Ryan Helsley (Allison Rhoades/Peoria Chiefs)

News from the St. Louis Cardinals’ Midwest League affiliate in Peoria for the period June 7-13

The Chiefs were on a roll last week, taking six of their eight games played. They have found their stride in the month of June and now hold first place in the Midwest League Western Division with six games remaining in the first half. All-Star Ryan Helsley continues to pitch well.

Game Summaries

Tuesday, June 7: Game 1 Peoria Chiefs 4 at Burlington Bees 2 (9)

Game 2: Peoria Chiefs 4 at Burlington Bees 2 (7)

Peoria played a doubleheader last Tuesday to make up for a postponed game from earlier in the season. The Chiefs took both games by identical 4-2 scores.

Junior Fernandez started Game 1 and flashed some of the stuff we had seen earlier in the season. Though Fernandez gave up a home run early on, he did not allow any other earned runs on the afternoon. The Dominican threw 6 2/3 innings, giving up six hits and three walks while striking out four.

Offensively, Peoria had to leave the opener a bit disappointed after accruing 13 hits but only scoring four runs. However, a clutch triple in the ninth from Vaughn Bryan and a single from Magneuris Sierra helped catapult Peoria to the win. Bryan was 2-for-4 while Sierra was 3-for-5 with two doubles. Eliezer Alvarez also recorded three hits.

Game 2 finished with the same score but followed a different script. Peoria had a miserable time at the plate, recording only two hits, but still led from start to finish thanks to a pair of Burlington errors. Of the four Chiefs runs, only one was recorded as an RBI.

Peoria did not need to produce much offense anyway thanks to the performance of Ryan Helsley. Helsley was electric, going six innings without giving up a run on three hits with eight strikeouts. Steven De La Cruz made it interesting in the seventh by giving up a pair of runs, but the right handed reliever was able to keep the lead and deliver Peoria its second win of the day.

Wednesday, June 8: Peoria Chiefs 2 at Burlington Bees 4

Brennan Leitao paid for a few bad pitches last Wednesday, surrendering a pair of home runs in his 7 1/3 innings of work. Leitao was decent, yielding six hits with no walks and five strikeouts.

Peoria was able to get runners on base but had a difficult time scoring them. In fact, the Chiefs were 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position. Peoria’s two runs came via an R.J. Dennard home run in the second inning. While the team recorded 10 hits, only two were for extra bases. Further, the Chiefs hitters struck out 10 times and only walked once.

Edmundo Sosa recorded Peoria’s second extra base hit as he smacked a double. Sosa and Dennard were 2-for-4.

Thursday, June 9: Peoria Chiefs 6 at Burlington Bees 4

The Chiefs did all of the heavy lifting early on, plating five of their six runs in the first three innings. The scoring started with an RBI-triple from Alvarez to score Sosa, and a Burlington error scored Alvarez on the next at bat.

Peoria was off to a three-run lead in the second before Derian Gonzalez gave up his only three runs of the game. Gonzalez gave up four consecutive two-out hits to squander the early lead. Gonzalez yielded 10 hits overall but only three runs. The righty walked three and struck out two.

A two-run third inning put Peoria on top for good. Jose Godoy drove in the go-ahead runs on a single, his only hit. Vaughn Bryan added some insurance in the sixth, driving in Becker.

Sierra, Sosa and Alvarez each had multi-hit games, the first two going 2-for-5 while the latter was 3-for-5.

Friday, June 10: Peoria Chiefs 5 vs. Cedar Rapids Kernels 2

Sandy Alcantara was absolutely electric, dominating Cedar Rapids for seven innings. The flamethrower was on top of his fastball and curveball as he had nine strikeouts with only two walks. Alacantara gave up one unearned run on six hits and earned his fifth win of the year.

