Peoria Chiefs Notebook: 2014 Week 9

The Cards' Single-A club is holding a slim lead for the second first-half divisional playoff berth. Shortstop Juan Herrera is our Chiefs Player of the Month.

The week that was

This report covers the period from Tuesday, May 27 through Monday, June 2.

The Peoria Chiefs squared off against the Kane County Cougars (CHC) and Burlington Bees (LAA) in seven divisional matchups this last week with huge standings implications for the team.

After dropping the last game at Kane County 5-4, the Chiefs returned home and took two of three from a Burlington team that trails them in the standings. The team stayed in Peoria to take on Midwest League West leaders Kane County, winning two of three games against the Cougars.

The 4-3 week raised the team's record to 31-26, giving them a one game lead over Quad Cities for second place in the standings and a Wild Card playoff berth. The first half of the season ends June 15.

Game Summaries

Tuesday, May 27: Kane County Cougars 5, Peoria Chiefs 4

Peoria's late rally fell short in the rubber match of the series against the division-leading Cougars.

Tied 1-1 through five innings, the Chiefs took a 2-1 lead on a Kenny Peoples-Walls single that scored Juan Herrera. The lead didn't last, however, as starter Blake McKnight allowed a pair of baserunners before being removed from the game.

Brandon Lee came on in relief and surrendered a single to load the bases before allowing a grand slam to Trey Martin to unload them.

The Chiefs got a run back in the eighth on a Carson Kelly home run and another run in the ninth on a bases-loaded walk, but couldn't bring the tying tally home.

Vaughn Bryan and Juan Herrera had three hits apiece for the Chiefs. In just his third game active, Gerwuins Velazco left in the eighth inning after injuring his hamstring running to second base.

Wednesday, May 28: Peoria Chiefs 2, Burlington Bees 1 (12 innings)

It took extra innings, but the Chiefs outlasted a two-hour rain delay to end their losing streak in the first game of their home stand.

Burlington loaded the bases with no outs against starter Michael Holback in the first inning, but were held to just one run on a sacrifice fly.

The Chiefs tied the game in the fifth. Jimmy Bosco singled and was bunted to second. Michael Schulze then doubled him home but was stranded at second base.

Both teams had chances, each leaving the bases loaded, before Peoria finally broke through. Schulze reached on an error and was bunted to second. After an intentional walk to Bryan, Juan Herrera smacked a walk-off single past third base for the victory.

Holback started the game, allowing just one earned run. He left, however, after four innings due to injury. The Chiefs bullpen combined for eight scoreless innings and gave up just three hits in that period.

Thursday, May 29: Peoria Chiefs 3, Burlington Bees 1

Kelly smacked his second home run of the series to give the Chiefs an early lead and the team never looked back.

After Kelly's bomb, Bosco singled and advanced to second on a walk. Schulze singled in Bosco to make it 2-0 Chiefs.

Arturo Reyes started the game for Peoria, going five innings and yielding just one run on five hits. Lee and Zach Loraine combined for four scoreless innings, running the bullpen's scoreless streak to 13 1/3 innings.

Schulze had two hits to raise his average to .238 on the season. C.J McElroy stole his 11th base of the year and had an outfield assist as well.

The four double plays turned by the Chiefs were the most since May 2011 against the Bees.

Friday, May 30: Burlington Bees 7 at Peoria Chiefs 0

For the second time this season, the Chiefs played in front of a packed house of over 5,000 people, but because of a dominating performance by Bees starter Harrison Cooney, the fans didn't get to see any offense.

Cooney tossed a complete-game shutout, allowing just six hits while striking out eight. He didn't allow a single Chiefs batter to reach third base.

A single in the first inning followed by a Michael Fish home run gave Burlington a 2-0 lead, and that's all they needed. The Bees would add runs in the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 7th innings. Alex Reyes was roughed up for five runs in 4 2/3 and took the loss.

