Chris Chinea (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

News from the St. Louis Cardinals’ Midwest League affiliate in Peoria for the period July 5-11

It was a tale of two halves this week for Peoria. The Chiefs swept Kane County at home in a four game set only to lose three of four over the weekend at Wisconsin. Catcher Chris Chinea is swinging a hot bat.

Game Summaries

Tuesday, July 5: Peoria Chiefs 7 vs. Kane County Cougars 5

Brennan Leitao’s start followed the same script from his most recent outings. The righty yielded three runs in the first inning after allowing the first five runners to reach.

However, once the 23-year-old got out of the first, he was solid. Leitao went six innings, giving up four runs on eight hits and one walk with five strikeouts as he earned his fifth win on the year.

The Chiefs took the lead in the fourth thanks to a four-run burst. In a bizarre series of events, Magneuris Sierra came up with bases loaded and drove in a two runs on a single. Two consecutive throwing errors allowed Craig Aikin to score from first and Sierra to touch all of the bases.

R.J. Dennard blasted a home run and a single in three at-bats. The first baseman also had three RBI.

 

Wednesday, July 6: Peoria Chiefs 2 vs. Kane County Cougars 1

After his rough first start, one would never guess that Dailyn Martinez would be involved in a pitchers duel in his next outing. Not only was Martinez in one on Wednesday, but he came out on the winning end.

Martinez was able to frequently work out of trouble as he gave up eight hits and three walks. The righty allowed only one run over 6 2/3 innings with seven strikeouts.

Thanks to Martinez’s efforts, the Chiefs only needed a pair of runs to win. Sierra and Edmundo Sosa reached base to start the game and scored thanks to an error and a balk, respectively.

Sierra finished with a single and a double in four at-bats while Alvarez also recorded two hits.

Thursday, July 7: Peoria Chiefs 3 vs. Kane County 2 (12)

Peoria finished the sweep of Kane County on Thursday in dramatic fashion. The Chiefs rallied in the bottom of the ninth to force the game into extra innings before Sosa walked it off with a single in the 12th to plate Sierra.

Once again, the Chiefs had a tough time putting runs on the board. However, a great team pitching performance kept them close. Jake Woodford started his first game in two weeks and only threw 38 pitches over three innings. The 20-year-old did not allow a run with only one hit and four strikeouts.

The bullpen carried Peoria the rest of the way as Steven Gallardo, Nick Frey, Jorge Rodriguez and Luke Harrison combined to throw nine innings, allowing two runs on eight hits with three walks and 12 strikeouts.

The top of the lineup carried the offensive load as Sierra, Sosa and Brian O’Keefe combined for six hits, two runs scored and two RBI. Sosa had the most successful evening, as he had three base hits in six at-bats and O’Keefe blasted his sixth home run of the season.

 

Friday, July 8: Peoria Chiefs 2 at Wisconsin Timber Rattlers 4

For the third straight game, Peoria scored three or fewer runs. However, the Chiefs were unable to pull this one off despite a solid pitching performance from Sandy Alcantara. The Dominican was fabulous, allowing three runs in six innings. Alcantara impressively struck out more batters than he allowed on base, with nine punch-outs to four hits and three walks.

Peoria scored early on thanks to an RBI single from Chris Chinea, but were held scoreless for the next seven innings. Peoria left nine runners on base and were 3-for-8 with runners in scoring position.

Chinea and Sierra were phenomenal, as the former was a perfect 4-for-4 with an RBI and the latter produced his third multi-hit game of the week. Each had an RBI.

 

Saturday, July 9: Peoria Chiefs 3 at Wisconsin Timber Rattlers 2

Peoria prevailed in this pitchers’ duel thanks to some late inning heroics and fortunate pitching gaffes. Down a run in the eighth, Eliezer Alvarez singled to lead off followed by a Dennard walk. Two wild pitches and a Bladimil Franco single scored Alvarez and Dennard to give Peoria the lead for good.

