As they moved into the third week of May, the Palm Beach Cardinals put their first half of the month’s struggles behind. The club put together a five-game winning streak before a loss and another win on Tuesday night.
The pitching continued to perform well overall with the story being an improved offense that averaged five runs a game in their recent stretch.
With a 5-1 record for the week with one game lost to rain as part of an overall 21-25 record, the Cards remain in the division cellar. However, they are only three games out of a share of first place, an improvement of 3 1/2 games over the week.
The report covers the period of Wednesday, May 18 through Tuesday, May 24.
Wednesday, May 18: Palm Beach 5, Lakeland 1
Starter Ian McKinney had his best outing of the season to-date. The lefty went seven innings, giving up one run and striking out six Flying Tigers. Kyle Grana and Rowan Wick handled the final two scoreless frames.
Leadoff hitter Casey Turgeon had three singles and a run scored. Casey Grayson singled, walked and hit a solo home run. Vaughn Bryan went 2-for-4 including a solo shot, along with a stolen base and a walk. Shortstop Oscar Mercado picked up his 14th steal after singling and doubling in four at-bats.
Thursday, May 19: Palm Beach vs. Lakeland - cancelled
Game four of the Beach Birds’ home series against Lakeland was cancelled due to lightning and rain. Because this was the last time the Flying Tigers would be in Jupiter, the game will not be rescheduled.
Friday, May 20: Palm Beach 4 at Clearwater 1
The Cardinals took the lead early and never looked back, as starter Austin Gomber yielded just a run in the first. The lefty tossed seven innings, allowing just five hits. Landon Beck and Rowan Wick combined for the last two innings of relief, with Wick getting the save, his first of the season.
Darren Seferina had a 3-for-4 night including a triple and a run scored, while Casey Grayson singled, doubled and drove in two.
Saturday, May 21: Palm Beach 9 at Clearwater 6
In his eighth start, Jack Flaherty earned his first win of the season, but it wasn’t easy. The top prospect pitched 6 2/3 innings, giving up four runs on six hits, while striking out six and walking two.
Reliever Cody Schumacher came on in the seventh with two on and two out and surrendered four straight hits to score two runs charged to Flaherty, and two runs of his own. Chandler Hawkins and Landon Beck, who earned the save, finished the game with 2 1/3 scoreless innings of relief.
Casey Grayson hit a fourth inning solo home run and Allen Staton added a two-run shot in the seventh. Grayson was 2-for-5 with two runs driven in; Staton was 3-for-5 and plated a pair. Casey Turgeon, Steve Bean and Andrew Brodbeck each had two hits and one RBI.
Sunday, May 22: Palm Beach 5 at Clearwater 1
Blake McKnight held Clearwater to an unearned run on three hits, two walks and a hit batsman through eight. Kyle Grana struck out two of three faced in the ninth.
Casey Turgeon led the offense with three hits, a walk and a run scored. Casey Grayson and Chris Rivera each singled twice in four at bats with two RBI.
Monday, May 23: Clearwater 9, Palm Beach 3
Starter Jacob Evans struggled over his 5 2/3 innings, allowing nine runs, eight earned, while striking out four. The Threshers scored in five consecutive innings, from the second through the sixth. Michael Heesch and Nick Frey finished the game in scoreless fashion, but the damage was already done.
The Cardinals managed just five singles, but also drew eight walks. They fanned 10 times in total, going just 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position. Leadoff hitter Casey Turgeon had a hit and two walks, and two-hole hitter Darren Seferina did the same with his 11th stolen base as well. Fresh off his league Player of the Week award, Casey Grayson plated all three Palm Beach runs.
Tuesday, May 24: Palm Beach 3 at Fort Myers 1
Another strong pitching performance led the way, with Matt Pearce and the bullpen at the controls. The Miracle got on the board first after a walk and an Oscar Mercado error, his 14th of the season, allowed the runner to come home. Pearce finished five innings, surrendering just that unearned run on five hits with a walk and two strikeouts, and picked up the win.
