Peoria Chiefs Notebook: 2014 Week 7

In a busy nine-game week, the Cardinals' Single-A club took six, including two road twin-bills. Shortstop Juan Herrera is sparking the offense.

The week that was

This report covers the period from Tuesday, May 13 through Monday, May 19.

Weather's impact was felt this week as the Chiefs squeezed ten games into eight days. Despite the condensed schedule, the team was successful, sweeping a pair of road doubleheaders before returning home and splitting a series with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.

On Monday, Peoria dropped the opener of a three-game set with the Clinton Lumber Kings, dropping the team to 25-18 on the season while holding onto second place in the Midwest League Western Division, three games out of first.

Game Summaries

Tuesday, May 13 (Game 1): Peoria Chiefs 4 at Cedar Rapids Kernels 3
The Chiefs rallied from a 4-1 deficit with a three-run fifth inning to take the first game of the series from the Kernels.

Alex Reyes started the game for Peoria, earning the win by tossing six innings, allowing three runs (two earned) on just two hits. The righty struck out seven batters but did walk four batters.

Juan Herrera and Carson Kelly each tallied three hits for the Chiefs, with Herrera scoring a pair of runs. Jimmy Bosco and Ronald Castillo were the only Chiefs players to not collect a base hit in the game.

Tuesday, May 13 (Game 2): Peoria Chiefs 6 at Cedar Rapids Kernels 4
In game two, the Chiefs used a five-run fifth inning to propel themselves to victory. Matthew Young led off the inning with a walk and scored on a double by Michael Schulze. After a free pass to C.J. McElroy and a hit batter loaded the bases, Herrera unloaded them with a triple to right-center field. The shortstop scored on a Castillo groundout to make it 5-4 Chiefs.

Arturo Reyes started and lasted 4 2/3 innings, surrendering four runs (three earned) on six hits. Chris Perry picked up the win by tossing 1 1/3 innings of hitless relief, while the save went to Chris Thomas, his fifth of the season.

Wednesday, May 14 (Game 1): Peoria Chiefs 4 at Cedar Rapids Kernels 3
Peoria jumped out to an early lead against 2013 fourth overall pick Kohl Stewart and fought back from a pair of late ties to win the third game of the series.

McElroy scored the team's first run after reaching first base on a dropped third strike. After Herrera singled and Kelly walked to load the bases, the Chiefs leadoff hitter scored on a double play off the bat of Ronald Castillo.

Jimmy Reed pitched his best game since his first start this season, but was left with a no-decision. The lefty went five innings and was charged with two earned runs to go along with a pair of walks and three strikeouts.

Wednesday, May 14 (Game 1): Peoria Chiefs 5 at Cedar Rapids Kernels 3
The Chiefs put runs in the board in the top of the first in game two as well. Three consecutive baserunners to lead off the contest resulted in the first run, and two more scored when Kernels outfielder Ivory Thomas dropped a fly ball. Steve Bean smacked a two-run single for a 5-0 lead.

Chase Brookshire started, but lasted just three innings and didn't qualify for the win. Instead, Steve Sabatino earned the victory in his 2014 Chiefs debut, throwing three innings of four-hit, five-strikeout baseball. Thomas picked up his sixth save of the season.

The win gave the Chiefs their first-ever four-game sweep in Cedar Rapids.

Thursday, May 15: Wisconsin Timber Rattlers 4 at Peoria Chiefs 3
Peoria starter Blake McKnight went 5 2/3 innings, allowing four runs (three earned) in the loss. The righty struck out three and walked three, but a late Chiefs rally fell short.

The Timber Rattlers took an early 4-0 lead, but Peoria answered with a pair of runs in the sixth. Mason Katz smacked a home run to left field to cut the deficit in half.

Castillo led the offense with three of Peoria's seven hits. Brandon Lee came on in relief, allowing just one hit in 3 1/3 innings while striking out three.

