The week that was
This report covers the period from Wednesday, April 17 through Tuesday, April 23.
Dann Bilardello's ball club finally had the offensive outburst it had been waiting for and knew was coming all season. After struggling mightily through the first two weeks, the Chiefs offense had seven innings where it scored more than one run this week. The team also had four innings where it scored four or more runs.
Peoria again battled rainouts as the final contest of the three-game set with Burlington (Angels) was postponed last Wednesday as was the scheduled rubber match with Kane County (Cubs) Tuesday.
The Chiefs went a respectable 3-2 this week with two wins at Peoria Chiefs Stadium over Midwest League Western Division leader Cedar Rapids (Minnesota). The team also split two games away from home against Kane County. Through three weeks, Peoria sits at 8-8.
The Midwest has been hit with heavy rainfall for the better part of two weeks and the Chiefs have already had four games postponed due to the weather in April. The team will endure a busy May making up the missed contests, mostly on the road.
Peoria's April 10 home game against Beloit (Oakland) has been rescheduled for May 8-10 when the two teams meet in Beloit. The Snappers do not return to Peoria again until the second half the season.
The Chiefs' April 17 finale against Burlington will also be made up away from Peoria Chiefs Stadium when the team goes on the road against the Bees May 28-30.
Tuesday's rainout against Kane County will be rescheduled when Peoria returns to face the Cougars May 14-16.
Wednesday, April 17: Burlington at Peoria (rainout)
Thursday, April 18: Cedar Rapids 4 at Peoria 13
The Chiefs bats finally came alive to the tune of 13 hits and runs. The offense exploded for all of its runs in two innings, including a nine spot in the fifth. It was the first time Peoria had scored in double digits and batted around in an inning all season. Each starter recorded at least one hit in the game.
The fifth inning saw nine batters in a row reach base and every Chiefs player scored in the frame. Michael Swinson had two hits in the inning to become the first Peoria player to do it since 2011.
Friday, April 19: Cedar Rapids 1 at Peoria 4
Starter Kurt Heyer continued his fantastic start to the season pitching seven innings, allowing just one run and four hits while striking out eight. The lefty earned his first win of the season and looked unhittable for most of the game. Heyer had all of his pitches working and never let the Cedar Rapids lineup get comfortable.
Zach Petrick came on in relief to earn the two inning save. It was his second of the season.
Alex Mejia reached base four times and went 2-for-2 with a RBI and two runs scored.
Saturday, April 20: Cedar Rapids 11 at Peoria 2
Chief's starter Dail Villanueva had an ugly performance, giving up six runs and walking three in just 2/3 of an inning. The game was over before it started as Cedar Rapids built a six-run lead in the first and an 11-run lead through four innings. Mike Aldrete did not fare much better in relief, allowing four runs in 2 2/3 innings.
Jacob Wilson, Jordan Walton and Gerwuins Velazco each had two hits for the Chiefs. But the Peoria offense left eight men on base despite pounding out nine hits.
Sunday, April 21: Peoria 6 at Kane County 7
The Chiefs fell behind 4-0 before a sixth inning explosion that plated six runs. Charlie Tilson and Gerwuins Velazco began the inning with hits and Alex Mejia loaded the bases with a single. Jacob Wilson drove home a run with a sacrifice fly and Jordan Walton earned a huge two-out walk to bring Patrick Wisdom to the plate. Wisdom crushed a fastball for a towering grand slam off an advertisement next to the scoreboard in left-center. It was his first grand slam and third home run of the season.
But it wasn't enough as the offense sputtered and the pitching couldn't keep the lead to give Peoria the loss. Tilson went 3-for-4 and had an RBI.
Monday, April 22: Peoria 9 at Kane County 6
Peoria again dug themselves an early hole, falling behind 5-2 after six innings. But as was a theme all week the offense produced a big inning to lead the Chiefs to a win. The team plated five runs in the seventh and two more in the ninth.
Patrick Wisdom hit a home run for the second consecutive game to give him four on the season. He also reached base in all five of his trips to the plate, going 3-for-3 with two RBI. Breyvic Valera, Jacob Wilson, Michael Swinson and Charlie Tilson all had two hits.
Zach Petrick gave up his first run of the season on a solo home run in the seventh inning. He had gone five outings without allowing a run or a walk.
