Dylan Tice (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

News from the St. Louis Cardinals’ Midwest League affiliate in Peoria for the period July 19-25

Peoria had an absolutely miserable week, losing all but one of six games - and even that ended in a tie. The Chiefs have mediocre pitching to thank for their rough result. Newcomer Dylan Tice is sparking the offense.

Game Summaries

Tuesday, July 19: No Game

Wednesday, July 20: Peoria Chiefs 1 at Western Michigan Whitecaps 11

Peoria was never competitive after giving up six runs in the second inning. Jake Woodford was on the bump, and while he was charged with all six, only two were earned. Peoria committed three errors in the inning, contributing to the scoring deluge.

The 19-year-old ended up pitching five innings, allowing seven runs, three earned, on 10 hits and two walks with no strikeouts. The righty was dealt his fourth loss of the year.

Peoria’s only run on the evening came from a Magneuris Sierra ground out in the eighth. The only Chiefs to earn a hit were Brian O’Keefe, Carlos Torres, Dylan Tice and R.J. Dennard, who doubled.

 

Thursday, July 21: Peoria Chiefs 4 at Western Michigan Whitecaps 6

Once again, Peoria was down in a 6-0 hole early. Juan Perez was chased in the third after not recording an out in the inning. The righty gave up two in the second on three hits and then allowed five consecutive hits to start the third.

The 21-year-old was charged all six earned runs on nine hits with a walk, raising his ERA to 4.56.

Josh Wirsu, Tyler Bray and Steven De La Cruz combined to keep Western Michigan scoreless the rest of the evening, allowing only three hits and striking out 10.

The Chiefs found a way to mount a bit of a comeback, but ultimately their efforts fell short. Leobaldo Pina knocked in a run on a single in the fourth and Dennard drove in two runs on a double in the sixth. After scoring in the seventh, the Chiefs were unable to come close again.

Pina had three hits in four at bats while Sierra had as many hits in five appearances. Eliezer Alvarez was 2-for-5 with a double and a run scored.

 

Friday, July 22: Peoria Chiefs 9 at Western Michigan Whitecaps 9 (15)

Contrary to popular belief, there are indeed ties in baseball, at least in Single-A there are. Despite Peoria pulling ahead five different times, the Chiefs were never able to permanently hold on to the lead.

Nick Frey and Steven De La Cruz each blew opportunities to save the game, Frey in the eighth and De La Cruz in the ninth. Both relievers gave up a two-run lead.

Derian Gonzalez made his second start since his DL stint. The righty only threw three innings, allowing one unearned run on four hits and one walk. The Dominican also struck out four in an encouraging appearance.

Peoria put together a staggering 26 hits as all but one Chief had a hit. Sierra was 4-for-9 with a double and two RBI while Jose Martinez had five hits in eight at-bats. Dylan Tice and Chris Chinea each had four hits.

 

Saturday, July 23: Game Postponed (rain)

Sunday, July 24: Peoria Chiefs 3 at South Bend Cubs 4

Peoria’s offense was limited in Sunday’s loss as they were only able to put together six hits. The Chiefs did not have many chances to score as they only had a runner past second base four times.

However, they did take advantage of their rare opportunities. Dylan Tice mashed a home run in the first and Chris Chinea belted a clutch double in the eighth to tie the game. Tice was 1-for-3 with a walk while Chinea was 2-for-4 with two RBI.

Chinea’s heroics were ruined in the ninth when Steven Gallardo gave up an RBI single. Gallardo worked for two innings in relief of Sandy Alcantara, who was once again fabulous.

The righty threw six innings, striking out five and allowing six hits. Alcantara gave up two runs, one coming from a misplayed ball in right field. He is now tied for second in all of MiLB in strikeouts with 119 and has a 4.08 ERA.

