Peoria Chiefs Notebook: 2014 Week 16

The Cardinals’ Midwest League club had a rough 1-5 week on the road, but catcher Steve Bean is hitting.

The Week that Was

This report covers the period from Tuesday, July 15 to Monday, July 21.

The Peoria Chiefs did not have the best week. The team finished up its ten-game road trip being swept by the West Michigan Whitecaps before heading to South Bend and dropping two of three from the Silver Hawks.

The rough 1-5 stretch dropped the Chiefs to 17-13 in the second half of the season, 54-45 for the entire year. Peoria now sits two games behind Kane County for the Western Division lead.

Game Summaries

Wednesday, July 16: West Michigan Whitecaps 4, Peoria Chiefs 2

Despite cranking out 12 hits, the Chiefs offense was stagnant in the opener against the Whitecaps.

Peoria picked up a pair of hits in the first inning, but left empty-handed. An error and a pair of singles gave West Michigan a 2-0 lead after one inning.

The Chiefs tied it at two in the third. Michael Schulze singled and Vaughn Bryan doubled to left. The relay throw sailed, allowing both runners to move up. Juan Herrera smacked a sac fly to tie the game at two.

Two more runs would cross the plate for the Whitecaps in the bottom of the third, giving them the victory. Starter Alex Reyes went only 3 2/3 innings, yielding seven hits and four runs (two earned). The righty walked two and struck out three.

Schulze led the way for the Chiefs, picking up four hits in his four at-bats with a run scored.

Thursday, July 17: West Michigan Whitecaps 3, Peoria Chiefs 1

Peoria struck first in the second game of the three-game series, but the offense stalled and the team dropped another road contest.

The Chiefs jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the second. Herrera singled and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Ronald Castillo then singled into right field to plate Herrera.

Chase Brookshire was decently effective. The lefty tossed six innings, allowing three earned runs on eight hits. He walked a batter and struck out three.

Jhonny Polanco came on in relief of Brookshire and tossed two scoreless innings, striking out two batters while allowing just one hit. Polanco has not allowed a run in his last 14 2/3 innings, dating back to May 23.

Carson Kelly tallied two of Peoria’s five hits in his four at-bats. None of the Chiefs managed an extra base hit. Herrera and C.J. McElroy Jr. were the only two Peoria runners to make it to second base.

Friday, July 18: West Michigan Whitecaps 3, Peoria Chiefs 2

Peoria’s bullpen couldn’t hold a late, one-run lead, and the Chiefs were swept out of Michigan by the Whitecaps.

Vaughn Bryan tripled to lead off the game and scored one out later on a Justin Ringo single. The Chiefs added their final run in the sixth thanks to a mental lapse by the Whitecaps infield. Steve Bean doubled and advanced to third on a grounder.

He scored when West Michigan 1B Dominic Ficocello forgot he was on base and started throwing the ball around the infield. SS Willy Adames was unable to make the catch, allowing the ball to travel into the outfield and Bean to cross the plate.

Blake McKnight pitched well again for Peoria, giving up just three hits and a walk in 5 1/3 innings of work. He left the game with the bases loaded, however Steve Sabatino was able to escape without a run scoring.

West Michigan scored a run in the seventh and took the lead in the eighth on three singles and a stolen base.

Castillo, Bean, Bryan, and Medina each picked up two hits for Peoria.

Saturday, July 19: Peoria Chiefs 2 at South Bend Silver Hawks 1 (10 innings)

Peoria’s offense was again absent, but the pitching staff shut down the Silver Hawks.

Back-to-back base hits in the bottom of the first gave South Bend the early lead, but Luis Perdomo was able to work his way out of trouble. The righty gave up one earned run on four hits in his six innings pitched. He walked two batters and struck out four.

Peoria tied the game in the fourth inning. McElroy singled and stole second. A wild pitch advanced him to third with no outs, and Herrera doubled two batters later to tie the game at one.

The Chiefs broke the tie in the top of the tenth with some help from the Silver Hawks. Kenny Peoples-Walls reached on an error. Rafael Medina sacrificed him to second, and after a walk and an infield single, another error allowed Peoples-Walls to score.

Kyle Barraclough tossed two innings, striking out four batters and surrendering just one hit in his first appearance since rejoining the Chiefs. McElroy and Herrera accounted for four of Peoria’s five hits.

