Ryan Helsley (Allison Rhoades/Peoria Chiefs)

Insider news from the St. Louis Cardinals’ Midwest League affiliate in Peoria for the period August 23-29

Peoria won in different ways this week, whether shootouts or low scoring affairs. The Chiefs finished the week 5-2 and are getting hot right before the postseason. Ryan Helsley and Magneuris Sierra are leading the way.

Game Summaries

Tuesday, August 23: Peoria Chiefs 5 at Wisconsin Timber Rattlers 4

A bumpy second inning seemed to spell doom for Peoria and starter Dailyn Martinez, but the righty quickly calmed down and shut out Wisconsin for the remainder of his outing.

Martinez lasted seven innings again, whiffing nine batters and only allowing one walk. The Dominican had a horrid second inning, allowing four runs on four hits and one wild pitch. The big inning implied an implosion from Martinez, but he rallied for an otherwise fabulous start.

Martinez only allowed two other hits. Manager Joe Kruzel had no problem leaving him in to throw 100 pitches because he was obviously extremely effective.

Peoria needed to rally to earn the win. Leobaldo Pina and R.J. Dennard each knocked in a run in the sixth to tie the game and Brian O’Keefe put Peoria ahead for good in the eighth with a solo-shot. Pina and Dennard each finished 2-for-4 while O’Keefe’s 13th blast was his third hit of the evening in four at-bats.

O’Keefe also had a pair of RBI and two runs scored.


Wednesday, August 24: Peoria Chiefs 11 at Wisconsin Timber Rattlers 5

The Chiefs exploded for 16 hits in the rout as every starter notched a hit and six had multiples. Peoria had a pair of three-run innings and one four-run frame, and thanks to another great start from Jorge Rodriguez, that would be enough to secure the victory.

A Magneuris Sierra single and Josh Swirchak hit-by-pitch in the second plated three runs before Pina cracked his sixth long ball on the season to plate three runs in the sixth. The Chiefs’ four-run inning was filled with Timber Rattlers errors, but base hits from Matt Davis, Swirchak and Jose Martinez helped the cause.

Pina and Davis were each 2-for-5, Davis with a run scored while Pina had three RBI and a pair of runs scored. Sierra and Sierra each had a pair of hits, combining for five RBI. Carlos Torres had the only three-hit performance, finishing 3-for-5.

Rodriguez proved once again why he deserves a spot in the Peoria starting rotation. The big righty shut out Wisconsin for six innings, allowing only a pair of baserunners. The Dominican allowed two hits, no walks and struck out six Timber Rattlers.


Thursday, August 25: Peoria Chiefs 4 at Wisconsin Timber Rattlers 5

Peoria was only three outs away from a third straight road win before Tyler Bray blew his sixth save of the year. The funky righty had Wisconsin down to their final out, but was unable to get the job done with a pair of runners in scoring position. Bray is now tied with Steven De La Cruz with six blown saves.

Starter John Kilichowski put the Chiefs in a good position to win, though. Through five innings, the lefty shut out Wisconsin on only two hits and a pair of walks. Kilichowski’s only mistake came on a three-run homer in the sixth, but he still provided a quality outing. The 22-year-old struck out seven.

The only reason Peoria had a lead in the ninth is because they scored a pair in the eighth. Chris Chinea belted his sixth big fly of the year to score O’Keefe and give the Chiefs a two-run cushion - until Peoria’s bullpen woes haunted them an inning later.

Chinea’s home run was his only hit while O’Keefe had a double, two RBI and two walks in four plate appearances. Sierra had a heck of a night, scoring a pair of runs and earning four hits in five at-bats.

Every Chief except Jose Martinez had a hit in the contest.


Friday, August 26: Peoria Chiefs 3 vs. Burlington Bees 0

Ryan Helsley impressed once again on Friday by dominating Burlington for five innings. The righty did not allow a hit through the first four innings and ultimately the Chiefs shut the Bees out. Though he was hit hard a bit early and had control issues, the Oklahoma native had the benefit of a great defense behind him.

The righty’s stuff was fabulous again with a fastball that touched 97, while regularly sitting 92-94, and a sharp curveball. Helsley mixed in his changeup periodically as he fanned seven batters and yielded two walks and one hit.

Craig Aikin and Jose Martinez helped Peoria get out to an early lead thanks to an RBI double and two-RBI single, respectively, in the third inning. The hitting parade would continue throughout the remainder of the game as each starter, except Jose Godoy, earned a hit.

