Tag: David Edwards

Chukars crumble in an 11-5 loss to Orem

Idaho Falls Chukars bat boy Derik Johnson congratulates Joe Dudek after Dudek’s two-run home run in the bottom of the fourth inning against the Orem Owlz Saturday at Melaleuca Field. (Courtesy of Steve Thayer)
Idaho Falls Chukars bat boy Derik Johnson congratulates Joe Dudek after Dudek’s two-run home run in the bottom of the fourth inning against the Orem Owlz Saturday at Melaleuca Field. (Courtesy of Steve Thayer)

The Idaho Falls Chukars went 7-12 on the road in the first half, yet they almost won the Pioneer League South Division title. league-best 15-4 home record kept them in the hunt.

The road struggles have worsened in the second half (3-10), and I.F. has plummeted down to average at home.

I.F. fell to the Orem Owlz 11-5 on Saturday night at Melaleuca Field. The Chukars are now 7-6 at home in the second half, and the division crown continues to stiff-arm them. They’re dwelling at the bottom of the South standings, five games back of the Ogden Raptors. Twelve games remain.

So close, yet so far

Saturday’s game went back-and-forth for eight innings. Even the Owlz’ three-run rally top of the seventh, which gave them 6-2 lead, was answered. The Chukars scored twice in the bottom half.

Orem’s lead was cut to one when Luke Willis hit a one-out RBI triple in the bottom of the eighth. But Rudy Martin and Nick Heath each struck out, providing omens for the next inning.

Cole Way came in to pitch the top of the ninth, and he lasted a long time in terms of minutes, not outs. Way faced eight batters and recorded one out. He allowed four hits and walked three, leading to five runs (all earned) and an 11-5 for Orem.

“We’ve been fighting,” Chukars first baseman Joe Dudek said. “We just seem to have that one inning that kinda kills us.”

It was a rough night for the entire Chukars bullpen. Starter Igol Feliz allowed three runs (one earned) in six innings. The righty was replaced by lefty Christian Flecha, who allowed three runs (two earned) in the first of his two innings. Overall, the relievers allowed seven hits and four walks while striking out two.

Dudek thrives as I.F. dives

I.F.’s subpar second half has coincided with a Joe Dudek hot streak.

Dudek went 0 for 3 on Aug. 13 against Great Falls, dropping his batting average to .207 and his OPS to .672. The first baseman has gone 16 for 36 (.444) since, including a 1 for 2 showing on Saturday in which he drew three walks and hit two-run home run.

His batting average is now .319, and his OPS is around 1.000.

“I feel comfortable in the box. That’s really all there is,” Dudek said. “Seeing pitches pretty well, putting good swings on it and good things have happened.”

Player of the game

Owlz left fielder Zach Gibbons

Orem first baseman Nick Flair and Jose Rojas each produced three hits, but Gibbons reached base more times. Gibbons went 2 for 3 with two walks, and he stole two bases.

Edwards gets promoted

Chukars infielder David Edwards was promoted to Single-A Lexington on Saturday. The Kansas City Royals did not send player to the Chukars as of Saturday night.

Edwards appeared in 51 games for the Chukars, and he was positioned all over the field. The 23-year-old played 22 games at first base, 16 at second and six at third, according to Baseball-Reference (he was I.F.’s designated hitter in his other seven games).

Edwards hit .284 with a .346 on-base percentage and a .490 slugging percentage in 218 plate appearances. His eight home runs lead the Chukars, as well.

Up next

The Chukars (32-31 overall, 10-16 second half) welcome the Ogden Raptors (32-32, 15-11) for a crucial four-game series starting Sunday. I.F.’s Andres Machado (4.17 ERA) takes on fellow righty William Soto (5.31). First pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m.

Dudek, pitching come through in the Chukars’ 3-2 win over Orem

Viloria
Viloria

The Idaho Falls Chukars headed into Wednesday with a 1-11 record in one-run games on the road. That mark improved Wednesday night at Orem.

