Peoria Chiefs Notebook: 2014 Week 10

The Cards' Single-A club remains in a dogfight for the second first-half divisional playoff berth. A 2-4 road trip last week did not help their chances, but Jimmy Reed is pitching well.

The week that was

This report covers the period from Tuesday, June 3 through Monday, June 9.

With the end of the first half of the season rapidly approaching, the Peoria Chiefs hit the road for a six-game trip looking to put some distance between themselves, Quad Cities, and Clinton in the Midwest League standings.

Unfortunately, the team couldn't keep pace, losing all but two on the road trip. That dropped them to 33-30 on the season, knocking them out of the second place in their division and the wild card lead for the first time in over a month.

Game Summaries

Tuesday, June 3: Off Day

Peoria enjoyed its first scheduled off day since Mother's Day, May 11th.

Wednesday, June 4: Beloit Snappers 2, Peoria Chiefs 1

Snappers starter Junior Mendez shut down the Chiefs, allowing just three hits and one run in his six innings of work.

Peoria scored its only run in the sixth inning. Ronnierd Garcia picked up his first hit in 2014 with a leadoff double and scored on a one-out single by C.J. McElroy Jr.

Chase Brookshire started and went three innings, giving up just one hit. The lefty walked a batter and struck out two. Kevin Herget followed in relief and matched Brookshire, tossing three innings and yielding one hit.

Brandon Lee took the loss, giving up a pair of runs on four hits in 1 1/3 innings. Zach Loraine blew the save, his third blown save this season.

The Chiefs totaled five hits as a team, two of which came from McElroy in the leadoff spot.

Thursday, June 5: Beloit Snappers 9, Peoria Chiefs 8

Alex Reyes got knocked around for the Chiefs, allowing eight runs on seven hits in 3 2/3 innings pitched. The 19-year-old walked four batters and struck out a pair en route to his fifth loss of the season.

Offensively, Ronald Castillo racked up three hits, including a home run, and tallied four RBI. Mason Katz hit a three-run homer in the sixth to draw the Chiefs within one run, but Beloit tacked on a run in the sixth that proved to be the difference.

Kenny Peoples-Walls and Robelys Reyes were the only two Chiefs starters without a hit. The two of them combined for four of Peoria's six strikeouts.

Robert Stock and Jhonny Polanco combined to allow just three hits and one run in 4 1/3 innings of work. They struck out a pair each and Stock walked two.

Friday, June 6: Peoria Chiefs 1 at Beloit Snappers 0

Starter Jimmy Reed dominated en route to his third win of the season. The 23-year-old allowed just two hits over seven innings. The lefty walked a batter and struck out four.

Chris Perry pitched the last two innings in relief of Reed and continued his spectacular season. The lefty lowered his season ERA to 2.11 and struck out four more batters.

The Chiefs broke through in the eighth. Robelys Reyes drew a walk, moved to second on a groundout, and scored on a triple by Vaughn Bryan.

Bryan had two hits for the Chiefs. Carson Kelly, Steve Bean, Mason Katz, and Garcia tallied a hit apiece.

Saturday, June 7: Peoria Chiefs at Quad Cities River Bandits (Postponed)

Heavy rain postponed the game to Sunday as part of a doubleheader.

Sunday, June 1 (Game 1): Quad Cities River Bandits 3, Peoria Chiefs 1

Peoria wasted a solid start by Rob Kaminsky and dropped the first half of a doubleheader Sunday afternoon.

Kaminsky went five innings, giving up two hits and a run. The lefty walked three batters and striking out four. Herget came on in relief and could not throw strikes, surrendering two runs on three walks without giving up a hit.

Garcia had two of the Chiefs' three hits and his double was Peoria's only extra-base hits. Juan Herrera picked up Peoria's other hit.

Sunday, June 1 (Game 2): Quad Cities River Bandits 4, Peoria Chiefs 2

Peoria jumped out to an early lead in the second game, but the River Bandits rallied late to sweep the twin bill.

Blake McKnight went five innings, giving up three runs (two earned) on five hits. Perry blew the save, his second of the season. Brandon Lee tossed two-thirds of an inning, striking out both batters he faced.

The Chiefs only totaled four hits, two of which came from C.J McElroy. McElroy and Herrera scored Peoria's two runs, with Herrera picking up their only extra base hit.

Monday, June 2: Peoria Chiefs 8 at Quad Cities River Bandits 4

Peoria's offense showed some signs of life, scoring a pair of runs in each of the first two innings en route to knocking off Quad Cities and salvaging a game in the series.

