Kyle Grana (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Weekly news from the St. Louis Cardinals’ Florida State League affiliate in Jupiter for the period of August 24-30.

Palm Beach went 3-4 on the week, inching their way toward the end of a disappointing season. Dependable closer Kyle Grana and a strong rotation is keeping the club in most every game, but the offense remains weak.

Already eliminated from post-season consideration, the Palm Beach Cardinals are playing out a rough 2016 for individual developmental progress and personal pride.

Amid considerable turnover, the pitching continued to lead the way, yielding more than three runs in just one of seven game last week. Despite the stellar mound work, the Cardinals managed just three wins, primarily due to an offense that was shut out three times.

The Beach Birds have clinched the South Division cellar, sitting 14 games out of first with a 22-42 (.344) second-half record.

This report covers the period of Wednesday, August 24 through Tuesday, August 30.

Wednesday, August 24: Fort Myers Miracle 1, Palm Beach 0

The Cardinals dropped their second pitchers’ duel in two nights. Derian Gonzalez was dazzling, going seven innings, striking out eight and yielding a single tally on three hits and three walks. Kyle Grana followed with a scoreless inning of relief, striking out the side.

The offense managed just four hits and four walks. Danny Diekroeger comprised of half of that as he went 2-for-2 with two walks. Michael Pritchard singled and walked and Jose Fernandez singled.

Thursday, August 25: Fort Myers 1, Palm Beach 0

In another one-run game, Fort Myers kept Palm Beach off the scoreboard for the second consecutive night. In the three-game sweep at the hands of the Miracle, the Cardinals plated just one run and allowed four in 27 innings.

Thursday’s only tally came against Sandy Alcantara in his seventh and final inning on the mound. Alcantara permitted four hits, one walk and fanned six in 6 2/3. Daniel Bard recorded the final out of the seventh before Blake McKnight issued a free pass in the scoreless eighth.

The hapless Beach Birds’ offense managed just one walk and three hits, singles by Juan Herrera, Dylan Tice and Andrew Sohn and a free pass taken by Orlando Olivera.

Friday, August 26: St. Lucie Mets 7 at Palm Beach 5 (Game 1, completion of suspended 8/21 game)

Friday’s opener was the completion of the suspended game from last Sunday, restarted with the Mets ahead 1-0.  The Cardinals took a one run lead in the sixth inning, but quickly lost the edge.

The offense scored five runs on seven hits, only one for extra bases. Michael Pritchard drove in runs on a fourth inning single and a sixth inning double.  Danny Diekroeger was 2-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored.  Juan Herrera and Erik Garcia drove in a run each.

Starter Brennan Leitao pitched six innings and allowed four runs on seven hits and five walks.  Cody Schumacher tagged with a blown save after yielding one run in two innings. Struggling Daniel Bard took the loss, as he surrendered two additional runs while not recording an out in the ninth.  Landon Beck secured the final three outs.

Friday, August 26: Palm Beach 1 at St. Lucie 0 (Game 2, regularly scheduled game, seven innings)

The Cardinals edged the Mets 1-0 in the regularly scheduled second game of the doubleheader, shortened to seven innings. Palm Beach’s run was driven in on a sixth inning double by Danny Diekroeger, scoring Casey Grayson. Oscar Mercado was 2-for-4.

Starter Jack Flaherty pitched six scoreless innings, allowing only two hits.  Flaherty struck out four and walked five.  Dakota Hudson pitched a scoreless seventh to earn his first save.

Saturday, August 27: Palm Beach 0 at St. Lucie 0 (suspended)

The game was suspended in the top of the eighth inning due to rain and was completed on Sunday prior to the regularly scheduled contest.

Sunday, August 28: St. Lucie 3, Palm Beach 0 - Game 1   

Palm Beach split two with St. Lucie on Sunday and split the four-game set, two each.

The resumed Game 1 remained scoreless until a three-run home run served up by Will Anderson gave the Mets the walk-off win. The bomb wasted a gem by Junior Fernandez, who had held St. Lucie to two hits and two walks through seven innings before Saturday night’s game was suspended.

Unfortunately, the Cardinals’ woeful offense was kept off the board despite the two-three-four hitters Juan Herrera, Cole Lankford and Casey Grayson each going 2-for-4.

Sunday, August 28: Palm Beach 8 at St. Lucie 3 - Game 2

The offense picked up the pace in Game 2, accumulating 13 hits. Eight of nine starters had at least one hit, paced by Orlando Olivera who went 4-for-5 with a double, run scored and two driven in. Oscar Mercado and Lankford both singled twice while touching home once, the latter knocking in two. Eight different players scored.

