Peoria Chiefs Notebook: 2014 Week 11

Recapping a first half during which the Cards' Single-A club played well but finished just short. First baseman Justin Ringo has been swinging a hot bat.

The week that was

This report covers the period from Tuesday, June 10 through Monday, June 16.

The Peoria Chiefs' earlier woes caught up with them this week. Despite taking four of six from Clinton and Kane County, the Chiefs were eliminated from first-half playoff contention with Burlington's victory Friday night.

The Chiefs finish the first half of the 2014 season in third place, 7.5 games behind division-leading Kane County but just one game out of the wild card.

First-half Recap

On May 20, the Chiefs sat in second place in the Midwest League Western Division with a 25-19 record. They had a mere 1.5 game lead over the third-place LumberKings, but no other team was within 4.5 games of Peoria.

However, after a rough 29-game stretch during which they went 12-17, Peoria could only watch as Burlington won 18 of 28 to take the last wild card spot.

Despite the late troubles, the first half had some shining stars. Nick Petree was spectacular during his (brief) stint in the team's rotation. Fellow hurler Chris Perry continues to dominate out of the ‘pen and will showcase his stuff in the Midwest League All-Star Game.

Things haven't been as good offensively. Ronald Castillo has struggled at the plate and with injuries since April, posting a .260 average in that time frame with just one home run and 14 runs batted in. In the month of April alone, Castillo had three homers and 18 RBI.

On the flip side, C.J. McElroy is starting to heat up after cooling off big-time in May. The switch-hitter has tallied 14 hits in 45 at-bats far this month, providing a glimmer of hope at the top of the order for the second half of the season.

Game Summaries

Tuesday, June 10: Peoria Chiefs vs. Kane County Cougars – Postponed, Rain

The opener against the Cougars was postponed just before scheduled first pitch due to rain in the area. It was made up as part of a doubleheader the next day.

Wednesday, June 11 (Game One): Peoria Chiefs 2, Kane County Cougars 1

Starter Alex Reyes went the distance, allowing just two hits and one run en route to his fourth win of the season. The 19-year-old struck out seven batters and walked just two. Reyes wasn't necessarily efficient with his pitches, as just 58 of his 94 total pitches were strikes, but he kept hitters off-balance all game long.

Offensively, Peoria managed six hits, but only one went for extra-bases. Carson Kelly had a pair of singles and an RBI while Vaughn Bryan and Juan Herrera crossed the plate once apiece.

The effort from Reyes was the first complete game tossed by a Chief since Tyrell Jenkins in May 2013.

Wednesday, June 11 (Game Two): Kane County Cougars 4 at Peoria Chiefs 3

Peoria's bullpen wasted a decent start by Chase Brookshire, giving up three runs in the final two innings to turn a 3-1 lead into a 4-3 defeat.

Brookshire went five innings, allowing just one run on seven hits. The lefty struck out a career-high seven batters and left as the winning pitcher.

However, he wound up with a no decision, as Jhonny Polanco came on in relief and promptly surrendered three hits and a run in two-thirds of an inning. Steve Sabatino replaced him and allowed two more runs, both unearned thanks to Sabatino's error.

The two unearned runs were the first runs (earned or otherwise) allowed by Sabatino this season. In 10 appearances spanning 12 1/3 innings, the lefty has yielded just eight hits while maintaining a 16:3 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Thursday, June 12: Kane County Cougars 4 at Peoria Chiefs 1

The Chiefs' offense sputtered in the finale against the Cougars, managing just four hits. One of those came in the seventh inning. Steve Bean cranked a one-out home run, his first of the season, and the only run Peoria could muster.

Kane County starter Juan Paniagua allowed just three hits and a walk over his six innings. The right-hander struck out six batters before yielding to the bullpen.

Ringo, Richy Pedroza and Gerwuins Velazco tallied the other three hits for Peoria.

Friday, June 13: Peoria Chiefs 9, Clinton Lumber Kings 5

An early offensive explosion paced the Chiefs to a victory in the opener of the series against the LumberKings.

