The week that was
This report covers the period from Tuesday, June 24 through Monday, June 30.
The Peoria Chiefs returned home for an extended homestand after taking two of three at Quad Cities last weekend. The Chiefs swept the visiting Cedar Rapids Kernels before taking three of five in another series against Quad Cities, this time at Dozer Park.
The solid 6-2 week has allowed Peoria to remain in early contention for the postseason. The Chiefs currently sit just a half-game behind Kane County, the first-half division winner.
Tuesday, June 24: Peoria Chiefs 3, Cedar Rapids Kernels 1
Rob Kaminsky dominated yet again for the Chiefs. The 19-year-old struck out seven batters over his 5 2/3 innings en route to his third win of the season.
Kaminsky gave up one run on four hits and for the second consecutive start did not walk a batter. The lefty has allowed more than one run just once in his eight starts so far this year.
Offensively, Peoria jumped out to a 2-1 lead after the first inning. C.J. McElroy and Vaughn Bryan opened the game with singles, and after a Justin Ringo groundout, Carson Kelly brought home McElroy with a single to tie the game. Bryan scored an out later on a Katz base hit to give the Chiefs the lead.
Kenny Peoples-Walls homered to left field in the fourth for Peoria's final run. Every starter had a base hit but Ringo, who went 0-for-4.
Wednesday, June 25: Peoria Chiefs 2, Cedar Rapids Kernels 1
Yet again, Peoria got a dominating performance from a starting pitcher and rode it to victory against the Kernels. This time, it was Arturo Reyes. He went six innings, giving up a run on five hits. The 22-year-old walked one batter, struck out five and picked up his fifth win of the season.
Peoria gave up a run in the top of the fourth but tied it in the bottom. Richy Pedroza doubled over a drawn-in outfield and scored on a Bryan single. Mason Katz smacked his 12th home run of the season to left field to put the Chiefs ahead for good.
The Chiefs bullpen tossed three scoreless innings led by Kevin Herget, who tossed two innings, yielding just one hit. Steve Sabatino pitched to one batter in the ninth before giving way to Chris Perry, who retired the final two batters of the game to pick up the save.
Thursday, June 26: Peoria Chiefs 6, Cedar Rapids Kernels 3
The offense made an appearance in the finale against the Kernels, just in time to lead the Chiefs to their second straight series sweep.
Peoria put a pair of runs on the board in the first. Bryan tripled and scored on a McElroy single that bounced over the head of the drawn-in shortstop. McElroy stole second, went to third on a sac fly and scored on a fielder's choice groundout by Katz.
The Chiefs tacked on a run in the third and sixth innings before striking for two more in the seventh on a two-RBI triple by Luis Perez.
Alex Reyes allowed a pair of runs on four hits in his six innings of work. The 19-year-old walked a batter and struck out five. Peoria got two hitless innings from Jhonny Polanco before turning the ball over to Zach Loraine in the ninth.
Loraine struggled again, giving up a run on two hits and a pair of walks before being pulled. Perry came on and struck out Jon Murphy to end the game.
Friday, June 27: Quad Cities River Bandits 4 at Peoria Chiefs 3
Peoria's five-game winning streak came to an abrupt end in the first of five against the River Bandits.
The Chiefs struck for an early 2-0 lead in the first inning. For the second consecutive game, Bryan tripled to lead off and scored on a single by McElroy. McElroy then stole second, moved to third on an error and scored on a wild pitch.
The Chiefs kept the lead until the sixth. Back-to-back doubles chased Peoria starter Chase Brookshire and cut the lead to 2-1. A bouncing ball that went over Ringo's head at first tied the game, and after an error allowed the runner to advance to third, a single by Tyler White gave Quad Cities the lead.
Brookshire took a no-decision, allowing two runs on nine hits in his five innings pitched. The lefty did not walk a batter and struck out five. Robert Stock and Brandon Lee gave up a pair of runs combined, while Steve Sabatino tossed two-thirds of an inning to extend his streak without an earned run to 14 2/3.
Saturday, June 28: Peoria Chiefs 5, Quad Cities River Bandits 4
Peoria built enough of a lead in the early going to survive another Loraine near-meltdown in the ninth inning.
Quad Cities jumped on the board in the first thanks to a double, an error, and a sac fly. The lead did not last long, however, as the Chiefs struck for a pair of runs in the third. Bryan singled, stole second and came around to score on a McElroy double. McElroy scored on a base hit from Ringo to give the Chiefs the lead.
That combination scored three more times in the fifth. Bryan was hit with a pitch, McElroy doubled into left-center, and Ringo smacked his fourth homer of the year to right field to make it 5-1 Chiefs.
Quad Cities got a run in the sixth and the eighth to make it 5-3. Loraine was called upon to save the game in the ninth and immediately gave up three consecutive hits, putting the tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position with nobody out.
Loraine got out of it, however, with a strikeout and a pair of weak groundouts to preserve the win.
Sunday, June 29 (Game 1): Quad Cities River Bandits 11 at Peoria Chiefs 3 (7 inn.)
Luis Perdomo received the call up from State College to start game one of the doubleheader and it did not go well.
