Sandy Alcantara (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

News from the St. Louis Cardinals’ Midwest League affiliate in Peoria for the period July 12-18

Peoria nearly had a perfect week (5-1) despite some imperfect play. For the second straight week, pitching carried the team while the offense struggled mightily. Sandy Alcantara’s improvement on the mound is evident.

Game Summaries

Tuesday, July 12: No game

Wednesday, July 13: Game postponed (rain)

 

Thursday, July 14: Peoria Chiefs 3 vs. Lansing Lugnuts 2 – Game 1 (7)

Peoria Chiefs 1 vs. Lansing Lugnuts 0 – Game 2 (7)

The theme of Game 1 was runs scored on errors. Edmundo Sosa came home in the first thanks to a wild pitch after a triple before Magneuris Sierra scored the same way in the third after a double and an error.

Sosa added a single in three at-bats while Sierra was 2-for-3 with a double and a single. Carlos Torres and Eliezer Alvarez each notched a pair of hits.

Lansing could not afford to give any easy runs because Sandy Alcantara was once again on his A-game. The Dominican had an amazing feel for his curveball on the evening, throwing it unusually often. Alcantara threw it on normal fastball counts and pounded the zone consistently while also blowing his heater by the opposition.

The righty was one out away from a complete game win, but Dylan Becker committed a throwing error at third, allowing the tying run to score. Alcantara finished with a line of one earned run on six hits and two walks with seven strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings.

The game was decided in the bottom of the seventh when Sierra hit an infield single with Torres on second. The Lansing shortstop threw it past the first baseman, which allowed Torres to score the winning run.

The Chiefs offensive struggles leaked into Thursday’s Game 2. In fact, Peoria’s offensive efforts were so futile that they were no-hit. The Chiefs were absolutely shut down and looked completely fooled all evening at the plate.

However, they still found a way to win. Craig Aikin led off the sixth with a walk followed by Sierra, who reached by an error. Pina grounded into a fielder’s choice, and Alvarez drove in Aikin with a sacrifice fly to deep center.

Though the offense was impotent, the pitching was phenomenal. Jake Woodford was slightly extended in his second start since being activated from the DL. The righty labored through four innings, allowing two hits and one walk with three strikeouts. Woodford induced three double plays on the evening and finished with 65 pitches.

Gerwuins Velazco relieved in the fifth and shut down Lansing for two innings, allowing only one hit. Tyler Bray locked down the win in the bottom of the seventh.

 

Friday, July 15: Peoria Chiefs 0 vs. Lansing Lugnuts 3

Once again, Peoria had a rough time at the plate. On Friday, however, they faced one of the top prospects in all of baseball in Angel Perdomo, so the struggles were partially justified.

Including Thursday, the Chiefs had been held hitless for nine consecutive innings until they finally earned a base knock in the third, an infield single from Bladimil Franco. Peoria did not make solid contact against Perdomo until the fifth when Carlos Torres drove a single to center. Franco had two hits in three at bats while Torres was 2-for-3.

Juan Perez kept Peoria in the game for a while. The 20-year-old held Lansing scoreless through six innings and allowed only four base runners to that point.

However, Perez’s brilliant outing was tainted after allowing a single, triple and home run consecutively to begin the seventh. The Venezuelan finished with a line of six-plus innings, giving up three runs on six hits and one walk with six strikeouts.

Peoria was unable to muster any sustained offense as they were shut out on only six hits.

 

Saturday, July 16: Peoria Chiefs 4 vs. Great Lakes Loons 3

A rocky ninth inning nearly squandered a very solid all-around performance from Peoria. The Chiefs shut out Great Lakes for eight innings while collecting 12 hits.

Sosa notched three hits on the evening, including a solo shot in the third inning to give Peoria on early lead. Pina found his way on base three times with two hits and a walk. The third baseman drove in a pair of runs and scored once.

