Magneuris Sierra (Brian Walton / The Cardinal Nation)

Weekly news from the St. Louis Cardinals’ Midwest League affiliate in Peoria

The Cardinals’ Midwest League affiliate’s long road trip proved to be the worst stretch for Peoria all season long. The Chiefs went 1-5 on the trip but Magneuris Sierra is picking it up at the plate.

Game Summaries

Tuesday, April 26: Peoria Chiefs 4 at Fort Wayne TinCaps 5 (10)

Derian Gonzalez tossed a gem last Tuesday, but his efforts ultimately went to waste. Gonzalez went eight innings and gave up only one run on five hits and three walks. The righty fanned five TinCaps, and his ERA dropped down to 2.50, which was impressively only fourth best on the team.

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

Reliever Steven De La Cruz was responsible for the blown save in the bottom of the ninth after entering the inning up 4-1. Nick Frey saw his first 2016 action as a Chief after De La Cruz, and it didn’t go as planned. Frey allowed the game-winning run in the 10th and was credited with the loss.

Peoria pieced together nine hits, and nearly everyone contributed as all but three Chiefs recorded a hit. Notably, Orlando Olivera, Thomas Spitz and Craig Aikin each had two.

Wednesday April 27: Peoria Chiefs 0 at Fort Wayne TinCaps 1

A solid offensive performance was followed up by a four-hit performance on Wednesday. Only two players, Magneuris Sierra and Jose Godoy, recorded hits. Peoria was having trouble putting the ball in play, striking out eight times.

http://www.scout.com/player/182773-jake-woodford?s=321

The starting pitching, once again, was impressive. Jake Woodford was credited for his third loss on the year, but don’t let the loss fool you; he went seven strong, allowing only three hits. However, Woodford dealt five free passes. His control issues led to the only run scored of the game in the bottom of the first, and Peoria was never able to rebound from that deficit.

Thursday April 28: Peoria Chiefs 11 at Fort Wayne TinCaps 1

This game was over almost as soon as both teams stepped on the field. Peoria scored five runs in the first three innings thanks to seven multi-hit performances. Interestingly, Magneuris Sierra led off for Peoria after hitting in the three hole almost all season.

The strategy paid off for manager Joe Kruzel. Sierra, along with Godoy and Aikin, had three hits en route to Peoria’s 18-hit output. R.J. Dennard and Godoy combined for five RBI on the afternoon as well.

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

Sandy Alcantara only threw five innings because his pitch count was high. The hard-throwing righty only allowed five hits and struck out five, but he also issued five walks. Alcantara improved to 3-0 on the year, and his ERA is down to 2.86.

Friday April 29: Peoria Chiefs 2 at Lake County Captains 3

The Chiefs were dealt their third one-run loss of the week thanks to the bullpen. Landon Beck gave up a run in the bottom of the eighth after Peoria had just tied the game a half inning earlier.

Starter Ryan Helsley was not as sharp as he was in his previous outing, yet he still threw well enough to keep Peoria in the game. Helsley went five innings, striking out five and allowing seven hits and two earned runs.

Sierra once again hit leadoff while the struggling Eliezer Alvarez moved down to the six hole. Sierra produced another hit, while Dennard and catcher Chris Chinea each had a couple of hits. The pair was responsible for tying up the game in the top of the eighth.

Saturday April 30: Game Rained Out

Sunday May 1: Game 1 – Peoria Chiefs 2 at Lake County Captains 6

Game 2  - Peoria Chiefs 0 at Lake County Captains 4

The rainout on Saturday forced the teams to play a doubleheader on Sunday. Each game only went seven innings. Peoria dropped both, suffering their first series sweep of the season.

Game one featured Peoria’s hottest pitcher in Junior Fernandez, but his performance was not quite up to what we are used to seeing. Fernandez went five innings and gave up four hits and a home run. He did, however, strike out seven. It was Fernandez’s worst start of the season, but it was still a relatively solid outing.

Eliezer Alvarez was inserted back into the leadoff spot and performed well in the role. He got on base three times thanks to two walks and a base hit.

As tough it was to hit in game one, game two was even worse. Peoria only produced three hits and no one walked. In fact, the only player to get past first base was Casey Turgeon, who doubled in the top of the second.

Starter Brennan Leitao worked into the sixth inning but couldn’t work out of it. He kept the Chiefs within striking distance through five innings, but yielded three runs in the sixth to blow the game open. Leitao didn’t give up a walk, allowed six hits and only struck out two.

Monday April 25: Peoria Chiefs 5 vs. Bowling Green Hot Rods 4

Peoria returned home Monday to snap its three-game losing skid thanks to some timely hitting and a parade of triples. A Sierra triple in the bottom of the third plated Sosa and a Dylan Becker triple in the sixth also scored Sosa to tie the game. Chinea drove in the go-ahead run in the seventh on a double to center.

http://www.scout.com/player/188897-chris-chinea?s=321

Vaughn Bryan hit Peoria’s third triple in the fifth, giving him 11 career three-base hits with Peoria. That tied him for second all-time in Chiefs history in triples.

Derian Gonzalez went five innings, giving up four runs, two earned, on three hits and four walks. It wasn’t his most fantastic start, but he once again managed to eat up innings and get players out effectively. Nick Frey picked up the win and Landon Beck the save after each threw two scoreless innings of relief.

Offensive Woes

Obviously, there are going to be issues when you go 2-5 during the week. While the pitching was not quite as sharp as it was the week before, it is not the problem; it is the offense. Collectively, the team is hitting only .243 on the year with a .306 OBP. Peoria ranks sixth or worse in nearly every offensive category in the MWL, and it would be worse if it weren’t for Godoy and Dennard, the only .300-plus hitters on the team.

