Peoria Chiefs Notebook: 2014 Week 17

Chase Brookshire

The Cardinals’ Midwest League club is on the road after a 3-3 homestand. Chase Brookshire is pitching well.

The Week that Was

This report covers the period from Tuesday, July 22 through Monday, July 28.

The Peoria Chiefs returned to Dozer Park after a rough road trip and split a six-game home stand against teams from the Eastern Division. The team dropped two of three games to the Lansing Lugnuts (TOR) before taking two of three from the Great Lakes Loons (LAD).

The split keeps Peoria four games over .500 in the second half of the season, good enough for a three-way tie for second place in the Midwest League West.

Game Summaries

Wednesday, July 23: Lansing Lugnuts 8 at Peoria Chiefs 7 (10 innings)

The Lugnuts scored six runs over the final two innings before a Chiefs rally sent the game into extras.

The game was scoreless until the top of the third. Former Bradley Brave Jason Leblebijian doubled down the left field line and scored when Rowan Wick’s return throw sailed. Two walks and an error allowed the Chiefs to tie the game in the bottom of the frame.

All was quiet until the eighth. Zach Loraine allowed a pair of singles, a triple, and a home run to give the Lugnuts a 4-1 lead. Michael Schulze scored on a triple and an error to cut the lead to 4-2.

Kyle Barraclough gave up three more in the top of the ninth to make it 7-2. A single, a walk, and Wick’s first Peoria home run cut the lead to 7-5. Singles by Luis Perez, Pedroza, and Bryan tied the game.

Alex Reyes pitched well for the Chiefs, allowing just the one earned run on three hits in his six innings of work. Ronald Castillo went 2-for-4 with a run scored, the only Chiefs batter to record multiple hits in the game.

Thursday, July 24: Lansing Lugnuts 3 at Peoria Chiefs 2

Peoria entered the ninth inning with a two-run lead but exited with a third consecutive series loss.

Chase Brookshire went a solid seven innings, scattering seven hits and striking out five. Steve Sabatino came on in relief, and after getting out of the eighth inning, allowed three runs (one earned) with a pair of strikeouts in the ninth.

Sabatino induced a ground ball with two outs and two on, but Justin Ringo could not handle the throw from Cesar Valera and both runs scored.

The Chiefs had a chance to even things up. Valera and Schulze singled with two outs but Vaughn Bryan struck out to end the game.

Bryan tallied three hits, including a triple, in five at-bats. Wick picked up another hit, a single, and his fourth RBI in two games.

Friday, July 25: Peoria Chiefs 1, Lansing Lugnuts 0

Blake McKnight and Jhonny Polanco dominated the Lugnuts, combining to allow just one hit over nine innings.

McKnight started the game, tossing seven innings of one-hit, six-strikeout baseball but was left without a decision. Polanco earned the win with two hitless innings in relief.

The teams were scoreless until the eighth inning. Wick singled into center field and stole second one out later. Ringo singled into left field to bring him home.

The Chiefs had only seven hits in the game. Two came from Ringo, who also struck out twice. C.J. McElroy picked up a base hit, as did Kelly, Pedroza, and Valera.

Saturday, July 26: Peoria Chiefs 5, Great Lakes Loons 4

The Chiefs rode a pair of home runs and a four-run first inning to a close victory in the opener against the Loons.

Bryan gave the Chiefs an early lead by launching his first home run of the season over the right-field wall. After McElroy singled, Ringo smacked his sixth home run of the year to make it 3-0 Chiefs. Valera tripled and scored Peoria’s fourth run on a ground ball by Steve Bean.

Runs in the third, fifth and sixth cut the Chiefs lead to 4-3. Pedroza walked and was sacrificed to second before McElroy singled, plating him.

A controversial home run cut the lead to one. Paul Hoenecke hit a ball down the line in right field that was initially ruled foul, but the umpires overturned the call.

Luis Perdomo picked up the win by tossing 5 1/3 innings, allowing three runs (two earned) on six hits. The righty struck out two batters and walked three. Barraclough, Herget, Loraine, and Sabatino combined to allow just three hits in 3 2/3 innings.