The righty gave up six runs (five earned) on six hits in 4 2/3 innings. Perdomo walked four batters in his Peoria debut, but did have six strikeouts. But it was not just Perdomo who struggled on the mound.
Stock came on in relief and surrendered four runs on seven hits in just one inning. Brandon Lee gave up another run on two hits in an inning and a third.
Offensively, Mason Katz homered for Peoria. Katz went 2-for-3 and added a double to the aforementioned home run. Kelly, McElroy and the newly-activated Juan Herrera tallied Peoria's other three hits.
Sunday, June 29 (Game 2): Peoria Chiefs 4, Quad Cities River Bandits 2 (7 inn.)
Peoria's pitching was vastly improved in the second game. Kevin Herget started for the first time this year and allowed a pair of runs on five hits in his four innings of work. He struck out five River Bandits and did not walk a batter.
Johnny Polanco was excellent in his three innings of relief, surrendering just one hit and a walk while striking out three to earn the win.
Katz launched his second homer of the day in the fourth inning to cut into an early 2-0 deficit. The Chiefs took the lead in the fifth thanks to a leadoff double by Pedroza. He moved to third on a wild pitch and, after Bryan walked, scored on a groundout by McElroy. Bryan eventually scored on a single by Ringo.
Seven of Peoria's nine hitters picked up a hit, the exceptions being Bryan and Pedroza.
Monday, June 30: Peoria Chiefs 8, Quad Cities River Bandits 2
Peoria's offense came alive in a big way and backed a spectacular start from Rob Kaminsky in the finale of the five-game series.
Kaminsky tossed seven scoreless innings, allowing just three hits. The lefty walked a batter and struck out seven. Steve Sabatino replaced him, and thanks to an error on McElroy, ran his streak without an earned run to 16 2/3. Sabatino gave up two unearned runs on one hit in his two innings of work.
Peoria got all the runs it would need in the first. Two walks and a single loaded the bases with no outs, and after back-to-back strikeouts, Herrera brought home two runs with a ground-ball single to second base. Bean's single plated Peoria's third run in the inning.
The heart of Peoria's order went 0-for-10 with three runs scored, a pair of walks and three strikeouts. Herrera, hitting sixth, went a perfect 4-for-4 from the plate, all singles, and collected four RBI.
Peoples-Walls, McElroy and Schulze each tallied two hits while Bean and Bryan picked up a hit apiece.
Month in Review
Peoria struggled early in the month of June and as a result slipped to third at the end of the first half, missing out on a guaranteed spot in the postseason. The team has come out swinging in the second half, riding a recently-snapped five game winning streak to an 8-3 start.
The bats improved over their numbers in May, as heading into play Monday night, the Chiefs' team batting average for June sat at .267. The pitching rotation continued to get stronger, shaving another three-tenths of a run off their ERA to post a 3.39 mark and lead the team to a 15-10 record.
Pitcher of the Month - Rob Kaminsky
This was not at all a hard a decision to make. Kaminsky's June numbers in the rotation have been nuts. 4-0 with a 0.89 ERA in 30+ innings pitched? A strikeout-to-walk ratio of 28:3? How about an opponent batting average (.165) that is well below the "Mendoza Line?" Any of those stats would be a good individual reason to choose Kaminsky. If you put them together, he becomes the obvious choice.
Hitter of the Month - C.J. McElroy Jr.
McElroy rebounded nicely after hitting just .233 in 28 games in May. The 21-year-old finished the month of June with a .322/.398/.356 slash line, which helped raise his average 16 points. He stole more bases this month (7) than he had in any previous month and cut down on his strikeouts too. The switch hitter drove in eight runs, three shy of his total for the entire season entering June, and crossed the plate 18 times. The power is non-existent, and the defense at times can be confusing, but McElroy had by far the best offensive month of any Chief not named Justin Ringo. Had Ringo played more, this probably would have been his spot.
No Place Like Home for Katz
Mason Katz had better adjust to hitting in Palm Beach quickly, because during his time with the Chiefs there was a profound difference in the 23-year-old's batting stats at Dozer. Katz hit over 60 points higher (.242 vs .180) at home and 10 of his 14 home runs came in Peoria. While his RBI total was roughly the same, nearly 60 percent of his extra base hits came at Dozer Park and, as a result, he scored twice as many runs at home as he did on the road.
One more note on Mason Katz: his 14 homers tied him for the Midwest League's lead, but more importantly, they were over one-third of Peoria's total home runs this season. Without his bat in the lineup, it will be interesting to see who provides the power. Justin Ringo is the safest bet, since his four homers tie him for third on the team despite him playing in just 21 games to date.
Chase Brookshire – Brookshire has pitched pretty well since rejoining the rotation on June 4. In those four games, the lefty has tossed a total of 18 1/3 innings and allowed a total of three runs, giving him an ERA of 1.47 in that span. While Brookshire has given up 20 total hits in his last three starts, he has been able to work out of trouble and has 15 strikeouts in that same period, a third of his total strikeouts this season. The 23-year-old is not walking very many batters either, as he has walked just two since returning to the rotation.
