Peoria Chiefs Notebook: 2014 Week 14

The Cardinals’ Class-A club had a .500 week, but pitcher Steve Sabatino and shortstop Juan Herrera are among the standouts.

The week that was

This report covers the period from Tuesday, July 1 through Monday, July 7.

After dropping two of three during a brief road trip to Kane County, the Peoria Chiefs returned to Dozer Park to take the holiday weekend series from the Bees. Peoria split its six games, going 3-3, but several individual performances stood out.

The Chiefs’ 11-6 second-half record still has them in second place in their division, a game and a half behind Kane County.

Game Summaries

Tuesday, July 1: Kane County Cougars 6, Peoria Chiefs 1

Arturo Reyes did not get the road trip started on a high note, allowing six earned runs in just 2 2/3 innings in the series opener. Reyes walked one and struck out one in his brief appearance.

The offense did not fare much better. The Chiefs did tally seven hits, but they fit every definition of scattered. Peoria managed multiple hits in just two innings - the second and the ninth.

Peoria did manage to score in that ninth inning, however. Justin Ringo doubled with one out and moved to third on a single by Carson Kelly. Ringo scored but Kelly was forced out at second on a ground ball by Robelys Reyes.

Following Reyes, Zach Loraine and Chris Perry allowed just one hit and a pair of walks the rest of the way for the Chiefs, but the offense could not muster a comeback. Perry struck out four in his two innings of work.

Wednesday, July 2: Peoria Chiefs 8 at Kane County Cougars 5

Alex Reyes struck out ten Cougars in a wild performance by Peoria’s pitching staff. The righty yielded just two hits in five scoreless innings, but walked seven batters.

The Chiefs tallied three runs each in the first two innings, led by a two-out double in the first by Luis Perez and singles by Robelys Reyes, C.J. McElroy and Richy Pedroza.

Peoria kept that 6-0 lead until Brandon Lee came into the game in the sixth. The 23-year-old walked three batters and surrendered five earned runs on six hits in 1 2/3 innings. Steve Sabatino pitched the final 2 1/3 innings without allowing a hit to pick up his third save of the year.

The Chiefs’ nine total hits came from just four players. Reyes led the way, going 3-for-5 with a pair of runs scored and an RBI. McElroy had two hits in five at-bats, knocked in two runs and scored a run. Perez and Pedroza each had two hits as well.

Thursday, July 3: Kane County Cougars 10, Peoria Chiefs 2

Chase Brookshire set a career-high with seven innings pitched, but poor defense led to four unearned runs being charged against him and he dropped his fourth decision of the year.

Brookshire gave up six runs (two earned) on seven hits in the outing. The lefty struck out four batters and walked only one.

Robert Stock fared worse. For the second consecutive outing, Stock gave up four runs in an inning. The 24-year-old walked a pair of batters and gave up four hits, three of which were singles.

Peoria got a pair of unearned runs in the fifth inning. Kenny Peoples-Walls doubled, and after back-to-back groundouts, McElroy reached on an error by Kane County shortstop Carlos Penalver. Ringo singled into left field to score both runners.

Juan Herrera made a pair of errors, bringing his total to 17 on the season, and Luis Perez made the team’s third error of the game on a throw in the fourth inning.

Friday, July 4: Peoria Chiefs 6, Burlington Bees 0

Blake McKnight tossed arguably his best game as a professional in front of the seventh-largest crowd in Dozer Park history to lead the Chiefs to a series-opening win.

The 23-year-old tossed six scoreless innings, allowing just three hits and a walk to go with his four strikeouts. Kevin Herget and Jhonny Polanco were equally as impressive out of the bullpen, combining for three hitless innings with six strikeouts.

Herrera paced Peoria’s offensive attack, tallying three hits, an RBI and a run scored in his four at-bats. Steve Bean was just as impressive, going 3-for-3 with a run, a walk, an RBI and a double.

The Chiefs got their first run in the second. Herrera and Bean hit back-to-back singles, and Herrera scored on a groundout by Peoples-Walls. Peoria tacked on two runs each in the fourth and fifth.

Bean singled and scored Peoria’s final run in the eighth inning on a Pedroza single into center field. Every Chief starter but Vaughn Bryan and Michael Schulze picked up at least one hit.

Saturday, July 5: Peoria Chiefs 2, Burlington Bees 1

Luis Perdomo’s performance was much, much better his second start for the Chiefs, but if not for some late heroics, he would have been saddled with the loss.

In a game played in a downpour from roughly the fifth inning on, Perdomo dominated. The 21-year-old went seven innings and allowed just one earned run on four hits. He struck out four batters and did not allow a free pass.

