Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Game 45 preview: Columbus Clippers at Charlotte Knights

Here are the lineups:

Clippers (25-20)

Francisco Lindor SS
Tyler Holt LF
Jesus Aguilar 1B
Zach Walters DH
Jerry Sands RF
James Ramsey CF
Giovanny Urshela 3B
Adam Moore C
Ryan Rohlinger 2B
Pitching: LHP Nick Maronde (0-5, 5.95)

Knights (25-19)

Micah Johnson 2B (holds a five-game hitting streak)
Tyler Saladino SS
Neftali Soto DH
Matt Davidson 3B (tied for IL lead with seven home runs)
Matt Tuiasosopo 1B
Trayce Thompson LF
Jason Coats RF (batting .302 in the month of May)
Jeremy Dowdy C
Leury Garcia CF (has scored a run in seven straight games)
Pitching: Kyle Drabek (0-2, 2.32)

Game time: 7:05 p.m.

TV/Radio: MiLB.TV / ESPN 730

Notes: The Knights enter tonight's game atop the IL South Division standings, sitting 1.5 games ahead of the Norfolk Tides and the Durham Bulls ... Charlotte has excelled at home this season, posting a 15-8 record at BB&T BallPark. The team has won seven of its last 10 home games ... During Monday's game, one of the Charlotte ball boys made this nice snag.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Chris Beck earns his third-straight win as Charlotte Knights close out seven-game home stand

Chris Beck earned his third-straight win and helped the Charlotte Knights close out their seven-game home stand with a 7-1 victory over the Syracuse Chiefs in front of 9,628 at BB&T Ballpark on Sunday. 

The Knights (21-15), who finished Sunday with 11 hits, finished their home stand 5-2 and now sit 1.5 games ahead of the Norfolk Tides for first place in the International League South Division. 

For the third-straight start, Beck -- who held the Chiefs (16-21) to one run on six hits over seven innings -- pitched into at least the sixth inning of a game, while surrendering two or less runs. 

Beck's final line read: 7IP, 6H, 1R, 3BB, 4K -- 105 pitches (69 strikes). 

Charlotte's five-six batters Dan Black (3 for 3, BB, 2R, RBI) and Trayce Thompson (2 for 3, BB, HR, R, 4 RBI) combined to go 5-for-6 with five runs knocked in and three runs scored to provide Beck with plenty of run support. 

Black's big hit came in the form of a fifth-inning triple -- his second of the season -- to dead centerfield that brought home Jason Coats and gave the Knights a 4-1 lead. 

Two innings later, the Chiefs decided to intentionally walk Black with one out and a runner on second to set up a potential double play with Thompson due up next. 

The plan backfired for Syracuse when Thompson launched his third home run of the season into the left-field bleachers to give the Knights a 7-1 lead. 

For his part, Beck -- who improved to 3-1 this season and lowered his ERA to 4.29 -- finished off his outing by striking out the International League's leading home run hitter, Ian Stewart, with a 2-2 changeup. 

Charlotte relievers Maikel Cleto and Daniel Webb tossed perfect eighth and ninth innings respectively to close out the game. 

Quote
It's probably not going to be a smart decision to walk Dan (Black) anymore, especially with Trayce (Thompson) putting up the numbers he is behind him. He's doing his job protecting Dan. ... There's really not a break in our lineup from top to bottom.” – Knights’ starter Chris Beck 

I have not gotten much luck over the last week and a half. But that swing (on the home run) felt good. I was just trying to attack the ball and not be so defensive. If you look at my numbers throughout my career, I've been a guy that drives the ball and I'm just trying to get back to that.” – Knights' centerfielder Trayce Thompson. 

Worth mentioning
Beck improved to 3-0 in his last three starts. Over that span, the 24-year-old second-round pick has allowed just three runs over 19 innings, while striking out 13. ... In the last two games, Knights' pitchers (Eric Surkamp 3IP, Cleto 1IP, Webb 1IP) have combined to toss five perfect innings of relief. ... The 3-for-3 performance from Black, upped his average to a Knights-leading .333 on the season. The first baseman entered the day second in the IL in on-base percentage (.437) (he was on base four times on Sunday) and first in slugging percentage (.563). The RBI was Black's 22nd of the season, which is also tops on the Knights. ... For the third time this season a team intentionally walked Black to face Thompson and for the third time Thompson came though. He's 2-for-2 with a walk, a double and a home run following a Black intentional free pass this season. ... Prior to Sunday's game, the Knights placed catcher Kevan Smith on the DL and recalled Raleigh, N.C. native Jeremy Dowdy from the Winston-Salem Dash. ... Knights' second baseman Micah Johnson was not in the lineup on Sunday after rolling his ankle on the second-base bag in yesterday's game following a ninth-inning walk-off double. He's likely just day-to-day. 

What's next?
The Knights will now hit the road for seven games, beginning with a three-game set in Scranton/Wiles-Barre against the RailRiders that kicks off on Monday at 7:05 p.m. RHP Junior Guerra (0-1, 2.45) will take the mound for the Knights across from LHP Matt Tracy (0-0, 3.50).

Emmanuel Lewis Morgan contributed to this report. 

