Peoria Chiefs Notebook: 2013 Week 12

The St. Louis Cardinals Single-A club finished the first half of the season playing its best baseball, but have begun the second half in rough fashion. The Peoria Chiefs went 1-4 this week. Cory Jones continues to pitch well and Nick Martini is riding a 10-game hitting streak.

The week that was

This report covers the period from Wednesday, June 19 through Tuesday, June 25.

After an 18-8 streak heading into the All-Star break, manager Dann Bilardello cannot be happy with his team's performance to start the second half of the season. The Chiefs went just 1-4 this week.

Outside of a big game against Beloit (Oakland), the team struggled offensively. It is an issue that has plagued the team at times this season. In three of the five games this week, Peoria managed to score just one run. It was not the start the team was looking for after narrowly missing a playoff spot in the first half. The Chiefs need to finish in the top two in the Midwest League Western Division in the second half to lock up a postseason berth.

Peoria opened on the road against Beloit. The Chiefs lost three of four to the Snappers while averaging just over three runs per game. The Chiefs finally returned home for the first time since June 10 for the opener of a four-game series against Quad Cities (Houston) Tuesday night. They dropped the first game 4-1.

Jenkins promoted to Palm Beach

Chiefs' players continue to impress and get the call up to Palm Beach. The latest to be promoted is pitcher Tyrell Jenkins. The right-hander was perhaps the most highly-touted prospect on the team. After early season struggles, Jenkins really came into his own and pitched fantastically. His most memorable moment came on May 5 in a complete game shutout against Fort Wayne. It was the best performance by a Peoria pitcher this season. Jenkins was 4-4 with a 4.74 ERA as a Chief.

In his first start with Palm Beach, Jenkins was roughed up. He went just 3 1/3 innings, allowing three earned runs. I think Jenkins will be fine and deserved the promotion. After seeing how dominating he can be, I cannot wait to see how he does at the next level.

Game summaries

Thursday, June 20: Peoria 1 at Beloit 5

The Peoria offense managed just four hits and one run in the first game following the All-Break. Breyvic Valera had one hit and scored the only run.

Cory Jones got the starting nod from manager Dann Bilardello to begin the second half. Jones was excellent as he has been since his promotion to Peoria. He went six innings allowing two solo home runs. The bullpen was not as good. Joe Scanio and Sam Tuivailala pitched two innings and walked four while giving up three runs.

Friday, June 21: Peoria 4 at Beloit 3

Jacob Wilson returned from his concussion in big time fashion. In the third inning, the second baseman hit a line drive two-run home run over the left field fence. Jordan Walton, Jeremy Schaffer and Nick Martini all had two hits.

Kyle Helisek was solid on the mound for the Chiefs. He went five innings and allowed just four base runners and two runs. Helisek did not earn the win for his performance as Thomas Lee blew the lead in the sixth before the offense regained the led in the seventh.

Saturday, June 22: Peoria 7 at Beloit 9

Peoria pounded out 11 hits but was unable to win in a high-scoring game at Beloit. Patrick Wisdom and Jacob Wilson both went deep. It was the second consecutive game that Wilson hit a two-run home run. Jordan Walton and Nick Martini both had three hits.

The pitching let down the offense. Joey Cuda had a start to forget, giving up six runs in three innings. Joey Donofrio went 2 1/3 innings in relief and allowed two earned runs.

Sunday, June 23: Peoria 1 at Beloit 3

The final game of the series with Beloit was the exact opposite of Saturday's contest. It was a pitching duel between Peoria starter Hector Hernandez and Beloit's Michael Ynoa. Hernandez allowed just one run in seven innings of work but got into trouble in the eighth. He walked the leadoff batter then intentionally walked a Snapper after a sacrifice bunt. Joe Scanio came on relief and after a passed ball, he allowed a two run game-winning single. Hernandez was charged with the runs.

The Chiefs offense was anemic for most of the night but managed to scatter six hits. Nick Martini stayed hot for Peoria, going 2-for-4.

Tuesday, June 25: Quad Cities 4 at Peoria 1

Brad Watson made his first start as a Chief and struggled in four innings of work. He allowed seven hits and four runs. The bullpen came in and shutdown the River Bandits for the rest of the night, but the offense was not able to muster enough runs.

For the second consecutive game, Peoria scored only one run. The team had one hit from five different players. Nick Martini was one of those players, extending his hitting streak to 10 games.