The Chiefs trailed 1-0 heading into the ninth. As the rain came down harder, the offense heated up. Kelly and Herrera walked with one out. Bean came on as a pinch hitter and singled into left field to score pinch-runner Robelys Reyes and tie the game.

Michael Schulze then singled right back up the middle to score Herrera and give Peoria their fifth walk-off win of the season. Schulze had two of Peoria’s five hits, along with the aforementioned base hit by Bean and singles from Kelly and Herrera earlier.

Sunday, July 6: Burlington Bees 2 at Peoria Chiefs 1

Rob Kaminsky struggled with his command in his first start since being named the Pitcher of the Month by the Cardinals and The Cardinal Nation. The lefty tossed 6 1/3 innings and gave up just three hits, but four walks were costly and led to the only run he allowed.

The Chiefs struck for their only run in the first inning. McElroy singled with one out and stole second. Herrera walked, and a wild pitch sent McElroy to third. Bean singled to bring home McElroy before Bryan hit into a double play to end the inning.

Kaminsky walked a pair of batters in the second inning, including one that loaded the bases with one out. The first walk came around to score on a sac fly to tie the game at 1, but Kaminsky got a swinging strikeout to end the inning.

Zach Loraine came on in relief and gave up the winning run in the ninth. A leadoff single by Trevor Gretzky resulted in a run without a ball leaving the infield. Loraine tried to pick Gretzky off first and threw wildly, advancing him to second. Another wild throw in a sacrifice bunt attempt by Ryan Dalton allowed Gretzky to score.

All five of Peoria’s hits came from their first four batters, with McElroy picking up two of the five and a run scored.

Walk on the wild side

The seven walks surrendered by Alex Reyes July 2 were, unsurprisingly, a career-high. The ten walks total the staff issued that day were the most by the Chiefs in a game this season.

It’s not only Reyes who had some control issues this week. The four walks surrendered by Kaminsky in his start Sunday were the most of his (brief) career, too. Three walks were Kaminsky’s previous high, most recently coming in the June 8 game at Quad Cities.

Power Problems

Peoria’s starting lineup for the finale against the Bees combined for just six home runs total this season. Three of the six were by Peoples-Walls, whose last blast came on June 24. Bean has two on the season and Herrera one.

What does this mean? Well, the table below says Peoria has 38 home runs this season, and they do. However, only 15 of those homers are actually still on the team. Mason Katz (14), Ronald Castillo (4, DL), Matthew Young (3, retired), Jimmy Bosco and Gerwuins Velazco (1 each) are responsible for the other 23.

If you are looking to head to Dozer Park to catch a game this season, do not sit in the outfield. You will have a better shot at a foul ball than a homer.

Who’s Hot

Blake McKnight – McKnight has been much better of late in the Chiefs’ rotation. Ignoring the month of April, where he was used entirely as a reliever, McKnight has a 4-6 record with a 3.26 ERA as a starter. But recently, he has turned it on. Since the end of May, McKnight has gone 4-2 with a 1.84 ERA. His last start, six innings of three-hit ball, was the epitome of how far he’s come since the beginning of the season.

The righty is still getting ground balls at a ridiculous clip, a testament to his ability to keep the ball down in the strike zone and keep hitters guessing. Opponents are hitting just .258 off him currently, including a .241 mark in June, way down from the .300+ averages in April and May.

Steve Bean – What a difference a week makes. Bean turned things around at the plate over his last seven games. In that time, he has gone 8-for-21 with three runs scored and a pair of doubles. The 20-year-old has racked up five RBI in that same span, including the game-winning RBI Saturday night.

Bean has came through in the clutch for the Chiefs all season, posting averages over .300 with runners on base and with runners in scoring position, but it is nice to see that success finally start to translate to other situations. It is unlikely he keeps up his current .400 average in July, but anything is an improvement over June’s .213.

Chris Perry – Perry had a terrible April, giving up eight runs in his 16 innings worked. After a spectacular May, his June and early July returns have been just as good. Perry has struck out 80 batters this season and yielded just 15 walks. The 80 strikeouts, mind you, come in just 49 innings pitched. Perry is striking out nearly two batters per inning, a ridiculous rate for any pitcher.

In his last ten games, he’s given up a total of seven hits in 12 2/3 innings while striking out a whopping 20 batters. It is hard to argue with his consistent run of success, but with the way the rotation is pitching, Perry occasionally gets forgotten in the bullpen.

Juan Herrera – Herrera is absolutely on fire right now. In his last ten games, he’s put together a ridiculous .484/.543/.548 line in 31 at-bats. The right-handed hitter has smacked 15 hits in 31 at-bats, including two doubles, yet has scored just three runs of his own, a testament to how much the Chiefs’ offense has struggled at times this year. The 21-year-old has knocked in six runs in that span and earned four walks.