Sunday, July 27: Peoria Chiefs 4, Great Lakes Loons 0

Rob Kaminsky rebounded from a string of subpar starts to pick up his fifth win of the season. The lefty tossed six scoreless innings, walking two batters and yielding five hits. His four strikeouts were the most in a start for the 19-year-old since he struck out seven on June 30.

The Chiefs took the lead for good in the second. Luis Perez doubled and scored when Valera followed with a double of his own. Pedroza followed with a single that plated Valera from second.

Peoria stretched its edge to 3-0 in the third. Schulze reached on an error and moved to second on a groundout. Two wild pitches later, the Chiefs increased their lead.

In the fourth, Wick tripled and scored on a Pedroza grounder to short when the shortstop tried and failed to get the out at the plate.

Pedroza had an eventful day, going 2-for-3 with a pair of RBI, a walk, a caught stealing and an error.

Monday, July 28: Great Lakes Loons 4 at Peoria Chiefs 0

Jonathan Martinez was scheduled to start for the Loons, but a pregame injury forced Jordan Hershiser to take the hill instead.

Hershiser, the son of former Dodger pitcher Orel Hershiser, allowed just one hit and four walks in his three innings of work. Four other Loons relievers combined for six hitless innings and five strikeouts.

Arturo Reyes started for Peoria and gave up three runs on seven hits and a walk. The walk was one of eight walks allowed by Chiefs pitching on the day.

Juan Herrera picked up Peoria’s only base hit by smacking a single in the first inning. For the second consecutive day, two Chiefs (Bryan and McElroy) were erased on the basepaths.

Castillo’s Cold Streak

It has not been a very good month for outfielder Ronald Castillo. The 22-year-old is hitting just .207 (12-for-58) in 16 games in July. The right-handed hitter has knocked in just four runs this month and has struck out a whopping 17 times in that same period.

What sets his struggles apart from those listed below is that his troubles are not limited to the batter’s box. In the field, Castillo has made nine errors on the season. His most recent error occurred in Monday’s game where he allowed a base hit to roll right past him to the wall, allowing a runner to reach third.

Bullpen woes

It was a strange week for the Chiefs relievers. They combined to allow a whopping 12 runs in six games (17.1 IP), yet due to the inconsistent Peoria defense, only seven of the runs were earned. Peoria’s bullpen struck out 20 batters this week but walked 14. The blown save against the Lugnuts Thursday was the team’s 15th this season.

Stolen Base Struggles

Peoria tried to get the running game going this week and had some success. The team swiped five bases in seven attempts against the Lugnuts. Their fortunes changed, however, against the Loons. The Chiefs tried to steal four bases against Great Lakes and were thrown out every time. The team has been caught stealing 60 times this season, 15 behind Wisconsin for the Midwest League “lead.”

Who’s Hot

Chase Brookshire – Brookshire has been lights-out lately. In his last eight starts, he gave up over two runs just one time. The lefty has thrown at least five innings in all eight of those starts. While the strikeout numbers are not overwhelming (36 in 49 1/3 innings), the control displayed in that period has been fantastic. The 23-year-old has not walked more than one batter in any of his last eight outings. His ERA in that time period sits at a sparkling 1.64 and his 2.13 mark for July, combined with his other stats, have him in the running for my selection as the team’s July pitcher of the month.

Richy Pedroza – Pedroza’s average recently is only .267. But when you consider where he started (3 hits in his first 27 at-bats), that number becomes more impressive. Pedroza hit .270 last season for Johnson City and it was a logical assumption to believe he would get back to that point eventually. In June and July, he is hitting .277. In July specifically, the 23-year-old has driven in ten runs and has hit three triples. The infielder is slowly but surely becoming a bit of a spark at the bottom of Peoria’s order.

Luis Perez – Perez went down with an injury at a particularly bad time. In his last ten games, the outfielder was sporting a .323 average (10-for-31) with six runs scored, four runs batted in and three walks. Of the ten hits, two were home runs, his first of the season. The 23-year-old was one of Peoria’s better hitters with runners on, too, tallying a .289 average with men on base.

Who’s Not

Rowan Wick – After destroying opposing pitching at State College, Wick has run into a bit of a problem in Peoria. While it is early, there is no denying that 10 strikeouts in 22 at-bats is a problem. Wick has just four hits in Low-A and a lot of his issues can be traced back to opposing pitchers getting a read on him. The 21-year-old is not seeing as many fastballs as he did before and the ones he does see are low and away, too far off the plate for him to do anything with.