 

Monday, July 25: Peoria Chiefs 8 at South Bend Cubs 9 – Game 1 (7)

Peoria Chiefs 2 at South Bend Cubs 9 – Game 2 (7)

Despite leading for nearly all of Game 1, the make up of Saturday's rainout, the bullpen once again faltered down the stretch en route to another loss. Tyler Bray came in for the save in the bottom of the seventh but had major control issues. The funky righty gave up a pair of hits and three walks as he blew his fifth save of the year.

The Chiefs offense put them in a great position to win, though. Peoria combined for 13 hits in seven innings, including a pair of three-hit performances from Jose Martinez and Jose Godoy. Martinez blasted a pair of doubles and scored each time he reached base. Godoy drove in a pair. Leobaldo Pina and Sierra each doubled.

Starter Brennan Leitao again struggled. He lasted six innings, but gave up six runs on nine hits. That included a pair of home runs, the third such start this year in which he has given up multiple home runs. The 23-year-old walked one but only struck out two.

Game 2 was also close until the sixth, when Dailyn Martinez was drilled for six runs. Martinez, who had been throwing well recently, blew up in the sixth when he did not record a single out. The 23-year-old allowed three hits and two walks before being pulled for Juan Perez.

The righty Martinez threw five solid innings, allowing only three runs through that point. His disastrous sixth led to his third loss in Peoria as his ERA ballooned to 7.50.

Peoria got off to a good start in the second game, plating their only two runs in the first. Sierra led off with a single and was driven in by Brian O’Keefe. O’Keefe would later score on an error. Sierra finished with two hits in four at-bats while O’Keefe was 1-for-4.

 

Pitching Woes Ruin Week

The pitching staff has been the strong point of the team this season, so this past week’s struggles are disheartening. Aside from the week’s first loss, in which the defense was mostly to blame, the remaining results can be credited to poor pitching performances.

Juan Perez had a miserable outing last Thursday when he allowed six runs in only two innings. From there, the bullpen suffered arguably its worst stretch of the season. Nick Frey and Steven De La Cruz each blew a save in the same game while Steven Gallardo blew last Sunday’s game at South Bend. Tyler Bray kept the roll going as he blew a two-run lead in Game 1 on Monday’s doubleheader while Dailyn Martinez melted in the nightcap. Now, the pitching staff has a combined ERA of 3.50, a major rise from just a week ago when it was 3.27.

The bullpen has been shaky all year, but they have routinely been able to close out games. Peoria would not have clinched a playoff berth without their solid performance. However, lately they have been the reason for Peoria’s demise. It is not surprising that this unit is experiencing a rough patch, however; the bullpen has routinely been susceptible to rallies due to poor control and lackluster pitch-offerings. Guys like De La Cruz and Frey do not have great stuff, and when they cannot locate, they are in trouble.

The starting pitching woes are more frightening, however. Leitao desperately needs rest, Juan Perez and Dailyn Martinez do not appear to be ready for this level yet and Ryan Helsley remains on the DL. Now, Alcantara and Woodford carry the rotation.

When Peoria starting pitchers do not perform well, it puts immense pressure on the bullpen. This week showed us what happens when the bullpen is needed too much. Peoria will need more help come September if they want to win the Midwest League title.

 

Who’s Hot

Dylan Tice. The infielder was just called up to Peoria last week, and he has certainly given the Cardinals a reason to keep him up there. Tice has 10 hits in his first 23 at-bats, including a home run and a double. Tice has routinely been hitting near the front of the lineup, so he has served as a quality table setter in replacement of Edmundo Sosa.

http://www.scout.com/player/200717-dylan-tice?s=321

The 23-year-old has also been playing third base occasionally, filling the role another Dylan (Becker) could not handle. Tice seems to be a nice sparkplug for an offense that has lost key pieces recently.

Magneuris Sierra. The Dominican blur had a hit in all but one game in this past week. In his past 10 games, Sierra is hitting .333 with six runs scored and five driven in. The centerfielder also had a trio of multi hit games, including a four-hit performance in Friday’s marathon.

