As they entered the last week of the season, the Palm Beach Cardinals had to hope they could quickly change the misfortunes of a five-game losing streak. But the team could not turn the tide. After sitting in first place with a comfortable cushion, the team is now all but eliminated from the playoff race.
The Cards got off on the right foot with a 6-5 victory over Jupiter. C.J. Beatty and Alex Castellanos led the offense. Castellanos doubled and hit a two-run home run while Beatty chipped in with a pair of doubles and a pair of RBIs.
On the mound, starter Brett Zawacki was knocked around for five runs in only 4.2 innings. Joel Pichardo got the win with 1.1 shutout innings and Casey Mulligan picked up his eleventh save with a scoreless inning of relief.
In the nightcap, the Hammerheads doubled up the Cardinals 6-3. Richard Castillo was tagged with his 11th loss of the season after lasting only 2.2 innings. Jared Bradford saved the bullpen with 4.1 innings of relief.
Jupiter would once again frustrate their Roger Dean roommates with a 3-2 Cards loss. Castellanos continued to pace the squad with three hits. D'Marcus Ingram reached base three times, drove in a run, and stole a base.
Palm Beach got a couple days off after Sunday's action was lost to the weather and Monday was a scheduled off day.
The team hit the road to take on Fort Myers on Tuesday. Unfortunately, their luck did not change and their current losing streak extended to three games. Arquimedes Nieto continued his personal slide lasting only four innings and picking up his seventh loss. The bullpen was solid with only one earned run allowed in four innings.
The Cards managed only two hits with the damage coming on a Jarred Bogany triple.
The losing and lack of offense continued on Wednesday. The Miracle held Palm Beach scoreless with only five hits. Niko Vasquez singled twice but none of the Cards' hits were for extra bases.
The Cardinals' misfortunes seemed to be changing as the team went to extra frames tied at two on Thursday evening. But the Miracle's Nathan Hanson had other ideas and took reliever Joel Pichardo deep in the bottom of the tenth with a pair of runners on. The blast gave Fort Myers a 5-2 victory.
Casey Mulligan threw two shutout innings to lower his ERA to 0.32. Ryan Jackson singled, doubled, and scored a run. Niko Vasquez doubled in Jackson and scored a run as well.
In two of his last three starts, Deryk Hooker has hurled seven shutout innings. Also, in those two outings, he allowed only three hits in each while striking out 15 total batters.
Over his last nine games, Niko Vasquez is hitting .324 with three RBIs and six runs scored. During that time, 10 of his hits have been doubles.
In five starts in August, Richard Castillo lasted only 19 innings. The right-hander averaged an earned run an inning while giving up 32 hits and 11 walks. During that stretch, opponents knocked him around for a .364 average.
Around the League
The Cardinals are now 33-33 and sit three and a half games out with only four to go.
Alex Castellanos ranks among the league leaders in a many of the offensive categories. He is fifth in OPS, third in slugging, fifth in doubles, tied for fifth in triples and home runs, and ranks seventh in total bases, yet he was left off the league's All-Star Team. Manager Luis Aguayo was named as a coach.
Kevin Thomas is tied for fourth in wins while Casey Mulligan ranks ninth in saves.
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