Cole Lankford (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Weekly news from the St. Louis Cardinals’ Florida State League affiliate in Jupiter for the period of July 13-19.

Cole Lankford batted .467 last week with no strikeouts, including a five-hit game, but wins are scarce. The last-place A-Advanced Cardinals are 1-6 in their eight-game home stand, with one contest to go.

The Palm Beach Cardinals continue to struggle, with just one win on the week, despite all seven contests being at home. The Cards did finish within two runs in five of the defeats, including a pair of extra-innings losses. They were outscored 40-29 over the seven games.

The Cards are off to a dismal 8-18 (.308) start in the second half of the 140-game Florida State League season and are mired in last (sixth) place in the South Division, 7 1/2 games behind St. Lucie (NYM) and five games out of a share of fifth place.

The report covers the period of Wednesday, July 13 through Tuesday, July 19.

Wednesday, July 13: Clearwater Threshers 4 at Palm Beach 0

After Tuesday’s day off, the Cardinals opened an eight-game homestand.

In the Clearwater opener, starter Matt Pearce went eight innings, giving up two unearned runs, and striking out three. The right-hander lowered his ERA to 2.26 while throwing his sixth consecutive quality start. With a scoreless game in the eighth, Darren Seferina’s fielding error opened the door for the two unearned scores. Cody Schumacher yielded two more runs in the ninth.

The Palm Beach offense was completely stymied by the Threshers pitching staff, no-hit for seven innings. Designated hitter Cole Lankford broke up the bid with an eighth-inning single for the Beach Birds’ lone hit.

Thursday, July 14: Clearwater 8 at Palm Beach 6

Five of the 12 hits yielded by Ian McKinney over six innings came in the first, resulting in four of his seven runs allowed. Kyle Grana retired all six batters faced before Blake McKnight was touched for an unearned run in the ninth.

Michael Pritchard and Casey Grayson both went 2-for-4 with a walk and run scored, the former with an RBI.  Steve Bean singled twice with a walk, scoring once and driving in one. Cole Lankford doubled and plated a pair.

Friday, July 15: Clearwater 5 at Palm Beach 3 (13 innings)

Game 3 was a pitcher’s duel with the score knotted at 1-1 from the third inning until the 13th, when a total of six runs went on the board. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, they lost the final inning, 4-2. 

Starter Austin Gomber pitched six innings, allowing one run on five hits, eight strikeouts and two walks. Davis Ward, Chandler Hawkins and Landon Beck combined for five scoreless frames of relief. However, Cody Schumacher surrendered four runs on four hits in the 13th, his second inning of work, to take the loss.

The Cardinals first scored in the second inning on a solo home run by Thomas Spitz, their only extra base hit.  Down by four, the offense rallied for two runs in the 13th on a single, two walks, an error and a sac fly. The rally and the game ended when Andrew Brodbeck was caught stealing. Cole Lankford provided much of the offense, going 5-for-6, with the five hits the single-game best for Palm Beach in 2016. 

Saturday, July 16: Clearwater 6 at Palm Beach 4

The Threshers completed the four-game sweep of the Cardinals at Roger Dean.

Starter Jack Flaherty dodged serious damage, but was surprisingly hittable. In fact, for the second time in the last three nights, the Cardinals starter gave up 12 hits. Flaherty went 6 2/3 innings, yielding three runs and fanning four. Grana then added 1 1/3 scoreless frames. Blake McKnight entered the ninth with a one run lead, but allowed three runs, taking the blown save and the loss.

The offense didn’t score until the sixth inning.  Cole Lankford and Oscar Mercado were 2-for-4, and Lankford plated a run.  Mercado was busy, with two fielding errors and a stolen base. He has 28 of the former and 23 of the latter. Michael Pritchard and Orlando Olivera hit sacrifice flies.

Sunday, July 17: Palm Beach 10, Brevard County Manatees 6

In the home series opener against 6-16 Brevard County, Palm Beach ended its six-game losing streak by jumping out with five scores in the first on the way to a season-tying-best 10 runs.

Orlando Olivera launched a three-run home run and Cole Lankford and Casey Grayson were each 3-for-3.  Lankford had a two-base hit, a walk, three runs scored and one driven in and Grayson drew two free passes, scored and had two RBI. 

Starter Jacob Evans left with two out in the third after reaching his pitch count in his first start off the disabled list. The lefty gave up three hits and a walk but no runs. 

