Peoria Chiefs Notebook: 2013 Week 9

The St. Louis Cardinals Single-A club played its best baseball of the season, going 5-1 on the road this week. The offense broke out of a slump with 44 runs while Breyvic Valera continued his red-hot hitting. Tyrell Jenkins threw his second complete game of the year in a shortened seven inning contest.

The week that was

This report covers the period from Wednesday, May 29 through Tuesday, June 4.

Despite major roster turnover in recent weeks, the Peoria Chiefs were able to put together their best week of the season. The team was clicking in all facets of the game. The offense averaged over seven runs during the stretch while the pitching gave up under four.

Peoria is 30-25 on the season and moved into sole possession of fourth place in the Midwest League Western Division standings. This is the first time all season the Chiefs have been five games over .500. They trail first place Cedar Rapids (Minnesota) by 5.5 games but a just a game and a half from second-place and a wild-card spot.

The Chiefs turned around their fortunes on the road, winning five of six games against Burlington (Angels) and Wisconsin (Milwaukee). Peoria began the week with two wins in a double-header against the Bees. It was the team's first sweep in a double-header in four chances this season. The Chiefs then took the first two games of the series against Wisconsin scoring 19 runs. They dropped game three before scoring 11 runs in the final game to win the series.

Zach Petrick promoted

The Chiefs have seen a lot of roster change over the last couple of weeks with Kurt Heyer, Corey Baker and Alex Mejia all being promoted to High-A Palm Beach. Peoria reliever Zach Petrick is the latest to make the jump. Petrick has been unbelievable for the Chiefs in 2013 and the call up is no surprise after watching the right-hander for two months.

Petrick appeared in 16 games and allowed only three earned runs in 32 2/3 innings. He finished his stint in Peoria with a 0.83 ERA and seven saves. Petrick was Dann Bilardello's most reliable reliever and will be greatly missed in the late innings.

The Chiefs will need someone to step up to replace his production. It may come by committee with Joe Scanio, Mike Aldrete and Joey Donofrio likely to get more innings.

Road Warriors

Coming into the week, Peoria had struggled to a 9-15 on the road this season. The team's lone series win away from home came at the end of April against Dayton. The team doubled that total with two series victories over Burlington and Wisconsin, who are last and second to last in the MWL Western Division respectively. The five wins on the trip increased the team's road record to 14-16.

The Chiefs have played well at home all year long with a 16-9 record. If the team can get above .500 away from home they should be in good position to earn a playoff spot. But Peoria needs to beat teams like Burlington and Wisconsin at their stadiums to have a chance. They are at the bottom of the division for a reason.

Game summaries

Wednesday, May 29: Peoria 6 at Burlington 2 (Game 1, 7 innings)

The Chiefs had a four-run first inning and cruised to a victory in the first game of a double-header on the road at Burlington. Starter Cory Jones was fantastic in his first start for Peoria. The right-hander, who was promoted from Extended Spring Training last week, pitched five innings allowing only one hit and no runs.

Breyvic Valera went 3-for-4 with a RBI. Jacob Wilson had just one hit but drove in two runs in the first inning.

Wednesday, May 29: Peoria 3 at Burlington 1 (Game 2, 7 innings)

Peoria was able to muster only four hits, but another great pitching performance gave the team a win. Tyrell Jenkins threw his second complete game this season while striking out four. His only blemish was a solo home run in the bottom of the seventh. Jenkins lowered his ERA below four (3.99).

The offense again jumped on Burlington in the first inning. The Chiefs scored on a two-run home run to centerfield by Patrick Wisdom. It was Wisdom's team-leading ninth of the season. Peoria's six tallies in the first frame of the doubleheader gave them 41 first-inning runs for the year. That is the most runs they've scored in any inning.

Thursday, May 30: Peoria at Burlington (rainout)

The final game of the series with Burlington was rained out and will not be made up since the teams do not meet again in the first half.

