Thomas Spitz (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

News from the St. Louis Cardinals’ Midwest League affiliate in Peoria for the period June 21-27

After the Midwest League All-Star Game, Peoria began the second half in Burlington. The Chiefs did not carry over all of their first-half momentum as they went 2-3. The team was also dealt a significant blow as Jake Woodford was placed on the DL. As Magneuris Sierra is being rested, Thomas Spitz is leading the offense.

Game Summaries

Tuesday, June 21: MWL All-Star Game: West All Stars 10 vs. East All-Stars 11

The West All-Stars held the lead for most of the game, but the East All-Stars pulled through for the victory thanks to a four-run ninth inning.

Of the seven Chiefs selected, only six were active due to Derian Gonzalez’ shoulder injury. None of the Chiefs position players started, but all three entered later in the game. Eliezer Alvarez and Magneuris Sierra both went 0-for-2 with a strikeout and Edmundo Sosa was 0-for-1 with a walk and a run scored.

Brennan Leitao pitched the second inning for the West, giving up one unearned run after his own error, on one hit, one walk and one strikeout. Jake Woodford pitched a scoreless sixth inning, allowing one hit. Ryan Helsley did not see any action.


Wednesday, June 22: No Game

Thursday, June 23: Peoria Chiefs 4 at Burlington Bees 5 (15)

The Chiefs kicked off the second half of the season with a marathon match against Burlington. Peoria yielded a couple of important runs on crucial spots, which ultimately decided their fate.

Returned to starting with the rotation injuries, Juan Perez worked only 4 2/3 innings, giving up three runs on four hits and one walk with three strikeouts. While the righty was not great, he put Peoria in a position to win.

Peoria battled back to take the lead in the seventh when Dylan Becker knocked in R.J. Dennard and Thomas Spitz on a double, followed by a Sierra single. Aside from a Brian O’Keefe RBI-single an inning earlier, that was all Peoria would do at the plate.

Despite combining for nearly seven innings of scoreless work, the bullpen could not keep Burlington off the board when it mattered most. Tyler Bray yielded a run in the bottom of the ninth to blow the save and Harley Holt gave up the walk-off single in the 15th.


Friday, June 24: Peoria Chiefs 6 at Burlington Bees 4

The Chiefs became the team to benefit from late-game scoring in Friday’s win.

Alvarez and Sierra were given the evening off. This opened the door for Leobaldo Pina and Jose Godoy to play and allowed Craig Aikin to bat leadoff.

The lineup change was not necessarily successful as the team only recorded seven hits. Half of Peoria’s runs came thanks to Burlington blunders. A throwing error and two bases loaded walks brought in three-runs and secured a victory.

Vaughn Bryan was 3-for-5 with a double while Spitz knocked in a pair of runs and scored one.

Starter Brennan Leitao suffered some unfortunate luck. While the righty gave up 11 hits and three runs, none of the runs were earned. Leitao had to work out of trouble throughout his 6 1/3 innings, but he showed impressive resiliency.

Nick Frey came on in the ninth to earn the save.


Saturday, June 25: Peoria Chiefs 6 at Burlington Bees 4

A trio of two-run innings spurred the Chiefs to a second consecutive victory by an identical score. Aikin remained in the leadoff spot as Sierra sat again while Alvarez was back in the lineup in the three-hole.

Sosa, Pina and Thomas Spitz fueled the offensive production as they recorded nine of the Chiefs 11 hits. Sosa smacked four hits while Spitz had three and Pina had a single and a double. The trio also knocked in four runs, including two in the ninth thanks to a Sosa single.

Ryan Helsley toed the rubber for the Chiefs and recorded his eighth victory of the season. The 21-year-old had another workman-like outing, powering through 5 1/3 innings, giving up two runs on four hits and three walks with five strikeouts.

Frey earned his second consecutive save by shutting the Bees down in the ninth,


Sunday, June 26: Peoria Chiefs 3 at Burlington Bees 6

Junior Fernandez took a beating on Sunday and the team suffered because of it. The hard throwing righty gave up nine hits and four walks in six innings, leading to six Burlington runs. Fernandez was dealt his fifth loss on the year.

Even with a couple early runs and 11 total hits, the Chiefs were not able to put many runs across home plate. This was the third straight game Sierra was out, but his absence was not as crucial as it had been previously. Aikin was 2-for-5 with a run scored in the leadoff spot. Alvarez, Godoy and Spitz also had multiple hits.

Peoria certainly had enough base runners throughout the game to make it competitive, but were only 3-for-8 with runners in scoring position and left eight on.

Harley Holt did a great job out of the bullpen, working two scoreless innings without giving up a hit or a walk.


Monday, June 27: Peoria Chiefs 4 at Beloit Snappers 6

Sandy Alcantara’s performance was not up to par in Monday’s start in Beloit. The Dominican allowed five runs, four earned, in his five innings of work, allowing six hits and four walks with five strikeouts. The righty left a few too many fastballs over the heart of the plate once again and was unable to limit damage.

Peoria had a difficult time getting on base, too, as they recorded eight hits and only one walk. Despite a ninth inning rally, Peoria had dug themselves into too deep of a hole.

Aikin, Sosa, and O’Keefe each had two hits while O’Keefe, Chinea and Bryan drove in a run. Sosa had the best night of the bunch, going 2-for-3 with a walk and two runs scored.

Luke Harrison and Tyler Bray worked in relief, combining to give up one run in three innings.


Woodford joins Gonzalez on DL

In the last two weeks, Jake Woodford and Derian Gonzalez, two of the Chiefs’ best pitchers, were placed on the 7-day DL. It is unclear right now how long they will be out, but the Chiefs are prepared to move forward without them.