Peoria struck for seven runs in the second inning against Clinton starter Eddie Campbell. Peoples-Walls, Schluze and Carson Kelly each tallied a pair of RBI in the frame, with the seventh run scoring on a single by Bryan.

Every Peoria starter except Ringo had at least one hit by the end of the second inning. Ringo later picked up a base hit to extend his hitting streak to eight games.

Blake McKnight scattered eight hits over his six innings, allowing just one run while striking out three. Zach Loraine struggled in his inning of relief, allowing three runs, including a two-run home run, on two hits.

Saturday, June 14: Peoria Chiefs 5, Clinton LumberKings 0

Peoria received a strong start from 19-year-old Rob Kaminsky and rode a pair of home runs to a series win.

Kaminsky went six innings, giving up a pair of hits and striking out six. The lefty didn't walk a batter in the outing, his second start this season without a free pass.

Peoria got a run in the fourth on a solo home run by Herrera, his first of the season and his 31st RBI. Ringo provided the other offense for the Chiefs by launching a grand slam in the sixth inning just over the fence in left field.

Kevin Herget came in to pitch the final three innings, giving up a pair of hits and a walk over three innings to earn his second save of the season.

Sunday, June 15: Peoria Chiefs 6, Clinton LumberKings 5

The long ball propelled the Chiefs to a comeback victory over the LumberKings to close out the first half.

Bean and Katz each smacked solo home runs early for Peoria, but the Chiefs still trailed entering the ninth.

Then the Chiefs rallied, thanks in large part to a throwing error by Clinton first baseman Jeff Zimmerman. Schulze scored on the play, and Ringo's subsequent single scored Bryan to tie the game at five.

Katz wasted no time untying it in the tenth inning. He uncorked his team-leading 11th home run and second of the game to give the Chiefs their first walk-off home run since Jacob Wilson in May of last season.

Arturo Reyes wasn't particularly effective in his start, giving up four runs on nine hits in his six innings of work. Perry and Sabatino combined for two scoreless innings, while Brandon Lee picked up the win in relief.

Lineup Shuffle

Injuries have plagued the Chiefs at time this season, but some of those players are starting to get healthy. Justin Ringo made his return to Peoria's lineup June 12 and sparked a change in the order the next day. Ringo moved up to third in the order for the game Friday night, Herrera was moved up to second, and Bryan dropped down to fifth. The early returns seem promising, as in the three games since the switch, Peoria averaged just under seven runs and 14 hits per game, all Chiefs victories.

All-Star Switch

With Castillo returning to the DL last week, his status as a starting outfielder in the All-Star Game had been in doubt. Friday, Castillo was sent down to the Cardinals' Florida complex to rehab. It was announced Saturday that Clinton's Austin Wilson, a former Cardinals draft pick, would replace Castillo in the game, however Wilson has a graduation ceremony at Stanford and will not attend.

Other Chiefs Western Division all-stars are pitchers Arturo Reyes, Zach Loraine and Chris Perry and position players C.J. McElroy, Juan Herrera and Carson Kelly.

Who's Hot

Justin Ringo – It is a shame Ringo missed nearly three weeks with a shoulder injury. He has only played 10 games for the Chiefs this year, but has a hit in every one. Overall, the left-handed batter is hitting .477 with three home runs and 10 RBI. His presence has also solidified a first base position that has been a revolving door at times for the Chiefs this season. In just four games off the DL, Ringo is 7-for-15 with two runs scored and five RBI.

Mason Katz – Aside from the two homers in the final game, Katz has been on a mini-tear lately. He is hitting .257 since June 15 with three home runs and seven RBI. While he is still striking out a ton (56 Ks in 215 at-bats this season), his average for the month of June is .295, over 100 points higher than his average for either May or April. Nearly half of Katz's 45 hits this season have been for extra bases, and almost a quarter of them (13) have come in the month of June.