The Chukars prevailed 3-2 over the Owlz thanks to strong pitching and some two-out thunder from their lineup. Ogden’s extra-inning win over Grand Junction put I.F. 4.5 games out of first place in the Pioneer League South division second-half standings.

The Dudek abides

The Chukars got on the board in the top of the first inning after the first two batters were retired. Manny Olloque delivered a two-out single, and Meibrys Viloria drove him home with a double.

The sixth inning began equally mundane, with Nick Heath and Olloque providing two quick outs. Then Viloria stepped up and singled in front of Joe Dudek. On a 1-1 count, the first baseman drove a Greg Belton pitch over the wall in left-center field.

Dudek’s home run proved to be the difference, giving I.F. a 3-1 lead.

Portland stays sharp

Matt Portland is still issuing walks, but he’s managed to suppress the hits and runs over his last three starts, including Wednesday’s.

The left-hander went six innings against the Owlz. He allowed two runs (one earned) on four hits and two walks, and he struck out five.

Portland has allowed one earned run in each of his last three outings, which all lasted five or more innings. The opposing lineups in those three games averaged 3.7 hits and three walks against him. Portland also struck out five batters per game in that span.

Player of the game

Chukars catcher Meibrys Viloria

Dudek wouldn’t have hit the big fly if Viloria didn’t single in front of him. Plus, Viloria doubled in the first run. Overall, the catcher went 3 for 4, upping his batting average to a league-best .398.

Edwards named player of the week

Chukars infielder David Edwards was named the Pioneer League player of the week for his performance from Aug. 15 to Aug. 21.

Edwards went 9 for 18 with two doubles, two home runs (both on Sunday) and three stolen bases over the course of five games. He now leads the team with eight homers on the season.

Edwards joined Manny Olloque and Yeison Melo as Chukars with 2016 player of week honors. Andres Machado also earned a pitcher of the week honor, and Meibrys Viloria was July’s player of the month.

Up next

The Chukars (31-30 overall, 9-14 second half) and Owlz (32-29, 10-13) conclude their two game-series on Thursday at 7 p.m. Lefty Reinaldo Cepin will start for I.F.

Rockies’ rally makes Chukars’ playoff chase tougher

Viloria
Viloria

One swing of the bat in the bottom of the eighth inning led to a two-game swing in the Pioneer League South Division standings for the Idaho Falls Chukars on Monday night.

Moments after the Chukars rallied to take the lead with a four-run seventh inning, Colton Welker reached on a third strike passed ball and Hunter Melton followed with a two-run homer to right-center to lift the Grand Junction Rockies to a 5-4 win at Sam Suplizio Field.

The loss dropped the Chukars 4.5 games behind the Rockies in the South Division second-half standings.

Get him outta here

Idaho Falls bats were invisible over the first six innings against Grand Junction starter Bryan Baker. The 6-foot-6, 220-pound right-hander, whose ERA is hovering near 6, limited the Chukars to three hits and two walks while striking out six in six scoreless innings.

But the Chukars pounced when Baker hit the showers, scoring four runs on four hits and a walk against relievers Ryan Luna and Heath Holder in the seventh. Alex Luna did his job in the sixth and seventh, allowing just one hit while striking out three to give I.F. the lead entering the bottom of the eighth.

Idaho Falls reliever Cole Way got Vince Fernandez to line out leading off the inning, and appeared to have the second out with a strikeout of Welker. But Nick Dini, making a return to the Chukars lineup on his way back to Advanced-A Wilmington following an injury, let the pitch get by him and sending Welker to first. Melton followed with his fifth homer of the year.

Matt Dennis worked a perfect ninth inning to close out the win.

Dini, a member of Idaho Falls 2015 Pioneer League championship team, went 2 for 4 with a run to lead the Chukars. Meibrys Viloria added a two-run double for Idaho Falls.

Up next

The Chukars (30-29, 8-13 second half) and Rockies (28-30, 12-8) wrap up their four-game series tonight in Colorado. Idaho Falls then hits the road for two games in Orem beginning Wednesday.