Kenny Peoples-Walls had three of Peoria's six hits. Herrera stole his team-leading 20th base of the season, and reliever Steve Sabatino ran his personal scoreless innings streak to 10 2/3. Peoria's bullpen lost a 15-inning scoreless streak in the seventh inning when Kevin Herget allowed a run.

Saturday, May 31: Peoria Chiefs 5, Kane County Cougars 3

The Chiefs rallied in the bottom of the eighth inning to take the opener against the Cougars.

After Kane County jumped out to a 3-0 lead following the second inning, Peoples-Walls smacked his second home run this season to cut the lead to 3-2.

In the eighth, Bryan walked and Hererra pulled back a bunt before bouncing a single over third base. Steve Bean was intentionally walked to load the bases for Katz, who promptly unloaded them with a triple into center field to give the Chiefs a 5-3 lead. Herrera swiped another base, his 21st of the season, to go along with his two hits. Peoples-Walls also collected two hits and had a pair of RBI.

Sunday, June 1: Kane County Cougars 2 at Peoria Chiefs 0

Peoria may have left their gloves in the dugout after an hour-long rain delay. The team made five errors en route to a shutout loss.

Schulze had three errors at third base, giving him 14 on the season. Herrera dropped a foul popup for his 12th on the year, and Pedroza mishandled a ground ball for his third error this season.

Despite the lack of defensive prowess, the Chiefs pitching staff only allowed two runs (one earned). Blake McKnight was charged with that run. The righty struck out three and walked one in his six innings of work. Jhonny Polanco and Loraine combined to allow one hit and a walk over the final three innings.

The Chiefs put two runners on in the seventh and eighth innings but couldn't drive them home. Pedroza led the team, going 2-for-4 with a strikeout. The team set a new season high, striking out 13 times.

Monday, June 2: Peoria Chiefs 5, Kane County Cougars 3

Peoria only scored in two innings, but they made those innings count and knocked off Kane County to win the series.

Rob Kaminsky started for the Chiefs and tossed a career-high 6 2/3 innings, yielding two runs (one earned) on seven hits. The lefty struck out four and walked one en route to earning his first professional win.

After Kane County took a 1-0 lead in the top of the fifth, Peoria struck back for three in the bottom half of the frame.

Peoples-Walls doubled and scored on a Bean single to right field. A Katz single and a throwing error loaded the bases for Pedroza, who hit a sac fly to right field to score Bean. McElroy singled in Katz for Peoria's third run.

Steve Sabatino pitched the 9th inning for his first save of the season. The 24-year-old lefty is a perfect 4-0 and has yet to give up a run in 11 2/3 innings.

Month in Review

The Chiefs finish the month of May with a 15-16 record, yet remain in the top half of the Midwest League standings thanks to a strong start in April (15-9). It wasn't a good month offensively, as the team put up a mere .235 batting average, down nearly 20 points from April. On the mound, however, things were different. The team shaved half a run off its April ERA, dropping from 4.09 down to 3.56.

Hitter of the month: Juan Herrera. Slim pickings here. Justin Ringo would've been a shoo-in had he stayed healthy and played a few more games. However, Herrera had a solid month at the plate as well. How solid? The 20-year-old hit .294 in the month of May, racking up 35 hits in 119 at-bats. Of those 35 hits, 8 of them went for extra bases. The Dominican Republic native also knocked in 16 runs from the top of the Chiefs order while scoring 17 himself. He also stole 14 bases during the month. To put his .294 average in perspective, the 2nd-highest average for the month of May belongs to Ronald Castillo, who hit just .263.

Pitcher of the month: Chris Perry. We'll talk more about Perry and his strikeout prowess later, but you can't argue with a 0.46 earned run average. In 10 appearances totaling 19.2 innings, Perry allowed a run. That's it. One earned run the entire month. The righty struck out 40 batters in may and yielded just three walks. The 23-year-old is the clear-cut choice for not only our Chiefs Pitcher of the Month, but for the entire Cardinals system, as well.