Derian Gonzalez made his first start in nearly a month due to a shoulder injury. Like Woodford two starts previous, Gonzalez only threw three innings. The righty looked solid, as he did not allow a base runner while striking out two.

Jorge Rodriguez earned the win in relief after pitching four innings of shutout ball. Rodriguez allowed three hits and a walk and struck out four.

Harley Holt and Steven De La Cruz nearly blew it four Peoria, giving up three runs in the ninth on five hits and two walks combined. However, the duo was able to limit the damage and secure the victory.

 

Sunday, July 17: Peoria Chiefs 5 vs. Great Lakes Loons 2

Dailyn Martinez shined in his fourth start in Peoria en route to his second win in Single-A ball. The Dominican fooled Loons hitters all night long, striking out eight in 6 2/3 innings. Martinez attacked the zone frequently and induced weak contact. The righty allowed only two runs on four hits and one walk.

Craig Aikin was back in the leadoff spot as Sierra had a day off and the Oklahoma alum filled the vacancy fabulously. Aikin was 3-for-4 with a double and three runs scored, setting up the rest of the lineup for success.

Dennard also had a double and pair of singles, while Alvarez and Jose Godoy were each 2-for-4. The Chiefs had four doubles on the evening, with the other two from Alvarez and Franco.

Luke Harrison and Tyler Bray closed out the game. The relief duo combined to give up two hits and one walk while striking out four. The pitching staff struck out 12 Loons on the day.

 

Monday, July 18: Peoria Chiefs 4 vs. Great Lakes Loons 3 (11)

Brennan Leitao’s struggles continued as he was hit hard again. The 23-year-old looked fatigued all afternoon as his fastball never reached higher than 89 mph. His off-speed stuff was dull and consistently left up in the zone. Despite the issues, Leitao was able to keep his team in the game.

The righty’s stat line is a little deceptive considering he only gave up three runs in five innings on six hits and a walk with four strikeouts. Leitao also served up a massive two-run home run in the third.

Offensively, the Chiefs were stifled until the sixth inning. Peoria plated a pair of runs after hits from Dylan Tice and Sierra with help from a Great Lakes fielding error. Sierra knocked in the tying run two innings later on a single that scored Franco. Sierra finished the game 2-for-3 with a pair of RBIs.

The game went into extras and was decided in the 11th thanks to Brian O’Keefe. Sierra led off the inning with a single, followed by an Alvarez double and ended with a O’Keefe RBI single to secure the sweep.

 

Dernier Orozco Praises Alcantara

As you can see below, Sandy Alcantara is once again on our “Who’s Hot” list, and for good reason. The towering righty had a complete game victory in the bag last Thursday until an error allowed the tying run to score. However, Alcantara was nothing short of electric, and his recent dominance is because of his curveball.

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

Pitching coach Dernier Orozco said that Alcantara is “much more comfortable” with his curveball now and is able to “throw it with conviction.” The improved curveball has allowed the Dominican to pound the zone more effectively, limiting his walks and boosting his strikeouts. Orozco said that the 20-year-old’s off-speed pitches were the best on the staff and that Alcantara has been the most impressive pitcher on the staff all year.

 

Who’s Hot

Eliezer Alvarez. While he may not be necessarily streaking, Alvarez is continuing to be one of the top hitters in the MWL. The Dominican now ranks sixth in the league in average at .313, third in OBP at .400 and sixth in slugging at .458. The second baseman has shown he is an incredible hitter who can hit both lefties and righties while also showcasing some power. Alvarez is a pull hitter, but he flashes the ability to hit it to the opposite field with ease, albeit without power.

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

The 21-year-old has wheels too as he is tied for fourth in the league with 20 stolen bases. The second baseman is now becoming a fantastic defender, routinely making the easy plays while also making the occasional web gem. Now that the Alvarez has cut down on his errors, he looks like he is ready for the next level.

