Peoria Chiefs

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

After a dismal last couple of weeks, Peoria rebounded in a big way in the just-completed home stand. The Chiefs went 4-2 last week, outscoring their opponents 28-18 and working on a four-game winning streak. It seems the Chiefs have found answers to their first-month offensive woes while the good pitching continues.

Game Summaries

Tuesday, May 3: Peoria Chiefs 2 vs. Bowling Green Hot Rods 4

Despite producing 10 hits, Peoria was contained to only two runs. Peoria left 14 runners on base last Tuesday and were only 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position. The Chiefs also left the bases loaded three innings in a row at one point.

Eliezer Alvarez had his best game of the season, clubbing two doubles and a single in four at-bats. He also drew a walk, scored a run and drove in a run.

Starter Jake Woodford put the Chiefs in a solid position to win, giving up two runs in 5 2/3 innings. The right-hander only made only one mistake in the sixth, on a home run to tie the game. However, the 19-year-old exhibited much better control than in previous outings, striking out seven and allowing five hits and three walks.

Juan Perez, a new addition for Peoria, failed to keep the Chiefs even in the seventh when he also gave up a two-run home run. Those were the deciding runs.

Wednesday May 4: Peoria Chiefs 2 vs. Bowling Green Hot Rods 11

All good things must come to an end, right? After 24 straight starts of Peoria starting pitchers tossing five innings or more, Sandy Alcantara was only able to record one out in the first inning. The tall right-hander was credited for four runs in the first, giving up three hits and a walk.

State College call-up Jorge Rodriguez and Tyler Bray were not able to keep Peoria in it as the game progressed. The two yielded seven runs combined on 13 hits.

Once again, the Peoria offense had a substantial number of hits (12), but weren’t able to capitalize when needed. The Chiefs left 10 runners on and were 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position.

Thursday May 5: Peoria Chiefs 4 vs. Dayton Dragons 1

Starter Ryan Helsley was both effective and efficient on Thursday. Of his 97 pitches, 67 were for strikes. The righty went 6 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing three hits and two walks with five strikeouts. Helsley’s fabulous outing pushes his ERA down to 1.88.

http://www.scout.com/player/200626-ryan-helsley?s=321

The bullpen certainly made the game interesting. Though Nick Frey was great through 1 2/3 innings, Steven De La Cruz entered the ninth with a 4-0 lead but walked the only three batters he faced. Landon Beck was able to stop the bleeding, however, yielding only one run to complete the win.

The offense finally was able to break through with runners in scoring position and, more specifically, with bases loaded. Peoria was 0 for its last 19 with the bases loaded, but a Thomas Spitz RBI-single in the fourth changed all of that. O’Keefe also drove home Alvarez, who was 1-for-2 with two walks and a triple, later in the sixth.

Defensively, the Chiefs had a clean game with multiple gems. Sierra, Sosa and Dylan Becker each made athletic plays to keep Dragons hitters of the bases.

 

Friday May 6: Peoria Chiefs 5 vs. Dayton Dragons 0

A stellar outing from Brennan Leitao spurred the Chiefs to a Friday night victory. The 22-year-old shut down Dayton for eight innings, allowing only five hits and one walk with 10 strikeouts. Leitao now improves to 2-2 with a 0.90 WHIP and 2.16 ERA.

Chinea, Thomas Spitz and Jose Godoy each recorded two hits. Peoria also belted three doubles to increase their league lead in the category.

More impressively, the Chiefs only struck out four times. They found ways to put the ball in play and plate runs, going 4-for-11 with runners in scoring position and leaving only five on base.

 

Saturday May 7: Peoria Chiefs 7 vs. Dayton Dragons 1

Peoria completed its first sweep of the season thanks to another complete pitching performance from starter Junior Fernandez and the bullpen. Fernandez was not great, but pitched well enough to only allow one run. He went six innings and gave up six hits and three walks, so he did not have his best stuff. It was impressive to see him consistently work out of trouble.