Sunday’s game

ROCKIES 10, CHUKARS 6: At Grand Junction, Colo., Jose Gomez belted a pair of home runs and Grand Junction held off Idaho Falls in a game that featured five round-trippers.

David Edwards hit his seventh and eighth home runs of the season, but the Chukars couldn’t keep up. After taking a 2-0 lead in the top of the second, Grand Junction scored three runs in the third and three in the fourth. Idaho Falls kept chipping away, but couldn’t catch up.

Edwards finished 2 for 4 with two runs and three RBIs to lead Idaho Falls. Ricky Aracena went 2 for 4 with a triple, a run and an RBI while Rudy Martin was 2 for 5. The Chukars were hurt by four errors. Igol Feliz took the loss after giving up six earned runs on eight hits in four innings.

Gomez was 4 for 5 with three runs and four RBIs while Tyler Bugner went 2 for 4 with four runs scored for the Rockies.

Chukars mash their way to a 13-3 win over Grand Junction

Hernandez
Hernandez

The Idaho Falls Chukars began their six-game road trip close to must-win territory.

The Chukars entered Saturday 3.5 games out of first place in the Pioneer League South Division’s second half standings. The team they were chasing: the Grand Junction Rockies, who were preparing to host I.F. for a four-game series.

On Saturday, the Chukars declared themselves alive in the playoff race with a 13-3 win over the Rockies at Suplizio Field. I.F.’s lineup caught up to its pitching staff, and its win streak improved to three games.

Nocturnal bats

Pitching phenom Riley Pint made his professional debut against the Chukars on July 1, when he pitched two scoreless innings. The No. 4 overall pick in June’s MLB draft did not fare so well Saturday.

Pint allowed three hits, walked five and struck out three in three innings. All five of the runs he allowed (four earned) scored in the second inning. The Chukars tallied three hits and three walks in the frame.

The outburst in the fifth was all the Chukars would need, but they were unsatisfied. I.F. scored once in the fourth, twice in the sixth, thrice in the seventh and twice against in the eighth. The team compiled 14 hits (five doubles) and six walks.

Saturday was I.F.’s highest scoring game since its 17-7 win over Missoula on July 25. The Chukars hadn’t scored more than nine runs in a game since that date, either.

Arms stay sharp

Make that eight straight effective starts by I.F. pitchers. Arnaldo Hernandez pitched five efficient innings, in which he allowed three runs (one earned) on five hits and no walks. The right-hander struck out six Rockies, too.

Olloque
Olloque

The bullpen was even better. Jason Freeman, who allowed seven runs in 2.2 innings Monday against Billings, pitched two scoreless innings Saturday. The righty allowed one hit and one walk, and he struck out one.

Nick Andros, who entered Saturday’s game with an 8.18 ERA, didn’t allow one baserunner (who reached on an error) in two innings. The lefty struck out four, as well.

Player of the game

Chukars third baseman Manny Olloque

An easy choice nearly made easier. Olloque went 4 for 6 with two doubles, both of which hit off the right field wall, according to Chukars broadcaster Andrew Haynes.

Chukars first baseman David Edwards would have nabbed this honor on most other nights. He went 3 for 3 with a double and two walks.

Up next

The Chukars (30-27, 8-11) and Rockies (26-30, 10-8) return to Suplizio Field on Sunday at 7:05 p.m. I.F.’s Igol Feliz (5.40 ERA) faces fellow righthy Yohander Quintana (8.15).

Chukars’ lineup, bullpen awaken in a 7-5 win over the Mustangs

Idaho Falls Chukars pitcher Cole Way (right) celebrates his save with catcher MJ Sanchez Wednesday night against the Billings Mustangs at Melaleuca Field. (Photo courtesy of Steve Thayer)
Idaho Falls Chukars pitcher Cole Way (right) celebrates his save with catcher MJ Sanchez Wednesday night against the Billings Mustangs at Melaleuca Field. (Photo courtesy of Steve Thayer)

Not once did Cole Way shake off MJ Sanchez in the top of the ninth inning of Wednesday’s game. Ten minutes after the inning began, Way and Sanchez embraced.