McElroy walked and moved to third on a bad pickoff attempt. Bryan's groundout brought him home. Carson Kelly singled and scored when newly-activated Gerwuins Velazco doubled to make it 2-0.

Pedroza singled in the second and moved to second on a walk. Bryan tripled in both runners to make it 4-0 Peoria. The Chiefs scored a run in the fifth through eighth innings and survived a three-run seventh inning for the win. Herrera had three hits and an RBI while Bryan knocked in three of Peoria's eight runs.

Arturo Reyes got the win by allowing three runs on just three hits in six innings. Loraine gave up a run on two hits in two innings of work. The righty struck out four batters in his outing as well.

Shining Stars

Peoria had a whopping seven all-stars chosen to represent the Midwest League's Western Division in next Tuesday's game.

Ronald Castillo will start for the West in the 50th Midwest League All-Star game. Despite missing over a week with an abdominal strain, Castillo is batting .291 on the season with four homers and 33 RBI. The right-handed hitter will celebrate his 22nd birthday the day before the All-Star game. However, Castillo reinjured his abdomen late in the week and his status for the game is up in the air.

He'll be joined on the team by fellow outfielder C.J. McElroy Jr. McElroy, a reserve in the game, is hitting .278 on the season with 31 runs scored, one behind fellow reserve Juan Herrera. McElroy leads the team with 64 total hits and his 13 steals lead the team as well.

For his part, Herrera has batted .276 on the season. The right-handed hitter has 22 stolen bases on the season, nine more than McElroy. Herrera has also tallied 33 hits and 32 runs scored in 210 at-bats so far this season. Herrera's .687 OPS rank 5th on the team among players with more than 25 at-bats on the season.

19-year-old catcher Carson Kelly was a late addition to the festivities, as it was announced Monday he would join the team as an injury replacement for Kane County's Will Remillard. Despite a .223 average, Kelly has shown flashes at the plate throughout the season. His five home runs are second on the team to Mason Katz's nine, and his .372 slugging percentage is tied with Herrera for 4th highest on the team. Kelly has really shined on defense, however. The converted 3B has thrown out almost 40 percent of base stealers this season, fourth in the Midwest League. He also has struck out just 20 times in 205 plate appearances this season.

Reliever Zach Loraine is another injury replacement. Loraine has allowed just seven runs in 29 innings this season, good enough for an even 2.19 ERA. His six saves tie him with Chris Thomas, who was promoted to Palm Beach earlier in the season. Loraine has struck out 35 batters on the season while yielding just seven walks, Loraine replaced Kane County Cougars pitcher Jose Arias on the all-star team.

Arturo Reyes is the fourth of five non-injury replacement Chiefs all-stars. Reyes sits at 3-3 on the season with a 2.81 ERA. The righty has struck out 40 batters in 51 1/3 innings on the season. Opponents are hitting just .226 against the 22-year-old on the year.

Finally, Chris Perry will join the squad as a reliever. Perry was named both TCN's and the Cardinals' organization's Pitcher of the Month for May after posting a 2-0 record and a 0.46 ERA in the month. For the season, he's 3-0 with a 2.33 ERA. The right-hander has struck out 64 batters while walking just 11 on the season, and he has given up just two total earned runs since the beginning of May.

Road woes

Since May 1, the Chiefs have won just 9 of 22 games away from Dozer Park. That's rather unfortunate, since they've played nine more road games than home games so far. The team's struggles away from Peoria had a large impact on the playoff race, as they were unable to pull away from teams despite sitting in second place.

Who's Hot

Jimmy Reed – Jimmy only had one start last week, but you could make a case that it was the best start by any Chief this year. He tossed seven strong innings, allowing just two hits. In his last three starts, Reed has gone 19 1/3 innings, giving up just three runs on 13 hits. He's struck out 10 and walked one in that time. Two of those three starts came on the road, and while one of them was against last-place Beloit, you cannot ignore what Reed has done lately.

Steve Sabatino – Sabatino has been consistently dominant for the Chiefs. The lefty reliever has tossed 12 scoreless innings since making his debut on May 14, giving up just 17 hits in that period. The 24-year-old has a ridiculous 15:3 strikeout to walk ratio in that same time, and opponents are hitting just .167 off of him this year.

C.J. McElroy – After a slow May during which he hit just .233, McElroy has exploded in June, going 11 for his first 29 this month with five runs scored and a pair of RBI. The switch hitter has walked five times and stole three bases in the month. The five walks are just three fewer than he totaled in the entire month of May while his two RBI are also three less than his output during that entire month.