Friday, May 16: Peoria Chiefs 4, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers 3
Peoria earned its first walk-off win of the 2014 season on a double by Steve Bean, his first extra-base hit of the season.

Rob Kaminsky pitched well in his home debut, tossing 5 1/3 innings and yielding just three hits and a pair of runs. The lefty walked three and struck out four, but didn't factor into the decision.

That is because Chris Perry came on in relief and allowed three runs to score, two of which were charged to Kaminsky. But Perry settled down after that, and he, Zach Loraine, and Kevin Herget combined to one-hit the Timber Rattlers the rest of the way.

Saturday, May 17: Peoria Chiefs 2, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers 1
For the second straight day, the Chiefs walked off a winner at Dozer Park.

Michael Holback got the start and allowed the only run of the game for the Timber Rattlers. The righty allowed three hits and one run, striking out five and walking two.

After Holback, the Chiefs bullpen was lights-out. Jhonny Polanco, Brookshire, Herget, and Steve Sabatino combined for 8 1/3 innings of scoreless baseball. Between them, they allowed three hits, struck out nine, and walked just one.

Peoria got their first run in the first inning on a Castillo single. Herrera, who had singled and stole second, scored on the play. After the Timber Rattlers tied it in the fourth, the teams traded zeros until the bottom of the 12th, when a Kelly single plated Jimmy Bosco.

Herrera had three of Peoria's eight hits while Kelly went 2-for-5 with an RBI and a walk.

Sunday, May 18: Wisconsin Timber Rattlers 7, Peoria Chiefs 1
For the third consecutive game, the Chiefs and Timber Rattlers needed extra innings to sort out the winner.

Peoria scored in the bottom of the first. Bosco doubled and scored on a Juan Herrera single into right field. That was the only run either team managed to put on the board until the top of the ninth, when Wisconsin's Michael Ratterree smacked a solo home run off Brandon Lee to tie the game.

It didn't stay tied, as Jeff Rauh came in for his season debut and allowed six runs, the last of which scored on a wild pitch by Chiefs first baseman Jake Stone, who had relieved Rauh.

Bosco collected two hits in four at-bats, including a double. Bean, McElroy and Herrera also tallied a base hit for Peoria.

Monday, May 19: Clinton LumberKings 8 at Peoria Chiefs 2
Chiefs manager Joe Kruzel was ejected for arguing fair/foul after a line drive ticked off the glove of Clinton's first baseman, who was in fair territory, and rolled foul. It was the first ejection of the season for Kruzel, but the Chiefs offense couldn't get going and dropped the series opener.

Alex Reyes started for the Chiefs and gave up eight runs on four hits in just 3 2/3 innings. Control was an issue, as the New Jersey native walked six batters while striking out four. Perry came on in relief and struck out a career-high nine batters in his 4 1/3 innings pitched before turning the ball over to Sabatino for the final three outs.

The Chiefs only mustered four hits. Vaughn Bryan had a base hit and a walk in his Chiefs debut and McElroy picked up a hit from the leadoff spot.

Winds of Change

Peoria saw numerous changes to the roster in the last week. First, Chris Thomas was promoted to Palm Beach from the Chiefs. Thomas was 1-0 with a 1.02 ERA in 16 games for Peoria. Michael Holback joined the team from Johnson City to replace Thomas. Holback went 2-0 with a 2.18 ERA in 16 games (four starts) last year for JC.

Brandon Lee joined Peoria from Johnson City that same day. Like Holback, Lee spent 2013 with Johnson City. The righty went 1-1 with a 2.91 ERA, striking out 16 batters in 15 games (26 innings).

Cesar Valera hit the disabled list on Saturday (5/17), and Richy Pedroza joined the team as his replacement. Pedroza played for Johnson City in 2013, hitting .270 in 122 at-bats. He knocked seven doubles and stole a pair of bases. The switch-hitter's on-base percentage was an impressive .408, due to his 27 walks.

The next day, Jeff Rauh joined the team from the State College Spikes. Rauh spent last year with the Spikes, posting a 3-2 record with a 4.05 ERA in 23 games.