More importantly, Brookshire has also worked at least five innings in his last three starts, and his 18 1/3 IP in his last four starts are more than his first five starts before being removed from the rotation after May 14.
Kevin Herget – Herget had an excellent June out of the bullpen for the Chiefs, so much so that he was rewarded with a start in the second game of Sunday's doubleheader. The righty gave up two runs on just five hits as a reliever last month, good enough for a 1.64 ERA.
Herget was also able to pick up his first save since April June 14, when he went three innings against Clinton. In his first two appearances of the month, he walked five batters and struck out four, but Herget walked just one batter the rest of the month.
Luis Perez – Perez has been a pleasant surprise since joining the team from Palm Beach. Despite a poor .233 average for the Cardinals, Perez has been lighting up Midwest League pitching during his 11 game stint with the Chiefs. He has put together a .343/.378/.486 slash line by smacking 12 hits in his first 35 at-bats. Of those 12 hits, four have gone for extra-bases, and his six RBI place him in a tie for ninth place among active Chiefs, which does not say all that much about Peoria's offense.
Zach Loraine – Right-hander Zach Loraine has not been able to get anyone out in June, with a relief appearance against Quad Cities being the only exception. His troubles seem to have started with an outing against the River Bandits June 9. Loraine struck out two batters in that stint, but gave up a run and a pair of hits. His next three outings were not very good.
The 23-year-old gave up five runs on eight hits in just four innings and his batting average against went through the roof. He had a clean outing in his next appearance, yielding just a walk in two innings, but has struggled again recently. For a pitcher who is reliant upon the ground ball, it could just be a case of bad luck. Opponents are hitting .426 against Loraine since May 26, and one of the runs he gave up earlier this week came on a double that hit the ground right in front of Ringo and bounced over.
Steve Bean – Bean shares time behind the plate with Carson Kelly, so when he gets the chance to start, making the most of it would probably be a good idea. Unfortunately, Bean has not been able to do that lately. In his last ten games, he is hitting just .233 with nine strikeouts compared to just three walks. As a matter of fact, Bean hasn't really hit much at all in June. The 20-year-old posted an average of just .213 for the month, his worst mark so far this season.
Most of his starts this season have been in the middle of the Chiefs' batting order, either fifth or sixth, but a move down in the lineup could be in the works if he fails to turn it around soon. If so, the timeshare behind the plate could start to shift toward Kelly a little, giving Bean more time as the DH to work on his issues at the plate.
Joe Scanio remains on the 7-day DL with a fractured wrist.
Michael Holback remains on the 15-day DL with right forearm stiffness.
IF Cesar Valera and LHS Jimmy Reed were assigned to Palm Beach from Peoria June 25.
RHS Luis Perdomo was assigned to Peoria from State College June 28.
Peoria activated SS Juan Herrera from the 7-day DL June 29.
2B Mason Katz was assigned to Palm Beach from Peoria June 30.
Random stat of the week
The Chiefs have dominated the Cedar Rapids Kernels this year. Including this week's three-game sweep, the Chiefs now own a 10-2 record against the Kernels, the third time since 2005 Peoria has won at least ten games against them. The Chiefs' bullpen has a miniscule 1.17 ERA in those 12 games this year.
Bonus stat: Chris Perry ranks 7th in the Midwest League with 75 strikeouts. As a reliever, Perry has thrown at least 22 fewer innings than anyone ahead of him on the list.
Peoria Chiefs Team Stats
It is obvious that the Chiefs' offense cannot be relied upon to score runs day in and day out, which makes starts like Kaminsky had Monday night that much more important. The fact that the team currently sports a record that is five games over .500 is a testament to the pitching staff, not the bats.
|Offense||Season #||MWL rank of 16||Pitching||Season #||MWL rank of 16|
Midwest League Western Division Standings
Peoria had a brief stint in first place this week, but they settle for a second-place ranking by a half-game. The team has a chance to overtake the Cougars this week, as Peoria travels to Kane County for a three-game set.
|Kane County Cougars (CHC)*||8||2||.800||-||8-2||W4|
|Peoria Chiefs (STL)||8||3||.727||.5||8-2||W2|
|Burlington Bees (LAA)^||6||5||.545||2.5||6-4||W2|
|Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (MIL)||6||5||.545||2.5||5-5||L2|
|Quad Cities River Bandits (HOU)||5||6||.455||3.5||4-6||L2|
|Clinton LumberKings (SEA||4||6||.400||4.0||4-6||W1|
|Cedar Rapids Kernels (MIN)||3||7||.300||5.0||3-7||L1|
|Beloit Snappers (OAK)||2||8||.200||6.0||2-8||L6|
* first-half division winner
^ first-half wild card winner
The Chiefs hit the road for a brief three-game set against the Kane County Cougars (CHC) starting tonight. Right-hander Arturo Reyes (5-3, 3.12 ERA) will toe the rubber for the Chiefs against fellow righty Tyler Skulina (4-3, 2.63). Peoria will return home July 4 for the start of a six-game, seven day homestand against the Burlington Bees (LAA) and Clinton Lumber Kings (SEA).
Follow Garth Shanklin on Twitter @GarthShanklin.
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