The pitcher and catcher celebrated a rarity: an Idaho Falls Chukars win over the Billings Mustangs at Melaleuca Field. The 7-5 victory was the Chukars’ second of the six-game homestand, and their first over Billings this season. And it wasn’t close to over until Way’s final pitch of the ninth hit Sanchez’s glove.

Way buckles down

Third baseman David Edwards committed a fielding error with one out in the top of the ninth, setting up an easy narrative: an error sinks the Chukars once again.

Errors have killed I.F. all season, especially in the second half, and the Chukars looked doomed for a similar fate Wednesday. The Mustangs put the tying runs on second and third with one out in the ninth.

The situation didn’t phase Way. He struck out Colby Wright, who had gone 2 for 3 with a double heading into that at-bat. Cassidy Brown was up next. On a 2-2 count, Sanchez called for a changeup. Way didn’t hesitate, and he got Brown to chase to end the game.

“Cole’s best pitch is probably his changeup,” Sanchez said. “I had a lot of confidence in him and what he had, and I knew he was going to trust me. We were in sync.”

Right after the strikeout, Way screamed and pointed at Sanchez, praising his catcher for a good gameplan.

“He sat there and watched the hitters for eight innings, he read all their swings and he had a great sequence on every at-bat,” Way said. “He called a perfect pitch at the perfect time.”

Five in the sixth 

Rudy Martin led off the bottom of the first with a double. The Chukars were held hitless for the next four innings.

The first five innings summed up I.F.’s second half. The lineup looked listless. The bullpen got knocked around, this time with Christian Flecha filling the role with two earned runs in the fifth.

The lineup and the bullpen flipped a switch after that, starting with an offensive eruption in bottom of the sixth. The lineup batted around thanks to five hits and two walks.

Martin sparked the rally with a lead-off walk. The center fielder doesn’t like to use the word “slump”, but that’s what he was mired in for the bulk of August. From July 26 through Tuesday’s game, Martin hit 6 for 47 (.128) with two walks.

“We’ve been working in the cages, and today, it was a lot better,” Martin said. “I’m feeling a lot more comfortable at the plate. Hopefully tomorrow I can come and do the same thing.”

Sanchez was another struggling Chukar heading into Wednesday. He had been 0 for 10 without a walk in the month of August. On Wednesday, Sanchez extended the sixth inning rally with a single, and he walked in the eighth.

Cepin extends streak

The Chukars have struggled in almost every area during the second half. One of the few bright spots has been starting pitching, and that silver lining continued to glimmer Wednesday.

Left-hander Reinaldo Cepin allowed two earned runs on five hits and a walk in four innings. He also struck out three.

Before Wednesday, no I.F. starter had allowed more than one earned run on the homestand, yet I.F. went 1-4 in those games.

Player of the game 

Mustangs left fielder Taylor Trammell

Trammell went 2 for 3 with a triple, a double, two walks and three runs scored.

Up next

The Chukars (28-27 overall, 6-11 second half) and Mustangs (34-20, 11-5) wrap up the four-game series Thursday at Melaleuca Field. I.F.’s Matt Portland (6.59 ERA) takes on fellow lefty Max Wotell (5.03).

Mustangs hand the Chukars another ugly loss

Dale
Dale

Even hits yielded negative results for the Idaho Falls Chukars on Tuesday night.

With two outs and a runner on in the bottom of the ninth, Chukars first baseman Ryan Dale looped a hit down the right field line. Dale tried to stretch it into a double and give I.F. a whiff of hope. Billings’ Jose Siri squashed the rally by throwing Dale out at second base.

Dale’s out sealed a 7-2 win for the Billings Mustangs at Melaleuca Field. I.F.’s second-half record fell to 5-11, the worst in the Pioneer League.

“We’re more concerned, at this level, not necessarily with the wins and losses,” Chukars manager Justin Gemoll said. “The more consistent they can get with their preparation, their concentration, their attitude, all that kind of stuff, that’s what will translate into the games.”

