Jake Woodford (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

News from the St. Louis Cardinals’ Midwest League affiliate in Peoria for the period May 24-30

Peoria had another fantastic week, posting a 5-2 record against Kane County and Quad Cities. Consistent bats and excellent pitching have powered them into a tie for second place in the division. Jake Woodford and Magneuris Sierra are leading the way.

Game Summaries

Tuesday, May 24: Peoria Chiefs 4 vs. Kane County Cougars (ARI) 0

Jake Woodford powered Peoria to a win in his best start of the season. Woodford was fantastic, yielding only four hits in his eight innings of shutout work. The righty had control of all of his stuff and commanded the zone marvelously, striking out five and walking none.

The Chiefs scored a run in consecutive innings early in the game, and paired with Woodford’s dominance, it was enough to win. Brian O’Keefe put Peoria on the board in the second with a double, scoring Thomas Spitz.

Peoria received great production from Jhonny Peralta, who was 2-for-3 with a run scored. Magneuris Sierra also had a fine game, driving in two runs and going 2-for-5. Spitz also recorded a pair of hits and a pair of runs scored.

Wednesday May 25: Peoria Chiefs 4 vs. Kane County Cougars 3

The Chiefs continued their winning ways despite some ninth inning drama. Steven De La Cruz nearly blew a three-run lead after giving up three hits and walk, but Tyler Bray was able to clean up the mess. Bray induced a ground out and a strikeout to record his second save of the year.

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

Junior Fernandez was due for a decent outing, and he certainly provided enough to put Peoria in a position to win. The Dominican gave up one run in 5 2/3 innings on two hits and four walks. The righty also punched out six en route to earning his fourth win on the year.

The bottom of the lineup produced all of the offense. Spitz, O’Keefe and R.J. Dennard drove in all four runs, and Peoria clearly needed every one. Dennard was 2-for-3 while Edmundo Sosa was 2-for-4 with a double.

It was Peralta’s last game before moving up to Springfield to continue his rehab.

Thursday May 26: Peoria Chiefs 4 vs. Kane County Cougars 3

RBI from Edmundo Sosa and Chris Chinea in the seventh inning boosted Peoria to a win and a sweep over Kane County. Chinea, along with Sierra and Leobaldo Pina, recorded two hits. Red-hot Thomas Spitz went 1-for-3 with a run scored from the two-hole.

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

Ryan Helsley took the bump, and followed a similar script to his previous starts. The 21-year-old gave up just six hits in seven innings and only allowed two runs with five strikeouts and no walks. Helsley improved to 3-1 with a 2.30 ERA.

Luke Harrison shut down Kane County in the ninth to earn his second save of the season.

Friday May 27: Peoria Chiefs 4 at Quad Cities (HOU) 7

Brennan Leitao had a second straight mediocre outing as he only lasted 5 1/3 innings and gave up five runs, four earned. Leitao only walked one and struck out seven, but was pummeled by River Bandits hitters for 10 hits.

Juan Perez was not able to keep Peoria within striking distance, giving up two runs in his 2 1/3 innings of work on three hits and two walks.

Sierra had a solid night at the plate, going 2-for-4 and driving in half of Peoria’s runs. Chinea, Spitz and Dylan Becker also had a pair of hits.

Spitz hit in the two-hole the game before, and you would think manager Joe Kruzel would want his hottest guy near the top of the order. However, on Friday, Spitz hit sixth while Sosa, who hit second, went 0-for-5.

Saturday May 28: Peoria Chiefs 9 at Quad Cities 2

The ordering of the lineup did not matter much Saturday as nearly every player in the lineup recorded a hit in the win. Sierra had an even better performance than on Friday, mashing a pair of doubles and a single. The 19-year-old also scored a pair of runs and drove one in. O’Keefe blasted a home run in the ninth to provide extra insurance.

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

Derian Gonzalez provided another solid start. The Venezuelan threw six innings, giving up one run on five hits and three walks with five strikeouts. While Gonzalez is not flashy, he has been quietly consistent for the Chiefs all season, throwing five or more innings each outing.

Sunday May 29: Peoria Chiefs 3 at Quad Cities 7

After dominating the opposition last week, Sandy Alcantara was roughed up this week against Quad Cities. The righty only lasted five innings and was hit hard in each frame. Alcantara yielded six hits, including a home run, and two walks, leading to four runs.

Luke Harrison also gave up a solo shot in the sixth and proceeded to yield two more in the inning before stopping the bleeding.

Quad Cities was not the only team to hit a home run, however. Chris Chinea knocked a two-run bomb in the second, which gave Peoria an early lead. That was Chinea’s only hit of the game. O’Keefe was the only Chief to record multiple hits, going 2-for-4 with two doubles.

Monday May 30: Peoria Chiefs 6 at Quad Cities 5

Peoria scored in the first two and last two innings at Quad Cities to secure the victory on Monday. Sloppy pitching in the seventh and eighth forced the Chiefs into a hole, but Quad Cities gifted Peoria with a pair of runs. A wild pitch and a hit by pitch plated Sosa and Aikin in the final two frames, and, along with a Sosa RBI single in the ninth, the Chiefs would have enough to emerge victorious.

http://www.scout.com/player/152876-leobaldo-pina?s=321

Leobaldo Pina had the hot bat, going 3-for-4 with a pair of runs scored. O’Keefe and Aikin also each recorded two hits.