His defense is decent in the outfield, and he does have a cannon for an arm. On Sunday, he tracked down a ball in the corner of the outfield and threw a bullet chest-high to the second baseman. The runner wisely stayed on base and did not try to advance.

No firm conclusions can be drawn from 22 at-bats. Wick makes this section just because he is not hitting, but adjustments will be made and he should be fine.

Vaughn Bryan – Peoria’s offensive woes are well-documented, but it is hard to get any offense going when your leadoff hitter sports a .198 average for the month of July. Bryan has picked up just eight hits in his last 41 at-bats. Three of those eight came in one game against the Lugnuts.

For the season, Bryan’s on-base percentage sits a hair over .300 at just .306 and his 52 strikeouts rank third among active Chiefs behind McElroy and Bean. Peoria’s offense has a ton of trouble scoring runs, in no small part thanks to their leadoff man’s inability to set the table of late.

Robert Stock – Stock (and the Peoria bullpen in general, really) have hit a bit of a snag recently. Dating back to June 27, about a month, Stock has given up multiple runs in five of eight outings. In two of those games, he yielded four runs in just one inning, including one outing where all four runs scored on seven hits.

On the season, the righty has a 6.43 ERA in 21 innings. On the bright side, while with the Palm Beach Cardinals earlier in the year, Stock walked 25 batters in 23 1/3 innings while striking out just 13. The walks have dropped off dramatically with the Chiefs, as he has only 13 with Peoria.

Injuries

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

Juan Herrera was placed on the 7-day DL with a left ankle injury July 23, retroactive to July 21. Herrera returned from the disabled list July 28.

Luis Perez was placed on the 7-day DL with a sore left knee July 28.

Transactions

Kenny Peoples-Walls was sent down to State College July 23 as Rowan Wick joined the Chiefs from the Spikes.

Cesar Valera rejoined Peoria from Palm Beach July 24 to fill Herrera’s roster spot.

Brandon Lee was activated from the disabled list and sent to State College on July 26.

Random stats of the week

The Chiefs have a 22-17 record in one-run games and are 29-4 when they score at least five runs in a game.

Peoria Chiefs Team Stats

Peoria’s pitching continues to pace the team. Even with the bullpen struggling of late, the starters are going deep into games and getting people out. The offense, meanwhile, is still not posting good numbers on a consistent basis. The team’s OPS is just three points higher than that of the worst team in the league (Dayton).

Offense Season # MWL rank of 16   Pitching Season # MWL rank of 16
BA .249 6th lowest   ERA 3.40 4th
Runs 420 2nd fewest   Strikeouts 859 5th
OPS .670 2nd lowest   Walks 328 7th
Doubles 145 Fewest   HR allowed 51 2nd fewest
HR 46 3rd fewest   Saves 29 5th
Steals 91 T-5th fewest        

Midwest League Western Division Standings

The Midwest League is rapidly approaching the end of the second half. The Chiefs have put themselves in decent position to make a playoff push, but with over half of the league within three games of first place, the team needs to go on a run.

Club W L PCT GB L10 Streak
Kane County Cougars (CHC)* 22 14 .611 - 4-6 L3
Cedar Rapids Kernels (MIN) 20 16 .556 2.0 7-3 L1
Peoria Chiefs (STL) 20 16 .556 2.0 4-6 L1
Quad Cities River Bandits (HOU) 16 16 .556 2.0 8-2 W3
Burlington Bees (LAA)^ 19 17 .528 3.0 6-4 L2
Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (MIL) 19 17 .528 3.0 5-5 L1
Clinton LumberKings (SEA) 13 23 .361 9.0 3-7 L5
Beloit Snappers (OAK) 11 24 .314 10.5 4-6 W1

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

What’s Next

Peoria hits the road for a six-game road trip starting with three in Beloit against the Snappers. Right-hander Alex Reyes (6-6, 4.03 ERA) will toe the rubber for Peoria on Tuesday night. Next, the Chiefs will square off against the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers for another three-game series before returning to Dozer Park against Kane County to kick off a seven-game home stand Monday.



Follow Garth Shanklin on Twitter @GarthShanklin.

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