Franco finished with two hits in four at-bats with a run scored and RBI. Alvarez was 2-for-3 with a walk. Right fielder Carlos Torres earned his first two hits as a Chief after being called up from Johnson City a day earlier.

Juan Perez toed the rubber and put his team in a great position to win. The righty threw six scoreless innings before relinquishing their lead in the seventh. The 20-year-old finished with a line of 6 2/3 innings with two runs on four hits, two walks and nine strikeouts.

Tyler Bray came on in the ninth to earn his fifth save of the year.

 

Sunday, July 10: Peoria Chiefs 6 at Wisconsin Timber Rattlers 16

The 10-run blowout was the only game of the week that was not decided by two runs or less. The game was close through the first six innings, but a nine-run seventh completely blew it open.

Starter Brennan Leitao was not great, but the righty certainly did enough to keep Peoria in the game. The California native allowed five runs through 5 1/3 on seven hits and no walks with six strikeouts. However, Leitao gave up three bombs in his outing.

Gerwuins Velazco and Steven Gallardo combined to hemorrhage nine runs in the seventh. The duo allowed nine hits and a home run in the inning.

The heart of the Chiefs order powered the offense. Leobaldo Pina, Alvarez, Chinea and Dennard each had two hits, scoring five and driving in three among the four of them. Torres also had a two-RBI double in the second.

 

Monday, July 11: Peoria Chiefs 3 at Wisconsin Timber Rattlers 5

Dailyn Martinez started for the second time in the week and was not able to come out with the same result. Wisconsin dinged Martinez for five runs in five innings, including a pair of home runs. The 20-year-old gave up seven hits and two walks with four strikeouts.

Though Sierra and Sosa did not play, their replacements, Pina and Aikin, performed well in their absence. Pina was 2-for-5 while AIkin recorded a single and a walk in five plate appearances.

Chinea also had a solid game, earning two hits in three at bats with an RBI and Alvarez belted his fourth home run of the season.

Peoria scattered hits throughout the game but were never able to string enough together to tie or take the lead. The Chiefs were 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position while leaving eight on base.

 

Pitching Returns to Form

When the season began, the clear strong suit to this team was its starting pitching. The starting pitching kept Peoria afloat until the offense finally caught up, and they ultimately won the division in the first half. A series of injuries and State College call-ups have led to a significant decline in performance in the second half, but this past week was much different.

Starting pitchers never allowed more than five runs in their starts and, aside from Jake Woodford, fresh off the DL, each went at least five innings. It was very encouraging that the solid performances came from both regular starters and replacements Dailyn Martinez and Juan Perez.

The bullpen was also extremely effective this week, with the exception of Sunday’s meltdown. Tyler Bray and Steven De La Cruz did not allow a run this week while Luke Harrison also had a couple of efficient outings. This is extremely important if the Chiefs want to win in the playoffs and especially if key starters like Woodford and Alcantara are shut down to limit their innings.

 

Who’s Hot

Chris Chinea. Chinea absolutely mashed the ball this week, recording three multi-hit games and finishing 9-for-23 (.391). Unfortunately, his impressive hitting performances were largely rendered meaningless because of his teammates’ inability to get on base.

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

The catcher recorded three RBI during the week and scored only one run, but reached base in all but one game and has been driving the ball to all fields with power. The LSU alum’s powerful bat is vital to an otherwise powerless lineup.

Magneuris Sierra. The outfielder had a seven game hit streak going until a hitless performance on Sunday. Sierra, who is still 20 years old, showed extreme maturity at the plate this week as he reached base in every game and struck out only twice. The Dominican has been a great table setter for the lineup all year, especially this week when he scored or drove in a run in four of his six appearances.

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

These are weeks that give Cardinals fans reasons to be excited for the near future. Though Sierra will not see the majors for a few years, he has aspects of his game that are major league ready, including his defense and speed. Sierra truly makes at least one play in each series that makes your jaw drop. Sierra will be a centerfielder for years to come, and if he gains a little more power, the 20-year-old will be extremely dangerous.

