Peoria Chiefs Notebook: 2014 Week 20

The Cardinals’ Midwest League club remains in the playoff hunt despite losing five of seven this past week. Carson Kelly has earned a move into the number three spot in the order.

The Week that Was

This report covers the period from Tuesday, August 12 through Monday, August 18.

The Peoria Chiefs suffered a five-game losing streak to end the week, but managed to lose each game a different way. A blowout on Friday, a bullpen meltdown Saturday and Sunday followed by poor baserunning Monday made each loss just as unique as it was frustrating.

Despite the 2-5 week, the Chiefs are still in a decent position in the standings. They trail the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers by two games for third in the Midwest League Western Division, but three clubs are just one game behind Peoria.

Game Summaries

Tuesday, August 12: Peoria Chiefs 4 at Burlington Bees 2 (14 innings)

Chiefs pitchers combined to strike out 23 of the 49 batters they faced, allowing the offense to finally come through in the 14th inning for the win.

Alex Reyes returned after having his last start skipped to manage his innings and was spectacular, allowing just three hits and two walks while striking out 11 in six innings of work.

He left with a 1-0 lead after Vaughn Bryan singled to lead off the game and scored on a double by Juan Herrera. The game remained tied until Zach Loraine allowed two runs on a pair of walks and two singles in the eighth. The Chiefs knotted it up in the ninth thanks to a walk by C.J. McElroy and a single by Justin Ringo.

Peoria took the lead in the 14th on a double by Ringo and a home run by Rowan Wick, his fourth of the season.

Robert Stock pitched four innings and gave up just two hits and a walk while striking out four. Jhonny Polanco earned the win by striking out the side in the 13th.

Wednesday, August 13: Peoria Chiefs 10 at Burlington Bees 7

Peoria rode a pair of bombs from first baseman Justin Ringo to a three-run victory over the Bees.

Ringo smacked a two-run home run, his seventh of the season, in the first inning. The Chiefs had already plated two runs on a double, a hit batter, and a throwing error.

Peoria struck for four more runs in the fifth. Bryan singled and advanced to third on another error that allowed McElroy to reach second. After Herrera grounded out, Ringo promptly smacked his second home run of the game into right field. Rowan Wick singled and scored on a double by Castillo later in the frame.

Chase Brookshire earned the win for the Chiefs but was not particularly effective. They lefty went 5 2/3 innings, giving up five runs on 11 hits and a walk. Kyle Barraclough pitched a clean ninth inning for his sixth save.

In addition to Ringo’s big day, Bryan picked up three hits, including two doubles, in four at-bats. He also scored twice from the leadoff spot.

Thursday, August 14: Burlington Bees 4, Peoria Chiefs 2

Peoria’s offense was no-hit over the final six innings, denying the Chiefs their first series sweep since June 13-15 against the Clinton Lumber Kings.

Luis Perdomo started for the Chiefs, yielding four runs (three earned on seven hits and a walk. Jhonny Polanco tossed two innings of relief, striking out four batters.

Peoria found itself down 2-0 early. After a leadoff single, Perdomo got back-to-back outs before Eric Aguilera singled into left. A walk loaded the bases and Stephen McGee’s single scored two for Burlington.

The Chiefs cracked the scoreboard in the third. Bryan doubled with two outs and scored on a McElroy single. After the Bees scored two more in the bottom of the third, Castillo doubled with one out in the fourth, Wick walked and both advanced on a passed ball. Valera grounded out to make it 4-2.

Three of Peoria’s four hits were doubles off the bats of Wick, Castillo, and Bryan.

Friday, August 15: Cedar Rapids Kernels 11, Peoria Chiefs 0

Blake McKnight returned to Peoria’s rotation after making a pair of relief appearances and was woefully ineffective.

The righty tossed just 3 ? innings, allowing eight runs on 12 hits. It’s the second time in his last two starts the 23-year-old has given up at least seven earned runs.

Robert Stock and Steve Sabatino combined to allow three runs (one earned) on two hits in 2 ? innings. But the star out of the bullpen was Peoria infielder Richy Pedroza, who tossed two perfect innings and struck out four.

Offensively, the Chiefs were held hitless after the fourth inning. Bryan, Juan Herrera and Carson Kelly picked up Peoria’s only hits with one each. Ringo and Kelly also drew a walk. Every offensive starter for the Kernels had at least one hit.

Saturday, August 16: Cedar Rapids Kernels 4, Peoria Chiefs 2

Peoria’s bullpen could not hold the lead and wasted a good start by Arturo Reyes.

