Eliezer Alvarez (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

News from the St. Louis Cardinals’ Midwest League affiliate in Peoria for the period August 2-8

While Peoria was only 3-4 this week, there were a lot of positive moments. Eliezer Alvarez is back, a pair of young pitchers had fabulous outings and the Chiefs are hitting more home runs than ever.

Game Summaries

Tuesday, August 2: Peoria Chiefs 5 vs. Wisconsin Timber Rattlers 6

Despite his recent success, Jake Woodford had a miserable beginning in his most recent start. The righty was pounded for a pair of massive home runs in the first, leading to three runs.

The Florida native got better as the game went on, though he did not have his best stuff. Woodford’s fastball was mostly in the high-80’s, with a handful reaching 91, while his off-speed stuff had dull movement. The righty was able to throw 5 1/3 solid innings with earned three runs on six hits, three walks and three strikeouts.

Jose Godoy and Chris Chinea pulled Peoria back in the game in the third as each knocked in a run. Godoy and Chinea were each 1-for-4. 

Carlos Torres extended his hitting streak to seven games in the sixth on a bases-loaded single, plating two runs to give Peoria a 4-3 lead. The single was his only hit in four appearances.

Luke Harrison threw away the lead in the seventh after allowing three runs on a single and three doubles, boosting his ERA from 1.90 to 2.42. Harrison left the game with an injury in the eighth and was placed on the DL the next day.

Leobaldo Pina had a solo shot in the eighth, his fourth on the year.

 

Wednesday, August 3: Peoria Chiefs 6 vs. Quad Cities River Bandits 1

Ronnie Williams made his Peoria debut, and the 2014 second round pick certainly impressed. Williams featured a quick-pump delivery with sharp curveball, though his fastball was a bit inconsistent. While the righty pumped the heater up to 93, it also dipped to 87 at times with average command.

Williams twirled a fabulous debut with quality stuff for 6 2/3 innings and the help of some great defense. The Florida native allowed one run on five hits, seven punch-outs and one walk.

Peoria got off to a hot start in the first thanks to solid hitting and poor pitching. The Quad Cities starter only sat 84-86 in the first, and the Chiefs took advantage of the low velocity. Magneuris Sierra ripped a leadoff single and later scored on a base hit from Chinea. R. J. Dennard drilled a three-run home run following a Pina base knock to cap off the scoring.

Sierra and Chinea both had another two hits while Dennard and Pina each had one. O’Keefe crushed a two-run bomb in the fifth, his third in four games. The catcher finished 2-for-4.

 

Thursday, August 4: Peoria Chiefs 3 vs. Quad Cities River Bandits 4 (13)

Despite eight miserable offensive innings for Peoria, the Chiefs rallied in the bottom of the ninth to force extra innings. However, newcomer Bob Wheatley was unable to hold Quad Cities scoreless in the 13th inning.

Peoria was led by Derian Gonzalez, who tossed his longest start since his DL stint. The Venezuelan fanned 10 River Bandits in 5 2/3 innings with an electric fastball and sharp curve. Gonzalez looked as good as ever, pounding the zone all evening and rarely missing a spot. The only run Gonzalez gave up was a solo-home run.

The Chiefs did not have a base runner until the seventh inning when Sierra singled. Peoria did not score until the ninth when Quad Cities walked in two runs following a Brian O’Keefe RBI-single.

Sierra finished 2-for-5 with a run scored while O’Keefe’s single was his only hit in four at-bats.

 

Friday, August 5: Peoria Chiefs 4 vs. Quad Cities River Bandits 11

Dailyn Martinez has alternated between horrible and fantastic in every start at this level, so, naturally, following his most recent phenomenal start, he was bound to get knocked around. True to form, the Dominican was pounded for seven hits and six runs in five innings.

While the righty struck out eight, Martinez was hit hard when he missed his spots. The 23-year-old only throws in the upper 80’s, so he relies on his command and off-speed stuff to retire opposing batters. Martinez missed his spots frequently, and he paid for it. Martinez’s Peoria ERA is now up to 6.44.

The Peoria offense scattered 10 hits. Sierra had three, including a double, and three RBI. Carlos Torres and Leobaldo Pina were 2-for-4, Torres with a double and Pina with a triple.