Who's hot

Nick Martini. Martini has been injured and had a stint on the disabled list. That may have contributed in part to his miserable start. However, with all the injuries to the other outfielders he is finally getting consistent playing time for the first time all year and is capitalizing.

Martini has put together a 10-game hitting streak. In that time, he is batting .390 and has raised his average to .230. His increase in production as of late has been a welcome surprise for the Chiefs. With C.J. McElroy and Charlie Tilson still on the disabled list, the team will continue to need Martini to hit well.

Jacob Wilson. The second baseman has been on an absolute tear over his last 10 games, sandwiched around a trip to the disabled list. Wilson is hitting .406 with three home runs and nine RBI. He has a ridiculous .535 on base percentage over that period.

For the season, Wilson is fourth on the team in batting average (.288). He is also second in home runs (11) and first in RBI (55). Wilson also compares favorably to the rest of the MWL. He's tied for sixth in home runs and third in RBI.

Kyle Helisek. The left-handed starting pitcher has quietly put together a very solid season for the Chiefs. He is 5-2 in 12 starts and has a 3.55 ERA. Helisek and Cory Jones have emerged as the aces of the staff with Tyrell Jenkins and Kurt Heyer promoted.

In his last three starts, Helisek has allowed four earned runs in 17 innings. That is a 2.12 ERA. Despite pitching well, he has only one win, a loss and a no decision over that time period. It will be interesting to see if Helisek can keep up his recent hot streak.

Who's not

Breyvic Valera. Valera has been one of the Chiefs' best hitters all season. He has been a mainstay at the top of Dann Bilardello's lineup and has been very productive in that role. But Valera is in a terrible slump. Over his last 10 games, he is batting .178 and is just three for his last 20. His average was up well over .300 but it has dropped to .299.

When the Peoria offense was at its best, Valera was hitting well, getting on base and scoring runs. As he has struggled, it is no coincidence that the offense has slumped. The Chiefs need Valera to turn it around to get back to their pre-All-Star Break winning ways.

Transactions

6/21 INF Jacob Wilson activated from Disabled List
6/20 Of Luis Perez assigned to Johnson City
6/20 INF Brett Wiley assigned to Johnson City
6/20 RHP Tyrell Jenkins activated from Disabled list and assigned to Palm Beach
6/20 OF Michael Swinson activated from Disabled List
6/20 RHP Brad Watson assigned to Peoria from Palm Beach

Injuries

RHP Chris Thomas remains on the Disabled List
LHP Dail Villanueva remains on the Disabled List
OF C.J. McElroy remains on the Disabled List
C Adam Ehrlich remains on the Disabled List
OF Charlie Tilson remains on Disabled List

The Chiefs got healthier to start the second half. Getting back Michael Swinson to bolster the outfield was a huge plus. With Charlie Tilson still on the DL with a hamstring injury, Peoria needed Swinson as the outfield depth was non-existent.

Also coming back was Jacob Wilson, who was hit in the head by a pitch and was forced to miss time with a concussion. You never know when it comes to head injuries, so it is good to see Wilson back on the diamond. Peoria will need his bat in the lineup in the second half.

Team stats – Season to date

Offense Season # MWL rank of 16
BA .257 7th
Runs 336 T-9th
OPS .698 9th
Doubles 112 13th
HR 40 T-8th
Steals 47 16th
     
Pitching Season # MWL rank of 16
ERA 3.99 8th
Ks 581 5th
Walks 222 5th fewest
HR allowed 38 4th fewest
Saves 17 T-8th

Midwest League Western Division Standings – second half

Club W L PCT GB Overall Stk
Cedar Rapids Kernels (MIN) 5 0 1 - 45-28 W5
Quad Cities River Bandits (HOU) 5 0 1 - 43-31 W6
Beloit Snappers (OAK) 4 1 0.8 1 47-28 W3
Clinton LumberKings (SEA) 4 1 0.8 1 37-37 W3
Burlington Bees (LAA) 1 4 0.2 4 27-43 L3
Peoria Chiefs (STL) 1 4 0.2 4 39-33 W3
Kane County Cougars  0 5 0 5 30-41 L5
Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (MIL) 0 5 0 5 29-41 L6

What's next

The Chiefs will have three more games against the Quad Cities (Houston) at Dozer Park before heading back on the road to face Cedar Rapids (Minnesota) and Burlington (Angels). Peoria will need to continue its strong play on the road from the end of the first half. A good start will make a playoff run much more manageable.



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