April again has arrived. The 2017 Florida State League season is underway as the Palm Beach Cardinals began their 15th campaign in Jupiter, The Cardinals won’t be spending much time at home during start of their season as nine of their first 11 games are away from Roger Dean Stadium. However, if their 4-2 first week is any indication, Palm Beach has comfortably taken on the role of Road Warrior.
Here’s a recap of the first week of the season:
April 6: Palm Beach 3 at St. Lucie 1
Opening the schedule with a home-and-home series against division rival St. Lucie, the Cardinals picked up a 3-1 victory in newly-renamed First Data Field in Port St. Lucie. Starter Junior Fernandez was solid, allowing just a run on three hits over 4 2/3 innings of work.
Chris Chinea went 1-for-3 with two runs scored, including a solo home run during the top of the fourth off Mets starter Andrew Church. Danny Diekroeger added an RBI single in the top of sixth, scoring Edmundo Sosa. Ross Vance pitched a perfect ninth to collect the save. Jacob Evans picked up the victory in relief.
April 7: Palm Beach 3 at St. Lucie 2
With the score knotted up at two in the top of the eighth inning, Sosa’s RBI single proved to be the difference, carrying the Cardinals to a 3-2 victory. Sosa’s two-out single came off a 3-1 pitch from Mets reliever Johnny Magliozzi, scoring Magneuris Sierra. Sierra reached after a Magliozzi throwing error.
Cardinals starter Zac Gallen was outstanding, allowing just a run on two hits while striking out nine in 5 1/3 innings. Tyler Bray pitched a scoreless seventh and eighth to pick up the victory. In the bottom of the ninth with the tying run on first, Landon Beck induced John Mora to strike out swinging to close out the save. It is the first time Palm Beach has started 2-0 since 2013.
April 8: St. Lucie 5 at Palm Beach 4
In the home opener at Roger Dean Stadium on Saturday night, the Cardinals failed to get their first 3-0 start since 2008, falling to St. Lucie, 5-4. With a runner on third and just one down in the top of the ninth, Dale Burdick beat out a Jacob Evans shuffle throw to the plate for the game-winning run. Evans fielded a slow-roller off the bat of Mora, but could not get the ball to the plate in time and get out the speedy Burdick.
Joshua Torres needed only 12 pitches to close out the Cardinals, getting Chinea to strike out swinging to complete the save. Diekroeger knocked in couple of runs on sacrifice flies while Sosa scored twice.
April 9: St. Lucie 6 at Palm Beach 3
St. Lucie rallied with five runs in the top of the ninth, stunning Palm Beach 6-3 in the final game of the four-game home and home series. After being held to only a single hit by the Cardinals trio of Ryan Helsley, Juan Perez, and Evans, the Mets sent 10 batters to the plate in the ninth inning. Following a fielding error from Leobaldo Pina and a batter hit by a pitch, the tying run scored on Pina’s second fielding error of the inning. With one down, the Mets strung together four consecutive hits against Vance to give St. Lucie the lead. The Cardinals were able to get the tying run to the plate in the bottom of the ninth, but Darren Seferina popped out in foul territory to end the game.
April 10: Palm Beach 4 at Charlotte 3
Palm Beach’s road-winning ways continued over on the west coast of Florida as the Cardinals captured a 4-3 victory in the first of a three-game set with the Stone Crabs at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte.
Palm Beach jumped out to a 4-0 lead as the offense with jump-started with a Chinea RBI double, driving in Sierra. Chinea was 2-for-3 with a pair of walks. Sosa collected three hits while Jeremy Martinez was 2-for-4 with a pair of runs scored.
Starting pitcher Jake Woodford and reliever Brennan Leitao combined to scatter just three hits over seven innings, with Leitao picking up the win after 2 1/3 innings of scoreless work. In the bottom of the eighth, the Stone Crabs responded with three runs against Ian McKinney, but Beck came in to shut the door. With Dalton Kelly standing on second base representing the game-tying run, Beck was able to get Kevin Padlo to strike out swinging to end the threat. After giving up a single to David Rodriguez, Beck was able to get Manny Sanchez to ground into the game-ending double play and finish off the four-out save. It was Beck’s second save of the season.
