Peoria Chiefs Notebook: 2014 Week 19

The Cardinals’ Midwest League club had eight games at home this week but only won three, falling four back. After a rough July, C.J. McElroy is having a strong August.

The Week that Was

This report covers the period from Tuesday, August 5 through Monday, August 11.

The unexpected early nights off caught up with the Peoria Chiefs this week, as in addition to their regularly-scheduled slate of six games, the team faced a pair of completions. Seven of the eight contests saw the Chiefs as the home team, despite all eight of them being held at Dozer Park.

The Chiefs stumbled to a 3-5 record during the period, dropping the team to four games back in the Midwest League Western Division with 21 games to go.

Game Summaries

Tuesday, August 5: Peoria Chiefs 4, Kane County Cougars 1 (Completion of 8/5 game)

Carson Kelly broke a 1-1 tie that lasted overnight to put the Chiefs out in front for good.

Kelly lined his sixth home run of the season into left field to give the Chiefs a 3-1 lead they did not give up. The Chiefs scored an insurance run in the eighth inning after Vaughn Bryan walked. He was sacrificed to second and scored on a ground ball by Justin Ringo.

Kevin Herget pitched five scoreless innings, yielding just two hits and a walk while striking out six to earn his sixth win of the season. Zach Loraine tossed the remaining three innings, giving up just two hits, and picked up his tenth save.

Bryan finished the day going 2-for-3 with two runs scored and a walk. McElroy, Ringo and Kelly collected Peoria’s other three hits.

Tuesday, August 5: Kane County Cougars 4 at Peoria Chiefs 1 (7 innings)

The Chiefs could not pull off the doubleheader sweep against the Cougars and were limited to just four hits in the loss.

Chase Brookshire started the nightcap for the Chiefs and pitched decently well, giving up four runs (two earned) on six hits while striking out five. Robert Stock faced two batters, striking out both to end the seventh.

The two unearned runs scored after Brookshire allowed two singles in the first. A ground ball back to the Peoria starter was thrown into the outfield as nobody was covering second base. The second run scored during a rundown.

The Chiefs lone run came in the bottom of the first. Bryan singled and McElroy advanced him to second with a groundout. Ringo singled home McElroy.

Peoria played from the third inning on without manager Joe Kruzel, who was ejected after arguing a call at first base by umpire Mike Savakinas. Savakinas has ejected three Chiefs this season: Kruzel in May and Ringo in July.

Wednesday, August 6: Kane County Cougars 4 at Peoria Chiefs 2

The Chiefs dropped the third game and the series to the Cougars.

Peoria struck for a run in the first. Singles by McElroy and Herrera put runners on first and third with one out. Kelly’s groundout to short scored McElroy. The lead did not last, as Kane County tied the game in the top of the second on a bases-loaded sac fly. A single to left field nearly made it 2-1 Cougars, but Rowan Wick showed off his arm and gunned the runner down at home to end the frame.

The Chiefs managed to tie the game at two in the fourth, but the bats were silenced after that. Ronald Castillo and McElroy each picked up two hits for Peoria.

Blake McKnight tossed five innings and allowed four runs on six hits for the Chiefs. Kyle Helisek pitched a perfect inning of relief as the Chiefs’ bullpen combined to allow just one hit while striking out seven in the final four innings.

Thursday, August 7: Wisconsin Timber Rattlers 2, Peoria Chiefs 1 (Completion of 8/3 game)

The Chiefs and the Timber Rattlers ended the suspended game with a whimper. After the teams traded zeroes in the 10th inning, Chiefs reliever Jhonny Polanco surrendered a single and three consecutive one-out walks to end the game in the bottom of the 11th.

The Chiefs had a chance to win in the 10th. Bryan singled with one out but was caught stealing second base. McElroy promptly singled to center field and stole second, but the inning ended when Herrera struck out.

Thursday, August 7: Wisconsin Timber Rattlers 6 at Peoria Chiefs 1

Another loss in the nightcap dropped the Chiefs to .500 on the season.

Two runs in the third inning were all the Timber Rattlers needed. A single and a double put two runners on against Chiefs starter Luis Perdomo. Perdomo promptly balked in one and gave up another score on a single.

The Chiefs could not get anything going against Timber Rattlers starter Preston Gainey. Gainey tossed seven shutout innings and struck out 12, including the side in the sixth and seventh.

Peoria scored its only run after a double by Bryan. He took third base on defensive indifference and scored on a groundout to short.

