After playing out the final game of the first half last Wednesday, the Palm Beach Cardinals opened their bid to repeat as the second-half champion of the South Division of the Florida State League.
Before the standings reset, the 32-36 Cards stayed just out of the South Division cellar, six games behind first half winner Bradenton (PIT). The Cards are off to a 3-3 start in the second half of the 140-game season, which officially began last Thursday.
The report covers the period of Wednesday, June 22 through Tuesday, June 28.
Wednesday, June 22: Palm Beach 3 at St. Lucie Mets 1
Ian McKinney started the final game of the first half and pitched well. The lefty struck out five, giving up just an unearned run in 6 2/3 innings. Cody Schumacher and Kyle Grana combined for 2 1/3 scoreless relief frames.
Third baseman Andrew Sohn went 2-for-3 with a stolen base and run scored. Darren Seferina singled, walked, swiped a bag, plated one and scored another. Oscar Mercado added a double and scored.
Thursday, June 23: Palm Beach 3 at St. Lucie 2
Palm Beach opened the second half of league play with a road win at St. Lucie.
Austin Gomber yielded two runs in the fifth, his final inning, but evened his record to 5-5 with the win. The lefty permitted five hits and three walks, and fanned three.
Cody Schumacher, Blake McKnight and Landon Beck handled the final four frames, with Beck picking up his second save.
Casey Grayson singled, doubled, walked and scored. Jhohan Acevedo had two hits and a run scored. Collin Radack drove in two.
Friday, June 24: St. Lucie 4, Palm Beach 3 (14 innings)
Two blown saves were the difference as the Cards dropped a heartbreaker in 14 innings.
Starter Jack Flaherty went 7 1/3 innings, yielding just two runs on eight hits. Chandler Hawkins and Kyle Grana couldn’t get out of the eighth without a blown save for Grana with the tying run charged to Flaherty.
Grana pitched two more innings, both scoreless, before Davis Ward, fresh off the GCL roster, pitched three run-free frames. Landon Beck took over in the 14th with a one-run lead, but allowed two runs on a single and four walks for the second blown save and the loss.
Allen Staton’s solo home run in the fourth gave the Cardinals their second lead. Jhohan Acevedo plated two and was 2-for-6. Casey Grayson and Darren Seferina were 2-for-5 and the latter was running wild, swiping four bags.
Saturday, June 25: Palm Beach 6 at St. Lucie 1
Jacob Evans held the Mets to only one run in eight innings to earn his third win of the season. The only damage was a solo home run in the third. Evans allowed just three hits, struck out three and walked two. Michael Heesch pitched a scoreless ninth.
The offense scored six runs on seven hits, with only one for extra bases, an RBI double by Steve Bean. Cole Lankford was 3-for-5 with two RBI. Casey Grayson plated two on sacrifice flies. Blake Drake drew four walks and scored three times.
Sunday, June 26: Palm Beach 2 at Charlotte Stone Crabs 1 (finished on Monday)
Sunday starter John Walter threw two scoreless innings before the game was suspended due to rain. Blake McKnight took over when play resumed on Monday and pitched three frames of one-run ball to pick up the win. Chandler Hawkins followed with 3 1/3 scoreless innings, before Landon Beck closed the door on the Stone Crabs in the ninth.
The offense had just enough. Darren Seferina singled, walked and stole his 25th base. Cole Lankford went 2-for-4 with an RBI from the two hole.
Monday, June 27: Charlotte 2, Palm Beach 0 (seven innings)
The Palm Beach offense was almost non-existent in Monday’s shortened contest, managing just two hits, including Jhohan Acevedo’s double.
Starter Matt Pearce was effective, pitching all six innings, allowing two runs with three strikeouts, but he took the loss anyway, due to the lack of support.
Tuesday, June 28: Fort Myers Miracle 3 at Palm Beach 2
The Cardinals dropped another due to lack of offense, but despite just four hits, still managed to score two runs. Three of their four hits and both runs came in the third on a triple by Darren Seferina, a RBI single from Blake Drake and a run-scoring double by Casey Grayson.
Starter Ian McKinney was one out short of a quality start, allowing five hits and three walks for three earned runs in 5 2/3 innings. Relievers Cody Schumacher and Kyle Grana kept the visitors from further damage, but in a familiar refrain, the offense couldn’t come back.
Despite having lost closer Rowan Wick, three members of the remaining bullpen have been pitching especially well.
Cody Schumacher. The right-handed reliever and former Missouri State standout has stretched his scoreless inning streak to nine, having not allowed an earned run in over a month – since May 25. In that time, Schumacher yielded just seven hits, a walk and struck out eight.
Kyle Grana. Since May 26, the right-hander has given up just one earned run in 10 innings on five hits, but seven walks. During that span, Grana has struck out a whopping 14 batters.
Chandler Hawkins. See if this seems familiar. Since May 27, the reliable left-hander has yielded just one run in 11 2/3 innings of relief on nine hits, four walks and three strikeouts.