Thanks to Alcantara’s stellar outing, Peoria did not need much on the offensive end. Regardless, the hitters provided plenty of offense to help out their starter. The Chiefs scored three runs in the third thanks to a two-RBI double from Brian O’Keefe and an RBI-single from Thomas Spitz. O’Keefe was 2-for-4 with two doubles, two runs scored and two RBI while Spitz was 1-for-2.

Nick Frey earned the save in his first action since being sent down from Palm Beach. Frey worked two innings, giving up one run and striking out one.

Saturday, June 11: Peoria Chiefs 7 vs. Cedar Rapids Kernels 6

Though there were plenty of runs scored, they all occurred in three half-innings. The game started with Cedar Rapids ripping Jake Woodford for six runs in the first inning. Woodford gave up five doubles before getting three outs, but was able to completely stop the damage for the next three innings. Woodford only threw four innings because of a high pitch count, giving up seven hits and one walk with one strikeout.

The Chiefs needed all the offense they could get, and they got just enough to come out victorious. Peoria scored five runs in the fifth inning thanks to a Sierra triple, a wild pitch and a Chinea home run. Sierra was 2-for-5 while Chinea was 2-for-3 with three RBI.

Chinea’s third RBI of the game came on a sacrifice fly in the seventh, which put Peoria ahead for good.

Juan Perez earned the win after working three innings in relief. He held Cedar Rapids to two hits and one walk before Luke Harrison earned a two-inning save. Harrison did not allow a base runner while striking out two. 

Sunday, June 12: Peoria Chiefs 3 vs. Cedar Rapids Kernels 1

Ryan Helsley’s second start of the week was nearly identical to his first. The 21-year-old was very solid again, allowing only one run on five hits through six innings. The right-hander struck out seven en route to his sixth win of the season. Helsley’s ERA is now down to 1.94.

Peoria only needed one inning of scoring to put them on top. An RBI-single from Alvarez and a two-run single from Jose Godoy in the third plated the only runs the Chiefs would score all day. Both Alvarez and Godoy finished at 2-for-4.

Steven De La Cruz earned his second save of the year in his second appearance of the week. De La Cruz threw one inning, giving up one hit while striking out one.   

Monday, June 13: Peoria Chiefs 2 at Clinton LumberKings 9

After winning six of the last seven games, Peoria was blown out on the road at Clinton. The Chiefs were limited to eight hits, most coming from Sosa, O’Keefe and Godoy. Dylan Becker led off for Peoria while Sierra had the night off, which may help explain the offensive woes.

Junior Fernandez started on the bump and was mediocre at best. The right-hander went five innings, giving up five runs on eight hits and four walks while striking out only three. Fernandez’s ERA is now up to 3.26 on the season.

Peoria was in front early as they scored a run in the top of the first. However, Fernandez gave up all five of his runs in his last inning of work, and Peoria was never able to rebound from that deficit.

Peoria Claims First In Division

After spending most of the season in the middle of the pack, the Chiefs have worked their way to the top of the division in mid-June. They have been playing very well over the last three weeks, so it is no surprise that they are in first place right now.

Their lead is a slim half-game with six remaining in the first half. The first two teams in each division receive playoff berths. Peoria’s magic number to clinch a playoff spot is four and their magic number for the division title is seven.

The Chiefs continually get very solid pitching performances from their starters and, more importantly at this level, their bullpen. Peoria’s offense continues to be one of the best in the entire league as they now have four players hitting .295 or higher (Sierra, Godoy, Alvarez and Chinea). With the draft having just occurred, the team might experience a shake up with players being promoted, demoted or moved. Regardless of what happens, there are many reasons for Cardinals fans to be excited about their Single-A affiliate and its players.