Robert Stock worked four innings of relief for Peoria, allowing a run on three hits and two walks while striking out three.

Friday, August 8: Peoria Chiefs 5, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers 2

The Chiefs rode a pair of two-hit games to a victory against the Timber Rattlers.

Peoria struck for a run in the fourth. Castillo singled and Rowan Wick walked, allowing Steve Bean to single into right field and score Castillo for an early lead. The Chiefs scored another run in the fifth before Wisconsin rallied to tie the game in the seventh.

Three runs in the eighth inning put the Chiefs ahead for good. A single, a sacrifice bunt and an intentional walk put runners on first and second for Castillo, who promptly doubled them both home. A wild pitch followed by a Bean sac fly scored Castillo.

McElroy and Castillo tallied two hits apiece for Peoria. Castillo also scored twice and drove in a pair of runs.

Rob Kaminsky had his best outing since early July, allowing just two runs on five hits while walking one batter in his 6 1/3 innings pitched.

Saturday, August 9: Wisconsin Timber Rattlers 11 at Peoria Chiefs 3

The game’s start was delayed after the umpires showed up late to the ballpark and it went downhill from there for the Chiefs.

A seven-run third inning doomed Peoria en route to a big home loss.

Starter Arturo Reyes lasted just 2 1/3 innings, surrendering a whopping seven runs on eight hits and three walks. Steve Sabatino allowed three runs on four hits in his 3 1/3 innings.

Peoria’s offense managed six hits and three walks, but with one exception, the team could not do anything with them. Outfielder Rowan Wick accounted for all three of Peoria’s runs by swatting his third home run with the Chiefs in the fourth inning.

Two Timber Rattlers batters had three hits each, equaling the output by the entire Chiefs’ offense.

Sunday, August 10: Peoria Chiefs 6, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers 4

Peoria faced rehabbing Brewers pitcher Wei-Chung Wang and got to the big-leaguer for three runs, two earned, on four hits in three innings of work.

Kyle Helisek started for the Chiefs and allowed four runs on eight hits and three walks in his five innings of work. Kevin Herget and Kyle Barraclough combined for four scoreless innings and gave up just two total hits.

The Chiefs found themselves down 2-1 entering the third inning. Four consecutive two-out singles plated McElroy and Kelly to put Peoria ahead 3-2. Rafael Medina smacked his second home run of the season in the fourth inning to give the Chiefs a three-run cushion.

Runs in the fifth and sixth cut the lead to one, but Valera walked to lead off the sixth and advanced to third on a single. Richy Pedroza brought home Valera with a sac fly for the Chiefs’ sixth run.

Justin Ringo led the way for Peoria, collecting three hits in four at-bats and an RBI.

Instructional League

The Cardinals have invited ten Peoria Chiefs players to their fall instructional league camp in Jupiter, Florida, which starts on September 15. They include catchers Steve Bean and Carson Kelly, outfielders Rowan Wick, C.J. McElroy Jr. and Vaughn Bryan, shortstop Juan Herrera, relief pitchers Kyle Barraclough and Jhonny Polanco, and starters Alex Reyes and Rob Kaminsky.

The full list of 30-35 invitees to instructs will be published at The Cardinal Nation in the upcoming days.

Doubling Down

There is no point in mincing words - Peoria’s offense is not very good. However, it is hard to score runs when you seemingly erase runners with double plays at every possible chance. The Chiefs this season have hit into 96 double plays, 17 shy of the team’s record of 113.

Who’s Hot

C.J. McElroy Jr. – The outfielder has rebounded nicely from an abysmal July so far this month. After hitting just .228 in July, McElroy has put up a solid .322 average in August, primarily as the #2 hitter behind Bryan. McElroy has also stolen eight bases in just 11 days so far in August, well ahead of his pace last month when he managed to swipe just eight bags the entire month. Runs batted in are not necessarily McElroy’s job, meaning the two he has this month are nothing to worry about. The fact that he has been on base 19 times and scored only five runs is more of a testament to who is hitting behind him than his skills with the bat.

Kyle Barraclough – The Chiefs bullpen has been excellent lately, and Barraclough has had a large role in that success. Since rejoining the Chiefs last month, Barraclough has allowed just one run on five hits in 13 1/3 innings pitched. The 24-year-old has struck out a whopping 24 batters while walking just four in that same period. The righty has also recorded a perfect 4-for-4 tally in saves this season, two of which came after returning to the Chiefs from Palm Beach.