Chase Brookshire – Chase had his best start of the season by far in the second half of the Wednesday doubleheader. He went five innings, allowing just one run on seven hits while setting a career high in strikeouts. The five innings pitched were just two-thirds of an inning shy of his career high in innings pitched, accomplished in his start against Wisconsin on April 6.

Kevin Herget – Herget posted ERAs over 4.30 in both April and May, but so far in June he has been much better. The right-hander has tossed 7 2/3 innings and allowed just two runs on three hits in the month. While the strikeout-to-walk ratio isn't exactly where it should be (6:6), the improvement shown this month has been dramatic compared to his efforts in the past.

Who's Not

Kenny Peoples-Walls – Peoples-Walls has dropped off a proverbial cliff since April. His average for the first month of the season sat at a robust .308. After hitting just .202 for the entire month of May and early June, his average has dropped all the way down to .240 for the season. The 20-year-old has seen his playing time remain fairly constant, but that could change whenever Ronald Castillo returns from his injury.

Zach Loraine – The last week has not been kind to the Chiefs' all-star reliever. In four innings pitched, Loraine has yielded five earned runs in just four innings, sticking the 23-year-old with an 11.25 ERA this week. Despite his struggles, the righty has yet to blow a save and, surprisingly enough, the Chiefs are 3-0 in the three games in which he appeared.

Injuries

Ronald Castillo remains on the 7-day disabled list with an abdominal injury.

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.

Transactions

Peoria activated outfielder Justin Ringo from the DL June 12.

Outfielder Luis Perez was assigned to Peoria from Palm Beach June 13.

Third baseman Ronnierd Garcia (6/13) and second baseman Robelys Reyes (6/12) were assigned to State College from Peoria.

Catcher Gerwuins Velazco was promoted to Palm Beach 6/15.

Random stat of the week

Peoria finished just one game behind Burlington for the wild card spot in the first half of the playoffs. One possible cause? The Chiefs struggled with last-place Beloit, losing five of ten games to the Snappers, whereas the Bees won seven games against Beloit. But Chiefs fans shouldn't feel too bad about the record, since division winner Kane County won just three of ten games against the last-place Snappers.

Peoria Chiefs Team Stats

The divide between the Chiefs' proficiency on the mound and ineptitude at the plate is drawn pretty clearly at the end of the season's first half. Walks continue to be a bit of a problem for the staff, but have seen a somewhat steady decline as the season has progressed.

Offense Season # MWL rank of 16   Pitching Season # MWL rank of 16
BA .248 T-3rd lowest   ERA 3.64 5th
Runs 290 4th lowest   Strikeouts 574 2nd
OPS .670 3rd lowest   Walks 229 9th
Doubles 93 Fewest   HR allowed 41 T-5th most
HR 33 T-5th lowest   Saves 19 T-4th
Steals 65 5th lowest        

Midwest League Western Division Standings

The Chiefs finished the first half of the season one game out of the playoffs. Struggles away from Dozer Park and the aforementioned issues with last-place Beloit doomed the team in the first part of the season.

Club W L PCT GB L 10 Streak
Kane County Cougars (CHC)* 45 25 .643 - 5-5 L3
Burlington Bees (LAA)^ 38 31 .551 6.5 7-3 W1
Peoria Chiefs (STL) 37 32 .536 7.5 6-4 W3
Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (MIL)   36 33 .522 8.5 8-2 L1
Quad Cities River Bandits (HOU) 35 34 .507 9.5 5-5 W1
Cedar Rapids Kernels (MIN) 31 39 .443 14.0 4-6 L1
Clinton LumberKings (SEA) 30 38 .441 14.0 1-9 L5
Beloit Snappers (OAK) 30 40 .429 15.0 4-6 W3
* - first-half division winner                      
^ -wild card winner            

What's Next

Peoria has a few days off for the Midwest League All-Star Game. On Thursday, the Chiefs head on the road for a quick four-game series against the Quad Cities River Bandits (HOU) before returning home for a seven-game home stand, starting against the Cedar Rapids Kernels (MIN).



Follow Garth Shanklin on Twitter @GarthShanklin.

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