Reyes allowed one run on five hits in 6 ? innings while striking out six batters. Tyler Bray, fresh up from State College, came on in relief and allowed two runs on one hit and a walk in an inning of relief. But the big blow came against Kyle Barraclough, a three-run triple.

Down 1-0 entering the fourth, the Chiefs tied the game with two outs. Kelly doubled and scored on a single by Ringo to tie the game. The Chiefs took the lead in the sixth after Pedroza led off with a double. Ringo plated him with another base hit, this one a double, to give the Chiefs the lead.

Barraclough came on in relief of Bray and allowed a bases-clearing triple gave the Kernels a 3-2 lead. A single plated another run to make it 4-2 Cedar Rapids.

Ringo went 2-for-4 with 2 RBI and a pair of strikeouts. The hits gave Ringo three multi-hit games in his last five starts.

Sunday, August 17: Cedar Rapids Kernels 5, Peoria Chiefs 4

The game started off well for the Chiefs. Bean reached base with a single in the second and moved into scoring position when Valera was hit with a pitch. After Pedroza grounded into a double play, Schulze doubled home Bean. Bryan singled into center and scored Schulze before crossing the plate himself on a Herrera double that put Peoria up 3-0.

It went downhill from there. Kyle Helisek started for Peoria and surrendered four runs on seven hits and two walks in 5 ? innings. The Chiefs tied the game in the top of the sixth inning thanks to a leadoff walk to Bean and a Pedroza triple.

The score remained deadlocked until the ninth inning. Jacob Booden, a Vernon Hills native who attended Bradley University in Peoria, came on to pitch for the Chiefs. Booden walked a batter and allowed a double to put runners on 2nd and 3rd with one out.

While trying to intentionally walk Mitch Garver, Booden’s pitch ended up in the dirt and bounced away from Bean, allowing the winning run to score.

Herrera picked up two hits in four at-bats and knocked in a run. Bean walked twice and scored twice.

Monday, August 18: Beloit Snappers 6 at Peoria Chiefs 4

A pair of baserunning blunders in the bottom of the ninth cost the Chiefs a chance at a walkoff victory.

The Chiefs entered the final frame down 6-2 but got back-to-back singles to start the inning by Wick and Castillo. Bean doubled home Wick to cut the deficit to three.

The next batter, Cesar Valera, singled into left field. Castillo scored, but Bean was caught off third base and eventually tagged out. While the rundown between third at home occurred, Valera tried to take second and was thrown out. Thanks to the 9-6-2-5-3-4 double play, the Chiefs went from runners on 1st and 3rd with no outs to two outs in the inning.

Richy Pedroza promptly doubled, which would have tied the game, but he was left stranded at second.

Alex Reyes took the loss, but struck out ten batters in 6 ? innings. The 19-year-old allowed four runs (two earned) on three hits and a walk. Pedroza’s double was one of three hits the second baseman picked up in four at-bats.

Extra frames

Peoria improved to 10-5 in extra innings this season by beating the Bees on Tuesday. That game was the third of the season between Burlington and Peoria to go at least 12 innings.

Injury notes

The Chiefs skipped Rob Kaminsky’s scheduled Friday start for rest purposes, as Dave Emanian of the Peoria Journal-Star reported was a possibility a few weeks ago. Kaminsky will return to Peoria’s rotation Thursday against the Snappers.

Also, the Chiefs are being cautious with outfielder C.J. McElroy Jr, who suffered a groin strain on Saturday. McElroy was held out of Sunday’s game completely, but did pinch-hit for Vaughn Bryan Monday. Bryan was pulled from Monday’s game in the 7th inning after appearing to injure his lower back.

Who’s Hot

Carson Kelly – From an offensive standpoint, the catching position has been somewhat of a black hole for the Chiefs this season. Neither Kelly nor Bean have shown all that much from the plate, but over the last few weeks, Kelly has begun to turn it around.

The 20-year-old has picked up 11 hits in his last 37 at-bats, dating back to August 2. One of those 11 hits has been a home run, his sixth home run of the season. Kelly has also knocked in five runs for the Chiefs while crossing the plate six times and has shown to be competent when hitting in the #3 spot in the order.

Jhonny Polanco – The Chiefs’ bullpen has not been very good of late. You cannot blame Jhonny Polanco for that, however. The 22-year-old has tossed seven scoreless innings and has allowed just one run this month. Polanco has struck out 21 batters faced in 15 ? innings so far and is one of the more reliable arms in Peoria’s bullpen.

In the second half, Polanco has an ERA of just 0.62, a far cry from the 4.05 mark he set before June 15. Since giving up eight runs in May, Polanco has allowed just three total in 24 ? innings since.