Friday, May 31: Peoria 11 at Wisconsin 5

After five innings, the Timber Rattlers led 5-1. Then the Chiefs offense exploded. They scored 10 runs in the final four innings including multiple runs in the sixth, eighth and ninth. The top three hitters in the Peoria order, Breyvic Valera, Ildemaro Vargas and Jacob Wilson, went a combined 5-for-15 with seven RBI. In a statistical oddity, Carson Kelly went hitless but scored three runs reaching on a walk and two errors.

Kyle Helisek had a rough start, allowing four runs in 3 2/3. It was the most runs he had allowed since April 22.

Saturday, June 1: Peoria 8 at Wisconsin 1

Joey Cuda had a great start for Peoria and the offense did its part in a dominating win. Cuda allowed one run in six innings and struck out six.

Breyvic Valera continued to swing a hot bat. He had three hits for the second time in the last four games. Adam Ehrlich also had three hits with two runs scored.

The Chiefs moved to 22-7 when holding their opponent under five runs.

Sunday, June 2: Peoria 5 at Wisconsin 7

Wisconsin snapped Peoria's four game winning streak with a six-run third inning. Hector Hernandez had a terrible start, giving up five runs in 2 1/3 innings. The Timber Rattlers entire starting lineup had a hit.

Valera again led the offense with two hits and three RBI. He extended his hit streak to nine games. Kelly also had two RBI and a run scored.

Monday, June 3: Peoria 11 at Wisconsin 7

The Chiefs clinched the series victory by scoring 11 runs for the second time in four games. Peoria scored nine of its runs in the first four innings to give starter Silfredo Garcia all the support he would need. Garcia went seven innings, giving up three runs while striking out six.

Valera extended his hitting streak to ten games with three hits. Ildemaro Vargas, Jordan Walton and Nick Martini all had multi-hit games. Walton went 3-for-5 with four RBI.

Who's hot

Breyvic Valera. There may not be a hotter hitter in all of the MWL than Valera. He has four three-hit games in his last eight and is in the midst of a 10-game hitting streak. Valera is batting .426 in his last 10 games and .329 for the season. The second baseman-outfielder also had nine RBI this week. He leads the team in average, on base percentage (.379) and has climbed to third in RBI (24). Valera ranks third in the MWL in average and is tied for 13th in on base percentage. Dann Bilardello has to be pleased with his leadoff man. He is getting on base, scoring runs and driving them in. The Chiefs recent offensive surge is due in large part to Valera's strong play.

Tyrell Jenkins. The beginning of the season was a struggle for Jenkins. He couldn't locate his pitches and gave up a lot of hits and runs as a result. But one of the top pitching prospects in the Cardinals organization continues to hit his stride. Jenkins threw another gem last Wednesday against Burlington, going all seven innings (in a shortened game due to a double-header) allowing only one run and five hits. In his last five starts, the right-hander has a 2.03 ERA and has been the ace of the Peoria rotation. With Kurt Heyer gone the Chiefs need Jenkins to lead the staff.

Joey Donofrio. The reliever has quietly had a very good season and a great month of May. Donofrio gave up just two runs in the month for a 1.35 ERA. He 2-0 on the year with a 2.51 ERA. The right-hander is in his first full season of professional baseball and has responded very well. With Zach Petrick gone, the Chiefs will need Donofrio even more going forward.

Who's hot

Joe Scanio. The right-handed reliever has struggled for the better part of the month. In six of his last seven appearances, Scanio has given up an earned run, including nine runs in two games against Clinton (Seattle) on May 20 and Kane County (Cubs) on May 24. Since April 27, he has a 6.97 ERA. With Petrick being promoted, the Chiefs need Scanio to be one of the go-to guys out of the bullpen.