Juan Perez and Steven De La Cruz threw the last three innings, combining to allow only one base runner. It was the second straight game in which the bullpen did not allow a run, which is an accomplishment.

Alvarez and Sosa each had two hits, including a triple for Alvarez, his second in three games. While Peoria was only 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position, they clearly had no trouble scoring.

 

Sunday May 8: No Game

 

Monday May 9: Peoria Chiefs 8 at Beloit Snappers 1 (7 innings)

One would not have guessed that this game was shortened by rain by looking at the score. Peoria scored in five of the seven innings, including a four-run third. Sierra recorded three hits and scored three times while Alvarez and O’Keefe each drove in a pair.

The Chiefs exploded for 15 hits, as every player in the lineup recorded at least one hit. Five had multiple hits, including Sierra, Sosa, Dennard, Dylan Becker and Jhohan Acevedo.

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

Starter Derian Gonzalez earned his first win on the season in a pretty solid performance. Gonzalez threw 5 2/3 innings, allowing three walks and three hits with five punch-outs. His ERA has now dropped to 2.51 with a 1.22 WHIP. Gonzalez is one of four starting pitchers on the team with an ERA below three.

 

Hot Offense

This past week was much better for Peoria offensively, and it was clearly proven by their win-loss record. Even though they didn’t hit a home run, they really mashed the ball all week. Peoria boosted their OPS and average drastically from the last week and they continue to lead the MWL in doubles.

The Chiefs did face much worse pitching than earlier, but this week's performance is still reason for optimism. They had a ridiculously difficult time earlier in the week trying to get runners home, starting 6-for-32 with runners in scoring position. They vastly improved as the week went on, as their run output indicates.

Clearly, with the way that the Chiefs pitch, if they can keep this offense up, then Peoria will be a tough team to contend with. Further, as Sierra, Sosa and Alvarez see more at-bats, the better they will get and the more runs the team will score.

 

Leitao Named MWL Pitcher of the Week

It was announced Monday that Chiefs pitcher Brennan Leitao is the Midwest League Pitcher of the Week for the period May 2-8.

Leitao beat Dayton at home on Friday with eight shutout innings in which he struck out 10 and allowed just five hits while walking one. The eight innings pitched tied a season and career highs while the 10 strikeouts also set a new career high.

http://www.scout.com/player/200691-brennan-leitao?s=321

Leitao became the fourth Chiefs starting pitcher this season to record at least 10 strikeouts in a game, all at home. The right-hander used just 85 pitches over eight innings. Leitao is the second Chiefs pitcher to win the award this season after Ryan Helsley was the MWL Pitcher of the Week April 18-24. 

 

Who’s Hot

Chris Chinea. Chinea had a solid week, going 5-for-16 over the last seven games. When the 22-year-old gets on base, he typically finds a way to get home, scoring six times. Chinea has been playing every day since he came off the DL, whether he is catching or designated hitting.

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

No matter what Chinea does, he is getting the job done, which is good because he has been taking at-bats from Jose Godoy. Godoy has been hitting really well this year in the at-bats he has had, but Chinea offers more power. Chinea is slugging .404 compared to Godoy’s .358. Given Peoria’s struggles hitting for power this year, they need all the help they can get.

Brennan Leitao. There were multiple solid pitching performances last week, but as noted above, Leitao obviously outshined everyone.

For the season, Leitao now leads the team in innings and is best among starters with his 2.16 ERA. The 22-year-old isn’t a flamethrower but is exhibiting swing-and-miss stuff with great command. The righty has 29 strikeouts in 33 innings and has only administered five walks. That is an insane ratio that one would hope to see continue. Leitao has shown through five starts that he can work deep into games and be effective in various ways with his fastball, changeup and curveball.