Peoria finished with 13 hits. Aikin had a base hit in four at-bats while Dennard, Martinez and Pina were each 2-for-4. Sierra had the most successful night at the dish, going 3-for-4. 

Davis Ward and Bob Wheatley came on in relief of Helsley and continued to keep the door shut on Burlington. Steven De La Cruz entered the ninth and earned the save.


Saturday, August 27: Peoria Chiefs 5 vs. Burlington Bees 7

Ronnie Williams allowed two solo shots, the fourth consecutive start in which he has allowed at least one long ball. The Florida native has now allowed six home runs in five starts in Peoria.

The damage was not done, either. Williams allowed a run in the sixth and then was credited with two more earned runs after his departure in the seventh with Nick Frey on the mound.  The righty had good stuff again as his fastball sat 88-92 with decent control of his off-speed stuff. The 20-year-old just seemed to run out of steam near the end.

Williams tossed 6 2/3 innings, allowing five runs on seven hits, two walks and five strikeouts. Two runs against him were unearned.

Peoria broke through in the fifth when Alvarez drove in Carlos Torres on a triple, his second extra base hit of the night. Alvarez was 2-for-4 with double and a triple while Torres was 3-for-4.

Sierra and Martinez drove in Swirchak and Torres in the seventh, both on sacrifices before Pina made it a two-run game in the eighth on a two-run homer. Pina’s blast was one of his two hits and his seventh of the year.    


Sunday, August 28: Game Postponed


Monday, August 29: Game 1 - Peoria Chiefs 7 vs. Burlington Bees 6

Game 2 – Peoria Chiefs 4 vs. Burlington Bees 3

Dailyn Martinez was kicked around in Game 1 of the double header as the righty allowed 10 hits and six runs in five innings of work. Martinez was essentially delivering batting practice to Burlington, tossing mediocre fastballs over the heart of the plate for the duration of his start.

The Dominican only walked one and struck out four while his ERA is now up to 5.81.

However, Martinez was let off the hook in the bottom of the seventh when O’Keefe knocked in the tying and go-ahead runs on a one-out single. The catcher’s walk-off was his second hit of the evening and drove in Sierra and Alvarez.

Sierra had a perfect game at the plate, going 4-for-4 with a pair of doubles and three runs scored, including the tying run. The speedy lefty belted his 28th double of the year and stole his 31st base, which is tied for third in the MWL. Alvarez was 1-for-3 with an RBI and scored the winning run.

Peoria scored a pair of runs in each of the first two innings thanks to Sierra and Martinez, who had three RBI on a pair of base hits in four at-bats.

Though Game 2 began poorly for Peoria, starter Harley Holt delivered four decent innings. Holt issued a pair of runs before recording an out in the first, but the righty soon calmed down.

Holt, who made a spot start in place of Jake Woodford, did not allow a hit in the remaining three innings he pitched, walking only the first batter of the game and striking out a pair of Bees.

Peoria was on the board in the bottom of the first, cutting the early deficit in half. Craig Aikin and Martinez led off with back-to-back doubles, but the Chiefs were unable to bring in Martinez. The shortstop had a pair of hits in three at bats while Aikin added a walk.

Peoria took the lead in the fifth thanks to an Alvarez RBI double and an O’Keefe two-RBI single. The pair both finished 1-for-3.

Bob Wheatley and Josh Wirsu relieved Holt and held Burlington in check. Wheatley allowed one unearned run, before a great assist by Craig Aikin in center saved Wirsu in the sixth. Wirsu stayed on for the seventh to earn the save.


Finally, a Stable Roster

For the first time in months, the Chiefs neither added nor subtracted a player from their active roster. With only five more games to play before their postseason series with Clinton, this is certainly a good thing. There has been plenty of action between State College, Peoria and Palm Beach over the last few months, notably with sending pitchers to Palm Beach and position players to Peoria from State College.

Obviously, the changes have created a sub-.500 team in the second half, but there is reason for optimism entering the postseason. The top six hitters in the Chiefs lineup are dangerous at the dish right now, and Ryan Helsley and Jake Woodford have proven to be top-notch pitchers in this league. Now that the rest of the lineup has had some time to get acclimated to Peoria, the newer additions may be more comfortable with playing better competition, and could actually provide some offense next week.

Hitters like Carlos Torres, Matt Davis and Josh Swirchak were automatic outs for most of their time in Peoria, but lately, they have been finding ways on base. If the Chiefs want to win their opening series, they have to rely on those three to simply scratch a few base hits here and there. If they can not produce any offense, Peoria is in trouble.