Cesar Valera remains on the 7-day disabled list with a wrist/hand injury.
Joe Scanio remains on the 7-day DL with a wrist injury.
Michael Holback was placed on the 15-day DL May 29 with right forearm stiffness.
Gerwuins Velazco was placed on the 7-day DL that same day with a hamstring injury.
Justin Ringo was placed on the 7-day DL May 31 with a dislocated shoulder, retroactive to May 29.


Peoria activated outfielder Ronald Castillo from the DL May 30.
Right-handed pitcher Robert Stock was assigned to Peoria from State College that same day.

Familiar foes

If you thought the game recaps were a little repetitive from last week, it's probably because the Chiefs have faced off against either Kane County or Burlington for the last two weeks. Peoria hasn't faced a different team since May 21. Kane County will return to Peoria June 10, but the team won't face Burlington again until July 4-6.

Who's on first?

Peoria has had a bit of trouble finding someone to play first base lately. Jake Stone was demoted on May 20, and Justin Ringo took over duties at first for him. But Ringo was hurt just 11 days later, leaving the position open again. So, the team turned to Mason Katz.

Katz is primarily a 2B, but in fall 2013 he participated in the Cardinals instructional league and gained some experience at first. It's a good thing, because with the injuries to Ringo and Valera, the team has just four healthy infielders on the roster. Position changes aren't a new concept to the Chiefs, since Kelly was a third baseman until this season and Peoples-Walls began his pro career as a shortstop.

Defensive woes

The Chiefs' defense has been a bit rough at times this season. In the six games since May 28, the team has racked up a whopping 19 errors in 68 innings. On the season, the team has tallied 77 errors. The five-error game on Saturday, May 31 isn't their worst defensive result this season. On April 18, the team had six errors, three by Katz and one apiece from Bean, Stone, and Valera.

Random stat of the week

Peoria's best record of any weekday by far is Tuesday. The team is 8-1 on Tuesdays, and the .331 average the team has hit for to date is nearly 70 points better than any other day of the week.

Peoria Chiefs Team Stats

One of the big reasons Peoria ranks second in strikeouts is Chris Perry. Perry is fourth in the entire Midwest League with 60 strikeouts on the season, despite the fact that, as a reliever, he's pitched in at least 16 fewer innings than anyone in front of him.

Offense Season # MWL rank of 16
BA .245 3rd Lowest
Runs 243 4th Fewest
OPS .660 T-2nd Lowest
Doubles 76 T-2nd Lowest
HR 25 T-11th
Steals 57 9th
Pitching Season # MWL rank of 16
ERA 3.70 T-6th
Strikeouts 493 2nd
Walks 196 7th-fewest
HR allowed 37 T-3rd Most
Saves 17 T-3rd Most

Midwest League Western Division Standings

Peoria has a chance to put some distance between themselves and Quad Cities this week. Entering the week with a slim lead for a playoff spot, the team faces last-place Beloit three times while Quad Cites squares off with Burlington on the road. Then the teams meet up in Iowa for a crucial three-game series.

Club W L PCT GB L 10 Streak
Kane County Cougars (CHC) 38 20 .655 - 6-4 L1
Peoria Chiefs (STL) 31 26 .544 6.5 4-6 W1
Quad Cities River Bandits (HOU) 30 27 .526 7.5 7-3 L1
Clinton LumberKings (SEA) 29 27 .518 8.0 5-5 W2
Burlington Bees (LAA) 28 28 .500 9.0 6-4 L1
Cedar Rapids Kernels (MIN) 27 31 .466 11.0 5-5 L1
Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (MIL) 26 31 .456 11.5 4-6 W1
Beloit Snappers (OAK) 24 33 .421 13.5 3-7 L2

What's Next

The Chiefs have their first scheduled day off since Mother's Day on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the team hits the road for a six-game road trip, starting with three in Beloit, Wisconsin against the Snappers (OAK). Following that series, the Chiefs travel to Quad Cities to take on the River Bandits (HOU) before returning to Peoria.

Follow Garth Shanklin on Twitter @GarthShanklin.

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