Davis Ward had a miserable debut in relief. Ward, an Arkansas native, allowed four runs on as many hits in two innings. 

 

Saturday, August 6: Peoria Chiefs 7 at Clinton LumberKings 4 (10)

Eliezer Alvarez was activated from the DL on Saturday, and his presence in the lineup was felt immediately. The powerful second baseman blasted a solo-shot in his second at-bat. However, a throwing error by Alvarez allowed Cedar Rapids to tie the game in the eighth. The Dominican would find redemption two innings later as he scored a vital run in the 10th.

The error forced the game into extras, where Chris Chinea put Peoria ahead for good with a two-RBI single to score Jose Martinez and Alvarez. Chinea was 3-for-5 with three RBI. Sierra also had another solid game, with a pair of base hits in four at-bats and two runs scored. Alvarez was 1-for-4.

Jorge Rodriguez started and provided four quality innings. Rodriguez, who has been making short spot starts all season, only made one mistake, a solo home run in the first inning. The 22-year-old struck out seven without allowing a free pass.

Steven De La Cruz was credited with his seventh blown save of the year despite allowing only one earned run but also received his fifth win after the Chiefs rallied.

 

Sunday, August 7: Peoria Chiefs 3 at Clinton LumberKings 2

A three-run first was all Peoria needed to steal their second straight win in Clinton. Solid base-running, poor Clinton pitching and base hits from Martinez and Alvarez contributed to the big first inning.

Peoria was severely contained after the first as they only accrued two more base hits in the next eight innings.

Those three runs were all Peoria needed thanks to a fabulous start from John Kilichowski. The Vanderbilt alum mowed through the LumberKings for seven innings, yielding only one run on six hits. The lanky lefty did not walk anyone while striking out three in his first win in Peoria.

While Kilichowski does not throw exceptionally hard, he was able to induce weak contact all evening because of his effective fastball-changeup mix. The lefty has not featured a curveball yet, so that may be something to look for moving forward in his development.

 

Monday, August 8: Peoria Chiefs 4 at Cedar Rapids LumberKings 8

This was a very brutal game for Peoria. On the offensive end, Peoria only earned five hits and rarely found themselves in scoring position.

However, Chinea belted a home run and an RBI double while Brian O’Keefe was 1-for-3 with an RBI double and two runs scored. Chinea finished 2-for-4 while Craig Aikin and Matt Davis were the only other Chiefs to earn a hit.

Starter Jake Woodford only lasted three innings, laboring through all three, throwing 69 pitches thanks to four walks and five hits. The Florida native struck out four and only allowed two runs, but his struggles were clear and he was pulled.

Steven Gallardo and Davis Ward let the game get away in the next two innings. The duo combined to yield six runs on 10 hits as Cedar Rapids’ lead quickly ballooned from 2-0 to 8-0.

                                                           

Power Surge

Though the Chiefs still rank near the bottom of the league in home runs, Peoria hitters are starting to come alive in the power department. In the first half of the season, Peoria only had 16 home runs. Entering Thursday, the Chiefs had mashed 10 homers in eight games and had homered in four consecutive games. Alvarez’s return added to that hot stretch, and now Peoria is up to 37. Two weeks ago, Peoria had 25. Peoria’s lack of power had been its glaring weakness on the offensive side, and this surge has made the Chiefs a much more formidable opponent lately.

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

Peoria hitters are not home run hitters; most are built smaller and sleeker. They are at their best when they are playing small ball. However, if they can continue this stretch and start hitting home runs with a little more consistency, Peoria can turn from a somewhat one-dimensional offense into a diverse threat. The addition of Alvarez, with the hotness of O’Keefe and Chinea, suggest this may be possible.