Junior Fernandez’ first relief outing of the season was not pretty, as the righty allowed four runs on seven hits and two free passes in 3 1/3.  Davis Ward was credited with the win despite being touched for two unearned tallies during his two-inning stint, hampered by Oscar Mercado’s 29th miscue of the season. Chandler Hawkins pitched a one-two-three ninth.

Monday, July 18: Brevard County 5 at Palm Beach 4 (11 innings)

Matt Pearce went 8 2/3 innings, and gave up just two runs through eight, but two more in the ninth erased the Cardinals’ lead and took the game to extras. One of Pearce’s runs came home with Landon Beck on the mound, who pitched the final out of the ninth and into the 10th before Blake McKnight was brought in to end the inning. McKnight remained in to give up the winning run in the 11th inning on a double, wild pitch and ground out.

The Cardinals offense was just 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position and 0-for-2 in stolen base attempts (Oscar Mercado and Andrew Brodbeck). Catcher Chris Rivera homered, drove in two, caught a runner stealing and picked another off second base. Mercado and Cole Lankford had two hits each. 

Tuesday, July 19: Brevard County 6 at Palm Beach 5   

Palm Beach dropped its second consecutive one-run game at home after getting out to a 3-0 lead after two. The Manatees tied the game in the sixth before tacking on three more in the eighth. A Cardinals comeback fell just short.

The deciding runs were charged to Michael Heesch and Cody Schumacher. The former tossed a clean seventh but departed for the latter with a runner on base in the eighth. A walk, two singles and a Casey Turgeon throwing error later, three runs had scored, the first one earned. 

Starter Ian McKinney held the Manatees to three runs, two earned, on six hits and two walks over six innings. The unearned run was due to his own throwing error on a pickoff attempt.

Michael Pritchard led the Beach Birds’ eight-hit effort, going 3-for-4 with a run scored.  Turgeon doubled, tripled and walked but no one drove him in. Casey Grayson singled, doubled, had an RBI and scored twice. Orlando Olivera plated two.

 

Who’s Hot

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

Cole Lankford. The utilityman continues his hot hitting, though with little power. Lankford had 12 singles, two doubles, two walks and amazingly no strikeouts in 30 at-bats last week. He plated four and scored five times. Lankford’s slash line was an impressive .467/.515/.533/1.048. The 23-year-old is flirting with a .400 month (.391 to date in July).

http://www.scout.com/player/191609-casey-grayson?s=321

Casey Grayson. The first baseman went 8-for-25 on the week (.320), including a pair of doubles. The 24-year-old also drew seven free passes for a .400 OBP for the period.

http://www.scout.com/player/180422-kyle-grana?s=321

Kyle Grana. The dependable reliever allowed just one hit, no walks and fanned seven over 4 1/3 innings of scoreless pitching last week. On the season, Grana’s ERA is down to 3.72. The right-hander has 50 strikeouts and 22 walks in 38 2/3 innings.

http://www.scout.com/player/191640-davis-ward?s=321

Davis Ward. Grana’s bullpen mate had an equally impressive week, with one hit, no walks and five strikeouts over his 3 2/3 run-free frames. In his 14 1/3 innings this season, the right-hander has a 2.51 ERA.

http://www.scout.com/player/185111-austin-gomber?s=321

Austin Gomber. The lefty allowed just one run over six innings on five hits and two walks, fanning eight. That took Gomber’s season ERA down to 2.96.

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

Matt Pearce. Mr. Dependable made two starts last week, yielding six runs, four earned in 16 2/3 innings on 13 hits, just one free pass and nine punchouts.

Who’s Not

Vaughn Bryan. The outfielder, who has bounced back and forth between Palm Beach and Peoria this season, had just two singles in 17 at-bats last week (.118). Bryan did draw two walks (for a .211 OBP), steal two bases and score three runs. Coincidentally, .211 is also the 25-year-old’s full-season batting average.

Chris Rivera. Though the catcher hit respectably earlier in the season, the hitting troubles that began at State College have continued back in Florida. Last week, Rivera had a single, a home run, no walks and eight strikeouts in 15 plate appearances for a line of .133/.133/.333/.466.

Steve Bean. Rivera’s partner behind the plate is a regular here among the cold hitters. Last week, Bean had two singles in 12 at-bats (.167). He drew one walk, bringing his OPS for the week “up” to .398. The 22-year-old’s season average is currently at .190.