Billings erupts in the eighth 

The Chukars trailed 2-1 heading into the top of the eighth inning. The way their lineup has hit the Mustangs, the deficit felt larger.

Billings filled the gap between perception and reality by scoring five runs in the top of the eighth inning. Four hits, two walks and two errors led to the five runs, which all came against Enmanuel Cammacho.

Unlike the Mustangs, the Chukars struggled with runners in scoring position, going 1 for 9 on the night. The Mustangs’ four pitchers allowed nine hits, one walk and two earned runs while striking out 12.

Billings has held the Chukars to 2.6 runs per game, peaking at five runs on Monday night.

Errors persist

I.F.’s Jace Vines made one of his best starts of the season, allowing one earned run on three hits, three walks and three strikeouts in five innings. Richard Lovelady and Nick Andros combined to toss 3.1 scoreless innings out of the bullpen. Cammacho pitched better than his line suggests.

And yet, the Mustangs won handily. Defensive miscues were a big reason why.

An error by I.F. shortstop Ricky Aracena (his league-leading 28th) led to Billings’ go-ahead run in the fifth. David Edwards overthrew Dale on a double play attempt in the top of the eighth. An accurate, on-time throw would have ended the inning with Billings up 3-1.

The Chukars committed four total errors Tuesday , giving them 10 the last two games. They’ve now piled up 124 errors on the season, good for nearly 20 percent of the league’s total. I.F. has more than twice as many as the Mustangs, whose 56 errors are a league-low.

“Some of (the errors) are a result of being too aggressive, where we’re trying to be too quick and we get ahead of ourselves,” Gemoll said. “We don’t want to take the aggressiveness away from them. We love the aggressiveness. At the same time, control it a little bit.”

Player of the game 

Mustangs right fielder Jose Siri 

Siri went 2 for 5 with his ninth home run of the season, a 421-foot solo shot to kick off Billings’ eighth inning rally .

Up next 

The Mustangs (34-19 overall, 11-4 second half) will go for the series win over the Chukars (27-27, 5-11) at 7:15 p.m. Wednesday at Melaleuca Field. I.F. lefty Reinaldo Cepin (3.76 ERA) is schedule to start against righty Moises Nova (5.40 ERA).

 

Chukars’ rally falls just short against Great Falls

Willis
Willis

One night after being held to one hit, the Idaho Falls Chukars came up just a hit short during a 6-5 loss to the Great FallsVoyagers on Saturday night at Centene Stadium at Legion Park. It was the third straight loss for the Chukars.

Road woes

Things haven’t gone the Chukars way on this road trip to Great Falls, and they didn’t get any better in the first inning Saturday. After going down in order in the top of the first, Idaho Falls surrendered four runs on five hits and a throwing error to dig an early hole.

Great Falls managed just two more runs, both coming in the sixth inning on two-out hits. Idaho Falls went down swinging, scoring two runs in the sixth, two in the seventh and one in the eighth to cut the deficit to one run. The Chukars nearly wiped out the deficit in the top of the ninth when Luke Willis and Rudy Martin singled to start the frame.

Ricky Aracena followed with a two-strike bunt, moving the runners to second and third. Manny Olloque then walked to load the bases for Pioneer League batting leader Meibrys Viloria. The Chukars then got a gift when a Jaider Rocha pitch got past catcher Carlos Perez. But Perez tracked it down and threw to Rocha, who tagged out Willis on a close play.

Viloria walked to load the bases again, but David Edwards’ liner went right to Aaron Schnurbusch in right field to end the threat and the game.

Player of the game

Idaho Falls left fielder Luke Willis

While Great Falls’ Jameson Fisher was 2 for 4 with two doubles, two runs and two RBIs, Willis gets the nod after a perfect night at the plate. The 5-foot-11, 190-pound right-hander went 4 for 4 to push his average to .339.

Up next

The Chukars (25-20 overall, 3-4 second half) hope to avoid a four-game road sweep when they wrap up their series against Great Falls (25-19, 4-2) at 1 p.m. Sunday. Igol Feliz (1-1, 5.91 ERA) is scheduled to start for Idaho Falls while Chris Comito (4-1, 2.74) will start for Great Falls.

