Blake McKnight (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

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

The A-Advanced Cardinals lost four of six road games last week, as they were outscored 41-17. Swingman Blake McKnight is contributing as a starter and reliever.

The Palm Beach Cardinals continue to struggle in the second half, scoring just 17 runs while giving up 41 last week. Given that spread, winning twice in six games might appear a bit surprising, however three of the four defeats were blowouts.

The Cards are off to a 7-12 start in the second half of the 140-game Florida State League season and have fallen into last (sixth) place in the South Division, five games behind Fort Myers (MIN).

The report covers the period of Wednesday, July 6 through Tuesday, July 12.

Wednesday, July 6: Jupiter Hammerheads 4, Palm Beach 0

In his Palm Beach starting debut, Junior Fernandez pitched six innings, allowing nine hits and four runs, striking out two and walking none. Fernandez threw 59 strikes in 89 pitches. Davis Ward and Cody Schumacher followed with a scoreless inning each.

The Cardinals managed just two hits. Andrew Sohn singled and walked. The second baseman also stole two bases but was caught attempting a theft of home in the second inning. The other hit came from Darren Seferina in the leadoff spot.

The Beach Birds dropped the latest Fins versus Feathers series, two games to one.

Thursday, July 7: Palm Beach 2 at Charlotte Stone Crabs 1

In his complete game gem, Matt Pearce held the Stone Crabs to just three hits and did not issue a free pass.  One of those hits was an eighth-inning home run that slashed his team’s lead in half.  The Florida native struck out five with five ground- and seven fly-ball outs.  Pearce completed the nine frames in just 86 pitches, 63 of them strikes.

Palm Beach got on the board in the third via Orlando Olivera’s third home run, just the team’s 16th long ball in 83 games in 2016.  Thomas Spitz’ RBI single with two gone in the sixth drove in Oscar Mercado (single-wild pitch), extending the lead to 2-0. By going 2-for-3, Olivera compiled a third of his team’s hits.

Friday, July 8: Lakeland Flying Tigers 10, Palm Beach 5

Starter Ian McKinney had a very rough outing, taking his fifth loss of the season after giving up 10 runs, nine earned, on nine hits in 5 1/3 innings pitched.  Five home runs accounted for seven of Lakeland’s ten tallies.  Chandler Hawkins and Josh Wirsu combined for 1 2/3 scoreless innings in relief. 

The Cardinals scored five runs on eight hits, with outfielder Vaughn Bryan contributing a solo home run in the seventh inning. Darren Seferina was 2-for-4 with an RBI. Oscar Mercado was also 2-for-4. Thomas Spitz hit an RBI triple in the fourth and Cole Lankford singled in a run in same inning.

Saturday, July 9: Palm Beach 6 at Lakeland 3

The Cardinals scored five of their six runs via the home run.  It began in the second inning with a solo shot by Vaughn Bryan. A two run blast by Orlando Olivera followed in the third.  Andrew Brodbeck matched Olivera with a two-run shot in the sixth.  Olivera, Brodbeck, Darren Seferina and Michael Pritchard had two hits and Cole Lankford had three. 

Swingman Blake McKnight pitched four scoreless innings, allowing on two hits and striking out three. Cody Schumacher followed with two scoreless innings to pick up the win. Michael Heesch gave up all three Lakeland runs in his 1 1/3 innings before Landon Beck finished with 1 2/3 scoreless innings to earn the save.

Sunday, July 10: Lakeland 9, Palm Beach 1

Jack Flaherty stumbled again. This time, the talented right-hander could not finish the fourth, permitting three runs on two hits and three walks in 3 1/3.  One of the two hits was a two-run home run.

Davis Ward began a parade of three relievers who gave up two runs each. Ward opened with 2 2/3 innings, followed by Josh Wirsu (2/3 of an inning) and Kyle Grana (1 1/3). 

The Beach Birds generated just six hits, paced by lead-off hitter Darren Seferina, who went 2-for-4 with a run scored and his league-leading 31st stolen base.

