Peoria Chiefs Notebook: 2013 Week 8

The Peoria Chiefs had a solid week, winning two series and finishing 4-3, winning two games in walk-off fashion. St. Louis Cardinals Single-A club pulled their record over .500 for the season with an easier schedule ahead.

The week that was

This report covers the period from Wednesday, May 22 through Tuesday, May 28.

Manager Dann Bilardello's ballclub had a 4-3 week and moved to 25-24 on the season. The Peoria Chiefs are in fourth place in the Midwest League Western Division, trailing Cedar Rapids (Minnesota) by 5.5 games. The offense and pitching both had its moments as the Chiefs scored nine runs in consecutive games and the pitching staff earned a shutout.

Peoria began the week by winning the first two games of the series against Kane County (Cubs). The offense was clicking in both games with the Chiefs scoring nine runs in each contest. The Cougars were able to avoid the sweep on Friday in an 8-1 victory. Peoria shut out Wisconsin (Milwaukee) to open up the weekend series. They dropped game two before winning in extra innings in the rubber match. The Chiefs were scheduled to play a double-header Tuesday night. They dropped the first game to Burlington (Angels) 5-1. The second game was rained out and will be made up Wednesday night.

Roster changes

The Chiefs saw two important pieces of their pitching staff promoted to High-A Palm Beach this week. Peoria's most consistent starting pitcher, Kurt Heyer, received the call up on Sunday. The right-hander won three games and lost two in eight starts with the Chiefs. He had a 3.40 ERA. Cory Jones joined Peoria from Extended Spring Training to fill the empty roster spot. The team will need someone to step up to replace Heyer's production.

Reliever Corey Baker was the other pitcher promoted this week. He made 14 appearances out of the bullpen for the Chiefs, but will be in the starting rotation for Palm Beach. Baker was one of Bilardello's most reliable pitchers in relief. He threw 24 1/3 innings, giving up only five runs while sporting a 1.85 ERA. The Chiefs will rely on Zach Petrick to carry even more of the bullpen load.

Alex Mejia was also promoted to Palm Beach on Tuesday. Mejia had been a mainstay in the starting lineup for Peoria this season. He played fantastic defense and hit well during his two months with the team. The shortstop batted .281 and had one home run and 13 RBI.

Game summaries

Wednesday, May 22: Kane County 2 at Peoria 9

Kurt Heyer was fantastic in his final start with the Chiefs. The right-hander allowed two runs in seven innings. Sam Tuivailala and Chris Thomas each pitched a scoreless inning in relief to close out the Cougars.

The offense pounded out 10 hits and nine runs. The team was an excellent 5-for-12 with runners in scoring position. Ildemaro Vargas had three hits, two runs and two RBI. It was his fifth multi-hit game since May 11. Michael Swinson knocked in three runs on a bases-clearing double in the first inning.

Thursday, May 23: Kane County 8 at Peoria 9 (14 innings)

For the second consecutive game, the Chiefs scored nine runs and won in 14 innings. Gerwuins Velazco led off the bottom of the 14th with his first triple of the season. Peoria won on a walkoff suicide squeeze by Alex Mejia. The win brought the Chiefs record to 3-2 in extra-inning games this year.

Breyvic Valera led the offense, going 4-for-5 with two walks. Jordan Walton had two hits but struck out in his other four at-bats.

Starter Silfredo Garcia only made it 2 2/3 innings. He allowed eight runs and five earned while also walking four. The bullpen combined to throw 11 1/3 innings, giving up just five hits and no runs. Zach Petrick pitched two innings and struck out all six batters he faced.

Friday, May 24: Kane County 8 at Peoria 1

The Chiefs missed an opportunity to sweep as the offense struggled to produce. Peoria only had six hits, with four of those coming from Ildemaro Vargas and Matthew Young. The team had just seven base runners all evening.

Jordan Walton suffered a minor injury on a caught-stealing play and left the game after the second inning. The first baseman-outfielder did not have to go onto the disabled list, but has not played since.

After three good starts in a row, Tyrell Jenkins pitched ok but took the loss. The right-hander gave up three earned in five innings while striking out four.

Saturday, May 25: Wisconsin 0 at Peoria 6

Patrick Wisdom led the offense with two doubles and a single. He knocked in two runs and scored another. Breyvic Valera and Alex Mejia also had multi-hit games for the Chiefs.

Kyle Helisek had his best start of the season. The lefty had all his pitches working and kept the Timber Rattlers off balance. He went seven innings while allowing four hits and fanning seven. Mike Aldrete closed out the victory with two scoreless innings in relief. It was Peoria pitching's first shutout since May 10 against Beloit.

Sunday, May 26: Wisconsin 6 at Peoria 3

The Chiefs fell behind 6-0 and couldn't rally to avoid the loss. Ildemaro Vargas again had a multi-hit game. The second baseman had two RBI. Catcher Adam Ehrlich had his first hit in a Peoria uniform on a RBI single in the seventh inning.

Starter Joey Cuda pitched well in six innings of work. He struck out a career-high 11 batters and gave up three runs.

Monday, May 27: Wisconsin 3 at Peoria 4 (12 innings)

The Chiefs played extra innings for the second time this week and were again victorious in walkoff fashion. Michael Swinson scored from third base on a throwing error by the third baseman in the 12th inning.