The only thing Herrera hasn’t done recently is steal bases. He had 22 in 31 tries before going on the disabled list and is 0-for-2 since coming off.

Who’s Not

Kenny Peoples-Walls – Walls has struggled since posting a .309 average in April. His batting average is all the way down to .241 and in his last 35 at-bats he’s tallied just eight hits, only one of which went for extra bases. The strikeouts (71 this season) were always there, and the walks (5) never really were, so it’s beginning to look more and more like the April performance was the outlier. The 20-year-old was scratched from Sunday’s lineup, and if he can’t get it together at the plate, he could see more of his playing time lost when/if Castillo is able to return from his injury.

Robert Stock – Stock hasn’t been very good for the Chiefs this season. In 2013, he posted a 2.30 ERA in 15 2/3 innings for the team, but in 11 2/3 innings so far in 2014, his ERA is nearly four times that. In just his last three appearances, the righty has allowed a total of nine earned runs on 14 hits in just four innings. Opponents are hitting .352 off the 24-year-old. It does not matter if the batter is right-handed or left-handed, Stock is not getting anyone out right now.

Vaughn Bryan – Bryan had been one of Peoria’s more consistent hitters since joining the team in June. Then the calendar flipped to July. The switch hitter has just one hit in 20 at-bats so far this month, prompting a demotion in the lineup prior to Sunday’s game against the Bees. Bryan had spent a lot of time batting leadoff of late, but found himself down to fifth in the batting order. No surprise there, given the 21-year-old is currently riding an 0-for-19 streak and has picked up just four hits in his last 37 at-bats overall.

Injuries

Joe Scanio remains on the 7-day DL with a fractured wrist.

Michael Holback remains on the 7-day DL with right forearm stiffness.

Ronald Castillo remains on the 7-day DL with an abdominal strain. Castillo was rehabbing the injury with the GCL Cardinals late last month, but was removed from a game June 26th after suffering what the team called a minor setback. He has not played in a game since.

Transactions

Robelys Reyes rejoined Peoria July 1 from State College and was sent back down to the Spikes July 7.

Random stat of the week

Steve Sabatino’s streak without giving up an earned run continues. His outing on Sunday, combined with his work this year and last few appearances with Peoria last season, gave him the team record. Sabatino hasn’t allowed a run in his last 28 2/3 innings, breaking the previous mark held by Dixon Llorens.

Peoria Chiefs Team Stats

The Chiefs offense is still toward the bottom of the Midwest League in basically every category, including ones that are not in this table, except for caught stealing. The Chiefs have been caught on 44 of their 121 stolen base attempts, the fourth highest amount in the league. The pitching is still doing extremely well, however.

Offense Season # MWL rank of 16   Pitching Season # MWL rank of 16
BA .251 6th-Lowest   ERA 3.51 5th
Runs 355 3rd-Fewest   Strikeouts 701 5th
OPS .682 Lowest   Walks 277 7th
Doubles 122 2nd-Fewest   HR allowed 45 T-6th Fewest
HR 38 4th-Fewest   Saves 25 T-4th Most
Steals 77 T-3rd Fewest        

Midwest League Western Division Standings

Peoria has had a lot of home games early in the second part of the season, and their 8-3 record at Dozer Park in the second half has a lot to do with their current place in the standings. For the entire season, the team is two games under .500 on the road this season but 12 over at home.

Club W L PCT GB L10 Streak
Kane County Cougars (CHC)* 12 4 .750 - 8-2 L1
Peoria Chiefs (STL) 11 6 .647 1.5 6-4 L1
Quad Cities River Bandits (HOU) 9 7 .563 3.0 6-4 W1
Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (MIL) 9 7 .563 3.0 4-6 L1
Burlington Bees (LAA)^ 9 8 .529 3.5 6-4 W1
Clinton LumberKings (SEA) 6 10 .375 6.0 4-6 W1
Cedar Rapids Kernels (MIN) 5 11 .313 7.0 4-6 L2
Beloit Snappers (OAK) 4 12 .250 8.0 2-8 W2

* first-half division winner
^ first-half wild card winner

What’s Next

After a league-wide off-day Monday, the Chiefs remain at Dozer Park for a three-game series with the Clinton Lumber Kings (SEA). Right-hander Arturo Reyes (5-4, 3.75 ERA) will take on lefty Eddie Campbell (4-6, 6.54). After the series against Clinton, the Chiefs will hit the road for a massive three team, 11 game, 13 day road trip that starts with four games in Burlington against the Bees.



Follow Garth Shanklin on Twitter @GarthShanklin.

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