 

Sandy Alcantara. Alcantara’s praise from Orozco was backed up by his stat lines in his most recent outings. The 6’ 4” flamethrower has at least seven strikeouts and has worked through at least six innings in each of his last three starts. Alcantara now leads the league in strikeouts with 114 in 16 starts. The next closest has 107 in 19 starts.

While the Dominican has been whiffing batters all year, he is now doing it with limited contact and walks. The righty has issued three or less walks in nine of his last 10 starts while allowing six or fewer hits in eight of his last 10 starts. His filthy curveball has been fooling hitters, and mixed with his quality changeup, Alcantara is quickly living up to his hype. 

 

Who’s Not

Brennan Leitao. Leitao’s stats looked better in this most recent outing, but he certainly looks fatigued on the mound. The Florida native has lost a lot of juice on his fastball while his off-speed pitches are mediocre at best now. We have seen how good Leitao can be before; his All-Star selection was certainly justified.

Right now, he just needs to take some time off to recover a bit. Leitao has never thrown this many innings in his career, so he needs to be treated carefully for the rest of the season.

Dylan Becker. It was probably a long time coming, but Becker was released on Sunday after a season of futility. Becker was only hitting .218. Third base was, and still is, a position of need for Peoria and the Missouri State alum was not able to fill that slot.

 

Last Week’s Hot and Cold Players

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

Magneuris Sierra. Sierra is 6-for-19 in the last week, so he has cooled off a bit but is still hitting well. Of course, Sierra is also playing fantastic defense. The 20-year-old remains exciting to watch.

Chris Chinea. The catcher cooled off considerably this week. Chinea played in three games and recorded only one hit in 11 at-bats while striking out four times.

Gerwuins Velazco. Velazco had a solid relief appearance on Thursday, working two scoreless innings in a win over Lansing. However, the right-hander was demoted to State College on Sunday.

 

Transactions

RHP Josh Wirsu was assigned to Peoria from Palm Beach on Sunday.

2B Dylan Tice was assigned to Peoria from State College on Sunday.

RHP Harley Holt was assigned to State College from Peoria on Sunday.

3B Dylan Becker was released on Sunday.

RHP Gerwuins Velazco was assigned to State College from Peoria on Saturday.

 

Injuries

Derian Gonzalez was activated from the DL last Thursday.

Jery Then and Ryan Helsley remain on the 7-day DL.

Dernier Orozco noted that Helsley is “close” to returning, but did not give a specific timetable.

 

Team Stats – Season to Date

Once again, the pitching carried the Chiefs this week. They are experiencing quite the drought with the bats, but if the pitching staff keeps performing well, they might continue to win.

Offense Season Stat MWL rank of 16 (Last week’s rank)
BA .262 4 (3)
Runs 400 6 (6)
HR 24 15 (15)
Stolen Bases 72 8 (8)
OBP .327 5 (4)
OPS .674 6 (5)
     
Pitching Season Stat MWL rank of 16 (Last week’s rank)
ERA 3.27 2 (2)
Strikeouts 787 3 (4)
Walks 297 5 (6)
HR Allowed 42 6 (T-5)
Saves 27 6 (8)

Midwest League Western Division Second Half Standings

Club (Previous rank) W L Pct. GB L10 STRK
*Clinton (1) 19 6 .760 - 7-3 W4
Cedar Rapids (5) 14 10 .583 4.5 7-3 W6
*Peoria (6) 14 11 .560 5.0 6-4 W3
Burlington (7) 13 12 .520 6.0 7-3 W6
Quad Cities (3) 13 12 .520 6.0 5-5 L1
Wisconsin (4) 12 13 .480 7.0 5-5 L1
Beloit (2) 11 14 .440 8.0 4-6 L3
Kane County (8) 9 16 .360 10.0 5-5 W1
             
* clinched playoffs            

What’s Next

The Chiefs have an off day on Tuesday before a nine-game road trip. Peoria first travels to Western Michigan (10-13) for a three game set before a series in South Bend (16-9) to close out the weekend.

 

Follow Alex Kryah on Twitter @ar_Kryah9.

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