The week that was
This report covers the period from Wednesday, August 14 through Tuesday, August 20.
Manager Dann Bilardello's ballclub continued to struggle at the plate and saw its playoff chances take a huge hit as a result. In the last two weeks, the Peoria Chiefs have scored only 37 runs in 13 games, leading to a 5-8 record over that period.
The pitching has been solid all season and was again this week. Peoria ranks at or near the top in most pitching categories in the Midwest League. However, the offense is just the opposite and sits near the bottom in most categories.
The Chiefs began the week by taking two of three games on the road at Wisconsin (Milwaukee). They won an extra inning contest in game one then dropped a 15-inning marathon the next day before taking the rubber match, 7-2.
Peoria then headed home to Dozer Park to face Cedar Rapids (Minnesota). They were completely outmatched. The Chiefs scored six runs in four games and were swept by the Kernels. It was an ugly series that really hurt the team's playoff chances.
The Chiefs sit at 27-30 and are in fourth place in the MWL Western Division. If the season would end today, Peoria would not be in the post-season. While Cedar Rapids is in first place, they earned a playoff berth in the first half of the season. Quad Cities (Houston) currently holds the top spot for the second half with Clinton (Seattle) owning the Wild Card. Peoria trails Clinton by three games for the Wild Card. The good news is the Chiefs will host Clinton next week.
Wednesday, August 14: Peoria 3 at Wisconsin 1 (11 innings)
It was a pitchers' duel the entire way with Chris Perry giving up only one run in 6 2/3 innings. Then Thomas Lee and Dixon Llorens tossed 4 1/3 innings in relief and combined to give up only one hit and no runs.
Thursday, August 15: Peoria 4 at Wisconsin 5 (15 innings)
For the second consecutive game, the two teams needed extra innings. This time, the Timber Rattlers came out on top. Starter Silfredo Garcia pitched a strong game for the Chiefs, going six innings and allowing three runs.
The offense pounded out 14 hits but left 10 men on base. Charlie Tilson had a great game, going 4-for-7 with two RBI and three runs scored. Tilson also hit two home runs. Coming into the game, the outfielder had only two on the season.
Friday, August 16: Peoria 7 at Wisconsin 2
The Chiefs fell behind 2-0 then scored seven straight runs to take the rubber match of the series. The Peoria lineup was good, pounding out 15 hits and going 5-for-11 with runners in scoring position.
Charlie Tilson had two hits and two runs scored. Ildemaro Vargas also had two hits and added two RBI.
Saturday, August 17: Cedar Rapids 6 at Peoria 1
After a great game offensively the day before, the Chiefs struggled at the plate. Peoria was 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position and left 12 men on base. C.J. McElroy and Juan Herrera were the only Peoria players with multiple hits with two each.
Mike Mayers started the game and took the loss. The right-hander went four innings and gave up three runs.
Sunday, August 18: Cedar Rapids 3 at Peoria 1
Starter Kyle Helisek snapped out of his funk but it was not enough as the offense again struggled against Kernels pitching. Helisek went 6 2/3 innings, allowing only two earned runs while striking out eight.
Offensively, the Chiefs managed just seven hits. Charlie Tilson went 2-for-4 and a run scored. Ildemaro Vargas was 2-for-3.
Monday, August 19: Cedar Rapids 2 at Peoria 1
For the third consecutive game, Peoria managed to score only one run and fell to the Kernels, 2-1. The offense had five hits with the only run coming in the bottom of the ninth inning. Gerwuins Velazco went 2-for-3. Jordan Walton had a double and the only RBI.
Ben O'Shea got the start and allowed only three hits and one earned run. The lefty pitched six innings. Jay Voss and Dixon Llorens combined to pitch three innings in relief and gave up only one hit.
Tuesday, August 20: Cedar Rapids 8 at Peoria 3
The Kernels finished off the sweep as starter Chris Perry struggled for the Chiefs. He went 3 1/3 innings, giving up eight runs though only five were earned. The bullpen was impressive, allowing no runs in the final five-plus innings.