Tuesday, April 23: Peoria at Kane County (rainout)
Alex Mejia. The Chiefs' shortstop continues to be a pain for opposing pitchers. Mejia is batting .370 on the season and has reached base safely in all 14 games he has played. Mejia is not much of a power threat with only four extra base hits but he leads the team in average, hits, runs scored, on base percentage and OPS. He also has committed just one error at arguably the most important defensive position.
Jordan Walton. Walton is in the midst of a Midwest League season-high 12-game hit streak. The outfielder, who has filled in at first base for the suspended David Washington, is batting .340 on the season. He is second on the team in hits and has been a welcome surprise for manager Dann Bilardello.
Patrick Wisdom. After struggling for the first two weeks, Wisdom has been swinging a hotter bat as of late. In the last five games, he is 6-for-19 with two home runs and eight RBI. Despite a .220 average, Wisdom still leads the team in home runs (4) and RBI (12). He looked more comfortable at the plate during the homestand against Cedar Rapids than he has all season. Wisdom is in his first full season of minor league baseball so it is no surprise he has had some trouble adjusting to professional pitching. But if the last week is any indication, he is on the right track.
Kurt Heyer. Heyer has been by the far the Chiefs best starting pitcher so far this season. In three starts, the lefty has a 1.80 ERA. Opponents are hitting just .211 against him. In his last two starts, Heyer has pitched 12 innings, giving up just one earned run while striking out 16.
The bullpen. Bilardello has not been afraid to pull struggling starters from the game so far this season due to how fantastic the bullpen has been. The foursome of Joey Donofrio, Dixon Llorens, Zach Petrick and Joe Scanio have combined to pitch 45 1/3 innings while allowing just five earned runs and striking out 50 batters. That is an absurd 0.99 ERA. If the Chiefs have a lead late, they will be hard to beat.
Starting pitching. Outside of Heyer, the Chiefs' starting pitching has really struggled through the first few weeks. Kyle Helisek, Tyrell Jenkins, Hector Hernandez and Dail Villanueva have combined for a 6.70 ERA in 11 starts. Between the four of them, they have just one win. For Peoria to be successful, the starting pitching has to be better.
Carson Kelly. The second-round selection by the Cardinals in 2012 was just added to the Chiefs' roster this week. The third baseman is ranked by The Cardinal Nation as the organization's 10th-best prospect. In 12 plate appearances for Peoria, Kelly has just one hit and two walks. It is too small of a sample size to even begin to think of worrying about Kelly. He looked fine at the plate against Cedar Rapids last Saturday, though it did not result in a hit. Kelly did have a nice plate appearance that drew a walk. Bottom line, he is just 18 years old and will have an adjustment period early. But Kelly has loads of potential and should be interesting to follow as the season progresses.
4/18 OF Nick Martini placed on Peoria 7-day Disabled List, backdated to 4/17
4/18 OF David Popkins transferred from Extended Spring Training (State College roster) to Peoria
4/20 2B Ildemaro Vargas placed on Peoria 7-day Disabled List
4/20 3B Carson Kelly transferred from Johnson City to Peoria
Injuries and suspensions
INF Jeremy Schaffer remains on the Disabled List
1B David Washington remains on the Suspended List
Team stats – Season to date
A strong week offensively boosted the Chiefs' numbers across the board while a rough week pitching wise sent the stats in the opposite direction.
|Offense||Season #||MWL rank of 16|
|Pitching||Season #||MWL rank of 16|
|HR allowed||5||5th fewest|
Midwest League Western Division Standings
|Cedar Rapids Kernels (MIN)||12||5||.706||-||6-4||W3|
|Quad Cities River Bandits (HOU)||11||6||.647||1.0||6-4||L1|
|Peoria Chiefs (STL)||8||8||.500||3.5||5-5||W1|
|Beloit Snappers (OAK)||8||8||.500||3.5||6-4||W1|
|Kane County Cougars (CHC)||7||9||.438||4.5||5-5||L1|
|Clinton LumberKings (SEA)||7||10||.412||5.0||4-6||L1|
|Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (MIL)||6||9||.400||5.0||4-6||W1|
|Burlington Bees (LAA)||6||10||.375||5.5||3-7||L5|
The Chiefs continue a 10-game road trip with a three game set against Dayton (Cincinnati) starting Thursday. Peoria will then travel to Bowling Green (Tampa Bay) to face the current MWL Eastern Division leaders. The team will finally return home May 1 when they face off against Lake County (Cleveland).
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