Zach Loraine – Loraine seems to have finally rediscovered what made him so dominant at the beginning of the season. In his last ten relief outings, the 24-year-old has allowed just five total runs over 15 2/3 innings, good for a 2.87 ERA. Loraine has not allowed a run so far this month, as the righty has thrown 6 2/3 shutout innings while posting seven strikeouts and no walks. After an abysmal June in which he gave up seven runs in just nine innings, Loraine has been stellar.

Who’s Not

Cesar Valera – Valera has not been hitting for the Chiefs this month. The 22-year-old has picked up just five hits in 35 at-bats. In that same period, Valera has scored three runs and knocked in two, but is also sporting a 10:3 strikeout-to-walk count. At the start of the month, his average was over .270 but after his recent struggles, he is in danger of dropping below .250. As bad as that is, Valera has not shown much at the plate in his minor league career. The .258 average posted last season by the Venezuelan was the highest since he hit .242 in his first season in affiliated baseball.

Richy Pedroza – The month of August has not been kind to Pedroza. In 21 at-bats, Pedroza has tallied just one hit. Extend that streak to his last ten games and the 23-year-old is just two for his last 31. The Chiefs had a shortage of infielders for a while, which forced Pedroza to play every game. Now that they have a surplus, days off like the two Pedroza got during the last home stand could become more common if his bat continues to falter.

Alex Reyes – Reyes seems to have hit a bit of a rough patch of late. The 19-year-old has failed to go five innings in three of his last four starts since tossing five shutout innings with ten strikeouts in early July. His ERA now sits at a rather high 4.16 on the season and his 55 walks allowed lead the team by far despite two other players pitching 20 more innings this season. Reyes will get the start Tuesday night against Burlington, a team he faced in May and allowed three runs on five hits and four walks in just 4 2/3 innings.

Injuries

Michael Holback remains on the 7-day DL with right forearm stiffness. Holback, according to his Twitter feed, is finally able to play catch again.

Luis Perez was remains on the 7-day DL with a sore left knee.

Transactions

Chase Brookshire was placed on the inactive list August 9 to attend his grandmother’s funeral. He is scheduled to return to the team Tuesday.

Random stat of the week

The continuation of Thursday’s suspended game between the Chiefs and the Timber Rattlers marked the first time in the history of Dozer Park a suspended road game was finished in the ballpark.

Peoria Chiefs Team Stats

The Chiefs’ offense continues to struggle this season, forcing the pitching staff to pick up the load, something the staff has done in a big way.

Offense Season # MWL rank of 16   Pitching Season # MWL rank of 16
BA .246 10th   ERA 3.44 4th
Runs 466 2nd-Fewest   Strikeouts 969 4th
OPS .661 Lowest   Walks 369 8th
Doubles 163 Fewest   HR allowed 59 T-2nd
HR 50 T-2nd Fewest   Saves 33 5th
Steals 106 10th        

Midwest League Western Division Standings

The Chiefs were unable to gain ground on either of the teams ahead of them in the divisional race. However, the team does have three games left against Kane County (Aug. 30-Sept. 1) and Cedar Rapids. The Chiefs also face last-place Beloit six times over their final 21 games.

Club W L PCT GB L10 Streak
Kane County Cougars (CHC)* 29 29 .592 - 7-3 W1
Cedar Rapids Kernels (MIN) 28 21 .571 1.0 5-5 L1
Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (MIL) 28 21 .571 1.0 6-4 L1
Peoria Chiefs (STL) 25 24 .510 4.0 4-6 W1
Quad Cities River Bandits (HOU) 25 24 .510 4.0 4-6 W2
Burlington Bees (LAA)^ 23 26 .469 6.0 4-6 W3
Clinton LumberKings (SEA) 21 28 .429 8.0 6-4 L3
Beloit Snappers (OAK) 17 31 .354 11.5 4-6 L2

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

What’s Next

The Chiefs embark on a six-game road trip, their last multi-team road trip of the season. The team heads to Burlington to take on the Bees starting Tuesday night. Alex Reyes (6-6, 4.16 ERA) will square off against Sean Newcomb, a left-handed pitcher taken 16th overall by the Angels in June’s MLB Draft. The team then heads to Cedar Rapids for a three-game set against the Kernels before returning to Dozer Park for a six-game homestand.



Follow Garth Shanklin on Twitter @GarthShanklin.

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