Thomas Spitz. The outfielder, recently promoted from Peoria, is back here for a second week after four hits and five walks in 32 plate appearances last week made for a slash line of .148/.281/.296/.577. Spitz did go deep, drive in three and score five runs. His overall Palm Beach batting average is .217.

Andrew Brodbeck. The infielder scratched out four singles in 24-bats (.167) last week but added four free passes. He fanned six times and was caught stealing both in both attempts, including one to end a loss.

Cody Schumacher. The reliever was whacked around for eight runs, six earned, in four innings last week, adding a full point to his season ERA (now 3.92).

Junior Fernandez. The recent promotion from Peoria is struggling in his early days in the FSL. In a rare relief outing last week, the 19-year-old was bombed with seven hits and two walks for four earned runs in 3 1/3 innings. Through three outings as a Beach Bird, Fernandez’ ERA is 9.22.

 

FSL Season Leaders

Matt Pearce improved to fourth in the league in ERA (2.40) and is tied for fifth with five other pitchers with eight wins. His 116 1/3 innings pitched leads both the FSL and the entire Cardinals minor league system.

Austin Gomber is third in the league with 84 strikeouts and Jack Flaherty is fifth with 80.

Jacob Evans’ total of 12 home runs allowed is fourth-most in the circuit, tied with one other.

With his on-base mark at .389 on the season, Casey Grayson is fifth in the league. (Amazingly at .260, Grayson’s batting average is the highest among qualifying Cardinals, but of course is nowhere among the leaders in the FSL.)

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

Both Seferina and Oscar Mercado have attempted 38 stolen bases this season, with differing results. Seferina has maintained his league lead with 32 and has a stellar success rate of 84.2 percent. Mercado is tied for sixth in the FSL with 23 steals but has been caught 15 times for a 60.5 percent success rate. Mercado went 2-for-4 on the basepaths this past week.

 

Team Stats

Not much to say this week as the season-long situation changed very little. The offense is good at drawing walks and stealing bases and the pitching is best at avoiding free passes.

However, in what matters most, run-scoring is near the bottom and run prevention (ERA) is in the second division of the 12-team FSL.

Offense Season/rank of 12 Last week/rank 
BA .229 / last .229 / last
OBP .313 / 8th .312 / 8th
SLG .303 / last .303 / last
OPS .615 / 11th .615 / last
Runs/game 3.5 / 11th 3.4 / 11th
Walks 358 / 1st 326 / 1st
Steals 105 of 149 / 2nd 100 of 142 / 2nd
     
Pitching Season/rank of 12 Last week/rank 
ERA 3.59 / 8th 3.58 / 8th
Strikeouts 662 / 11th 604 / tied 10th
Walks 258 / 3rd fewest 239 / tied fewest

Transactions

The roster changes were relatively few, yet significant.

7/16: 2B Darren Seferina to seven-day disabled list

7/16: 2B Casey Turgeon off seven-day disabled list

The above stats only tell part of the story as to the importance of Seferina to Palm Beach’s offense. In addition to his team lead in triples and steals, the second baseman is second on the club in hits, total bases and just two runs scored away from being tops on the club (34) in that category as well.

Turgeon has been out since May 29.

 

7/17: LHS Jacob Evans off seven-day disabled list

7/17: RHR Josh Wirsu from Palm Beach to Peoria

Evans was activated on Sunday and started, giving up three hits and a walk in 2 2/3 innings but no runs. The lefty had been out of action since June 25.

Wirsu, who had just come off the disabled list on July 6 himself, allowed six earned runs in 7 1/3 innings for Palm Beach.

 

Injuries

With the activations of Evans and Turgeon but the addition of Seferina, the Beach Birds’ DL list is down to four. Two pitchers are on shelf: Silfredo Garcia and Will Anderson (60-day DL) with the other injured position player infielder Danny Diekroeger (60-day).

 

Up Next

After completing the eight-game homestand with the finale against Brevard County (MIL) Wednesday evening, the Cards head out on the road. The seven-game jaunt begins with four at Tampa (NYY) from Thursday through Sunday, followed by three at Fort Myers (MIN) Monday through Wednesday. Palm Beach has next Thursday, July 28, off before Tampa arrives at The Dean for the final weekend of the month.

 

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.

© 2016 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com and scout.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


The Cardinal Nation Top Stories