Catcher Steve Bean followed up a 1-for-16 period two weeks ago with a 1-for-10 stretch over the last seven days. The 22-year-old is still looking for his first extra-base hit this season as his 2016 average has skidded to .156.

Chris Rivera is the other backstop. His week was not much better at the plate, as he went 2-for-12 (.167), though he did draw three free passes. Both catchers drove in one run.

Last week’s one hot hitter, Orlando Olivera, earned a move up in the lineup. A 3-for-17 (.176) skid followed, with all three hits being singles. The outfielder walked twice and plated one.

At least infielder Andrew Brodbeck made his two hits in 15 at-bats (.133) count with a pair of RBI. The 23-year-old is batting .231 over his first nine games as a Beach Bird.

Second baseman Darren Seferina can’t seem to get anything going consistently. Last week, he went 3-for-17, just like Olivera, though one hit was a long ball. Seferina did not walk. His disappointing season average is .200 with a .263 OBP.

Reliever Kyle Grana is scuffling, with four runs allowed in two innings last week. Peoria’s 2015 closer has a 5.52 ERA through his first 13 FSL games. Grana has 15 strikeouts in 14 2/3 innings this season, but has given up 17 hits and issued 10 walks.

Lefty bullpenner Michael Heesch had a good week for him, yielding two earned runs in two innings of relief. That actually lowered the 26-year-old’s season ERA to 10.03.

Team Stats

On the offensive side, the story of the season to date is clear. Palm Beach is dead last in the 12-team FSL in batting average at .218, slugging at .281, OPS at .585 and runs scored with 129 through 40 games (3.2 per game).

Searching for positives, Palm Beach hitters lead the circuit with 150 walks, elevating their on-base percentage to .304, 9th in the league. The Cards have 38 steals in 47 attempts, fourth-most in the circuit, and were 6-of-7 for the week.

The pitching is holding its own, with a 3.40 ERA, back to up sixth in the FSL. The staff is eighth in strikeouts (up from ninth) but have issued the sixth-most walks, up from a tie for seventh last week.

Power Outage Continues

Through 40 games, the Cards have just five home runs as a team, but hit two this past week, both last Wednesday. It is the only single-digit team total in the FSL, compared to the league leader with 33. Accordingly, as noted above, Palm Beach’s team slugging percentage of .281 is still dead last of the 12 teams.

Transactions – Get a program!

Significant roster churn continues with the Beach Birds. Last week was a very busy period on the transaction front again, with six sets of moves, after eight over the two prior weeks.

5/12: RHRs Kevin Herget and Pedro Echemendia from Palm Beach to Springfield

5/12: RHRs Landon Beck and Jeff Frey from Peoria to Palm Beach

The Cardinals seemed destined to lose their best relief pitcher to date this season in Herget and it happened in a quartet of moves that began with two relievers going on the DL at Triple-A Memphis.

More details on the four moves here.

5/15: RHR Cody Schumacher from Palm Beach to Springfield

5/15: RHR Harley Holt from Peoria to Palm Beach

Another promotion up the line, this time Mike Mayers to Memphis, led to Schumacher getting the call to join Springfield.

More details on the two moves here.

5/11: IF Andrew Sohn to Palm Beach seven-day DL

5/13: IF Cole Lankford from State College (extended spring training) to Palm Beach

It seems like being a Palm Beach infielder has about the same security as being the drummer for Spinal Tap. With Sohn out, Lankford received the call from extended spring training.

More details on the two moves here.

5/14: 3B Danny Diekroeger to Palm Beach seven-day DL

5/14: IF Joey Hawkins from Johnson City (extended spring training) to Palm Beach

Diekroeger had been Palm Beach’s most consistent run producer this season, so he will be missed. As you will see below, Hawkins was a short-term addition.

More details on the two moves here.

5/17: Allen Staton off Palm Beach seven-day DL

5/17: IF Joey Hawkins from Palm Beach to Johnson City (extended spring training)

5/17: 3B Danny Diekroeger from Palm Beach seven-day DL to 60-day DL

Getting Staton back is good, but Diekroeger’s move to the 60-day DL is tough news for an offense struggling so badly.

Staton, 23, had been placed on the DL back on April 26. The 2015 undrafted free agent had been in a slump prior to his injury, with just one hit in his last 18 at-bats, which dropped his season average to .186 in 59 at-bats over 15 Florida State League contests.

In his three days with Palm Beach, Hawkins, 23, had one single in eight at-bats over two games. The right-handed hitter collected an RBI, struck out twice and did not draw a walk. Hawkins was very shaky defensively, committing three errors.

Injuries

It is a good thing the Cardinals’ rehab facility is literally right across the hall, as even with the activation of Staton, the Beach Birds’ DL list is now up to nine. Four pitchers are on shelf: Silfredo Garcia, Will Anderson, Luke Weaver and Josh Wirsu. Injured position players are infielders Sohn, Diekroeger, Mason Katz and Juan Herrera plus outfielder Michael Pritchard.

Grueling Schedule

Whoever put the FSL schedule together is a masochist as Palm Beach has been given just one day off so far, back on April 25, meaning they have played 40 days of 41 so far this season.

Palm Beach’s second day off in 2016 is not scheduled for almost two more weeks, on May 30th.

Up Next

The Cardinals complete the final two games of the four-game home set against 22-17 Lakeland (DET) on Wednesday and Thursday. Following will be a seven-game road trip to Clearwater (PHI) for four and three more at Fort Myers (MIN) that runs from Friday through next Thursday.

The going could be tough, as Clearwater has the best record in the league at 25-13, and as noted above, Fort Myers is in first place in the Cardinals’ South Division with a 22-17 mark.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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