April 11: Palm Beach 12 at Charlotte 6
The bats were out in full force as the Cardinals remain undefeated on the road this season. After holding a run differential of zero through five games, the Cardinals offense was operating on all cylinders in Tuesday’s 12-6 victory over the Stone Crabs.
Every batter in the Palm Beach lineup either collected an RBI or scored a run as the Cardinals collected a season-high 12 hits and 12 runs. Starter Connor Jones pitched five innings, allowing four runs (two earned) while inducing three strikeouts en route to the victory.
Chris Chinea: Chinea has been the Cardinals’ best hitter through the first week of the season, leading Palm Beach in most offensive categories. Batting in the middle of the lineup, the first baseman is hitting .333 with four RBI and has team’s only home run. He also leads the team in total bases (13), doubles (3), on-base percentage (.500), slugging percentage (.619), and OPS (1.119). Chinea is seventh in the league in slugging and fourth in OPS.
Ryan Helsley: While his excellent April 9th start against the Mets was all for naught in terms of the win column, Helsley performance still deserves mention. The 22-year old right hander did not allow a hit through 77 pitches (47 strikes) and five scoreless innings. Helsley is sporting a 0.20 WHIP, tied for second-lowest in the FSL.
Landon Beck: Beck has swiftly closed the door in his two save opportunities, allowing no walks and just two hits in 2 1/3 innings of work so far this season. The right-hander’s two saves tie him with two others for the league lead.
Leobaldo Pina: Pina is off to a slow start on both sides on the ball. The third baseman’s two ninth inning errors on April 9th opened the door for a Mets comeback. Meanwhile, Pina is just 2-for-12 at the plate (.167) with four strikeouts.
Luke Dykstra: The son of former Major Leaguer Lenny Dykstra only has two hits in 20 at bats (.100).
Juan Perez: In two appearances, Perez has the highest ERA on the staff (10.80). In 1 2/3 innings this season, the right-hander has allowed three hits, three walks and two runs. Perez’ WHIP is a team-high 3.60.
First-half standings – Florida State League South Division
The Cardinals are tied with the neighboring Jupiter Hammerheads in second-place behind streaking Bradenton.
|Bradenton Marauders (PIT)||6||0||1.000||-|
|Jupiter Hammerheads (MIA)||4||2||0.667||2|
|Palm Beach Cardinals (STL)||4||2||0.667||2|
|St. Lucie Mets (NYM)||2||4||0.333||4|
|Fort Myers Miracle (MIN)||1||5||0.167||5|
|Charlotte Stone Crabs (TB)||0||6||0.000||6|
The Cardinals pitching is leading the way with a 2.50 ERA that is fourth-lowest in the league. Yet there is some potential concern as Palm Beach’s 48 strikeouts is ninth and their 25 walks issued is third-most.
The offense is ninth of 12 FSL teams with a .227 team batting average. However, thanks to a league-leading 32 free passes taken, the Cardinals’ OBP of .342 is second as is their runs-scored total of 29.
Darren Seferina is among the league leaders with six free passes taken. Chris Chinea has five and with four each are Jeremy Martinez, Magneuris Sierra and Thomas Spitz.
Infielder Andrew Brodbeck and pitcher Josh Wirsu remain on the seven-day disabled list.
What is Next
Following Wednesday’s series ending contest at Charlotte, the Cardinals will play four games in three days at Clearwater (PHI), starting with an unusual scheduled double-header on Thursday and single games Friday and Saturday. The club will take Easter Sunday off before returning home for a seven-game home stand against Tampa (NYY) and Charlotte.
Follow Patrick Bernadeau on Twitter @PatBernadeau.
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