Peoria Chiefs Notebook: 2013 Week 13

The St. Louis Cardinals Single-A club continued up and down play to start the second half but still managed to go 4-3 this week. The pitching staff was phenomenal while the offense continued to slump. Nick Martini continues to hit well while Cory Jones has been great on the mound.

The week that was

This report covers the period from Wednesday, June 26 through Tuesday, July 2.

After a 4-3 week, the Peoria Chiefs sit at 5-7 and in fifth place in the Midwest League Western Division second-half standings. They trail division-leading Cedar Rapids (Minnesota) by six games. Manager Dann Bilardello has to be pleased with the pitching staff, which was great this week. The Chiefs gave up two or less runs in four of the games.

On the flip side, the offense was dreadful, scoring just 23 runs in the seven games. Despite a rough start to the second half, the Chiefs are still in excellent position to earn a playoff spot. They just need to start playing more consistently and catch the magic they had heading into the All-Star break.

Peoria began by facing Quad Cities (Houston) in three games at Dozer Park. The Chiefs won all three in close contests. It looked as if this would be a great week for the team - then they headed on the road to face Cedar Rapids. Peoria was swept by the first-place Kernels and really struggled at the plate in doing so. The final game of the week came against Burlington. The Chiefs were able to win in a pitching duel 2-1 behind a fantastic start from Cory Jones.

Game summaries

Wednesday, June 26: Quad Cities 1 at Peoria 3

The Chiefs took the first game of the set with Quad Cities thanks to great pitching. The staff combined to allow no earned runs and just six hits. Cory Jones got the start for Peoria and lowered his ERA to 1.16. He earned his third win of the season. Joey Donofrio, Joe Scanio and Dixon Llorens each pitched one scoreless inning.

The offense was not potent but did enough to get the win. Breyvic Valera went 1-for-4 with a run scored and a stolen base.

Thursday, June 27: Quad Cities 4 at Peoria 5

Peoria scored two runs in the first inning and three more in the fourth, then held on for the victory. A night after snapping his 10-game hitting streak, Nick Martini went 2-for-4 with a run scored and a RBI. Jacob Wilson also had two hits. The team had eight on the night.

Kyle Helisek made it a second great start in the row for the Chiefs. He went five innings, giving up just four hits and two runs. Helisek leads the team with six wins.

Friday, June 28: Quad Cities 2 at Peoria 4

In front of a sold out crowd, the Chiefs took the series over the River Bandits with another great pitching performance. Joey Cuda continued to be tough to hit, throwing six innings while allowing one earned run. He fanned four batters and moved to 4-3 on the season. Sam Tuivailala and Robert Stock combined for three scoreless innings in relief.

The offense pounded out ten hits and threatened to score more all night. They left eight men on base and were only 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position. Charlie Tilson had a great game with three hits and a run scored. Jordan Walton was the only other Peoria player with multiple hits. He had two with an RBI.

Saturday, June 29: Peoria 1 at Cedar Rapids 2 (10 innings)

The pitching continued to be outstanding but the offense could not get anything going in the first game of three with Cedar Rapids. Hector Hernandez had his best start of the season for the Chiefs. The left-handed pitcher went eight innings and gave up just one run. He struck out six batters. Thomas Lee came on in relief of Hernandez and got into trouble in the 10th. With runners on second and third, Zach Russell entered. He threw a wild pitch to end the game.

The offense struggled to get anything going all night. However, Patrick Wisdom was the one bright spot. The third baseman went 3-for-4 on the night, all singles.

Sunday, June 30: Peoria 5 at Cedar Rapids 6

For the second consecutive night, the Chiefs lost on a walk off by Cedar Rapids. Peoria led 5-4 heading into the bottom of the ninth inning, but Robert Stock loaded the bases on three walks then allowed a hit to score two runs.

Jordan Walton, Nick Martini and Jeremy Schaffer all had multi-hit games. Martini went 3-for-4 with two RBI.

Monday, July 1: Peoria 3 at Cedar Rapids 6

Cedar Rapids scored three runs in the first and never looked back, earning the sweep over the Chiefs. Peoria starter Brad Watson gave up four runs but only two were earned. He moved to 0-2 in two starts and has a 6.00 ERA.

The offense was again stagnant with only seven opportunities with runners in scoring position. Peoria had just six hits. Patrick Wisdom had two of them while notching an RBI.

Tuesday, July 2: Peoria 2 at Burlington 1

The Chiefs secured a much-needed road win in the opener at Burlington. Cory Jones got the start and earned his fourth win of the season. He went seven innings allowing eight hits but only one run. Joey Donofrio pitched two scoreless innings while clinging to a one-run lead to get the save.

