Cedar Rapids, IA – The Peoria Chiefs scored nine runs over the final three innings and beat Cedar Rapids 12-3 Sunday afternoon to clinch a playoff spot for the fourth season in a row. The win in the first half finale puts the Chiefs at 39-31 and they win the wild card tiebreaker with Clinton by virtue of a 5-2 head-to-head mark against the LumberKings in the first half.
For the third straight game the Kernels scored in the bottom of the first inning. With one out Jacob Pearson singled off Jesus Cruz and he scored on a double off the left-field wall by Alex Kirilloff. Cruz struck out Jose Miranda and got a flyout to center to limit the damage to one run.
Cedar Rapids left the bases loaded in the second as Nick Plummer made a sliding catch in left-center to rob Pearson of extra bases and end the inning. The Chiefs loaded the bases in the top of the third against Jordan Balazovic but Elehuris Montero hit into an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play.
The Chiefs left two more on base in the fourth before finally breaking through in the fifth. Jose Martinez walked and with one out, Irving Lopez launched his fourth home run of the season for a 2-1 Chiefs lead. Montero followed with an absolute no-doubter that completely left the stadium to left field to give the Chiefs a 3-1 lead. The solo blast is the seventh of the season for Montero, tying Julio Rodriguez for the team lead.
Cedar Rapids closed the gap against the bullpen in the sixth. CJ Saylor got the first two outs of the inning before he walked Pearson and Kirilloff. Fabian Blanco came out of the bullpen and gave up a single to Miranda as the lead was cut to 3-2.
The Chiefs used the long ball to extend the lead against the Kernels bullpen. Nick Plummer led off the seventh inning with his fourth home run of the season, a solo shot for a 4-2 lead. In the eighth inning Matt Fiedler doubled with one out and JR Davis launched a two-run homer into the picnic tables just inside the left-field fair pole for a 6-2 lead.
The Chiefs poured it on in the ninth against Tanner Kleist. Plummer led off with a triple before Lopez and Montero drew walks. Dennis Ortega singled home two for an 8-2 lead and Yariel Gonzalez made it 9-2 with a single to right. Fiedler’s infield single gave the Chiefs a 10-2 lead and with one out Bryce Denton delivered a pinch-hit RBI single for an 11-2 lead. Calvin Faucher took over on the mound and Martinez made it 12-2 with a single before the Kernels got out of the inning with a diving catch in left field.
Cruz allowed one run on six hits over four innings in a no-decision. He struck out three and walked two. Saylor allowed one run on two hits and three walks while striking out three over 1 2/3 innings. Blanco (2-0) earned the win as he walked one and allowed one hit while striking out two over 2 1/3 innings. Thomas St. Clair allowed one run on one hit and three walks in the ninth inning.
Notes…Peoria had never made the playoffs in four straight years before this run that started in 2015…The Chiefs will play first-half champs Quad Cities in the first round September 5-7 in a best-of-three…Quad Cities eliminated the Chiefs last year in the first round…Chris Swauger joins Pete Mackanin and Joe Kruzel as the only Chiefs managers to make the playoffs more than once…The Chiefs had a season-high 18 hits and hit a season-high four home runs…Every Chiefs starter had at least one hit…Eight of the nine scored a run as well…The Chiefs also went back-to-back on June 3 in Clinton (JR Davis/Matt Fiedler)…Peoria finishes the half with two straight wins…Fiedler’s last three hits are extra-base hits…Plummer is tied with Montero for the team lead in triples at three…Peoria has 20 comeback wins…The Chiefs are 11-5 in day games with wins in eight of their last nine day games…The Chiefs used their second pinch-hitter all season when Denton hit for Scott Hurst in the ninth…The Chiefs are now 1-for-2 pinch-hitting…Peoria has been outscored 61-30 in the first inning and have allowed a run in the first in three straight games…The MWL is off until Thursday.