The Peoria offense had only five hits but went 3-for-4 with runners in scoring position. C.J. McElroy had a hit and a run scored. Jordan Walton had a hit and a RBI.
Charlie Tilson. The outfielder is one of the last regulars that started the season with the Chiefs. Right now, Tilson is one of the few guys producing offensively. This week, he was 12-for-32 at the plate with two home runs, two RBI and eight runs scored. He alone scored almost half of the team's runs this week. Peoria's recent struggles are in no way on Tilson. He is hitting .305 with four home runs and 30 RBI on the season. His average ranks seventh in the MWL.
Kyle Helisek. The lefty starter took a loss in his one start this week but he pitched well and came out of his funk from the previous two starts. Helisek at times baffled Cedar Rapids' strong lineup with eight strikeouts. He looked confident and much better than he did in his start against Burlington on August 5, when he allowed five runs in 2 2/3 innings. The Chiefs will need Helisek to continue to pitch well if they went to make the playoffs.
Dixon Llorens. The relief pitcher continues to be extremely impressive out of manager Dann Bilardello's bullpen. In his last 10 appearances dating back to July 22, Llorens has not allowed a run in 15 1/3 innings. He has given up just eight hits over that time period while striking out 27. Llorens has been nearly unhittable and pitches with a wealth of confidence. On the season, he has a 2.85 ERA and 10 saves.
The offense. The Chiefs offense has struggled over the last couple weeks but even more so this week. The team only scored 20 runs in seven games and managed just six in four games against Cedar Rapids. Peoria has to start hitting the ball if they want to make the playoffs. The pitching has been good all season and continues to be good enough to win. But if the offense is not scoring runs, it does not matter.
Jordan Walton. Walton was just 6-for-22 this week at the plate. Over his last 10 games, the outfielder is hitting only .229 with four RBI and three runs scored. Walton needs to be better in the middle of the order for this team to score runs. The Chiefs need him to step it up over the last two weeks of the season.
Breyvic Valera. Valera is another player who has struggled when the team needs his offense the most. Over his last 10 games, he is batting .214 with only two RBI and three runs scored. Valera was 7-for-31 this week. If Walton and Valera are not producing in the middle of the order for the Chiefs they are going to struggle to score runs. Valera is still having a solid season overall, batting .302 with 44 RBI. His average is good for 10th in the MWL.
8/15 LHP Jay Voss assigned to Peoria from Palm Beach
8/14 RHP Sam Tuivailala placed on the Disabled List, retroactive to 8/12 (tired arm)
Team stats – Season to date
|Offense||Season #||MWL rank of 16|
|Pitching||Season #||MWL rank of 16|
|Walks||352||Fewest in MWL|
|HR allowed||62||3rd fewest|
Midwest League Western Division Standings – second half
|Cedar Rapids Kernels (MIN)||39||18||.684||-||79-46||W7|
|Quad Cities River Bandits (HOU)||33||23||.589||5.5||71-54||W3|
|Clinton LumberKings (SEA)||30||27||.526||9.0||63-63||W3|
|Peoria Chiefs (STL)||27||30||.474||12.0||65-59||L4|
|Beloit Snappers (OAK)||26||31||.456||13.0||69-58||W2|
|Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (MIL)||25||32||.439||14.0||54-68||L2|
|Burlington Bees (LAA)||23||34||.404||16.0||50-72||L3|
|Kane County Cougars (CHC)||20||36||.357||18.5||49-73||L3|
With just 13 games remaining and the Chiefs in a tight playoff race, every game is important. Peoria begins a three-game set with Burlington (Angels) at Dozer Park Wednesday night. The team cannot afford to lose the series against the MWL bottom dweller.
The Chiefs will then head to Cedar Rapids (Minnesota) for another four-game series with the Kernels. They have to play better against Cedar Rapids than they did this week or their playoffs hopes could be dashed.
Looking even further ahead, Peoria will start a huge series with Clinton (Seattle) a week from today.
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