Kyle Grana, Landon Beck and Rowan Wick combined to toss four innings of scoreless relief. Wick picked up his second save of the season with a hit allowed and two strikeouts in the ninth.
The Cards pulled ahead in the fourth on a ground out RBI by Jesse Jenner and a run-scoring single by Michael Pritchard, the latter in his first game back from the DL. Blake Drake worked a small-ball run in the sixth on a single, stolen base, wild pitch and an Allen Staton RBI ground out. Staton went 2-for-4, the only Cardinal with more than one hit.
The FSL South Division’s first-half title remains up for grabs with all six teams within three games of one another. The 21-25 Cardinals remain in last place, but are just three games behind the four clubs tied at the top.
The Cardinals have forged a very good road record of 13-9, but need to find the formula to win games at home, where they are just 11-20.
On Monday, Palm Beach first baseman Casey Grayson was named the Florida State League Player of the Week, for the period of May 16-22. Over six games, the last five of which Palm Beach won, the 24-year-old went 9-for-23 (.391) including a double, a pair of home runs and seven RBI. The right-handed hitter’s slash line was .391/423/.696/1.119 for the week.
It had been a very rough season to that point for the Beach Birds’ cleanup hitter, who was TCN’s State College Player of the Year and New York-Penn All-Star last season. Through May 15, covering his first 117 at-bats with Palm Beach, Grayson was batting just .217 with four doubles, no home runs and 10 RBI.
Pitching is leading the way, with five Beach Birds hurlers not allowing an earned run last week while throwing at least three innings.
Matt Pearce made two starts with no earned runs allowed over 14 innings on eight strikeouts and just one free pass. Over his eight starts, the right-hander’s ERA is down to 1.97.
Blake McKnight’s lone start yielded just one unearned tally over eight frames. The 25-year-old struck out three and walked two.
Reliever Kyle Grana allowed just two hits and no walks, striking out four in 3 2/3 innings.
Bullpenner Landon Beck yielded two hits and two walks with five K’s over his 3 1/3 frames.
Moving into some ninth-inning work, Rowan Wick continues to impress. The hard-thrower allowed just one baserunner to go with five strikeouts over his three innings this past week.
Because they allowed one run each last week, Austin Gomber and Ian McKinney just receive honorable mentions. The pitching was that good.
Second place hitter, second baseman Darren Seferina is finally getting his offense going, with a 7-for-17 hot stretch that included a double, triple, five walks, three runs scored and two stolen bases (in four attempts). That made for a .545 OBP for the week.
Interestingly, Seferina is the only Beach Birds position player in the May update to The Cardinal Nation top 40 prospect rankings.
Utilityman Casey Turgeon, playing left field every day and leading off, had 11 hits in 27 at-bats (.407), with a double and triple, six free passes and five runs scored. His OBP during the week was “just” .529.
Orlando Olivera. Though Turgeon and Seferina ahead of him in the lineup are getting on base, the Beach Birds’ number three hitter continues his skid at the plate. The outfielder had just two singles in 28 at-bats (.071) last week with nine strikeouts, though he did work four walks. The 25-year-old hasn’t had an extra-base hit in two weeks while his season average dipped 60 points, from .279 to .219. Olivera’s struggles are leaving more runners on base for the cleanup man, Grayson, to drive in.
Steve Bean. The catcher is still looking for his first extra-base hit this season. Over the last seven days, the 22-year-old went 3-for-16 (.188), actually improving his season batting average to .163.
Oscar Mercado. The shortstop had more stolen base attempts, six, than hits last week, five. His Mendoza Line (5-for-20, .200) period did include three walks, which made for a still-unsatisfactory on-base mark of .276. For the season, Mercado’s line is a disappointing .188/.271/.231/.502.
Jacob Evans. On the heels of a great start to the season, the right-hander had a clunker, left in to give up 13 hits and nine runs, eight earned in his 5 2/3 inning start at Clearwater on Monday. That raised Evans’ season ERA from 2.11 to 3.25.