Before Monday's (May 19) game against the LumberKings, the Chiefs added outfielder Vaughn Bryan to replace Matthew Young. Bryan hit .280 with three home runs and 24 RBI last season for Johnson City.

Returning Home

A move to replace Matthew Young was necessary since Young quit the team after the game on May 18, citing unhappiness with his role. Young was hitting just .169 at the time with three homers and 10 RBI.

Who's Hot

Steve Sabatino. Sabatino hasn't been with Peoria all that long, but he has been lights-out in his two appearances. The lefty has picked up the wins in both games he's pitched in by limiting opponents to just five total hits in 5 1/3 innings. The Lockport, Illinois native has walked just one batter and struck out eight.

Juan Herrera. Herrera scorched the ball last week, collecting 13 hits in 39 at-bats, including three extra-base hits. Since an 0-for-5 effort against Clinton on May 10, Herrera has had one hit in seven of eight games, including a pair of three-hit outings. The Dominican Republic native also picked up his efforts on the bases, snagging six steals over the last week as well. Herrera's 17 stolen bases ranks fourth in the league.

Who's Not

Mason Katz. Katz has picked up just three hits in his last 28 at-bats dating back to last Tuesday, May 12. He struck out nine times and walked just three times since then, leading to his .107 batting average in that span. The Chiefs 2B has also spent more time at 1B lately, although that is probably unrelated to his struggles at the plate.

Alex Reyes. The right-hander gave up 11 earned runs over his two starts this past week. In addition to his six walks against Clinton, he also issued four free passes against Cedar Rapids, giving him more walks than innings pitched for the week. The New Jersey native may have only given up six hits, but the lack of control displayed in these last two outings negate that.

Injuries

Cesar Valera was placed on the 7-day disabled list with a wrist/hand injury.
Joe Scanio remains on the 7-day DL with a wrist injury.
Gerwuins Velazco remains on the 7-day DL with a knee injury.

Peoria Chiefs Team Stats

It is rather apparent that Peoria's offense cannot be relied upon to carry the team night in and night out. The pitching staff has given up a lot of runs, mostly due to walks haunting them, and the offense has not been able to dent the dish lately.

Offense Season # MWL rank of 16
BA .241 2nd-lowest
Runs 193 9th
OPS .653 2nd-lowest
Doubles 59 2nd-fewest
HR 15 2nd-fewest
Steals 45 T-6th
     
Pitching Season # MWL rank of 16
ERA 3.94 T-7th
Strikeouts 372 2nd
Walks 171 3rd-Most
HR allowed 27 T-4th
Saves 14 T-2nd

Midwest League Western Division Standings

A 6-3 week for the Chiefs keeps them in second place in the West, for now. They have two more games with the LumberKings and could drop to third if they're unable to win at least one.

Club W L PCT GB L10 Streak
Kane County Cougars (CHC) 28 15 .651 - 5-5 L1
Peoria Chiefs (STL) 25 18 .581 3.0 7-3 L2
Clinton LumberKings (SEA) 23 19 .548 4.5 6-4 W2
Cedar Rapids Kernels (MIN) 21 23 .477 7.5 2-8 W2
Burlington Bees (LAA) 20 22 .476 7.5 4-6 W1
Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (MIL) 20 22 .476 7.5 6-4 W1
Quad Cities River Bandits (HOU) 20 23 .465 8.0 5-5 L1
Beloit Snappers (OAK) 19 24 .442 9.0 6-4 L2

What's Next

As noted above, the Chiefs have two more games with Clinton this week. On Tuesday, Jimmy Reed (1-1, 5.09 ERA) will take the mound for Peoria against right-hander Lars Huijer (2-1, 2.92). After, the team hits the road for a six-game, two-team road trip against the Burlington Bees (LAA) and the first-place Kane County Cougars (CHC).



Follow Garth Shanklin on Twitter @GarthShanklin.

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