Brian O'Keefe (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Insider news from the St. Louis Cardinals’ Midwest League affiliate in Peoria for the period of April 6-10.

The Peoria Chiefs are off to a solid 2-1 start in their first week of play. The offense has outscored opponents 12-7, with catchers Andrew Knizner and Brian O’Keefe leading the way.

Game Summaries

 

Thursday, April 6: Peoria Chiefs at Burlington Bees

Postponed (Wet Grounds)

 

Friday, April 7: Peoria Chiefs 8 at Burlington Bees 2

The Chiefs jumped out of the gates red hot, hitting three home runs en route to an 8-2 Opening Night victory over the Burlington Bees. The second batter of the season, Dylan Carlson, got the offense going early with a solo home run. Andrew Knizner went 4-for-5 with one RBI and Brian O’Keefe went 2-for-5 with three RBI of his own. Along with Stefan Trosclair and J.R. Davis adding a pair of lead-off home runs, the Chiefs offense gave starter Jordan Hicks more help than he needed.

http://www.scout.com/player/200621-jordan-hicks?s=321

Hicks was able to work his way out of a jam in the second inning, when he stranded the bases loaded, but other than that, the right-hander cruised through six shutout innings in which he allowed three singles, four walks and struck out two. Ramon Santos, who relieved Hicks in the top of the seventh with two on, was able to get out of the jam with two pop ups and a fly out. Hicks earned the win while Santos allowed just one hit over two shutout innings. Greg Tomchick lost the shutout as he walked three and hit one to give the Bees two runs as he closed out the game in his one inning of work.

 

Saturday, April 8: Peoria Chiefs 3 vs. Burlington Bees 1

Chiefs starter Ronnie Williams struggled, earning a no decision in his 1 2/3 innings of work, during which he allowed one run, one hit, four walks and two strikeouts. Still, Peoria was still able to pull out a win behind a strong showing from the bullpen and a relentless offense. Dailyn Martinez took over in long relief to pitch 4 1/3 innings, allowing three hits, no runs and striking out five.

The Chiefs had no hits through the first 3 2/3 innings until Stefan Trosclair broke through with a single. Brian O’Keefe followed with a single of his own and Ryan McCarvel drove them both in with a home run to give the Chiefs a 3-1 lead.

Brady Bowen threw 1 2/3 shutout innings while allowing two walks with two strikeouts and earned a hold for his effort. Estarlin Arias earned his first save of the season, adding 1 1/3 shutout innings without allowing a hit.

 

Sunday, April 9: Peoria Chiefs 1 vs. Burlington Bees 4

The Chiefs suffered their first loss of the season in the final game of the series against Burlington. Just like in the opening game of the set, the Chiefs offense started quickly with Dylan Carlson doubling in his first at bat and moving to third on an Andrew Knizner single. Brian O’Keefe plated Carlson on a sacrifice fly to put the Chiefs up 1-0, however that would be Peoria’s lone run of the game.

The Chiefs’ offense went stagnant for the rest of the game and could not capitalize as they left seven runners in scoring position. Their biggest opportunity came in the bottom of the fourth as Vince Jackson came to the plate in a tie game with the bases loaded but grounded out to the catcher to end the inning. Burlington capitalized on the Chiefs missed opportunity by putting up three in the next inning to take the lead, which they would hold for the remainder of the game.

Starting pitcher Ian Oxnevad went 4 1/3 innings for Peoria, allowing four runs on five hits with a walk and five strikeouts in the loss. Trayner allowed two inherited runners to score on two hits while striking out one over 1 2/3 innings. Eric Carter made his season debut with two shutout innings as he allowed one hit. Greg Tomchick struck out two and allowed a single in one scoreless frame.

 

Monday, April 10: Peoria Chiefs vs. Quad Cities River Bandits

Postponed (Rain)

Rescheduled to 4/11 double-header, two seven-inning games.

 

Not afraid to make moves

Manager Chris Swauger is showing early that he is not afraid to shuffle the lineup and is also giving his players an opportunity to show off their talents. Each position player has earned a start and every relief pitcher has made an appearance out of the bullpen with just three games played.

 

Who’s Hot

http://www.scout.com/player/189832-brian-o-keefe?s=321

Brian O’Keefe is picking up right where he left off last season. O’Keefe is the only Chiefs batter to hit safely in all three games this season. The catcher is batting .455 with five hits and four RBI in the young season.

http://www.scout.com/player/209596-andrew-knizner?s=321

Both catchers are leading the way, as Andrew Knizner is tops on the team with a .556 average (5-for-9), including a double and a triple.

http://www.scout.com/player/208984-dylan-carlson?s=321

Dylan Carlson is showing patience at the plate beyond his age (18). The outfielder has drawn a walk in each of the Chiefs three contests and has four in his first 14 Midwest League plate appearances. As Carlson has just two hits, a double and a home run, his early slash line is an oddly-productive .200/.429/.600/1.029. Carlson also logged the Chiefs’ first outfield assist of 2017.

The bullpen has thrown a collective 15 innings, having allowed just two earned runs for a 1.20 ERA. They have fanned 10 and walked five.

http://www.scout.com/player/165909-dailyn-martinez?s=321

Moved from starting to relief this season, Dailyn Martinez performed well the first time out in his new role. The right-hander picked up Saturday’s win by pitching an impressive 4 1/3 shutout innings on three hits, no walks and five strikeouts.

 

Who’s Not

Craig Aikin is the only Chief without a hit this season. In fact, the outfielder is the only Peoria hitter without at least two. Aikin is 0-for-7 with a strikeout and no walks to start his second season with the club.

On April 7, reliever Greg Tomchick yielded two runs in his first inning of work on three walks, but came back two days later to log a scoreless frame on one hit, no free passes and a pair of strikeouts. That cut his very early ERA in half, from 18.00 to 9.00.

 

First-half standings – Midwest League Western Division

CLUB W L PCT GB
Kane County Cougars (ARI) 5 0 1.000 -
Peoria Chiefs (STL) 2 1 0.667 2
Quad Cities River Bandits (HOU) 2 2 0.500 2.5
Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (MIL) 2 2 0.500 2.5
Beloit Snappers (OAK) 2 3 0.400 3
Cedar Rapids Kernels (MIN) 2 3 0.400 3
Burlington Bees (LAA) 1 2 0.333 3
Clinton LumberKings (SEA) 1 4 0.200 4

 

Stats

The Chiefs offense leads the league with a .291 team batting average. Their OPS of .814 is third. On the pitching side, the team ERA of 2.00 is fourth-best in the 16-team MWL. The starters’ ERA is 3.00 and as noted above, the Peoria bullpen has logged a sparkling 1.20 ERA in the early going.

 

Transactions

none

 

Injuries

Outfielder Bryce Denton remains on the seven-day disabled list (April 4) due to appendicitis.

 

What is Next

Following Tuesday’s double-header, the Chiefs will conclude the Quad Cities (HOU) series on Wednesday with Jordan Hicks on the mound. Next up will be a road trip to Beloit (OAK), with Ronnie Williams and Ian Oxnevad pitching on Thursday and Friday, respectively. The club will have Easter Sunday off before welcoming Cedar Rapids (MIN) into Dozer Park for three starting on Monday.

 

Follow Nick Konow on Twitter @NickKonow1.

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