Who’s Hot


Magneuris Sierra. What else is new? The speedster in center field continues to be a cog at the top of the Peoria lineup thanks to his blazing speed and bat-to-ball skills. Sierra had 14 hits in 28 at bats this week with seven runs scored and three RBI. Sierra has improved all season at putting the ball in play where his speed can become a huge threat, and that has led to various infield singles on what would be routine ground outs. The 20-year-old’s speed has helped him to 28 doubles on the year with 31 steals. Couple that with a modest .401 slugging percentage and you have an extremely dangerous hitter.


Ryan Helsley. Though the sample size is small, the righty has been very impressive since his injury, and seemed to pick up right where he left off. Helsley has thrown 12 innings since his return and only allowed one earned run, and that was in his first start back. Further, Helsley has yielded only seven hits on two walks and 13 punch-outs. Lately, the Oklahoma native has been producing results with great stuff. His fastball looks amazing, especially this far into the year, as it regularly sits in the mid-90’s. Helsley’s curveball also routinely has had quality break to it and rarely leaves it hanging in the zone. It seems as though the time off from injury served him well, and the Chiefs extremely well as he still has some energy left this late in the season.


Who’s Not

Nick Frey. The reliever’s last two outings have been pretty miserable. In his last 3 1/3 innings, Frey has allowed five runs on eight hits with only one strikeout. It gets worse, though. The Texas native has not had a scoreless outing since July 26th, and his ERA is a whopping 7.52 in his last 10 outings. In any other bullpen, Frey would get no time except for cleanup duty. However, in this nightmare of a bullpen, the Chiefs have no other option but to rely on the likes of Frey.

Ronnie Williams. Though Williams has shown fantastic flashes of talent and pitching, he has had some glaring mistakes. In his last four starts, the righty has given up 14 runs on 23 hits over 22 1/3 innings with an alarming 15 walks. While the Florida native has 25 strikeouts over that stretch, it is clear he has some major control issues. Williams has also allowed at least one home run in his last four starts and has allowed a total of six at this level. While the righty has fantastic stuff, he needs to learn to harness it better.


Last Week’s Hot and Cold Players

Dailyn Martinez (hot). Martinez had a brutal outing on Monday, tossing five innings and yielding six runs on 10 hits and a walk. The righty had some issues leaving the ball over the plate too often.

Josh Swirchak (cold). After dipping down to an average of .073 at one point, Swirchak has turned it around a bit. Swirchak had a pair of two-hit games on Wednesday and Saturday as his average is now up to .143.

R.J. Dennard (cold). Dennard only played in three games over the past week, but he had some success in limited playing time. The first baseman was 4-for-11 with a pair of RBI and a run scored.






Jery Then, Luke Harrison and Juan Perez remain on the 7-day DL.

Though Then began a rehab stint in the Gulf Coast League last month, it was aborted after a recurrence of his shoulder ailment.


Team Stats – Season to Date

Both the pitchers and hitters had solid weeks, especially the offense as they boosted their OPS by 10 points.

Offense Season Stat MWL rank of 16 (Last week’s rank)
BA 0.265 4 (4)
Runs 578 4 (4)
HR 47 15 (15)
Stolen Bases 101 9 (9)
OBP 0.331 4 (5)
OPS 0.69 6 (6)
Pitching Season Stat MWL rank of 16 (Last week’s rank)
ERA 3.6 11 (11)
Strikeouts 1111 T-5 (4)
Walks 391 9 (9)
HR Allowed 73 2 (3)
Saves 33 T-11 (T-12)

Midwest League Western Division Second Half Standings

Club (Previous rank) W L Pct. GB L10 STRK
*Clinton (1) 43 21 .672 - 4-6 L6
Cedar Rapids (2) 40 24 .625 3.0 9-1 W8
Burlington (3) 33 21 .516 10.0 5-5 L2
Wisconsin (4) 33 31 .516 10.0 7-3 L1
*Peoria (6) 31 32 .492 11.5 5-5 W2
Quad Cities (5) 28 36 .438 15.0 1-9 W1
Kane County (7) 27 37 .422 16.0 5-5 W2
Beloit (8) 25 39 .391 18.0 4-6 L2
* Clinched playoffs            

What’s Next

Peoria hosts Beloit (25-39) for its final home series of the year before traveling to Kane County (27-37) over the weekend to finish off the 2016 regular season. Clinton then awaits in the first round of the playoffs.


Follow Alex Kryah on Twitter @ar_Kryah9.

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