Monday, July 11: Lakeland 14, Palm Beach 3

Palm Beach pitching absorbed their worst beating of the season to date while dropping three of the four game series. In his second Florida State League start, Junior Fernandez (8.71 ERA) took his second loss, after giving up six runs on seven hits and six walks with two strikeouts in 4 1/3 innings. Chandler Hawkins followed, allowing seven runs in the fifth sixth innings. Michael Heesch yielded one final run in two innings.

Offensively, the Cardinals had trouble finding hits as usual, with just five in the game. Second baseman Andrew Sohn went 2-for-3 with a walk, a stolen base and a solo home run in the ninth. Cole Lankford had two singles, two walks and an RBI. Thomas Spitz drew three free passes but did not score.

Tuesday, July 12: Off. The Florida State League had no games scheduled Tuesday, in deference to the Major League Baseball All-Star Game.

Who’s Hot

http://www.scout.com/player/179985-blake-mcknight?s=321

Blake McKnight. Despite the pitching woes overall, swingman Blake McKnight excelled last week, with four scoreless innings on two hits, one walks and three strikeouts in his Saturday spot start, while covering for Austin Gomber. The week before, the versatile right-hander logged two saves.

In 11 starts this season, the O'Fallon, MO native has a 3.32 ERA and has a 2.25 mark in his eight appearances out of the Palm Beach bullpen. As a reliever compared to starting, McKnight cuts his walks (from 3.8 per nine innings to 3.0) and increases his strikeouts (from 3.0 to 6.8 per nine).

http://www.scout.com/player/191627-cody-schumacher?s=321

Cody Schumacher. The right-handed reliever from Missouri State allowed no runs in three scoreless relief innings this past week. Schumacher gave up just one hit, walked two and fanned two.

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

Cole Lankford. The first baseman and number three hitter continued to be hot, going 12-for-31 (.387) last week including three doubles, yet he collected just two RBI.

http://www.scout.com/player/191523-darren-seferina?s=321

Darren Seferina. The leadoff man is back here with 10 singles in 30 at-bats for an easy-to-figure .333 mark. But Seferina did not take a walk, had just one RBI and scored twice. Seferina was 3-for-3 in stolen base attempts.

Who’s Not

Steve Bean. The catcher is in the deep freeze, with just one single and eight strikeouts in 17 at-bats for a weekly mark of .059. Bean’s season mark is sitting at .192.

Oscar Mercado. The shortstop is also back to his rough ways at the plate. For the week, Mercado had three singles in 29 at-bats for a .103 average. That pushed his full-season mark down to .189.

Thomas Spitz. The outfielder had a nice run with Peoria earlier, but last week, FSL pitching was unkind to him, as Spitz managed just three singles in 19 at-bats (.158). He scored one and plated two.

Junior Fernandez. The 19-year-old pitching prospect is having a rough introduction to the FSL, with an 8.71 ERA through two starts.

Jack Flaherty. The top prospect’s bumpy stretch continued as the right-hander allowed seven runs in 8 1/3 innings this past week. Flaherty’s last outing was aborted at just 3 1/3 innings. He is 2-7 with a 4.00 ERA for the season.

Chandler Hawkins. The normally-dependable lefty had a bad day at the office on Monday, charged with seven earned runs in just 2/3 of an inning. That outing shot Hawkins’ ERA from 2.59 to 5.04.

Ian McKinney. After allowing nine runs in his prior four starts combined, the lefty starter was charged with nine more in his rough 5 1/3 inning outing at Lakeland on Friday. That raised McKinney’s season ERA to 4.08.

FSL Season Leaders

Matt Pearce is up to fifth in the league in ERA (2.44) and is tied for fourth with two other pitchers with eight wins.

Jack Flaherty and Austin Gomber are up to a tie for fifth in the league (with one other) with 76 strikeouts.

Jacob Evans’ 12 home runs allowed is the most in the circuit, tied with three others.

With his on-base mark at .382 on the season, Casey Grayson is sixth in the league.

Darren Seferina’s five triples put him in a tie with six others for sixth-most in the FSL.