Starter Jake Woodford gave up his first runs since May 3, but he was still very solid on Monday. The 19-year-old tossed seven innings, charged with one earned run on seven hits and two walks with six strikeouts.

Jorge Rodriguez and Bray each gave up runs in the late innings to squander Peoria leads, but Bray shut down Quad Cities in the ninth to secure the win.

Putting It All Together

After a rough stretch of play near the end of April and beginning of May, Peoria has turned a corner and looks like a decent team. While the numbers certainly will not blow you away, they are becoming much more consistent across the board.

They are in the top six in many important offensive categories, but rank no higher than fifth in any. They have a fine staff ERA and are continuing to improve in most of their deficient areas. Now, Peoria is third in the division by only three games.

This is one of the more talented groups in the league, and they are only getting better as time moves on. Their youth clearly shows at times, but you are seeing it less and less as we move from Spring into the Summer. That likely means more production, and more winning.

Dennard and Spitz Stop House Fire

While it’s not necessarily baseball related, it is worth noting the heroics of Dennard and Spitz last Thursday. Their host home caught on fire Thursday morning, and the pair worked together to put out the fire. An article from a local Peoria paper, Peoria Journal-Star, is linked here if you want to read their take on what happened.

http://www.pjstar.com/article/20160526/NEWS/160529445

Who’s Hot

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

Jake Woodford. The right-hander was having a horrible time commanding the zone and limiting walks earlier in the season, but whatever he has done to try to change that has worked fabulously. In his last two starts, Woodford has allowed only three walks in 20 innings. The 19-year-old has 14 strikeouts in his last three starts and had not given up an earned run since May 3 until Monday. Woodford’s ERA is now down to 2.14 with a 1.15 WHIP, and opponents are only hitting .222 against him. He is showing why he is the top pitching prospect on the team.

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

Magneuris Sierra. In seven games last week, the outfielder recorded hits in five. In each, he recorded at least two hits, going 11-for-31 (.355). Sierra has found a home in the leadoff spot and he loves life right now. He is still striking out a little too much (20.3 %), but at least he has not been fanning multiple times per game lately. The left handed hitter drew two walks this past week, which are notable as just his fifth and sixth this season. Sierra is swinging the bat incredibly well and is also flashing his speed. He stole three bases last week, bringing his season total up to nine, but he has been caught seven times. Sierra is putting all of his tools together lately, and it is exciting to see.

Who’s Not

R.J. Dennard. Peoria had such a solid week, so most players, pitchers and hitters, contributed and are performing well. However, Dennard had a pretty miserable stretch. The 23-year-old played in six games last week and recorded only two hits, and those came in the same game. Dennard was cold three weeks ago, but this stretch of play is worse; Dennard struck out seven times in 19 at bats while only drawing one walk. Dennard is going to have to find what made him hot earlier in the season because Peoria needs his power in the lineup.

Last Week’s Hot and Cold Players

Sandy Alcantara. This week’s subpar performance is a little disappointing considering what he did two weeks ago. After giving up four runs on six hits and two walks, Alcantara’s ERA is back up to 4.37.

Thomas Spitz. Spitz is still pretty hot, but just not as hot as Sierra, which is why he did not get the nod this week. However, the right fielder recorded a hit in six of seven games (8-for-26, .308) and scored six runs.

Junior Fernandez. Fernandez was pretty good this week. He was not great, like we have seen from him before, but he was good. The Dominican now boasts a 3.35 ERA after his latest start, and will look to stay on track this week.

Transactions

Jhohan Acevedo was assigned to Extended Spring Training from Peoria.

Vaughn Bryan was assigned to Peoria from Palm Beach last Tuesday.

Jhonny Peralta was assigned to Springfield from Peoria last Thursday.

Injuries

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

Team Stats – Season to Date

Offense Season Stat MWL rank of 16 (Last week’s rank)
BA 0.258 5 (T-5)
Runs 209 7 (6)
HR 7 15 (15)
Stolen Bases 42 7 (11)
OBP 0.323  6 (6)
OPS 0.665 6 (6)
     
Pitching Season Stat MWL rank of 16 (Last Week’s rank)
ERA 3.21 6 (7)
Strikeouts 410 6 (5)
Walks 164 9 (7)
HR Allowed 21 6 (T-3)
Saves 13 T-10 (13)

Midwest League Western Division Standings

Club (Previous rank) W L Pct. GB L10 STRK
Cedar Rapids (1) 29 21 .580 - 6-4 W2
Clinton (2) 26 24 .520 3.0 4-6 L2
Peoria (5) 26 24 .520 3.0 5-5 W1
Kane County (4) 25 25 .500 4.0 4-6 W3
Beloit (3) 24 26 .480 5.0 5-5 L3
Wisconsin (6) 24 27 .471 5.5 5-5 L2
Burlington (7) 23 27 .460 6.0 6-4 W2
Quad Cities (8) 22 28 .440 7.0 5-5 L1

What’s Next

Peoria will host Wisconsin (MIL) for a three-game set starting Tuesday before traveling to Cedar Rapids (MIN) this weekend. Peoria will have next Monday off.

Follow Alex Kryah on Twitter @ar_Kryah9.

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