Another night, another Chukars comeback

Idaho Falls third baseman Manny Olloque dives to make a tag during Saturday’s game against Grand Junction at Melaleuca Field. (Courtesy of Steve Thayer)
Idaho Falls third baseman Manny Olloque dives to make a tag during Saturday’s game against Grand Junction at Melaleuca Field. (Courtesy of Steve Thayer)

An Idaho Falls Chukars rally is like a motorcycle accident. It’s not if one will happen, it’s when.

The Chukars displayed that inevitability in their first two games against Grand Junction. Saturday was the most glaring example of them all.

I.F. scored four runs in the eighth inning to overcome another late deficit and beat the Rockies 7-5 at Melaleuca Field.

“We’d much rather have them score a bunch of runs early,” Chukars manager Justin Gemoll said. “But with these guys, it’s just, be patient. That’s the big lesson. Be patient, and just watch them compete.”

Another late rally

Saturday marked the seventh time this season I.F. came back from a deficit in the sixth inning or later. Nothing early in the game pointed to another comeback, other than the Chukars’ habit of relentlessness.

The Rockies took a 4-1 lead in the fifth inning, and that held until the sixth. I.F. chipped away, but Grand Junction still led 5-3 going into the bottom of the eighth.

The lineup that produced three hits through six innings piled up six in the eighth alone. Meibrys Viloria kicked off the scoring with an RBI double, which extended his hitting streak to 17 games. Angelo Castellano then drove in Viloria and David Edwards to give the Chukars a 6-5 lead.

Edwards and Manny Olloque both singled with one out to spark the rally.

“You go, ‘OK, we’re a little flat,’ and then all of the sudden …” Gemoll said. “It takes one hit to get them going, and it has for the past month or so.”

Dudek breaks through 

Rockies left fielder Tyler Bugner made a diving catch in the bottom of the seventh to rob Joe Dudek of his first professional hit. At the time, it felt like cruel fortune. In hindsight, Dudek was happy to wait.

The Chukars’ first baseman came up an inning later with Castellano on second. He lined a single to Bugner that scored Castellano and gave I.F. a 7-5 lead.

It was Dudek’s first hit in eight at-bats.

“I didn’t want to doubt myself,” Dudek said. “It’s my second day here. I feel like I’m seeing it well. Just trying to put good swings on it. I’m getting more comfortable as the at-bats go on.”

Lovelady’s dominant debut 

Richard Lovelady’s first appearance as a Chukar came in a high-leverage situation, and he couldn’t have been more commanding.

The left-hander entered the game in the top of the ninth, right after I.F.’s furious eighth inning rally.

“There’s always nerves,” Lovelady said. “I didn’t try to do too much the first time out. Just go out there and pound the zone.”

Lovelady’s results: a three-pitch strikeout and two four-pitch strikeouts. His high-80s, low-90s fastball whizzed by Grand Junction’s bats, and only two of his 11 pitches were balls.

“I wish I could tell you it was planned, that I knew we were going to score four runs and he’d come in and get the save,” Gemoll said. “It worked out in our favor. He did a great job.”

Player of the game 

Rockies starting pitcher Ty Culbreth

The Chukars won, but no single player’s performance stood out from the rest. Culbreth, on the other hand, pitched five pristine innings. The left-hander allowed one unearned run on two hits and no walks. He also struck out seven.

Up next 

The Chukars (24-17, 2-1 second half) will try to take the series over Grand Junction (17-24, 1-2) on Sunday at 4 p.m. It’s the final game before the all-star break.

 

Chukars rough up Osprey 17-7

Edwards
Edwards

Back-to-back road wins have pushed the Idaho Falls Chukars closer to winning the Pioneer League South Division first-half title. Idaho Falls held off Helena on Sunday to end that three-game series, then pounded Missoula 17-7 on Monday to kick off another three-game set.