With 31 steals, Seferina has maintained the league lead and has a stellar success rate of 83.8 percent. Oscar Mercado is tied for sixth in the FSL with 21 steals but has been caught 13 times for a 61.8 percent success rate. However, Mercado is being more selective and is 5-0 since May 28.

Team Stats

The big story with the stats is the pitching staff taking a quarter of run hit in their season ERA from week to week. That is the direct result of allowing 71 runs in six games.

The offense continues to struggle scoring runs consistently, with two runs or less in three games last week. Only their collective success drawing walks is keeping them out of the league cellar in all key stats.

Offense Season/rank of 12 Last week/rank 
BA .229 / last .231 / last
OBP .312 / 8th .313 / 8th
SLG .303 / last .301 / last
OPS .615 / last .614 / 11th
Runs/game 3.4 / 11th 3.4 / 11th
Walks 326 / 1st 302 / 1st
Steals 100 of 142 / 2nd 91 of 128 / 2nd
     
Pitching Season/rank of 12 Last week/rank 
ERA 3.58 / 8th 3.33 / 5th
Strikeouts 604 / tied 10th 576 / 10th
Walks 239 / tied fewest 216 / fewest

Transactions

Another week, another period of big roster changes.

7/6: OF Jhohan Acevedo from Palm Beach to Springfield

7/6: RHR Josh Wirsu off Palm Beach disabled list

The Double-A club needed outfield help to replace top prospect Harrison Bader. They clearly traded down in Acevedo, a capable defender, but weak hitter. In 75 at-bats with Palm Beach, the 23 year-old had 16 singles and a double for a line of .227/.301/.240/.541.

Wirsu, 22, had been out since April 27 and threw two scoreless innings in his short rehab stint with the Gulf Coast League Cardinals before rejoining Palm Beach.

7/6: OF Craig Aikin from Peoria to Palm Beach

7/7: OF Craig Aikin from Palm Beach to Peoria

Hopefully, the Peoria outfielder got a good look at Palm Beach in his one game with the club before being returned. Aikin went 0-for-3 in his lone appearance with the Beach Birds.

7/7: C Jesse Jenner from Palm Beach to Memphis

7/7: C Chris Rivera from State College to Palm Beach

These moves followed the second wave of catching changes in St. Louis, when Michael McKenry was called up. Jenner, the designated fill-in catcher across the system this season, jumped up to Memphis (and has since been moved again, to Springfield).

To replace Jenner is another familiar face as Rivera returns for a fourth stint with Palm Beach this season alone. Rivera is batting .212 overall this season.

7/8: OF Michael Pritchard off Palm Beach disabled list

7/8: OF Collin Radack (DL) retired

The Beach Birds lost one outfielder as Radack decided to retire to join the coaching staff of his alma mater, Hendrix College in Arkansas.

Pritchard rejoined the active roster for the first time since June 1 after also missing three weeks in May with an ankle injury. Through 28 games this season, the former Nebraska star sports a .431 on-base percentage.

7/8: LHS Austin Gomber from Palm Beach to Springfield

7/11: LHS Austin Gomber from Springfield to Palm Beach

The Cardinals organization’s co-Pitcher of the Year in 2015 received a one-game promotion to start for Double-A Springfield in an opening indirectly created by the other co-Pitcher of the Year, Alex Reyes, leaving Memphis to participate in the MLB Futures Game.

Gomber allowed just one run over six strong innings in his Double-A debut on Saturday night. The lefty struck out five and walked three. His overall ERA this season is down to 3.05.

Injuries

With the removals of Wirsu, Pritchard and Radack, the Beach Birds’ DL list is down to five. Three pitchers are on shelf: Silfredo Garcia, Will Anderson (60-day DL) and Jacob Evans. The injured position players are infielder Danny Diekroeger (60-day) and utilityman Casey Turgeon.

Up Next

Coming off their Tuesday day off, the Beach Birds open an eight-game homestand with four each against Clearwater (PHI) and Brevard County (MIL) starting Wednesday evening.

 

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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