Sandy Alcantara (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

News from the St. Louis Cardinals’ Midwest League affiliate in Peoria for the period June 28-July 4

Peoria had another rough week on and off the field. The Chiefs dropped four of seven games while losing more starting pitching depth. Sandy Alcantara is a remaining anchor.

Game Summaries

Tuesday, June 28: Peoria Chiefs 3 at Beloit Snappers 4 (12)

Even with Magneuris Sierra back in the leadoff spot, Peoria struggled offensively. Through the first nine innings, the Chiefs only scored two runs on seven hits.

However, the pitching staff performed valiantly, keeping the Chiefs in the game throughout. Though starter Juan Perez gave up two runs in 4 1/3 innings, the bullpen shut out the Snappers for the next six innings. Gerwuins Velazco and Nick Frey combined to toss 4 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing only five hits and one walk.

The Chiefs took it to extras and thought they had a win after Sierra scored on an RBI double from Chris Chinea in the 11th.

However, Steven De La Cruz squandered the lead in the bottom of the inning before Jorge Rodriguez served up the winning run in the 12th.

Sierra was 2-for-6 with a run scored while Edmundo Sosa was 3-for-4 with a run scored and Chinea was 3-for-5 including two doubles.

Wednesday, June 29: Peoria Chiefs 4 at Beloit Snappers 9

Brennan Leitao was rocked early and often as he gave up a season high eight runs in the loss. The All-Star did not perform like one as he allowed two runs in each of the first three innings. Leitao remained in the game, ending his evening after six, allowing 12 hits and three walks with six strikeouts.

After being down big early, coming back was a daunting task for the Chiefs offense. While nearly every played in the lineup recorded a hit, they performed dismally with runners in scoring position, going 4-for-16 collectively.

Leobaldo Pina was 2-for-4 including an RBI double and Craig Aikin led off again and went 3-for-5. Brian O’Keefe had a two-RBI double in four at-bats.

 

Thursday, June 30: Peoria Chiefs 11 at Beloit Snappers 0

For five innings, this was a pitchers duel. Despite losing starter Ryan Helsley to an injury, Harley Holt and Luke Harrison stepped up and combined to shut out Beloit through five and the Chiefs only collected six hits to that point.

The game turned on its head for the Chiefs in the last four innings, at least for its offense. Peoria loaded the bases, then blasted two doubles in the sixth to plate three runs, and scored four more times in the eighth.

In the ninth, Eliezer Alvarez mashed a grand slam, ending the night 1-for-5 with a walk, two runs scored and 5 RBI. Godoy was 4-for-6 with a run scored and one RBI while R.J. Dennard was 3-for-4, including a double and a triple, and three runs scored.

Helsley was scratched before the start due to biceps tendinitis.

 

Friday, July 1: Peoria Chiefs 5 vs. Clinton LumberKings 3

All eight runs were scored in three consecutive half innings. The Chiefs struck first in the third thanks to a line drive home run from Sierra, his second bomb of the season. A sac fly from Dennard added another as Peoria left the inning up 3-0.

The lead was short lived as the Peoria defense gave three runs back the next inning. The leadoff batter advanced to first on a dropped-third strike while the next batter reached on an error. Starter Junior Fernandez then gave up a pair of base knocks, which tied up the game.

The very next half inning, Aikin and Dylan Becker scored via a Sierra sacrifice fly and a Sosa RBI-single. Sierra finished 1-for-2 with a walk and three RBI while Becker was 1-for-2 with two runs scored.

Fernandez then settled down for the most part. His last pitch of the game was turned into a mammoth home run to left, but other than that he had a solid outing. The Dominican went 5 2/3 innings, giving up four runs, one earned, on five hits with no walks and seven strikeouts.

Relievers Nick Frey, Steven Gallardo and De La Cruz kept Clinton at bay in the remaining innings and secure the victory for Peoria.

 

Saturday, July 2: Peoria Chiefs 0 vs. Clinton LumberKings 2

Sandy Alcantara took the mound in game two of the weekend series and dominated Clinton all night long. Alcantara peppered the zone all evening with his blazing fastball and wicked curve. The Dominican also frequently mixed in his changeup, a pitch that has improved greatly throughout the season.

This was one of Alcantara’s best starts of the season. The righty was credited with a run after leaving the game with a runner on in the seventh, but the Dominican had an otherwise spotless start. He threw 6 1/3 innings with on hit, three walks and 10 strikeouts.

Runs were scarce for both sides. Peoria left runners on second and third in the fifth inning and stranded runners in scoring position in three other innings. Clinton scored first in the seventh as Gerwuins Velazco gave up a pair of runs.