Starter Jacob Evans lasted just three innings, permitting two runs, one earned, on six hits and a walk. Michael Heesch tossed the next three, yielding a solo shot. Kyle Grana gave up two hits in two before Landon Beck faced the minimum in the ninth.

Monday, August 29: Palm Beach 5, Fort Myers Miracle 3

The Beach Birds used a three-run sixth inning to take the lead for good. Dylan Tice and Chris Rivera singled, doubled, scored and drove in one. Tice also stole a base. Andrew Sohn and Casey Grayson singled and walked with the latter adding an RBI. Thomas Spitz added a pair of singles.

Derian Gonzalez turned in a quality start, throwing 6 2/3 innings, allowing three runs, two earned. He struck out five while walking two and allowing seven hits. Cody Schumacher followed with 1 1/3 run-free innings. 2016 first rounder Dakota Hudson picked up his second save with a scoreless inning, striking out two.

Tuesday, August 30: Fort Myers at Palm Beach (postponed)

Tuesday’s game was postponed due to rain and has been rescheduled as part of a pair of seven-inning contests on Wednesday.

 

Who’s Hot

In a familiar refrain, the closer and the rotation lead the way this week and the offense lags.

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

Kyle Grana. The closer tossed three run-free innings on three hits and no walks, striking out five. Working efficiently, Grana averaged just 9.7 pitches per inning. Though Grana is 6-for-7 in converting saves since taking over the ninth, the team gave him no opportunities this past week.

http://www.scout.com/player/192408-junior-fernandez?s=321

Junior Fernandez. The 19-year-old is back here after seven scoreless innings on just two hits and two walks. Fernandez dropped his strikeouts to three, perhaps indicating a greater focus on commanding his impressive arsenal.

http://www.scout.com/player/179302-jack-flaherty?s=321

Jack Flaherty. The top prospect righty tossed six scoreless frames on two hits, but walked five to go with five Ks. In five August appearances, Flaherty’s ERA is 2.01.

http://www.scout.com/player/181067-sandy-alcantara?s=321

Sandy Alcantara. The tall, slender right-hander allowed just one run in 6 2/3 innings on four hits, a free pass and six punchouts.

http://www.scout.com/player/179660-derian-gonzalez?s=321

Derian Gonzalez. In two starts totaling 13 2/3 innings, Gonzalez was charged with four runs, three earned, for a 1.98 ERA. He allowed 10 hits, walked five and fanned 13.

http://www.scout.com/player/200723-orlando-olivera?s=321

Orlando Olivera. Though the outfielder’s playing time has declined in a rough season overall, last week, Olivera made his plate appearances count. He went 5-for-14 (.357) including a double, drew a walk and plated two. No other Cardinal batted better than .286 for the seven-day period.

 

Who’s Not

Steve Bean. I honestly feel badly for Bean, whose offensive struggles have been prolonged and consistent. Last week, the catcher fanned 10 times in 16 plate appearances for a 62.5 percent strikeout rate to go with a lone single (.067 BA) and a walk (.125 OBP).

Michael Pritchard. Before hitting the DL, the outfielder was in a 1-for-10 slump with one free pass.

Oscar Mercado. The center fielder had five singles in 27 at-bats (.185). Mercado scored twice and walked twice, making the leadoff man’s OBP for the week .241. 

Will Anderson. After his rehab stint in the GCL ended, the right-hander gave up two walks in his first 1 2/3 innings of action with Palm Beach, culminated by a three-run walk-off home run on Sunday.

 

FSL Season Leaders

Jack Flaherty is third in the league in Ks with 118.

Jacob Evans’ total of 12 home runs allowed is tied with two others for sixth-most in the circuit.

With his on-base mark at .385 on the season, Casey Grayson is up to third in the league. (At .261, Grayson’s batting average remains the highest among qualifying Cardinals at 25th among the leaders in the FSL.)

Despite not playing for almost six weeks, Darren Seferina is tied for second in the league with 32 steals and has a stellar success rate of 84.2 percent.

Oscar Mercado is fourth in the FSL with 31 steals but has been caught 20 times for a 60.8 percent success rate. Mercado did not attempt a stolen base this past week.

 

Team Stats

As one might guess, the yearly offensive stats declined a bit and the pitching stats improved slightly this past week. The club was just three of nine in stolen base attempts this period. Fortunately for the Cardinals offense, the utterly dreadful Brevard County Manatees (.231) are even worse, keeping them out of the FSL statistical cellar in a number of categories.