On the offensive side, Palm Beach is showing small improvement across the board. Now they are only second-to-last in the 12-team FSL in batting average at .226 and slugging at .289, both up eight points this week. Slugging also is 11th at .296, up 15 points this period, OPS 11th at .606, up 21 points, and runs scored up to ninth with 158 through 46 games (3.4 per game).
Palm Beach hitters continue to lead the circuit with 171 walks, elevating their on-base percentage to .310, up from ninth in the league to seventh. The Cards have 48 steals in 72 attempts, fourth-most successful swipes in the circuit.
The pitching improved slightly, with a 3.31 ERA from 3.40 the week before, remaining sixth in the FSL. The staff fell to ninth in strikeouts (down from eighth) but have really made progress in walks, moving from the sixth-most walks last week down to ninth.
Power Outage Wanes
Through our last report, the Cards had just five home runs as a team, but doubled their season total this past week. With 10, Palm Beach is still last in the FSL, compared to the league leader with 41. Accordingly, as noted above, Palm Beach’s team slugging percentage of .296 has improved, but is second-to-last of the 12 teams.
It was a relatively quiet week on the transaction front, with all three “new” Cardinals simply being players previously active and returning to action with Palm Beach.
5/20: RHR Cody Schumacher returned to Palm Beach from Springfield
5/20: LHR Harley Holt returned to Peoria from Palm Beach
The Cardinals moved Springfield starter Mike Mayers up to Memphis for a spot start. His return to Double-A bumped Schumacher back to the Beach Birds with Holt returning to Peoria.
Schumacher did not pitch this time up with Springfield, so was perhaps rusty in his first outing since his return to Palm Beach. On Saturday in Clearwater, Schumacher couldn’t get an out in relief of Jack Flaherty, allowing four runs to score, including two inherited runners.
5/23: C Jesse Jenner assigned to Palm Beach from Memphis
5/23: C Chris Rivera returned to extended spring training (State College) from Palm Beach
The Cardinals got back Jenner, who while was slated to spend the season with the Beach Birds, has instead spent all but two games this season filling in for injuries at Springfield, and most recently, Memphis.
Rivera filled in both times and performed admirably, especially considering he is in his second year as a catcher and spent last season at Johnson City.
5/24: OF Michael Pritchard activated from Palm Beach’s seven-day disabled list
5/24: OF Vaughn Bryan returned to Peoria from Palm Beach
Pritchard was off to an amazing start, with a .456 on-base percentage over the first month, before suffering a sprained ankle that put him on the DL.
Bryan did ok, actually performing better with Palm Beach than he did in April in the Midwest League. Still, Peoria is where he returns.
Update: Two more Palm Beach roster moves occurred on Tuesday.
5/23: IF Andrew Brodbeck to Palm Beach seven-day disabled list.
5/24: IF Andrew Sohn off Palm Beach seven-day disabled list
In an Andrew for Andrew move, Sohn trades places with Brodbeck,with the former coming off the seven-day DL. The infielder had been out since May 11. Other than a five-game fill-in assignment with Springfield, the right-handed hitter has been with Palm Beach in 2016. Overall, the 23-year-old has struggled to a .145/.236/.215/.451 line over 22 games.
Brodbeck has nine singles in 38 at-bats over 12 games plus three walks for a line of .237/.279/.237/.616 this season. The left-handed hitter drove in six, scored three runs and struck out nine times.
Even with the activation of Pritchard, the Beach Birds’ DL list is sitting at eight. Four pitchers are on shelf: Silfredo Garcia, Will Anderson, Luke Weaver and Josh Wirsu. Injured position players are infielders Brodbeck, Diekroeger, Mason Katz and Juan Herrera.
The Cardinals complete the final two games of the three-game road set at Fort Myers (MIN) on Wednesday and Thursday. For the weekend, Palm Beach returns home to Roger Dean Stadium for another home-and-away series with their Jupiter Hammerheads neighbors (MIA).
After a day off on Monday, the Beach Birds hit the road again for a three-game series at Bradenton (PIT). With all three opponents ahead of the Cardinals in the South Division standings, Palm Beach could make up some ground in the standings next week with good play.
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