Who's Not

Alex Reyes – Alex's last four starts have not been good. In his last 18.2 innings pitched, Reyes has yielded 25 runs (20 earned) on 22 hits, giving him an ERA just under 10 for the period. The righty has walked 15 batters in that same period and struck out 18. It's not necessarily a home/road split, either, since he split the two games he surrendered eight runs between the road and home. Reyes has struggled since April. He posted a 2-0 record with a 2.60 ERA in four April starts, but since then, he's 1-5 with an ERA near seven.

Steve Bean – Bean hasn't been hitting all that well over his last ten games. The left-handed hitter has totaled just four hits in his last 35 at-bats, none of which went for extra bases. Bean has struck out nine times in that same span compared to just three walks. While Bean's numbers go up dramatically with runners on base (he is a .353 hitter with men on), majority of his at-bats have came with the bases empty due to the team's offensive struggles.

Michael Schulze – Like Bean, Schulze has struggled in his last ten games. Schulze's average in that period is just .111. Schulze did manage to pick up a double in late May, giving him an extra base hit. The left-handed hitter has yet to pick up a hit in 13 June at-bats. Schulze has struggled against right-handers this season, a bit of an oddity for a left-handed hitter. Schulze's average against righties is 40 points lower than it is against lefties, although it isn't great against either of them.

Injuries

Ronald Castillo was placed on the 7-day disabled list, retroactive to June 6, after re-injuring his abdomen.
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 Holbeck remains on the 7-day DL with right forearm stiffness.
Justin Ringo remains on the 7-day DL with a dislocated shoulder.

Transactions

Peoria activated catcher Gerwuins Velazco from the DL June 9.
Third baseman Ronnierd Garcia was assigned to Peoria from State College.
Second baseman Robelys Reyes was assigned to Peoria from Johnson City Cardinals.

Random stat of the week

The Chiefs played their sixth doubleheader of the season on Saturday against the River Bandits. While that may seem like a lot, it's actually right in line with past seasons. Peoria played in five or six twin billings every season since 2005 except for two: 2006 and 2012. In 2012, they played in no doubleheaders all season long.

Why does this matter? The Chiefs, as mentioned above, haven't played well away from Dozer, but all six doubleheaders this season (and their last 11 overall) have come away from Peoria.

Peoria Chiefs Team Stats

Peoria's offense continues to struggle, but the pitching staff has seen a steady rise in terms of quality over the last few weeks. The offense still ranks near the bottom in numerous categories.

Offense Season # MWL rank of 16
BA 0.244 2nd-lowest
Runs 264 4th-fewest
OPS 0.659 2nd-lowest
Doubles 84 2nd-lowest
HR 27 4th-lowest
Steals 62 9th
Pitching Season # MWL rank of 16
ERA 3.70 7th
Strikeouts 530 2nd
Walks 219 9th
HR allowed 39 T-4th Most
Saves 18 5th

Midwest League Western Division Standings

Peoria's struggles on the road have come back to haunt them as they have dropped from second place for the first time in a month. The team won just two games on last week's road trip, setting up a six-game sprint to the end of the first half. Wisconsin's seven-game winning streak brought them within two games of a playoff spot.

Club W L PCT GB L 10 Streak
Kane County Cougars (CHC)* 43 21 .672 - 7-3 W1
Burlington Bees (LAA) 34 29 .540 8.5 8-2 W3
Peoria Chiefs (STL) 33 30 .524 9.5 4-6 W1
Quad Cities River Bandits (HOU) 33 30 .524 9.5 6-4 L1
Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (MIL) 32 31 .508 10.5 7-3 W7
Clinton LumberKings (SEA) 29 33 .468 13.0 2-8 L6
Cedar Rapids Kernels (MIN) 28 36 .438 15.0 3-7 L1
Beloit Snappers (OAK)^ 26 38 .406 17.0 3-7 L4
* - first-half division winner                     
 ^ - eliminated from 1H wild card race            

What's Next

The Chiefs return to Peoria to wrap up the first half of the season with a crucial six-game home stand starting Tuesday night. Kane County (CHC) will be here for the second time this month for a three-game set. Lefty Chase Brookshire (1-3, 6.21 ERA) will start the opener for the Chiefs against righty Tyler Skullina (4-2, 2.93). After the Cougars leave town, Clinton checks in for a three-game set that, depending on how things around the league shake out, could determine the first-half wild card winner.



Follow Garth Shanklin on Twitter @GarthShanklin.

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