Who’s Hot

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

Eliezer Alvarez. The all-star second baseman has not cooled down since his last week and is a major key to the Chiefs’ recent success. Over his last 10 games, the Dominican has posted a .389 average, going 14-for-39 with nine runs scored and four RBI. While those are not gaudy numbers, Alvarez is getting on base regularly and setting the table for the rest of the lineup. When Sierra and Sosa get on in front of him, the 21-year-old will usually move them over or drive them in. When he gets on, O’Keefe or Chinea will drive him in. The shortstop boasts a .857 OPS right now because he is driving the ball to all fields and being patient at the plate. Alvarez is looking fantastic and certainly belongs at this level.

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

Ryan Helsley. Helsley was not great this week, but he was incredibly solid. Throughout most of the season, the right-hander has given up plenty of hits yet has limited runs. His ability to get batters out with runners on base is phenomenal. The Oklahoma native does not walk very many hitters, but he gets them whiffing with a strikeout to walk ratio of 71 to 13. Opponents are only hitting .228 against Helsley and his ERA is down to 1.94. The 21-year-old has very solid stuff and is commanding the zone incredibly well.

Who’s Not

Vaughn Bryan. Bryan has been hitless in four consecutive games. The center fielder had a short stint in Palm Beach earlier, but he clearly could not make the cut on that level. He is struggling even more now in Peoria as his average is down to .227 on the season. His OBP is a measly .297 as well. While the 23-year-old plays a solid outfield, Bryan is having a horrible time at the plate. He has struck out at least once in six consecutive games.

Last Week’s Hot and Cold Players

Chris Chinea. Chinea is still having his way at the plate as his average is now up to .327. It is arguable that he is hotter than Alvarez right now as the catcher/first baseman has hits in five consecutive games. He is also producing runs frequently, driving in five over his last four contests.

Sandy Alcantara. The Dominican righty-hander had a great start in his last outing, lasting seven innings without giving up a run on six hits and two walks with nine punch-outs. You never really know what you are going to get with Alcantara at this point, but when you get his best, he is tough to hit.

Transactions

Left-handed reliever Brady Bowen was assigned to State College from Peoria last Thursday.

Right-handed reliever Nick Frey was assigned to Peoria from Palm Beach last Wednesday.

Injuries

Relievers 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 0.264 3 (3)
Runs 279 5 (5)
HR 13 15 (15)
Stolen Bases 55 6 (6)
OBP 0.329 6 (6)
OPS 0.679 6 (6)
     
Pitching Season Stat MWL rank of 16 (Last Week’s rank)
ERA 3.24 5 (7)
Strikeouts 515 T-6 (6)
Walks 200 T-8 (9)
HR Allowed 26 10 (8)
Saves 17 T-8 (12)

Midwest League Western Division Standings – first half

Club (Previous rank) W L Pct. GB L10 STRK
Peoria (3) 36 28 .563 - 7-3 L1
Clinton (2) 35 28 .446 .5 7-3 W3
Cedar Rapids (1) 33 30 .524 2.5 3-7 L5
Burlington (4) 31 33 .484 5.0 5-5 W1
Kane County (6) 30 33 .476 5.5 4-6 W2
Wisconsin (7) 30 34 .469 6.0 5-5 L2
Beloit (5) 29 34 .460 6.5 3-7 L3
Quad Cities (8) 28 35 7.5 7.5 5-5 W3

What’s Next

Peoria continues their series and battle for first place at Clinton (35-28) through Wednesday. They will then host Burlington for a four game set from Thursday through Sunday to complete the first half. The Chiefs will then have Monday through Wednesday off – all except for five players, that is.

The MWL All-Star Game will be held on Tuesday, June 21 in Cedar Rapids. Five Chiefs are on the West Division squad – pitchers Brennan Leitao, Ryan Helsley and Derian Gonzalez plus the keystone combination of Eliezer Alvarez and Edmundo Sosa.

Update

On Tuesday, right-handed pitcher Jake Woodford (4-3, 2.92 ERA) became Peoria's sixth all-star, added to the West Division roster as a replacement player.

Follow Alex Kryah on Twitter @ar_Kryah9.

© 2016 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com and scout.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


The Cardinal Nation Top Stories