For the first time all year, the team will work with a five-man rotation as opposed to their normal six-man rotation. This causes a couple of issues. One problem is obvious - that the Chiefs are without two All-Stars. They will certainly miss their presence on the mound two over every six days.

The absence of Woodford and Gonzalez also affects how innings will be managed. The Cardinals will want to limit how many innings Alcantara, Fernandez, Helsley and Leitao all throw, and with a smaller rotation, these guys will burn through more innings faster than expected. Either that or they will throw fewer innings per start, forcing the bullpen to throw more innings.

Neither is an ideal situation. While this DL stint could allow Woodford and Gonzalez to throw later into the season, it also means that someone like Alcantara or Fernandez may be shut down earlier than expected.


Sierra Sitting

For an undisclosed reason, Magneuris Sierra has not been in the lineup since last Wednesday. The outfielder has not been listed on the injury report nor placed on the disabled list, so the assumption is that je is being given time to rest.

With a playoff berth already locked up, the team has nothing to play for over the next couple of months, so this move would make sense. It could be useful to give the 20-year-old some rest during his first full season in Peoria. However, the offense definitely misses his bat and he is a defensive standout, so his absence certainly has a negative affect.


Who’s Hot

Thomas Spitz. In his last five games, Spitz is 7-for-18 (.389) with four runs scored and five RBI. Manager Joe Kruzel has toyed with the lineup a bit recently and Spitz has been hitting all over the order. Wherever he has been, though, he has been smashing the ball.

This is really encouraging because it means there is another outfielder other than Sierra actually producing. The Chiefs have been missing a second offensive presence from the outfield all year, and hopefully Spitz can continue to deliver.

Edmundo Sosa. The shortstop has been having his way at the plate lately, going 8-for-18 (.444) with two runs scored and an RBI. He hits in the two-hole, so is a major table-setter for this lineup. Sosa has been getting on base frequently for the heart of the order to knock him in. The hitters behind him have not been doing their jobs, but that is not Sosa’s fault.

It is encouraging to see Sosa get hot after a pretty dismal first half of the year. Do not let his All-Star selection fool you; the Panamanian is only hitting .262 with over three times as many strikeouts as walks. Hopefully, Sosa learns from his first half and makes the necessary changes to become another solid hitter in this lineup.


Who’s Not

Junior Fernandez. After closing the first half on a high note, Fernandez kicked off his second half horribly. We have become accustomed to starts like this from Fernandez, where he gets hit hard often and gives up bunches of runs. The 19-year-old has a tough time limiting big innings sometimes. In his most recent start, Fernandez gave up a four-run inning. The next step for him will be learning how to consistently get out of jams and limit high-scoring innings.

R.J. Dennard. The first baseman picked up where he left off the first half, and that is not a good thing. Dennard has only recorded one hit in four games since the break. In his last 10 games combined, he is hitting only .121 as his overall average has dipped to .229, third lowest on the team. Dennard has walked a little more recently and scored a few runs, but his role is not to just get on base, but to drive runs in. The Georgia native needs to find what made him so deadly early on in the season, and fast.


Last Week’s Hot and Cold Players

Eliezer Alvarez. The second baseman played four out of five games last week and was not great. Alvarez was only 3-for-17 (.176) with one RBI, two walks and three strikeouts. However, we have seen how fantastic he can be, so this is probably nothing to be worried about.

Sandy Alcantara. Alcantara had a fairly mediocre start on Monday, posting four runs in six innings. The righty allowed a home run, the third time he has done that this season. Alcantara gave up six hits and four walks with five punch outs in the loss.

Craig Aikin. Aikin has been hitting in the leadoff spot for most of the week and had a few solid moments. The outfielder scored a run in each game in which he led off and went a modest 5-for-17, .294. Aikin will likely move back down in the order after Sierra re-enters the lineup, but we do not know when that will be.



RHP Gerwuins Velazco was assigned to Peoria from State College last Wednesday, taking Derian Gonzalez’ roster spot.



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

Jake Woodford was placed on the 7-day DL with a right elbow sprain retroactive to June 23. His roster spot remains open.


Team Stats – Season to Date

Peoria had a decent offensive week, but their pitching experienced a bit of a rough patch. It will be interesting to see how the team stacks up against the rest of the league, as the roster will surely change over the next few months. Though these games, for all intents and purposes, do not matter, they offer individuals opportunities to step up.

Offense Season Stat MWL rank of 16 (Last week’s rank)
BA 0.264 4 (4)
Runs 325 6 (5)
HR 16 15 (15)
Stolen Bases 61 5 (T-5)
OBP 0.327 5 (6)
OPS 0.674 6 (T-4)
Pitching Season Stat MWL rank of 16 (Last week’s rank)
ERA 3.2 1 (2)
Strikeouts 600 7 (5)
Walks 238 7 (9)
HR Allowed 27 T-11 (T-10)
Saves 19 10 (10)

Midwest League Western Division Second Half Standings

Club (Previous rank) W L Pct. GB L10 STRK
*Clinton (2) 5 0 1.000 - 5-0 W5
Cedar Rapids (3) 3 2 .600 2.0 3-2 L1
Wisconsin (4) 3 2 .600 2.0 3-2 L1
Beloit (6) 2 3 .400 3.0 2-3 W1
Burlington (7) 2 3 .400 3.0 2-3 L1
*Peoria (1) 2 3 .400 3.0 2-3 L2
Quad Cities (8) 2 3 .400 3.0 2-3 W1
Kane County (5) 1 4 .200 4.0 1-4 W1
* Clinched playoffs            

What’s Next

The Chiefs stay on the road at Beloit (2-3) until Friday when they return home for a series against Clinton (5-0).


Follow Alex Kryah on Twitter @ar_Kryah9.

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