Offense Season/rank of 12 Last week/rank 
BA .233 / 11th .233 / 11th
OBP .315 / 8th .316 / 8th
SLG .304 / 11th .306 / 11th
OPS .619 / 11th .622 / 11th
Runs/game 3.3 / 11th 3.4 / 11th
Walks 493/ 1st 474 / 1st
Steals 132 of 199 / 2nd 129 of 190 / 2nd
     
Pitching Season/rank of 12 Last week/rank 
ERA 3.51 / 6th 3.57 / 7th
Strikeouts 911 / 11th 865 / 11th
Walks 388 / 3rd fewest 360 / 3rd fewest

Transactions

The roster changes continue as two pitching leaders were promoted to Springfield to help the Double-A club, replaced by two Beach Birds hurlers coming off the disabled list. An outfielder returned to the DL, with a catcher coming off.

8/26: RHP Blake McKnight from Palm Beach to Springfield

8/26: RHP Will Anderson off 60-day disabled list

McKnight, a 25-year-old from O’Fallon, MO, had been with the Beach Birds all season.

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

McKnight has made 11 starts and 22 relief appearances in 2016, logging a 3.11 ERA. He walked more batters, 40, than he struck out, 37, in 92 2/3 Florida State League innings.

Out since last summer with shoulder issues, the 24-year-old Anderson made seven appearances in the Gulf Coast League earlier this month to pitch his way back into shape.

http://www.scout.com/player/179970-will-anderson?s=321

In the GCL, the right-hander allowed just two earned runs in nine innings, striking out six and walking none.

8/27: LHS Ian McKinney from Palm Beach to Springfield

8/27: LHS Jacob Evans off seven-day DL

One week before the Texas League playoffs begin, Springfield received left-handed starter McKinney.

http://www.scout.com/player/179894-ian-mckinney?s=321

With Palm Beach, the 21-year old logged a career-high 123 innings through 23 games (22 starts). McKinney compiled a 7-10 record with 4.17 ERA while posting 101-to-50 strikeout to walk count in 2016.

Evans, who missed parts of the last two months due to injury, appeared in two rehab games in the Gulf Coast League, throwing five shutout frames.

http://www.scout.com/player/175632-jacob-evans?s=321

For the Beach Birds, the 22-year old has a 3-7 record with 3.98 ERA in 14 starts (81 1/3 innings pitched). Evans has struck out 43 against 15 walks on the season.

8/27: OF Michael Pritchard to seven-day DL

8/27: OF Thomas Spitz from Springfield to Palm Beach

On Saturday, Pritchard returned to a familiar place, landing on the disabled list for the third time in 2016.

http://www.scout.com/player/191957-michael-pritchard?s=321

Through 65 games, the left fielder has a .256/.376/.308 slash in 227 at-bats for the Beach Birds. Pritchard has zero home runs and 13 RBI but has walked 42 times against 26 strikeouts.

After four fill-in games with Springfield, Spitz was returned to Palm Beach. Spitz was 4-for-16 (.250) in four games for the Springbirds. He doubled once and knocked in two.

http://www.scout.com/player/200706-thomas-spitz?s=321

In 2016, the outfielder split time between Low-A Peoria and Palm Beach before his recent stint at Double-A. The right-handed hitter owns a .251/.338/.331 slash line over 111 games (378 at-bats) and has four homers with 42 driven in.

8/27: C Chris Rivera off seven-day DL

8/27: C Erik Garcia from Palm Beach to Johnson City

After his second DL stint this month, Rivera was activated on Saturday. Most recently, the 21-year old had been out since August 18.

http://www.scout.com/player/178965-chris-rivera?s=321

Over the season, in 43 games between Palm Beach and State College, Rivera has a very modest slash line of .163/.255/.230/.485.

Garcia received the call from Johnson City to fill the spot of Rivera on August 19 and with the latter active, the minor league free agent signee last October was returned to rookie level Johnson City.

http://www.scout.com/player/203733-erik-garcia?s=321

The 23-year old has a slash line of .217/.258/.277 in 83 at-bats over 23 contests this season.  The Missouri Baptist product had a sacrifice fly in three at-bats in his lone game for Palm Beach.

 

Injuries

The Beach Birds’ infirmary list is down to just five with the returns of Anderson, Evans and Rivera minus the return to the DL by Pritchard this past week. Just one pitcher remains on the shelf: Silfredo Garcia, with the other injured position players all middle infielders - Darren Seferina, Andrew Brodbeck and Edmundo Sosa.

 

Up Next

Just six games remain on the 2016 schedule. Palm Beach has the double header finale against Fort Myers (MIN) at Roger Dean, to be played Wednesday. The season-ending four-game series with Charlotte (TB) follows, running Thursday through Sunday. Oddly, the opener is at Charlotte with the final three at home. Labor Day will mark the first day of the off-season for the Cardinals.

 

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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