Bladimil Franco debuted for the Chiefs as he pinch-hit in the bottom of the ninth with Dylan Becker on first. The outfielder singled to right, but both was stranded to end the game.

The Chiefs only recorded five hits, two from Becker.

 

Sunday, July 3: Peoria Chiefs 2 vs. Clinton LumberKings 5

With three Chiefs starters on the DL, the Cardinals promoted Dailyn Martinez from State College to start on Sunday. The righty had a miserable debut, allowing the first five batters of the game to reach. Martinez’s stuff was dull, with a fastball that routinely sat at 87 with weak movement and off speed pitches with little movement as well.

The 23-year-old allowed five hits, two walks and five runs and recorded only two outs before being pulled.

The afternoon was frustrating for the entire team. Becker was ejected arguing a strike call in the second and the Chiefs only recorded three hits through the first seven innings. At one point, they were retired in 15 consecutive at-bats. Runs seemed to be impossible for Peoria.

Peoria finally broke through in the eighth when Pina and O’Keefe hit back to back-to-back bombs. That was it, however. Sierra, Godoy and Chinea were the only other players to earn a hit.

Alvarez sat all series, but it is unclear why. Catcher Godoy replaced Becker at second when he was ejected on Sunday, which brings up concerns about Alvarez. He could be resting, as we are led to believe, injured or even benched for disciplinary reasons.

 

Monday, July 4: Peoria Chiefs 7 vs. Kane County Cougars 6

Bad luck and a few misplaced fastballs plagued an otherwise decent start from Juan Perez on Monday. The righty was hit hard early and was on the short end of two missed calls in the third, which led to four runs combined. His day ended in the fifth, when Perez gave up a home run and back-to-back hits.

The Venezuelan was charged with six earned runs on seven hits, four walks and two strikeouts.

Peoria had to battle from behind most of the game. They took the lead early thanks to Franco and Sierra, but they would never come all the way back. Sierra finished 1-for-3 with a run and RBI while Franco was 1-for-3. Godoy had two hits on the evening while Craig Aikin had three.  

In the eighth, Peoria rallied to take the lead thanks to RBI from Chinea, O’Keefe and Godoy and a wild pitch. Tyler Bray earned the save in the ninth.

Alvarez reentered the lineup on Monday and it was now Edmundo Sosa’s turn to ride the bench.

 

Opening Day Rotation Cut in Half

Last Thursday, Ryan Helsley was preparing to make his regularly scheduled start when he reported tightness in his right biceps. Being cautious, the Chiefs scratched him and added him to the 7-day DL. Helsley joins Jake Woodford and Derian Gonzalez as the third starting pitcher to go on the DL.

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

While it means Peoria will likely lose more games than they are used to, this could be a good thing, assuming these injuries are not serious. The time off will limit the amount of innings they throw, which will take stress off of their arms in their first full season. This also allows the Cardinals to call up several State College pitchers to pitch at the next level, offering a great opportunity for pitchers like Dailyn Martinez.

 

Kruzel Toys With Lineups

With a playoff spot in hand, manager Joe Kruzel is taking full advantage of this second half by playing with his lineups every night. In the first half of the year, Kruzel certainly played to win, playing his best players in the same positions each and every night.

Now, the Chiefs are routinely sitting standouts like Alvarez, Sosa and Sierra to give normal bench guys playing time. Dylan Becker has been seeing time at second, Leobaldo Pina has been in the lineup almost daily and Craig Aikin has been hitting leadoff quite often.

While it may not be necessarily paying off in the win-loss column, it will likely have a positive effect later in the year in case of injury or the promotion of another player. Giving players like Becker, Pina and State College call-up Baldimil Franco experience now can only help them, especially since these games are meaningless in terms of post-season qualification.

 

Bladimil Franco Impresses

http://www.scout.com/player/165906-bladimil-franco?s=321

Though he was only up for a few games, Bladimil Franco had some understated, jaw-dropping moments. Franco only recorded two hits in his first three games, but he absolutely mashed the ball in a few of his other at-bats in which he recorded an out. The sound the ball makes off of his bat is just different. The right fielder also has a fantastic arm. It is a small sample size, but this 22-year-old is someone to look out for.

 

Who’s Hot

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

Sandy Alcantara. Alcantara once again showed us why the Cardinals are so high on him. This week, the righty powered through 6 1/3 innings, allowing only one run on one hit with 10 strikeouts. This was his fourth outing of the year with at 10 or more punch outs, and he now leads the MWL in strikeouts with 98.