 

Who’s Not

Sandy Alcantara. The Dominican has been solid this season, but his most recent outing was one to forget. Alcantara has had control issues all along, which is illustrated by his 1.39 WHIP. He gives up a lot of hits and walks a lot of batters, and last Wednesday was no exception. Alcantara gave up three very hard hits and one walk, and manager Joe Kruzel didn’t want to give the struggling right hander a chance to get out of his jam. The 20-year-old throws hard, but that doesn’t guarantee success. He may need to take a page out of Leitao’s playbook to bounce back from this last start.

Dylan Becker. This is Becker’s first full season in professional baseball, and the 23-year-old is not yet making the most of the opportunity he is being given. In eight games with the Chiefs, Becker is hitting .200 with one walk and three strikeouts. The third base position is theoretically his to take as Leobaldo Pina and Casey Turgeon have been underwhelming, but Becker is not doing anything to convince Kruzel that he should be playing there every day. While he has shown impressive defense, Becker needs to start producing some hits.

 

Last Week’s Hot and Cold Players

Magneuris Sierra. The Dominican had a bit of a drop-off from last week, but Sierra is still hovering around .300 (.299 to be exact). He is hitting for a little more power right now, but the 20-year-old is also swinging and missing more than he would like. Sierra has whiffed nine times in the last ten games while only drawing one walk.

Eliezer Alvarez. The second baseman had a much better week than his previous one. Alvarez now owns a nine-game hitting streak and a pair of multi-hit performances to brag about. It is even more encouraging to see his OBP rise to .373, considering he is hitting leadoff for Peoria.

http://www.scout.com/player/158983-eliezer-alvarez?s=321

Thomas Spitz. Like many of his teammates, Spitz had a pretty solid week. The 24-year-old outfielder recorded a hit in four of his five games played, going 5-for-18 (.278) with two walks, two runs scored and three RBI.

 

Transactions

Catcher Brian O’Keefe was returned to Peoria from Palm Beach last Tuesday.

Outfielder Vaughn Bryan was called up to Palm Beach last Thursday.

Outfielder Jhohan Acevedo was assigned to Peoria from State College last Thursday.

Reliever Chandler Hawkins was promoted to Palm Beach on Monday.

Reliever Harley Holt was assigned to Peoria on Monday.

 

Injuries

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

 

Team Stats – Season to Date

Peoria had quite the offensive outbreak this past week, raising their team batting average by .012 in one week. Along with the pitching, which continues to be solid, it is no wonder they went 4-2.

Offense Season Stat MWL rank of 16 (Last week’s rank)
BA 0.255 5 (7)
Runs 126 5 (7)
HR 3 15 (15)
Stolen Bases 23 11 (T-9)
OBP 0.318  6 (11)
OPS 0.659 5 (10)
     
Pitching Season Stat MWL rank of 16 (Last Week’s rank)
ERA 3.14 5 (8)
Strikeouts 251 8 (9)
Walks 101 7 (6)
HR Allowed 11 4 (T-6)
Saves 5 T-14 (T-13)

Midwest League Western Division Standings

Club (Previous rank) W L Pct. GB L10 STRK
Clinton (1) 19 11 0.63 - 7-3 W3
Cedar Rapids (4) 16 13 0.55 3 5-5 W1
Kane County (2) 16 13 0.55 3 5-5 L2
Beloit (3) 14 16 0.47 5 4-6 L5
Peoria (7) 14 16 0.47 5 5-5 W4
Wisconsin (5) 14 17 0.45 6 4-6 L1
Quad Cities (8) 13 17 0.43 6 5-5 W2
Burlington (6) 12 18 0.4 7 4-6 L2

What’s Next

The Chiefs continue their series at Beloit (14-16) through Wednesday. This weekend, Peoria travels to Clinton (19-11) for a four-game set. Jake Woodford will start on Tuesday for the Chiefs, followed by the normal rotation.

 

Follow Alex Kryah on Twitter @ar_Kryah9.

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