Peoria Chiefs Notebook: 2013 Week 1

The St. Louis Cardinals Single-A club started the season 3-3. Despite offensive struggles, the Peoria Chiefs logged two wins over the defending Midwest League Champion Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Milwaukee).

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The week that was

This report covers the period from Thursday, April 4 through Tuesday, April 9.

For the first time since 2004, the Peoria Chiefs opened its season as the Cardinals Single-A affiliate after being a part of the Chicago Cubs organization for the last eight years.

The Chiefs began its 2013 campaign by squaring off with the defending Midwest League Champions, the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Milwaukee), in a four-game set in Peoria. The team then continued its seven-game home stand with a series against the Beloit Snappers (Oakland). The first two games of the latter series are included in this report.

The club managed to go 3-3 in the opening week. The Chiefs split with the Timber Rattlers, losing the first two games before salvaging the series with wins in the final two games. They lost a pair of one-run games and split two extra inning contests with Wisconsin. The Chiefs took the opening game of the three-game set with the Snappers before dropping game two.

The lineup

Chiefs' manager Dann Bilardello has been mixing and matching different lineups through the first six games. He has yet to use one lineup more than once and no player has started at the same position for every contest. Only third baseman Patrick Wisdom, second baseman Jacob Wilson and utility man Breyvic Valera have played and started in all six games.

It does appear Bilardello has set the first four in his batting order. Outfielder Michael Swinson leads off followed by Valera, Wisdom and Wilson.

You can count on those four as well as catcher Gerwuins Velazco to be in the lineup most days.

Game summaries

Thursday, April 4: Wisconsin 5 at Peoria 4 (11 innings)
The Chiefs began the season with an offensive struggle. They managed just six hits in the opener,but drew 10 walks to give the team RBI chances all night. However, they could not capitalize, as Peoria left 11 runners on base and were just 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position.

David Washington reached base in all five trips to the plate, collecting two hits and three walks.

The one bright spot for the Chiefs was the work of the bullpen. Starter Kurt Heyer went only three innings, giving up two earned runs on four hits and three walks. The relievers came in and did their job, allowing two earned runs in eight innings.

Friday, April 5: Wisconsin 2 at Peoria 1
The offensive woes continued in game two of the series. The Chiefs only had three hits and put just one runner in scoring position all night. The lineup combined for ten strikeouts.

Starter Dail Villanueva went four innings, surrendering two runs and five hits. The bullpen was fantastic for the second night in a row, giving up one hit and no runs in five innings. The Chiefs just couldn't muster enough offense.

Saturday, April 6: Wisconsin 3 at Peoria 4 (13 innings)
The pitching kept its hot streak alive and gave the Chiefs its first victory of the season. Tyrell Jenkins had a solid start, allowing three runs over five innings of work. For the third night in a row, the Peoria bullpen was lights out. Joey Donofrio, Jhonny Polanco and Dixon Llorens combined to pitch eight shutout innings while giving up two hits and striking out six.

The offense finally woke up with Michael Swinson and catcher Casey Rasmus each collecting three hits. Outfielder Nick Martini also had two hits.

Sunday, April 7: Wisconsin 2 at Peoria 7
The Chiefs used the long ball to salvage a series split in the final game of the opening weekend. Patrick Wisdom went 3-for-4 with two home runs and four RBI as the Chiefs scored six times in the first three innings. Jacob Wilson and shortstop Alex Mejia each added solo shots.

Starter Kyle Helisek was fantastic on the mound, giving up only one run and fanning four in 5 1/3 innings.

Monday, April 8: Beloit 1 at Peoria 4
Wilson hit a two-run home run in the first inning to give the Chiefs a lead they would never surrender. All but one position player got a hit and the team combined for 10 on the evening. Outfielder Jordan Walton was 3-for-4 with a run scored and a RBI.

Starter Joey Cuda avoided trouble in all five of his innings, allowing eight hits but giving up just one run while striking out five. The bullpen continued to be a major strength for the Chiefs as Corey Baker and Zach Petrick pitched four scoreless innings while striking out nine Snappers.

Tuesday, April: Beloit 4 at Peoria 1
Starter Hector Hernandez pitched extremely well, but two mistakes in the fourth inning resulted in two home runs for the Snappers. Hernandez went six innings allowing only four hits and three runs.

The Peoria offense was stagnant all night long. They managed only three hits and four base runners on the game. Michael Swinson was the lone bright spot, going 2-for-4 with a run scored.

Who's hot

The Bullpen. The Chiefs bullpen has been outstanding through the first six games. They have combined for a 1.14 ERA while pitching 31 2/3 innings. Corey Baker, Zach Petrick and Joe Scanio have pitched a combined 14 2/3 innings and surrendered no runs while striking out 21.

Michael Swinson. The centerfielder has the most hits (8) on the team and is tied for second in RBIs (3) and total bases (11). He is batting .320 and has been a consistent threat at the top of the order for Bilardello's club. Swinson getting on base for the meat of the Chiefs lineup will continue to be key as the year progresses.

Who's not

The offense. By and large, the Chiefs offense has been extremely cold in the first week of the season. Outside of a four-home run outburst in the last game of the series with Wisconsin, Peoria has just one other long ball in five games. They are batting .207 as a team, which is fifth to last in the Midwest League. The Chiefs have scored 21 runs in six games and are sixth to last in the league in that category.

Patrick Wisdom. The Cardinals supplemental first round pick in 2012 has struggled at the plate thus far. Wisdom has just six hits and is batting .240. He has shown power, hitting two home runs in a game against Wisconsin, but has only four RBI. It is still early and there is plenty of time for Wisdom to get hot. Cardinals fans need not worry.


4/8 C Geoff Klein transferred from Palm Beach to Peoria
4/8 INF David Washington placed on Peoria Suspended List


INF Jeremy Schaffer is on the Disabled List

Team stats – Season to date

The Chiefs have struggled big time offensively thus far this season and the stats show it. They are in the bottom half of the Midwest League in all major offensive statistics besides home runs. On the flip side, the pitching has been fantastic and ranks well among other MWL teams.

Offense Season # MWL rank of 16
BA 0.207 12th
Runs 21 T-10th
OPS 0.630 9th
Doubles 9 10th
HR 5 T-3rd
Steals 3 13th
Pitching Season # MWL rank of 16
ERA 2.40 2nd
Strikeouts 53 3rd
Walks 17 4th fewest
HR allowed 2 T-2nd fewest
Saves 1 T-2nd fewest

Midwest League Western Division Standings

Club W L PCT GB L 10 Streak
Quad Cities River Bandits (HOU) 5 1 .833 - 5-1 L1
Cedar Rapids Kernels (MIN) 4 1 .800 0.5 4-1 W2
Burlington Bees (LAA) 3 3 .500 2.0 3-3 W1
Peoria Chiefs (STL) 3 3 .500 2.0 3-3 L1
Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (MIL) 2 3 .400 2.5 2-3 L3
Beloit Snappers (OAK) 2 4 .333 3.0 2-4 W1
Clinton LumberKings (SEA) 2 4 .333 3.0 2-4 L3
Kane County Cougars (CHC) 2 4 .333 3.0 2-4 W2

What's next

The Chiefs have one more game remaining on its homestand against Beloit (Oakland). They will then head on the road for the first time this season with a four-game set against former Cardinals MWL home Quad Cities (now affiliated with Houston) before returning home for six games against Burlington (Angels) and Cedar Rapids (Minnesota).

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