 

Who’s Hot

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

Magneuris Sierra. The Dominican speedster is killing the opposition lately, hitting .325 in his last 10 games. Over the last week, the leadoff man had four consecutive multi-hit games, including a three-hit performance last Friday. Sierra has been finding various ways on base this past week, walking six times and earning 13 hits. The center fielder utilizes his speed often, regularly beating out routine groundballs for base hits. Sierra’s speed is breathtaking at times and he is smart with it on the base paths and in the outfield.

http://www.scout.com/player/179660-derian-gonzalez?s=321

Derian Gonzalez. Gonzalez flashed fabulous stuff in his most recent outing, dominating Quad Cities for nearly six innings. The 21-year-old’s fastball was routinely 92-94 with great movement. Since coming off the DL, Gonzalez has only allowed one earned run, an opposite-field home run to one of the better prospects in baseball (Kyle Tucker). The righty has thrown 16 2/3 innings since the injury and has allowed 11 hits, two walks and has whiffed 20. Gonzalez’s continued success will be very important as a weakened and depleted Peoria staff approaches the September playoffs.

 

Who’s Not

Steven De La Cruz. Asking De La Cruz to pitch late in the game is similar to playing Russian roulette; you really do not know what you are going to get from him, and you are scared every time he enters the game in a save situation. The New York native has blown more saves (seven) than he has saved (six) this season. Though the righty is routinely put in difficult situations, that is part of his job, and he does not do it well. De La Cruz allows a lot of hits, with 42 in 47 2/3 innings, and he gets hit hard routinely. He has struggled all season, but Peoria has to rely on him because there is not a lot of other help in the bullpen.

Matt Davis. A recent call up from State College, Davis has been miserable in Peoria. The infielder has only three hits in 26 at-bats for a .115 average. To put that in perspective, he has struck out twice as many times as he has hit the ball. Davis has not shown that he belongs at this level, but he will likely be given more chances to prove himself.

 

Last Week’s Hot and Cold Players

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

Chris Chinea (hot). The catcher had another good week, with nine hits in 21 at-bats (.429) with seven RBI and three runs scored. Chinea has five home runs with his most recent bomb and has been driving the ball deep into the outfield with more consistency.

Jake Woodford (hot). Woodford had two starts over the last week and was underwhelming. In his first start, the righty survived despite his diminished stuff. In Monday’s start, Woodford lasted only three innings. The 19-year-old is likely just suffering late season fatigue.

Bladimil Franco (cold). Franco’s continued troubles led to his demotion to State College. Franco hit only .218 in 25 games this season in Peoria. Though he has some physical talent, he is nowhere near able to put any of it together.

 

Transactions

OF Bladimil Franco was assigned to State College from Peoria on Saturday.

RHP Davis Ward was assigned to Peoria from Palm Beach on Friday.

RHP Brennan Leitao was assigned to Palm Beach from Peoria on Friday.

LHP Bob Wheatley was assigned to Peoria from State College on Thursday.

 

Injuries

2B Eliezer Alvarez was activated from the DL on Saturday.

RHP Luke Harrison was put on the 7-day DL on Wednesday.

Pitchers Ryan Helsley, Jery Then and Juan Perez remain on the 7-day DL.

 

Team Stats – Season to Date

Offense Season Stat MWL rank of 16 (Last week’s rank)
BA .263 T-3 (3)
Runs 491 4 (4)
HR 37 T-14 (15)
Stolen Bases 86 9 (10)
OBP .328 5 (5)
OPS .679 6 (6)
     
Pitching Season Stat MWL rank of 16 (Last week’s rank)
ERA 3.54 9 (7)
Strikeouts 942 4 (4)
Walks 349 7 (7)
HR Allowed 61 4 (5)
Saves 30 T-8 (7)

Midwest League Western Division Second Half Standings

Club (Previous rank) W L Pct. GB L10 STRK
*Clinton (1) 30 14 .682 - 6-4 W5
Cedar Rapids (2) 25 19 .568 5.0 4-6 W1
Burlington (3) 24 20 .545 6.0 5-5 W1
Quad Cities (4) 23 21 .523 7.0 5-5 L1
*Peoria (5) 21 22 .488 8.5 5-5 L1
Wisconsin (6) 21 23 .477 9.0 4-6 L4
Kane County (8) 20 24 .455 10.0 9-1 W8
Beloit (7) 16 28 .364 14.0 2-8 L6
             
* Clinched playoffs            

What’s Next

Peoria concluded its series with Cedar Rapids (25-19) on Tuesday before an off day on Wednesday. The Chiefs host Quad Cities (23-21) Thursday through Sunday, followed by a series with Cedar Rapids starting Monday.

 

Follow Alex Kryah on Twitter @ar_Kryah9.

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