The Peoria offense did just enough to secure the victory. They scored a run in both the first and second innings, but had just four hits on the evening. C.J. McElroy went 1-for-3 with a triple and a run scored.

Who's hot

Cory Jones. Jones did not make his first start for the Chiefs until May 29, but one could argue that he has been Peoria's best player this season. In six starts, the right-hander is 4-1 with a 1.18 ERA. He has gone at least five innings in all of his starts and has gone seven in half of them.

Jones has great stuff but also has displayed excellent control as well. In 38 innings, he has only walked seven batters compared to striking out 20. Jones does not overwhelm opponents with velocity. However, he is smart and locates pitches well, which leads to easy outs for the defense.

The pitching staff. Despite an up and down week for the team as a whole, the pitching was extremely solid. The Chiefs had just a 3.30 ERA this week in seven games. They allowed two or less runs in four of those games. The starting pitching was phenomenal. The Peoria starters had a combined 2.67 ERA in 37 innings. If the team can continue to get that kind of effort from the starters, they will definitely be in the mix for a playoff spot in the second half of the season.

Nick Martini. The outfielder struggled with injuries to begin the season and could never really get comfortable at the plate. But that has changed in a big way in the last couple of weeks. Martini is hitting .395 in his last ten games. He has raised his average to .238 on the year.

The left-handed batter had a 10-game hitting streak snapped June 26 against Quad Cities but Martini still continues to hit well, going 7-for-20 since the streak ended. Martini's added production in the outfield will need to continue. The Chiefs offense has been stagnant since the All-Star break and the whole team needs to pick it up.

The Chiefs at home. Most teams are better at home than on the road. The Chiefs are no different. They are 23-12 at Dozer Park this season and only 20-24 away from home. If Peoria can get to .500 or better in road games, they will be in great shape to make a playoff push.

Who's not

Jacob Wilson. It has been rare to see Wilson in this part of the report this season. The second baseman has been the team's most reliable bat in the middle of the order all year long. But he has struggled since returning from the disabled list with a concussion.

In 10 games, Wilson is 8-for-39 with a .205 average. His batting average has fallen to .273 with the slump. A major reason why the offense has been subpar in the last couple weeks has been the lack of production from Wilson. Without him driving in runs, the offense can be really stagnant. The Chiefs need Wilson to rediscover his stroke.

Ildemaro Vargas. The Peoria shortstop has been slumping at the plate as well. In his last 10 games, Vargas has just four hits and is batting .118. He has also struck out eight times in 34 at-bats. Despite the rough streak, Vargas is still hitting .261 for the season. He really is not known for his offense, anyway. Whatever he can give the club is a huge plus.

Transactions

6/30 OF CJ McElroy activated from Disabled List
6/30 RHP Dixon Llorens placed on Disabled List, backdated to 6/27 (strained triceps)
6/26 OF Charlie Tilson activated from Disabled List
6/26 RHP Zach Russell assigned to Peoria from Palm Beach
6/26 OF Michael Swinson released by the Cardinals

Injuries

RHP Chris Thomas remains on the Disabled List
LHP Dail Villanueva remains on the Disabled List
C Adam Ehrlich remains on the Disabled List

Team stats – Season to date

Offense Season # MWL rank of 16
BA 0.253 9th
Runs 359 T-8th
OPS 0.687 11th
Doubles 117 15th
HR 41 T-9th
Steals 50 16th
     
Pitching Season # MWL rank of 16
ERA 3.87 8th
Ks 619 5th
Walks 241 4th fewest
HR allowed 40 4th fewest
Saves 21 7th

Midwest League Western Division Standings – second half

Club W L PCT GB Overall Record Stk
Cedar Rapids Kernels (MIN) 11 1 0.917 - 51-29 L1
Beloit Snappers (OAK) 10 2 0.833 1 53-29 W5
Quad Cities River Bandits (HOU) 9 3 0.750 2 47-34 W4
Clinton LumberKings (SEA) 6 6 0.500 5 39-42 L4
Peoria Chiefs (STL) 5 7 0.417 6 43-36 W1
Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (MIL) 4 8 0.333 7 33-44 W2
Kane County Cougars (CHC) 2 10 0.167 9 32-46 L2
Burlington Bees (LAA) 1 11 0.083 10 27-50 L10

What's next

The Chiefs will have one more game on the road against Burlington before returning home for five games at home against Beloit (Oakland). Peoria will need to continue its strong play at home to beat the Snappers. Beloit is 9-3 in the second half of the season. They have won four in a row and will be a handful. After the home stand, the Chiefs will head back on the road for three against Lansing (Toronto).



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