The Chukars were unable to build on their one-game lead over Orem when the Owlz rallied from a late two-run deficit to earn a 6-5 win over Helena. The Chukars could clinch the first-half title Tuesday with a win and an Orem loss.

Hit parade

Idaho Falls has the top offense in the Pioneer League, and they only added to that lead Monday. The Chukars finished with 20 hits, including four doubles and two home runs. Every hitter in the Idaho Falls lineup had at least one hit, and every Chukar scored at least once.

Manny Olloque, Yeison Melo, David Edwards and Angelo Castellano each had three hits, while Rudy Martin, Meibrys Viloria and Jordan Ebert added two apiece. Idaho Falls hitters also drew four walks. And despite scoring 17 runs, they left 11 runners on base.

Idaho Falls scored at least two runs in seven of the nine innings, including four in the eighth and three in the second, seventh and ninth innings.

Mound presence

Castellano
Castellano

Idaho Falls starter Andres Machado wasn’t the force he had been in his previous three starts, when he allowed a combined one earned run on 11 hits in 14 innings. But he wasn’t bad, either. The 6-foot, 175-pound right-hander allowed three earned runs on six hits and two walks while striking out five in five innings to even his season record at 2-2.

Player of the game

Chukars second baseman Angelo Castellano

Castellano has been one of the few Chukars to struggle at the plate, hitting .259 while showing little power. But something clicked for the 6-foot, 170-pounder, who entered Monday hitting .245. Castellano pushed that average to .259 after going 3 for 6 with two singles and a three-run bomb in the seventh.

Up next

Idaho Falls (22-14) continues its three-game series with Missoula tonight. Alex Luna (3-0, 2.50 ERA) is scheduled to start for the Chukars while Alex Gouin (1-2, 5.79) is expected to start for the Osprey.

Sunday’s game

CHUKARS 7, BREWERS 6: At Helena, Mont., the Chukars turned the tables on their road woes, rallying from an early 4-2 deficit and then surviving a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the ninth inning to earn a rare victory away from Melaleuca Field.

Idaho Falls had lost seven road games by one run, including five of them in walk-offs. Helena nearly made it six Sunday, loading the bases in the bottom of the ninth with the Chukars up by a run. But Idaho Falls reliever Brian Bayliss got a flyout to end the threat and close out the win.

The Chukars trailed 4-2 entering the fifth, but Meibrys Viloria added to his amazing season by belting a three-run homer to right field. David Edwards followed with a solo homer to put the Chukars up 6-4. Helena tied the score with single runs in the fifth and eighth, but Idaho Falls went back ahead when Yeison Melo and Viloria singled. Jordan Ebert then lined a single to center that went in and out of the glove of Joantgel Segovia, allowing Melo to score.

Viloria improved his league-leading average to .456 by going 3 for 4, while adding his 15th double and sixth home run. Ricky Aracena was 2 for 4 with a run while Ebert was 2 for 5 with a run and an RBI and Melo was 2 for 5 with a run. And the league’s worst defense was error-free for the second straight game.

Chukars Notebook: Divergent first-half records

Viloria
Viloria

The first half of the Pioneer League baseball season will conclude in four days, and the Idaho Falls Chukars are tied for first place in the South Division. The Chukars have already won 20 games, a mark they didn’t reach last summer until August.

With 20 new players this season, I.F. was bound to play differently than last year’s team. But this much improvement is impossible to predict. Here are a few key areas of success for I.F. this half:

Deep lineup 

Alexis Rivera was one of the Pioneer League’s best hitters last season before moving up to Single-A Lexington (he was released this spring but signed a minor-league contract with the Los Angeles Angels). Josh Banuelos and Amalani Fukofuka painted the field with hits, as well, especially in the first half. The dropoff between those three and the rest of the lineup was Yellowstone Falls-esque.

Shortstop Marten Gasparini and second baseman D.J. Burt hovered around the Mendoza line. When right fielder Brawlun Gomez wasn’t hitting home runs, he was probably striking out. Third baseman Ryan Dale was never productive.