They are a team that needs to rely on small ball and timely hits if they are to win because they have little to no power on their roster. Unfortunately, they have not been executing either of those tactics. The Chiefs are having a tough time stringing hits together, and if they do not figure something out soon, Peoria will continue to lose games that their starting pitching typically sets them up to win.

New Faces

This past week involved the most movement among players the Chiefs have witnessed all year. There are three new faces in Peoria, and each are going to need to serve a big role if the Chiefs are to start winning.

Juan Perez and Jorge Rodriguez will hopefully bolster a bullpen that has left a lot to be desired this year, while Dylan Becker may be able to fill the gaping offensive hole at third base. It will be interesting to see the kind of impact these new players will bring. These are clearly areas of need for Peoria.

Who’s Hot

Magneuris Sierra. It may be a stretch to say that he’s “hot,” but there is no doubt that the outfielder had a solid week. The 20-year-old is showing that he actually belongs at this level, unlike last year when he was clearly out of place.

http://www.scout.com/player/171618-magneuris-sierra?s=321

The Cardinal Nation’s 10th-ranked prospect has boosted his average to .291 in the last week after hitting below .270 for most of the season. Sierra recorded a hit in every game but two in the last week, including a three-hit performance Thursday.

Like most any young hitter at this level, Sierra is having trouble with plate discipline; he has 19 strikeouts on the year with only three walks. However, it was encouraging to see all three of those free passes come within the last week. Sierra will keep continuing to get better as he continues to play every day.

Who’s Not

Eliezer Alvarez. There are a number of players eligible for this distinction this week, but Alvarez is probably the most deserving. The Dominican second baseman is really struggling, going 3-for-25 over the last seven games. He was removed momentarily removed from his leadoff spot, only to be reinserted a few days later.

There really is a lot to like about Alvarez, but this is just one of those stretches that the Chiefs have to deal with. He is 21 and is playing in his first full season, and with a player of his talent, TCN’s 36th-ranked prospect will likely end up being on this list again as both hot and cold.

Thomas Spitz and Vaughn Bryan. Spitz has been splitting time in the outfield with Bryan this year, yet neither has done much to distinguish his play from the other. Spitz had a particularly rough week, going hitless in five of his seven contests.

Spitz is only hitting .211 on the season with a paltry .266 OBP. Bryan hasn’t been much better at .203 and .288, respectively, with performances like these the reason the Chiefs find themselves in the loss column more often than not.

Last Week’s Hot and Cold Players

Edmundo Sosa. Sosa backed up a very solid week with an underwhelming one. His average has dipped back down to .247.

Brennan Leitao. Leitao, like the rest of his starting comrades, was not bad this week, but also was not as sharp as he had shown before. The righty went only 5 and 1/3 innings in his start last week, giving up four runs on six hits. His ERA is up to a still very solid 2.84.

Vaughn Bryan. Bryan didn’t get a whole lot of playing time this past week, appearing in only four games. He had a fine night on Monday, with a single and triple, but that only raised his season average above the Mendoza Line to .203.

Tyler Bray. The righty reliever had one good outing and one very poor outing. One day, he threw two scoreless innings with a pair of strikeouts. Three days later, he only recorded one out before two runs scored. Through seven appearances, Bray’s ERA is an unsightly 9.39.  

Transactions

Left-handed reliever Sasha Kuebel was released on Monday.

Right-handed pitchers Juan Perez and Jorge Rodriguez were called up from State College on Monday.

Third baseman Dylan Becker was assigned to Peoria from the GCL Cardinals last Wednesday.

Injuries

Pitchers Jery Then and Steven Gallardo remain on the 7-day DL.

Team Stats – Season to Date

The pitching dropped off in the past week compared to the rest of the league. Combine uncharacteristically sub-par mound performances with a poor offense, and you’ll get a week like the Chiefs just had.

Offense Season Stat  MWL rank of 16 (Last week's rank)
BA 0.243 7 (10)
Runs 98 7 (7)
HR 3 15 (12)
Stolen Bases 21 T-9 (10)
OBP 0.306 11 (12)
OPS 0.632 10 (10)
     
Pitching Season Stat MWL rank of 16 (Last Week’s rank)
ERA 3.19 8 (6)
Strikeouts 197 9 (6)
Walks 78 6 (T-13)
HR Allowed 7 T-6 (T-6)
Saves 4 T-13 (13)

Midwest League Western Division Standings

Club (Previous rank) W L Pct. GB L10 STRK
Clinton (1) 15 9 0.625 - 6-4 L1
Kane County (2)  14 10 0.583 1 5-5 W1
Beloit (3) 14 11 0.560 1.5 6-4 W4
Cedar Rapids (4) 13 11 0.542 2 4-6 L2
Wisconsin (8) 11 14 0.440 4.5 6-4 L3
Burlington (6) 10 14 0.417 5 4-6 W1
Peoria (6) 10 14 0.417 5 3-7 W1
Quad Cities (7) 10 14 0.417 5 6-4 L2

What’s Next

The Chiefs will be at home all week, hosting Bowling Green (12-13) until Thursday and then Dayton (5-20) Friday through Sunday. Jake Woodford (0-3) will start Tuesday, and the regular rotation should follow: Alcantara, Helsley, Fernandez, Leitao then Gonzalez again.

Follow Alex Kryah on Twitter @ar_Kryah9.

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