Winning their last four games of the week, the Gulf Coast League Cardinals (14-11) moved into second place in the East Division, still trailing the division-leading Nationals by two games. They did beat the Nationals 10-0 on Friday for the first time in six tries. They followed that effort with a 4-3 win in 11 innings over the Marlins on Sunday, pushing their record against their Jupiter neighbor to 7-0. The Cardinals are 3-3 so far against the Mets and Astros.
Though the Cardinals and their opponents each had 41 hits in the week’s five games, the Cardinals were more opportunistic, outscoring their rivals 28-15 and making only five errors to the opponents’ 10.
Though manager Steve Turco received an average of only 3.5 innings and a combined ERA of 5.19 from his starting pitchers this week, the relief pitching was outstanding.
Including the professional debuts of early round draft picks Dakota Hudson, Connor Jones and Zac Gallen, the relievers allowed only four runs in 29-2/3 innings (1.28 ERA). That included all four wins, Hudson’s first W among them, and saves in both of the one-run wins over the Marlins.
Hudson and Jones each made two one-inning appearances and Gallen made one. Combined, they allowed one run on three hits and a walk while striking out eight.
The lone run, which cost Jones a blown save Sunday, scored because of one of the team’s few defensive letdowns of the week. The Cardinals led 3-2 in the sixth inning with a runner on first and two outs when the Marlins batter singled to right, sending the runner to third. As the throw came in from right fielder Carlos Rodriguez to first baseman Stefan Trosclair, the batter-runner had started for second, but while they ran him down, no one seemed to even look toward home plate as the tying run scored.
The first two pro outings for Hudson, the No. 34 pick overall in June out of Mississippi State, were spectacular, getting all six outs on strikeouts. After his first outing, in which he had to pitch out of a second-and-third situation with one out because of a hit batter and a double-error, Hudson said he felt like he “was in control the whole time.”
Despite three strikeouts, Hudson threw 17 pitches, mostly fastballs, he said. “I threw a lot of strikes,” he noted. Though he said he didn’t check the game logs to see what his fastball velocity was, “I felt like it was normal.”
24th rounder opening eyes
Though those early round picks – Hudson, Jones and Gallen – are getting a lot of attention from scouts, 24th-round pick Anthony Ciavarella, a left-hander out of Monmouth (N.J.) College, has been quietly making a strong impression on both Cardinals coaches and GCL hitters.
With a four-inning scoreless start in which he allowed two hits and a walk while fanning seven, Ciavarella has now extended his start-of-career streak without allowing an earned run to 17 innings over six outings. He has allowed only nine hits and four walks while striking out 16.
A two-base error helped the Mets score two unearned runs off Ciavarella in his fourth inning of relief on July 15, though the lefty from Phillipsburg, in southwest New Jersey about 20 miles from Allentown, Pennsylvania, came away from that contest with his second win.
With the good week, the Cardinals’ pitching staff fell out of the lead for highest WHIP in the league, improving to 1.45 from 1.49 and overtaken by the Tigers West team. They are still second to the Astros in walks allowed, but are now tied for sixth in most hits allowed.
Defensively, they had a good week, allowing only one earned run in five games after averaging more than one per game before this week.
Others who distinguished themselves out of the bullpen this week:
Jonathon Mulford, the 34th-round pick from Adelphi University in Long Island, New York, earned a win and a save in two scoreless appearances.
Jery Then, making his first appearances of the season, hurled 1-2-3 innings in his first two outings before yielding a run on a walk and a hit in the eighth inning for a blown save Sunday. The right-hander is on a rehab assignment from Peoria’s roster.
Robert Calvano, the 38th-round pick from the University of Nebraska-Omaha who blew his first save opportunity on July 10, threw a 1-2-3 inning with a strikeout of the last batter Sunday to earn the save,
Juan Alvarez, a 19-year-old Dominican right-hander, threw four scoreless innings Tuesday to earn his first GCL win.
Silas Bohannan, Will Changarotty, Franyel Casadilla, Robbie Gordon and Champ Rowland all threw at least one inning without allowing a run.
Catcher Dennis Ortega’s 4-for-4 day in the rout of the Nationals on Saturday moved him into the team lead in batting average (.364), but he is well short of the plate appearances required to rank among league leaders. Ortega’s .883 OPS also leads the team now that Andy Young, who posted a .962 OPS, was promoted on July 14 to State College.
Shortstop Delvin Perez, the team’s first draft pick in June, had six hits during the week to remain tied for the league lead with 32 hits, though his .327 batting average is 10th.
J.D. Murders, the 31st-round pick who signed late and didn’t join the team until July 14, continues to earn more playing time at second base or DH with at least one hit in all but one of the seven games he has played, though Turco has replaced him in the late innings for defense a couple of times.
First baseman Hunter Newman, the 22nd-round pick from Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, was 3-for-8 to raise his average to .317. His first base counterpart, Stefan Trosclair, the 20th-round pick from the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, had a hit in all four games he played, pushing his average up to .286.
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