Jacob Evans. The lefty starter had a nice bounce-back performance, with just one earned run allowed in eight innings against the Mets on Saturday. Evans still allowed his league-leading 12th home run, however.
Darren Seferina. The leadoff man stole seven bases in seven tries over seven games as he went 6-for-24 with four walks and five runs scored for the week.
Jhohan Acevedo. For the first time, the outfielder joins our “hot” group, posting a .391 average for the period (9-for-23), including one double and three RBI. Acevedo was just 1-for-4 in base-stealing attempts, however.
No other Cardinal hit better than .296 over the seven-day period.
With six regulars batting under .100 for the week, it is nothing short of amazing that the Cardinals won four games.
Allen Staton. The third baseman continues to struggle mightily. His one hit of the week in 24 at-bats was a home run and he plated three. Staton has endured a true Jeckyll and Hyde season, with a great May (.364) sandwiched between a terrible April (.186) and June (.160).
Blake Drake. The outfielder managed just one single in 19 at-bats (.053), but with six walks, at least raised his on-base mark for the week to .308.
Orlando Olivera. A regular here, the outfielder had one single and one walk in 17 plate appearances for a .063 BA and .113 OBP last week. Olivera’s average with the Beach Birds in 2016 is down to .203.
Oscar Mercado. The shortstop just cannot get on base consistently. Last week, Mercado managed a single, a double and a walk in 27 plate appearances. That works out to a .074 BA and .117 OBP.
Jesse Jenner. The catcher had a lone single in 13 plate appearances last week (.077).
Collin Radack. Down from Springfield, the outfielder coaxed just two singles out of his bat and drew two walks in 25 PAs, for an average of .087 and OBP of .192.
FSL Season Leaders
Matt Pearce is tied for 10th in the league in ERA (2.69) and remains tied for sixth with Ian McKinney and seven other pitchers with six wins.
Jack Flaherty is tied for eighth in the FSL with 65 strikeouts.
Jacob Evans’ 12 home runs allowed is the most in the circuit, two more than any other pitcher.
With his on-base mark down to .390, Casey Grayson is now tied for third in the league.
Blake Drake’s 14 doubles tie him with nine others for eighth-most in the circuit.
Darren Seferina’s five triples put him in a tie with three others for sixth-most in the FSL.
With 25 steals, Seferina is just one off the league lead and has a stellar success rate of 83 percent. Oscar Mercado is tied for seventh in the FSL with 18 steals but has been caught 13 times for just a 58 percent success rate. Mercado did not attempt a stolen base last week.
The offensive downturn overshadowed a slight improvement in the pitching last week. It remains a major challenge for middle-of-the-pack pitching to overcome such an anemic offense.
|Offense||Season/rank of 12||Last week/rank|
|BA||.231 / tied for last||.235 / 10th|
|OBP||.312 / 8th||.316 / 6th|
|SLG||.301 / 11th||.308 / 11th|
|OPS||.613 / 11th||.624 / 10th|
|Runs/game||3.5 / 9th||3.6 / 10th|
|Walks||272 / 1st||250 / 1st|
|Steals||74 of 107 / 4th||63 of 92 / 4th|
|Pitching||Season/rank of 12||Last week/rank|
|ERA||3.32 / T6th||3.48 / 8th|
|Strikeouts||524 / 10th||486 / 9th|
|Walks||200 / 11th (2nd fewest)||177 / 11th (2nd fewest)|
In an oddly quiet week on the transactions front, the only move was to fill the open roster spot created the week before when closer Rowan Wick was promoted to Springfield.
6/24: RHR Davis Ward from the Gulf Coast League Cardinals to Palm Beach.
The Cardinals decided to put a rookie-level pitcher on the roster in Ward, at least temporarily, as Peoria is already down an arm as well. Since being drafted as St. Louis’ final pick in 2014, their 40th-rounder had thrown just 16 innings as a professional – all in 2014 – before missing the entire 2015 season.
Ward made a strong FSL debut, with three scoreless innings in Friday’s extra-inning contest.
The Beach Birds’ DL list is holding at six. Three pitchers are on shelf: Silfredo Garcia, Will Anderson and Josh Wirsu. Injured position players are infielder Danny Diekroeger, utilityman Casey Turgeon and outfielder Michael Pritchard.
How to improve in 2H
As was already noted, the Cardinals finished six games behind Bradenton in the first half. The problem was clear – Palm Beach lost two of every three at home, a whopping 10 games under .500 at Roger Dean Stadium at 11-21 but logged a stellar road record of 21-15.
Fixing their home winning issues while maintaining their road productivity would create a formula for second-half success.
Palm Beach continues its six-game homestand with the final two against Fort Myers Wednesday and Thursday before welcoming the St. Lucie Mets for three over the weekend. Monday through Wednesday is a “road” series “at” Jupiter (MIA), which essentially means the Cards remain home, but bat first and wear their away jerseys.
Palm Beach’s next scheduled day off is not until July 12.
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