Alcantara is still very inconsistent, which is to be expected by someone so young. One start you get this, the next he gets shelled and can hardly find the zone. However, we have seen how dominant he can be, and that is something to be very excited about for the future.

http://www.scout.com/player/189076-steven-de-la-cruz?s=321

Steven De La Cruz. The reliever has become Joe Kruzel’s guy in the late innings, and his recent stretch is showing why the manager has so much faith in him. De La Cruz has only allowed two earned runs in his last 10 appearances and has consistently shown he can work out of trouble. The 23-year-old has become a valuable asset out of an otherwise weak bullpen because of his ability to work multiple innings and pitch in difficult situations. De La Cruz’ success will be key later in the playoffs when the Chiefs finally have something to play for as a team again.

 

Who’s Not

Vaughn Bryan. Bryan has gone through a pretty dismal stretch lately. The outfielder only recorded two hits in the last week and rarely got on base. What is worse is that he struck out 14 times in his last 10 games.

The 23-year-old was called up to Palm Beach on Sunday but likely only to fill the spot of an injured player. Bryan just has not been able to put it together at this level, and some question whether he ever will. When he comes back down to Peoria, he will be sure to get more chances to turn his season around. If he wants to stay employed, he better hope he turns it around quickly, however.

Brennan Leitao. The All-Star has given up 10 or more hits in two straight outings. In his most recent start, the right-hander paid for all of the hits, as he allowed eight runs in six innings. Leitao is definitely more of a contact pitcher, so the hits are not surprising. However, when he is on, he does a great job of limiting hits and inducing weak contact. The 23-year-old will likely turn it around, but he has certainly hit a bit of a rough patch lately.

 

Last Week’s Hot and Cold Players

Thomas Spitz. Spitz was so performing extremely well in Peoria before being called up to Palm Beach. He was called up to fill an open spot on the Palm Beach roster due to injury.

Edmundo Sosa. The shortstop had another solid week. Sosa compiled a nine-game hit streak that was halted on Sunday, while also making numerous spectacular plays on the defensive end.

Junior Fernandez. Fernandez had a good outing on Friday, allowing only one run through 5 2/3 innings with seven strikeouts as he earned the win in what may be his final performance as a Chief.

R.J. Dennard. The first-baseman had a three-hit performance on Thursday. He also had two hitless outings, however, in a 5-for-17 (.294) week.

 

Transactions


OF Thomas Spitz was assigned to Palm Beach from Peoria last Friday.

OF Bladimil Franco was assigned to Peoria from State College last Friday.

RHS Dailyn Martinez was assigned to Peoria from state College last Saturday.

OF Vaughn Bryan was assigned to Palm Beach from Peoria last Sunday.

RHS Junior Fernandez was assigned to Palm Beach from Peoria following Tuesday night’s game.

 

Injuries

RHR Steven Gallardo was activated from the DL last Thursday.

Pitchers Jery Then, Jake Woodford and Derian Gonzalez remain on the 7-day DL.

RHS Ryan Helsley was placed on the 7-day DL with biceps tendinitis last Thursday.

 

Team Stats – Season to Date

Peoria had a solid offensive week as they improved in most categories while their pitching remains consistent.

Offense Season Stat MWL rank of 16 (Last week’s rank)
BA .264 3 (4)
Runs 357 5 (6)
HR 20 15 (15)
Stolen Bases 64 7 (5)
OBP .328 5 (5)
OPS .678 6 (6)
     
Pitching Season Stat MWL rank of 16 (Last week’s rank)
ERA 3.22 2 (1)
Strikeouts 663 7 (7)
Walks 263 6 (7)
HR Allowed 29 12 (T-11)
Saves 21 10 (10)

Midwest League Western Division Second Half Standings

Club (Previous rank) W L Pct. GB L10 STRK
*Clinton (1) 10 2 .833 - 8-2 W3
Beloit (4) 6 6 .500 4.0 6-4 L1
Cedar Rapids (2) 6 6 .500 4.0 4-6 W1
Quad Cities (7) 6 6 .500 4.0 6-4 W1
Wisconsin (3) 6 6 .500 4.0 4-6 L2
Burlington (5) 5 7 .417 5.0 4-6 L1
*Peoria (6) 5 7 .417 5.0 4-6 W1
Kane County (8) 4 8 .333 6.0 4-6 L1
             
* Clinched playoffs            

What’s Next

Peoria will be at home through Thursday hosting Kane County (4-8) before traveling for a three game set at Wisconsin (6-6) over the weekend.

 

Follow Alex Kryah on Twitter @ar_Kryah9.

 

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