Sunday, July 20: South Bend Silver Hawks 6, Peoria Chiefs 0

Markuz Solbach picked up his first win this season for the Silver Hawks by tossing a complete-game, three-hit shutout.

The Chiefs as a team struck out just three times, but could not get the offense going. McElroy, Ringo and Pedroza picked up Peoria’s hits, with Ringo’s double being the only extra-base knock.

Rob Kaminsky struggled, going just 3 2/3 innings yet allowing only three hits, two runs, and two walks. He did not strike out a batter.

Josh Lucas and Robert Stock each gave up two runs in relief for the Chiefs.

Monday, July 21: South Bend Silver Hawks 5, Peoria Chiefs 4

The Chiefs rallied late, but fell short in their bid to win the series.

South Bend did all their scoring in the first four innings, picking up single runs in the first three frames and adding a pair in the fourth. Peoria picked up a run in the second on a pair of singles, a walk and a sac fly. Castillo doubled in the fourth and scored on a Richy Pedroza single for the Chiefs’ second run.

The score stayed 5-2 until the eighth. Castillo tripled with one out and, after Luis Perez walked, scored on a triple by Pedroza. Medina flied out to right field to end the inning and Peoria’s scoring threat.

Arturo Reyes took the loss, allowing five runs on eight hits in six innings of work. The righty did not walk a batter and struck out nine. Polanco and Sabatino combined for two hitless innings in relief.

Castillo picked up two hits in three at-bats and scored twice. Perez went 2-for-3 with a run and a walk.

Streak Stopped

Steve Sabatino’s team-record 35-inning scoreless streak came to an end against the Whitecaps on Friday. Back-to-back base hits with two outs plated a run, ending the stingy stretch that dated back to the 2013 season. Sabatino saw a dramatic rise in his ERA due to the outing: it shot up from 0.00 to 0.33. Nonetheless, the lefty still sports a 5-1 record and a 31:5 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Three is a magic number

Vaughn Bryan led off Peoria’s 3-2 Friday loss to the Whitecaps with his eighth triple of the season to increase his hitting streak at the time to seven games. Those eight triples account for just under 1/3 of Peoria’s total triples this season. Bryan is tied for 13th place on Peoria’s all-time single season list and is tied with numerous players for fourth in the Midwest League this season.

Strikeout Stats

Peoria’s 14 strikeouts at the plate against West Michigan July 16 were a season high. As much attention is given to the strikeout prowess of the pitching staff, it should be noted that the hitters have done an excellent job avoiding strikeouts in 2014. In aggregate, Peoria batters have struck out just 618 times in 3,193 at-bats this season, the fewest total strikeouts of any team in the Midwest League.

Who’s Hot

Jhonny Polanco – Polanco has been lights-out for Peoria’s bullpen since May ended. In May, the righty gave up eight earned runs in 14 innings. He has yielded one run in 20 innings since. In his last ten games, Polanco struck out 18 batters in 15 1/3 innings while allowing just five hits. The 22-year-old had some trouble with walks early in the season, but got his control back and has walked just nine batters since the end of May. In June, he sports an 11:3 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Zach Loraine – Loraine has been on his game lately. Since June 15, the last game before the all-star break, Loraine has pitched 15 1/3 innings and allowed four runs on 14 hits. Not great numbers, but when you consider his stats for the first half of the month (4 runs allowed in 4 2/3 innings), it represents a dramatic turn around for the righty. Loraine has given up just two hits in his last 5 2/3 innings for the Chiefs, and picked up his ninth save of the season in Saturday’s win.

Steve Bean – Bean has been hot the entire month of July. In an ice-cold June, he posted a mere .213 batting average, but Bean has increased that number by over 100 points so far in July. In just his last ten games, Bean is hitting .353 (12 for 34) with four doubles, three walks and three RBI. Bean’s on-base percentage is over .400 as well in that time span.

The 20-year-old’s hot streak at the plate coincides nicely with fellow backstop Carson Kelly, who is hitting .313 over that same ten-game period.

Who’s Not

Rob Kaminsky – Kaminsky didn’t look very good in his last start for the Chiefs. The lefty needed 70 pitches just to get through 3 2/3 innings. He surrendered two runs on three hits with three walks in that outing. In addition to yielding his first home run of the season, Kaminsky also failed to strike out a batter in the game.