Carson Kelly. The youngest player on the team at 18-years-old, Kelly continues to struggle at the plate. He is batting .237 on the season but is just .219 in his last 10 games. The good news is Kelly is seeing the ball pretty well at the plate. He drew four walks in three games against Burlington and Wisconsin. The third baseman has reached base in nine consecutive games. As I have said in this report in the past, Kelly has a load of potential and will come around. He has looked good at the plate in stretches. During the last home stand, he had a hit in all three games against Wisconsin. Kelly maybe struggling right now but there is little to worry about.

Offensive power. It is hard to complain about the offense too much when the team averages over seven runs for the week. But there has been a noticeable lack of home runs from Peoria as of late. Patrick Wisdom was the only Chiefs player to go deep this week. That is the only home run Wisdom and Jacob Wilson have hit in the last 10 games. The duo is one and two on the team in homers. Peoria was sixth in the MWL in that category on May 7. They have steadily dropped since then and now rank 12th.

Transactions

6/3 C Jesus Montero assigned to Peoria from Palm Beach
6/3 C Adam Ehrlich placed on 7-day Disabled List (shoulder strain)
6/2 INF Jeremy Schaffer activated from Disabled List
6/2 OF Michael Swinson placed on 7-day Disabled List, backdated to 6/1 (hip)
5/31 RHP Robert Stock assigned to Peoria from Extended Spring Training
5/31 RHP Zach Petrick assigned to Palm Beach from Peoria
5/31 OF Matthew Young assigned to Extended Spring Training from Peoria
5/31 OF Charlie Tilson activated from Disabled List

Injuries

RHP Dixon Llorens remains on Disabled List
LHP Dail Villanueva remains on the Disabled List
OF C.J. McElroy remains on the Disabled List
C Casey Rasmus remains on Disabled List

Michael Swinson was placed on the Disabled List after injuring his hip in the May 31 game against Wisconsin. The outfielder left the game in the bottom of the second inning then sat out the next day before heading to the DL on Sunday. This is his second time on the DL this year. Swinson's injury adds to the list of Chiefs outfielders missing time this season. Jordan Walton, C.J. McElroy, Charlie Tilson and Nick Martini have all had stints on the DL.

Walton and Tilson both returned to the lineup from injury on May 31. Tilson had been out since May 20 after injuring his hamstring legging out a double. Walton came back after getting hurt on May 24. Both have hit well in their returns. Tilson is batting .352 in four games. Walton is 7-for-18 with five RBI. It is no coincidence the offense was better than in recent weeks with those two back in the lineup.

Team stats – Season to date

Offense Season # MWL rank of 16
BA .255 T-6th
Runs 260 6th
OPS .684 10th
Doubles 83 13th
HR 24 12th
Steals 37 T-15th
     
Pitching Season # MWL rank of 16
ERA 3.99 T-9th
Ks 454 2nd
Walks 168 5th fewest
HR allowed 28 T-5th fewest
Saves 13 T-8th

Midwest League Western Division Standings

Club W L PCT GB L 10 Streak
Cedar Rapids Kernels (MIN) 36 20 .643 - 6-4 W1
Quad Cities River Bandits (HOU) 32 24 .571 4.0 8-2 W2
Beloit Snappers (OAK) 32 25 .561 4.5 4-6 L2
Peoria Chiefs (STL) 30 25 .545 5.5 7-3 W1
Clinton Lumber Kings (SEA) 27 30 .474 9.5 2-8 L1
Kane County Cougars (CHC) 25 30 .455 10.5 4-6 L1
Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (MIL) 24 29 .453 10.5 3-7 L1
Burlington Bees (LAA) 22 30 .423 12.0 6-4 W1

What's next

The Chiefs return home Wednesday night to play fifth-place Clinton (Seattle) in a three-game series. They split with Clinton in May in the teams' only prior meeting this season. Peoria will then begin a huge series with the Quad Cities (Houston) on Saturday, with rehabbing major leaguer Jake Westbrook to take the Dozer Field mound on Sunday. The team needs to play well at home to close the gap in the division standings. The Chiefs will then head on the road for six games leading into the Midwest League All-Star Game on June 18.



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