Breyvic Valera and Jacob Wilson each collected three hits. The team had 12 hits but left 12 runners on base. Hector Hernandez threw a career-high eight innings allowing only one run. Zach Petrick continued his fantastic season out of the bullpen, throwing two scoreless innings.

Tuesday, May 28: Peoria 1 at Burlington 5 (Game 1, 7 innings)

The Chiefs had just five hits and scored one run in the sixth inning. Carson Kelly was the only Peoria player with multiple hits, going 2-for-3.

Silfredo Garcia went the distance in the shortened game. He gave up five runs but struck out eight. Garcia has a 6.62 ERA in four starts for Peoria.

Tuesday, May 28: Peoria at Burlington (Game 2, rainout)

Who's hot

Breyvic Valera. Valera has been on fire at the plate for most of May. In his last 10 starts, he is batting .409 and has five multi-hit games. Valera's hot streak has catapulted him to the team lead in batting average (.309), which ranks him 11th in the Midwest League. Bilardello has had Valera batting leadoff for most of the season and he has rewarded him by getting on base. He is tied for the team lead in on base percentage (.361) with Jordan Walton. The duo is tied for 29th in the MWL in that category.

Ildemaro Vargas. Over the last couple of weeks, the second baseman has been hitting the ball better than he has all season. Vargas is 8-for-19 over the last five games with three RBI and five runs scored. He was on the disabled list earlier this season and just now starting to hit his stride. Vargas has been sensational defensively, committing only one error all season, and looks to be stepping in at shortstop with Mejia promoted to Palm Beach.

Zach Petrick. The reliever is continuing his phenomenal season. He has not allowed a run since April 29, which spans eight appearances and 14 innings. The right-hander has a 0.86 ERA this year. Petrick often is asked to go multiple innings and has thrown as much as 3 2/3 innings in a game. On May 23, he pitched two innings and struck out the side in both. Every time I see Petrick pitch, I am more and more impressed. He has been a big part of Peoria victories this season.

Who's not

The middle of the order.

Outside of a 3-for-6 day against Wisconsin on Monday, Jacob Wilson had a forgettable end to the home stand. The team leader in home runs (8) and RBI (38) hit just .167 in the last six games.

Patrick Wisdom did not fare much better in the Kane County and Wisconsin series. Wisdom has batted .208 in the last seven games but has driven in four runs.

Michael Swinson was inserted into the three hole with the promotion of Alex Mejia, despite having really struggled as of late. In his last 10 games, Swinson is batting .143 and is hitting .223 this season. With Vargas and Breyvic getting on base at the top of the order, the Chiefs need one of those three to produce to score runs.

Nick Martini. The outfielder has not hit the ball well in 2013. Martini is batting .170 and is mired in a 1-for-19 slump and has not looked comfortable at the plate all season. With so many injuries in the outfield, the Chiefs need Martini to turn it around. They need his offense if he is going to be getting so many at-bats.

Transactions

5/28 RHP Cory Jones assigned to Peoria from Extended Spring Training
5/28 SS Alex Mejia assigned to Palm Beach from Extended Spring Training
5/27 OF Jimmy Parque assigned to Peoria from Extended Spring Training
5/26 RHP Kurt Heyer assigned to Palm Beach from Extended Spring Training
5/24 C Casey Rasmus placed on 7-day Disabled List
5/24 C Adam Ehrlich assigned to Peoria from Extended Spring Training
5/22 RHP Corey Baker assigned to Palm Beach from Peoria
5/22 RHP Josh Lucas assigned to Extended Spring Training from Peoria
5/22 OF Charlie Tilson placed on 7-day Disabled List, backdated to 5/21
5/22 OF Matthew Young assigned to Peoria from Extended Spring Training
5/22 RHP Chris Thomas assigned to Peoria from Extended Spring Training
5/22 RHP Thomas Lee assigned to Peoria from Extended Spring Training

Injuries and suspensions

RHP Dixon Llorens remains on Disabled List
INF Jeremy Schaffer remains on the Disabled List
LHP Dail Villanueva remains on the Disabled List
OF C.J. McElroy remains on the Disabled List

Team stats – Season to date

Offense Season # MWL rank of 16
BA .251 8th
Runs 216 12th
OPS .679 11th
Doubles 73 14th
HR 23 10th
Steals 32 16th
     
Pitching Season # MWL rank of 16
ERA 3.98 9th
Ks 411 2nd
Walks 156 7th fewest
HR allowed 26 T-7th fewest
Saves 12 T-8th

Midwest League Western Division Standings

Club W L PCT GB L 10 Streak
Cedar Rapids Kernels (MIN) 31 19 .620 - 3-7 W1
Beloit Snappers (OAK) 30 21 .588 1.5 7-3 W1
Quad Cities River Bandits (HOU) 28 23 .549 3.5 5-5 W4
Peoria Chiefs (STL) 25 24 .510 5.5 5-5 L1
Clinton LumberKings (SEA) 25 26 .490 6.5 4-6 L4
Kane County Cougars (CHC) 24 26 .480 7.0 4-6 L1
Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (MIL) 22 25 .468 7.5 4-6 L2
Burlington Bees (LAA) 20 26 .435 9.0 7-3 W4

What's next

The Chiefs will take to the road as the month turns to June. They have three more games with last-place Burlington (LAA) before heading to Wisconsin (Milwaukee) to the face the Timber Rattlers for four games. Peoria will finally return home on June 5 against Clinton. The next three series are all against teams with .500 records or worse.



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