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

Sierra is also continuing to flash his speed on the base paths with a pair of two-steal games in the last week. He still leaves a bit to be desired when it comes to getting on base efficiently, including just one walk in over two weeks - since July 10 - but the 20-year-old has plenty of time to mature.

 

Who’s Not

Carlos Torres. Torres does not offer much at the plate with a 6’3” frame at only 160 pounds, so the emphasis of his offensive game is contact. This week, however, he could not even do that. The outfielder only recorded two hits in the last week and is only hitting .175 at the Single-A level. The 23-year-old has a good swing, albeit with very little pop, but he is not producing at all. Unfortunately for the Chiefs, they have to Stick with Torres as they continue to be short staffed in the outfield.

Juan Perez. The 21-year-old took the mound twice this week and both appearances were disappointing. Perez has been starting for the Chiefs since mid-June when the injury bug caught three of Peoria’s starters, and the righty has served the Chiefs well. However, this week was miserable. The righty allowed six runs in two-plus innings on Thursday and then could not stop the bleeding from Dailyn Martinez’s butchered sixth inning. Perez does not offer a great fastball or excellent off-speed pitches, so when he misses over the plate, the righty gets punished. Perez’s erratic control lately has been his biggest issue.

 

Last Week’s Hot and Cold Players

Eliezer Alvarez (hot). The All-Star was having a very solid week until he took a fastball to the head in last Friday’s tie. Alvarez was placed on the 7-day DL after the game.

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

Sandy Alcantara (hot). Alcantara put together another impressive start, allowing two earned runs through six innings on six hits and one walk. Alcantara had five punch outs, which boosts his total to 119 on the season, tied for second in all of MiLB.

Brennan Leitao (cold). This week, Leitao gave a start just like his last one. The righty lasted six innings, but allowed six runs on nine hits while striking out only two batters. Opponents are now hitting .277 against Leitao.

 

Transactions

2B Josh Swirchak was assigned to Peoria from State College last Friday.

SS Jose Martinez was assigned to Peoria from State College last Thursday.

SS Edmundo Sosa was assigned to Palm Beach from Peoria last Thursday.

 

Injuries

2B Eliezer Alvarez was placed on the 7-day DL last Friday due to a concussion.

RHS Ryan Helsley remains on the 7-day DL.

RHR Jery Then was sent to Gulf Coast League Cardinals on a rehab assignment.

 

Team Stats – Season to Date

Peoria remains a solid offensive team while the pitching staff had an uncharacteristically bad week.

Offense Season Stat MWL rank of 16 (Last week’s rank)
BA 0.266 3 (4)
Runs 427 T-7 (6)
HR 25 15 (15)
Stolen Bases 79 8 (8)
OBP 0.33 4 (5)
OPS 0.679 7 (6)
     
Pitching Season Stat MWL rank of 16 (Last week’s rank)
ERA 3.5 8 (2)
Strikeouts 824 4 (3)
Walks 316 6 (5)
HR Allowed 47 7 (6)
Saves 27 9 (6)

Midwest League Western Division Second Half Standings

Club (Previous rank) W L Pct. GB L10 STRK
*Clinton (1) 22 9 .710 - 7-3 L2
Cedar Rapids (2) 18 13 .581 4.0 7-3 W2
Quad Cities (5) 17 14 .548 5.0 6-4 L1
Burlington (4) 16 15 .516 6.0 7-3 L2
Wisconsin (6) 16 15 .516 6.0 6-4 L2
*Peoria (3) 14 16 .467 7.5 4-6 L5
Beloit (7) 14 17 .452 8.0 4-6 W2
Kane County (8) 11 20 .355 11.0 4-6 W1
* Clinched playoffs            

What’s Next

Peoria will be off on Tuesday before a three-game road series against Quad Cities (17-14) to finish off their nine-game road trip. Peoria returns home to face Wisconsin (16-15) for a three game set over the weekend.

 

Follow Alex Kryah on Twitter @ar_Kryah9.

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