This year’s lineup is as deep as it relentless. I.F. has five wins this season when it trailed in the seventh inning or later, and that’s despite an error-prone defense and a shaky bullpen.

The bats are highlighted by catcher Meibrys Viloria, who transcends hyperbole. He leads the Pioneer League in five categories: batting average, on-base percentage, OPS, doubles and RBIs.

Viloria’s season has rendered many of his teammates underrated, namely third baseman Manny Olloque, right fielder Yeison Melo, outfielder Luke Willis and first baseman David Edwards.

Outfielder Tanner Stanley and first basemen Colton Frabasilio and Brandon Dulin were all promoted after each hitting over .300 in I.F. Newer starters like second baseman Jordan Ebert and outfielders Nick Heath and Rudy Martin have filled in admirably.

The only mediocre everyday hitters are Ricky Aracena and Angelo Castellano, and even the 5-foot-8 Aracena has trouble fitting into that category. The shortstop was hitting .282 with a .702 OPS through Friday.

The Chukars have already scored 274 runs (8.1 per game) this summer. They mustered 238 (6.3 per game) in the first half of 2015.

Improved pitching 

None of I.F.’s 2016 starters own ERAs worse than 7.00. Three I.F. starters had ERAs above 7.00 at this point last season, which led to more innings for a shaky bullpen. This year’s bullpen has been inconsistent, but manager Justin Gemoll has three arms with sub-4.00 ERAs at his disposal.

The biggest difference between these two staffs: strikes.

I.F. had issued 3.4 walks per game going into Saturday. Last year’s team averaged 3.8. Like nearly every 2015 pitching stat, that number was much higher in the first half.

Home comfort

The Chukars are 5-10 on the road this season, not far off from their 5-13 record away from home in the first half last season. The obvious key difference is at home.

I.F.’s home record this summer is 15-4, easily the best in the Pioneer League. The Chukars’ home run differential is plus-60, as well. The club went 8-12 at Melaleuca Field in first half last year, and they were outscored by 12 runs in those 20 games.

CC RAKING IN KC 

Cheslor Cuthbert moved up from Triple-A to the Kansas City Royals in May to fill-in for another former Chukar, Mike Moustakas. The All-Star third baseman is out for the season with a torn ACL, but Cuthbert has done his best to fix the broken hearts in Kansas City.

A 2-for-3 performance Saturday lifted Cuthbert’s batting average over .300 and his OPS over .800, the second time that’s happened in 63 games this season (the first time was in his fourth game).

Cuthbert’s progression has been linear. He hit .253 with a .601 OPS in May, .283 and .844 in June and .377 and .958 thus far in July. He also has nine home runs on the year.

Cuthbert played 14 games for I.F. in 2010 as a 17-year-old. He got a cup of coffee with Kansas City last season, when he hit .217 with a .650 OPS in 19 games.

ROSTER MOVES 

The Royals haven’t initiated much movement with the Chukars roster the last two weeks. In fact, I.F. has undergone just two makeovers since July 5.

July 13: Chukars outfielder Tanner Stanley moves up to Lexington. Fellow outfielder Leland Clemmons is released. Second baseman Jordan Ebert, outfielder Rudy Martin and right-handed pitcher Paul Young are promoted from the Arizona League to I.F.

July 16: Double-A Northwest Arkansas activates left-hander Sam Selman from the 7-day disabled list, ending his rehab assignment with the Chukars.

WHO’S HOT? 

RHP Andres Machado 

Machado had a 13.50 ERA after his first start. That number shriveled to 4.00 after Monday’s gem against Missoula.

Machado didn’t allow a run or a walk in five innings against the Osprey. He gave up one hit and struck out four.

Machado’s stinginess doesn’t end there. He has allowed one earned run on 11 hits, one walk and 17 strikeouts in his last 14 innings pitched.

WHO’S NOT? 

INF Angelo Castellano

Castellano’s batting average was as high as .280 on July 4. Since then he’s gone 12 for 56 (.214). He still has a solid OBP (.350 through Friday), but his patience has waned lately. And Castellano has only hit five extra-base hits all season, including none for home runs.