The Gulf Coast League Cardinals (23-14) held onto first place in the East Division by winning six of seven during the week, including both games against the Nationals, their closest pursuer, who they now lead by 2-1/2 games.
The Cardinals outhit their opponents 62-60 for the week, but committed 11 errors that led to 12 unearned runs, while their opponents made just six miscues.
Their opponents outscored them 35-32 for the week, with four wins by one run and the other two by two runs. The one loss was a 13-2 drubbing Thursday at the hands of the Mets.
A Painful Loss
In that blowout, the Mets scored seven runs on six hits and three walks off left-handed starter Anthony Ciavarella, who took the loss in his second consecutive start, though all but one run were unearned. Errors were committed by shortstop Edwin Figuera (2) and catcher Irving Wilson.
Thursday was a rough day not only for Ciavarella for right fielder Sanel Rosendo, a 19-year-old from the Virgin Islands. His first time up in the third inning, with the Cardinals already trailing 7-0, Rosendo hit his first home run of the season. He drew a walk in the fifth. In the sixth inning, Rosendo was hit by a pitch in the lower back. His next time up, in the eighth, Rosendo was hit again in the very same spot, but this time, teammate Carlos Talavera came in to pinch run.
Perez Temporarily Shelved
The 6-1 weekly results occurred despite the Cards missing their leadoff hitter and starting shortstop, 17-year-old Delvin Perez, who sat out the week to heal what manager Steve Turco described as a tweaked hamstring. Turco said Saturday that he thought Perez might return to action Monday by pinch-hitting.
Perez might have needed a break anyway. In his last seven games, Perez was 5-for-29 (.172) to drop his average to .305. He also made four errors in his last five games, bringing his season total to 14, third-most in the GCL.
Even with missing the entire week, Perez also still leads the club in hits (36), RBI (19) and steals (10).
Who is Hot
In Perez’s absence, 18-year-old Dominican infielder Starlin Balbuena had his best week at the plate, going 7-for-17.
The Cardinals’ other 17-year-old first-round draft pick this year, Dylan Carlson, has found his stroke. On July 19, he was hitting just .169, but in the 13 games since, the switch-hitting center fielder is 19-for-52 (.365), including 9-for-26 with six extra-base hits this past week.
Dennis Ortega, a 19-year-old Venezuelan catcher, has an eight-game hitting streak that started with a four-hit game on July 22. This past week, Ortega was 5-for-17 and is hitting. 333 for the season (24-for-72) with 11 walks and only five whiffs.
Tyler Lancaster, the only lefty hitter among the three catchers, had his best week so far, going 4-for-9 including home runs in his last three games to take the team lead. Lancaster, the 16th-round pick from Spartanburg Methodist, a South Carolina junior college, is getting starts at first base so Turco can get him more at-bats while still keeping Ortega in the lineup.
First baseman-designated hitter Hunter Newman, the 22nd-round pick from Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, Tennessee, has hit in seven games in a row, and has at least one hit in 15 of the 18 games in which he has an at-bat.
Corner infielder Stefan Trosclair, the 20th-round pick from the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, was 5-for-13 during the week.
Edwin Figuera, an 18-year-old infielder from Venezuela, also helped pick up the slack during Perez’s absence, going 6-for-20 (.300) during the week after hitting .232 previously.
Who is Not
Hitters struggling at the plate this week included:
Second baseman J.D. Murders, 2-for-16; infielder Brady Whalen, 1-for-10; catcher Irving Wilson, 2-for-10; left fielder Walker Robbins, who went 2-for-15 the rest of the week after three hits on Monday.
Starting Pitching Improving
Though the Cardinals’ staff is second in both most hits (326) and walks (140) allowed, leading to the highest WHIP (1.44) in the 17-team league, they have been getting some consistently good performances from several pitchers.
The top pitcher of the week was Franyel Casadilla, a 19-year-old right-hander. The Venezuelan went five innings in both starts this past week, allowing only one earned run on six hits and three walks while fanning nine. Benefitting from rain Sunday that shortened the game against the Astros in Kissimmee, Florida, Casadilla became the first GCL pitcher this season to throw a complete game and shutout.
Mike O’Reilly, a 21-year-old right-hander from Flagler College drafted in the 27th round, had the longest outing of the week, going six innings. O’Reilly did not get a decision, but allowed only one run on three hits with no walks and six strikeouts in the 12-inning, 3-2 win over the Marlins on Wednesday.
Right-hander Will Anderson, who had not pitched in competition since June 2015, tested his repaired right shoulder during two scoreless one-inning outings while on a rehab assignment from Palm Beach. He threw a 1-2-3 inning with two strikeouts in his first appearance Tuesday, and had two outs Saturday before a pair of singles spoiled his perfection.
Among the spectators for Anderson’s second outing was left-hander Jimmy Reed, four months removed from Tommy John surgery. Reed, who was 6-8 last season while pitching across three levels from High-A to Triple-A, said he expects to start playing catch next month and is on schedule to be ready for spring training 2017.
Early-round draft picks Dakota Hudson and Connor Jones, who are being brought along slowly under the “Wacha Plan” because of heavy innings in college this spring, each threw a solid scoreless inning in the second game of the doubleheader sweep of the Astros on Tuesday before they were promoted – Hudson to Palm Beach and Jones to State College.
The other among that group, Zac Gallen, gave up two runs in that same game when he was pushed into a second inning of work, though he has eight strikeouts out of the 11 outs he has recorded over three outings.
Out of the bullpen, Turco received solid performances from lefty Colton Thomson and righty Will Changarotty, but the best work was by Jonathon Mulford, the 34th-round pick from Adelphi University in Long Island, New York, who earned two saves out of three hitless one-inning outings. Mulford, who is tied for second in the GCL with five saves, has allowed only two earned runs on seven hits and four walks while striking out 13 in 15 innings.
Right-hander Robbie Gordon, the 36th-round pick from Maryville University in St. Louis, had mixed results, earning two wins but also collecting his first blown save.
On the other end of the bullpen, right-handers Silas Bohannon and Champ Rowland and left-hander Jacob Schlesener continued to struggle, the latter two mostly because of difficulty with consistently throwing strikes.
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