Vaughn Bryan – Chiefs’ outfielders have a knack for getting hurt right as they are finally starting to turn things around. Luis Perez has been on the disabled list for a while, but before he hit the DL, he batted .318. Bryan may not require a stint on the disabled list, but his stats require attention.

The 21-year-old has spent most of his last ten games atop the Chiefs’ batting order and has done an excellent job getting on base. In 39 at-bats, Bryan has reached base 13 times, good for a .333 average. The spurt raised his average on the season from .254 to .271 before a couple rough games bumped it back into the .260s. Bryan has also scored seven runs, stolen two bases and knocked in a run from the leadoff spot.

Who’s Not

Blake McKnight – McKnight returned to Peoria’s rotation Friday after a brief absence and, as noted above, it did not go well. Eight runs on twelve hits is not a good performance, regardless of how many innings you pitched. Add in the lack of effectiveness that preceded McKnight’s two relief appearances and you have the definition of “not.”

August has not been kind to Mr. McKnight. In 10 ? innings, the 23-year-old allowed a whopping 13 runs on 19 hits. Surprisingly enough, he has only walked three batters in that same period. That being said, opponents are hitting .432 off McKnight after hitting just .245 against him in July.

Juan Herrera – Herrera has struggled mightily of late at the plate. His average, at one point near .290 for the season, has dropped all the way down into the low .270s. The reason? The 21-year-old has picked up just six hits in his last 37 at-bats, dating back to August 7.

Despite a team-leading 27 steals on the year, Herrera has not swiped a bag in that same time frame and has struck out five times. While he does have five runs batted in, the lack of clutch hitting is especially a problem since Herrera had often batted third in Peoria’s order.

Rafael Medina – Medina has done very little offensively since joining Peoria. The 22-year-old is hitting just .184 on the season and has struck out 12 times in 76 at-bats. His last ten games have been especially rough. The Dominican native has totaled just three hits in his last 28 at-bats. His poor showing offensively has forced the Chiefs into using Cesar Valera at third base instead of Medina.

Injuries

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

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

Zach Loraine was placed on the 7-day DL August 16 (backdated to August 14) with a shoulder injury.

Transactions

Kevin Herget was promoted to Palm Beach August 16. That same day, Jacob Booden and Tyler Bray joined the Chiefs, up from State College.

Random stat of the week

With a strikeout to end the first inning Tuesday, Alex Reyes became the 59th player in team history to strike out 100 batters in a season. The righty also was just the 15th Chiefs pitcher to accomplish the feat since 2000.

Peoria Chiefs Team Stats

The Chiefs picked up the team’s 1000th strikeout of the season in Wednesday’s game. Other than that, the stats, especially on offense, are not too different from last week.

Offense Season # MWL rank of 16   Pitching Season # MWL rank of 16
BA .245 3rd-lowest   ERA 3.52 4th
Runs 492 2nd-fewest   Strikeouts 1032 4th
OPS .659 lowest   Walks 393 7th-fewest
Doubles 182 2nd-fewest   HR allowed 62 2nd-fewest
HR 53 4th-fewest   Saves 35 T-5th
Steals 109 10th        

Midwest League Western Division Standings

A five-game losing streak to end the week prevented the Chiefs from gaining any ground on the Timber Rattlers. Luckily for Peoria, Wisconsin is on a similar skid, meaning the Chiefs remain just two games out of a playoff spot. Three other clubs are right behind, however.

Club W L PCT GB L10 Streak
Kane County Cougars (CHC)* 36 20 .643 - 9-1 W8
Cedar Rapids Kernels (MIN) 35 21 .625 1.0 8-2 W7
Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (MIL) 29 27 .518 7.0 2-8 L5
Peoria Chiefs (STL) 27 29 .482 9.0 4-6 L5
Burlington Bees (LAA)^ 26 30 .464 10.0 6-4 L1
Clinton LumberKings (SEA) 26 30 .464 10.0 5-5 W3
Quad Cities River Bandits (HOU) 26 30 .464 10.0 3-7 L2
Beloit Snappers (OAK) 19 36 .345 16.5 3-7 W1

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

What’s Next

The Chiefs continue their final “home stand” of the season tonight with the second game against the Snappers (OAK). Chase Brookshire (4-6, 4.14 ERA) will face off against fellow southpaw Matt Stalcup (4-4, 4.52). Peoria starts a three-game series with the Timber Rattlers (MIL) Thursday before hitting the road on Sunday for a brief series with Clinton (SEA).



Follow Garth Shanklin on Twitter @GarthShanklin.

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