The 19-year-old’s strikeout numbers have been in a free-fall his last three games. After striking out at least six in four of six starts, he has struck out a total of four in his last three starts, spanning 16 innings. In the month of June, Kaminsky allowed just two walks total. In July, he has walked nine batters.

Josh Lucas – The righty hasn’t exactly lit up the stat sheet since joining Peoria. In four games with the Chiefs, albeit a small sample, Lucas has allowed four runs on nine hits in 5 1/3 innings, giving him a 6.75 ERA. Left-handers are hitting .333 against him, decent compared to the .429 average righties are sporting. This week in particular has ben rough for Lucas, as four of the hits and all of the runs have come in this seven-day period. On the bright side, of the 16 outs Lucas has recorded, ten of them have been via the strikeout.

Ronald Castillo – Castillo has struggled since being activated off the disabled list. In the 11 games since his activation, The all-star outfielder is hitting just .244/.279/.463 with just one home run and four runs batted in. Of his ten hits, six of them have been for extra-bases, but he has struck out nine times in 41 at-bats, or nearly one strikeout every four at-bats. Castillo is too important offensively to the team to continue this trend for very long.

C.J. McElroy Jr. – Warning: Standing in the presence of C.J. McElroy Jr. for an extended period of time could result in a severe case of frostbite. The switch-hitter has picked up just seven hits in his last 36 at-bats, giving him a .194 average over that period. The outfielder scored just three runs, has zero extra-base hits, and has walked three times in that same period.

McElroy seems to be squarely in the middle of a roller-coaster year. The 21-year-old’s batting average is well over .300 for April and June but drops precariously in May and July. For the month of July, his slash line sits at .206/.316/.221, and only one of his 14 hits went for extra-bases.

Injuries

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

Brandon Lee was placed on the 7-day DL with a foot injury suffered backing up home plate July 10.

Transactions

Reliever Kyle Barraclough rejoined the Chiefs from Palm Beach on 7/19.

Random stat of the week

Things can change fast in baseball. Last week, the Chiefs scored 16 runs in 16 innings, prompting me to believe they may be in for a turnaround offensively. After scoring just 10 runs in their six games this week, it is rather apparent that is not the case.

Peoria Chiefs Team Stats

It is hard to improve on any offensive stats when you only score ten runs in six games. The Chiefs simply do not hit, but it is hard to argue with the pitching, which seems to be getting stronger and stronger as the season goes on.

Offense Season # MWL rank of 16   Pitching Season # MWL rank of 16
BA .251 9th   ERA 3.48 4th
Runs 401 2nd-Fewest   Strikeouts 811 5th
OPS .671 Lowest   Walks 304 6th
Doubles 141 2nd-Fewest   HR allowed 49 T-3rd Fewest
HR 43 3rd-Fewest   Saves 28 5th
Steals 86 4th-Fewest        

Midwest League Western Division Standings

Despite the rough week, the Chiefs remain in early contention for a second-half playoff spot. Peoria sits two games behind the Kane County Cougars, which clinched a spot in the playoffs in the first half.

Club W L PCT GB L10 Streak
Kane County Cougars (CHC)* 19 11 .633 - 4-6 L3
Peoria Chiefs (STL) 17 13 .567 2.0 4-6 L2
Burlington Bees (LAA)^ 16 14 .533 3.0 5-5 L1
Cedar Rapids Kernels (MIN) 16 14 .533 3.0 8-2 W1
Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (MIL) 15 14 .517 3.5 5-5 W1
Quad Cities River Bandits (HOU) 14 15 .483 4.5 3-7 W2
Clinton Lumber Kings (SEA) 12 18 .400 7.0 5-5 W1
Beloit Snappers (OAK) 9 21 .300 10.0 4-6 L1

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

What’s Next

After an off-day Tuesday, the Chiefs return to Dozer Park for a six-game series against teams from the Midwest League’s Eastern Division. First up, Peoria takes on Toronto Blue Jays affiliate, the Lansing Lugnuts. On Wednesday, right-hander Alex Reyes (6-6, 4.24 ERA) will face lefty David Powers (0-1, 4.73). Following that three-game set, the Chiefs will face the Great Lakes Loons (LAD) for three games before hitting the road again.



Follow Garth Shanklin on Twitter @GarthShanklin.

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