 

Who’s Not

Gerwuins Velazco. This one is a no-brainer. Velazco’s only appearance of the week was horrendous as he allowed eight runs in 1 1/3 innings. There is a reason that the right-hander started the year in State College, and Velazco’s latest performance shows why. The former catcher does not have exceptionally great stuff, so he relies on location. Sunday’s train wreck shows what happens when he cannot control his offerings.

Dylan Becker. The third baseman’s performance over the last week is similar to several of his teammates, but Becker’s was probably the worst of the bunch. In five games, the left-handed batter only had one hit in 16 at bats. In his last 10 games, Becker is hitting .138 with 12 strikeouts. The Missouri native has struggled all year, but this is probably his worst stretch of play to date. Hopefully, Becker can turn it around over these last couple of months.

 

Last Week’s Hot and Cold Players

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

Sandy Alcantara. Though the right-hander was dealt his seventh loss of the year, Alcantara had a very solid outing. The Dominican had his classic swing and miss stuff as he struck out nine and only allowed seven base runners en route to yielding three runs. It was truly a tough luck loss for the league’s leader in strikeouts with 107 (in 77 2/3 innings).

Steven De La Cruz. The reliever took a blown save on Wednesday, but was thrown into a very sticky situation in the seventh inning with the bases loaded. His other outing was very solid as he earned his fourth save of the year.

Vaughn Bryan. Bryan was called up to Palm Beach to fill an open spot on their roster.

Brennan Leitao. Leitao improved over the last week but the starter has still not returned to his early-summer, all-star form. The righty had two starts this week, combining to throw 11 1/3 innings, giving up nine runs on 15 hits with only one walk and 11 strikeouts.

 

Transactions
RHP Junior Fernandez was assigned to Palm Beach from Peoria last Tuesday.

OF Carlos Torres was assigned to Peoria from Johnson City last Wednesday.

OF Craig Aikin was assigned to Palm Beach last Wednesday and then re-assigned to Peoria on Thursday.

C Jose Godoy was assigned to Springfield last Thursday and was re-assigned to Peoria on Monday.

C Riley Drongesen was assigned to Peoria from State College on Sunday.

 

Injuries

Jake Woodford was activated from the disabled list last Tuesday and rejoined the rotation Thursday.

Pitchers Jery Then, Ryan Helsley and Derian Gonzalez remain on the 7-day DL. The latter has progressed to throwing bullpens.

 

Team Stats – Season to Date

Peoria had paltry results on offense this week as they scored more than three runs only twice in seven games. With the exception of Sunday’s loss, which skewed the team ERA up, Peoria received pretty good results from the mound last week.

Offense Season Stat MWL rank of 16 (Last week’s rank)
BA .262 3 (3)
Runs 383 6 (5)
HR 23 15 (15)
Stolen Bases 68 8 (7)
OBP .329 4 (5)
OPS .676 5 (6)
     
Pitching Season Stat MWL rank of 16 (Last week’s rank)
ERA 3.35 2 (2)
Strikeouts 736 4 (7)
Walks 282 6 (6)
HR Allowed 39 T-5 (12)
Saves 24 8 (10)

Midwest League Western Division Second Half Standings

Club (Previous rank) W L Pct. GB L10 STRK
*Clinton (1) 14 5 .737 - 7-3 L1
Beloit (2) 10 9 .526 4.0 5-5 W3
Quad Cities (4) 10 9 .526 4.0 5-5 W1
Wisconsin (5) 10 9 .526 4.0 5-5 W2
Cedar Rapids (3) 9 10 .474 5.0 5-5 W1
*Peoria (7) 9 10 .474 5.0 5-5 L2
Burlington (6) 7 12 .368 7.0 3-7 L3
Kane County (8) 7 12 .368 7.0 5-5 L1
             
* Clinched playoffs            

What’s Next

Peoria will be at home all week after an off-day Tuesday. They host Lansing (TOR) from the Eastern Division for a three game series before Great Lakes (LAD) comes into town for another three game set.

 

Follow Alex Kryah on Twitter @ar_Kryah9.

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