Game 36 lineups: Syracuse Chiefs at Charlotte Knights

Here are the lineups:

Chiefs (16-20)
Emmanuel Burriss SS
Tony Gwynn Jr. LF
Darin Mastroianni CF
Ian Stewart DH
Mark Minicozzi 1B
Jason Martinson 3B
Matt den Dekker RF
Steve Lerud C
Cutter Dykstra 2B
Pitching: RHP Bruce Billings (1-2, 3.82)

Knights (20-15)
Leury Garcia 2B
Jason Coats LF
Matt Tuiasosopo RF
Matt Davidson 3B
Dan Black 1B
Trayce Thompson CF
Tyler Colvin DH
George Kottaras C
Drew Garcia SS
Pitching: RHP Chris Beck (2-1, 3.90)

Game time: 2:05 p.m.

TV/Radio: MiLB.com / ESPN 730 / in spanish 

Roster Move: On Saturday, the Knights placed catcher Kevan Smith on the DL and recalled Jeremy Dowdy from Winston-Salem 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Micah Johnson bookends Charlotte Knights 2-1 walk-off win over Syracuse Chiefs

Micah Johnson hit the first pitch the Syracuse Chiefs threw over the fence for a home run and the last one down the leftfield line for a double to give the Charlotte Knights a 2-1 walk-off win on Saturday.

Johnson’s bookend performance overshadowed an excellent night of work from Knights’ (20-15) pitchers Kyle Drabek and Eric Surkamp, who combined to two-hit the Chiefs (16-20).

Johnson stepped to the plate in the first inning sitting fastball, got one, and sent his first home run of the season over the leftfield wall, becoming the first Knights player to accomplish such a feat since Jared Mitchell did it on Aug. 9 of 2014. 

The score stayed 1-0 in favor of Charlotte until the sixth inning when the Chiefs managed their first hit of the night off Drabek, when Emmanel Burriss lined a sharp one-out single through the hole between first and second.

Tony Gwynn Jr. followed with a bloop double to put runners at second and third with one down and Darin Mastroianni brought home Syracuse's lone run of the game with a fielder's choice, tying things at 1-1.

The sixth was the last inning of work for Drabek, whose final line read: 5IP, 1R, 2H, 2BB, 2K – 80 pitches (47 strikes). Surkamp then came on in relief and held the Chiefs hitless over the next three frames to set the table for Johnson’s heroics.

Kevan Smith led off the bottom of the ninth with a walk, was sacrificed to second, and then came in to score on a two-strike double off lefty-specialist Rich Hill by Johnson, who has gone 2-for-7 with three RBI, two walks and two stolen bases since rejoining the Knights two games ago.

Quote
“Rich Hill is too hard to hit man. That was just luck. I’ve seen him before last year. He threw me a curveball tonight that I pretty much thought was going to hit me in the face, so (on the next pitch) I just tickled the ball down the line.” – Knights’ second baseman Micah Johnson.

Worth mentioning
On Johnson’s walk-off double, both he and Knights’ catcher Kevan Smith came up lame. Johnson rolled his ankle on second base as he watched the play at the plate, where Smith slid in safe, while also rolling his ankle. (nutty, right?) Johnson appeared to be fine after the game, while Smith is likely day-to-day. … The walk-off win was the Knight’s fourth this season, matching their total from all of 2014. … In his last three starts, Drabek has gone 0-1 despite allowing just two runs on five hits over 17 innings. In those starts, Drabek -- who was optioned to the Knights by the Chicago White Sox back on April 24 -- has walked just four and struck out 15. … According to reports, former Charlotte Knights outfielder Jared Mitchell, who was released by the White Sox last week, has signed a deal with the Angels and will be assigned to their Class AA affiliate. Mitchell was a former first-round pick by the White Sox. He was just 2-for-40 with Charlotte at the time of his release. ... Prior to Saturday's game, the Knights activated right-hander Matt Lindstrom from the Disabled List. ... In a collision of former Charlotte Knights, Carlos Sanchez went 1-for-4 in his return to the White Sox lineup on Friday in Oakland in a game that was started by Carlos Rodon and and featured a home run from Josh Phegley. ... The sellout crowd of 10,379 was the Knights' 11th in 21 openings at BB&T Ballpark this season.

What's next?
The Knights will play the final game of their three-game series with the Chiefs at BB&T Ballpark on Sunday at 2:05 p.m. RHP Chris Beck (2-1, 3.90) will take the mound for the Knights across from RHP Bruce Billings (1-2, 3.82).

Game 35 lineups: Syracuse Chiefs at Charlotte Knights

Here are the lineups:

Chiefs (16-19)
Emmanuel Burriss SS
Tony Gwynn Jr. LF
Darin Mastroianni RF
Ian Stewart DH
Jason Martinson 3B
Kila Ka'aihue 1B
Matt den Dekker CF
Dan Butler C
Cutter Dykstra SS
Pitching: RHP Scott McGregor (3-2, 3.62)

Knights (19-15)
Micah Johnson 2B
Jason Coats LF
Neftali Soto DH
Matt Davidson 3B 
Dan Black 1B
Trayce Thompson CF
Tyler Colvin RF
Kevan Smith C
Drew Garcia SS
Pitching: RHP Kyle Drabek (0-1, 1.89)

Game time: 7:05 p.m.

TV/Radio: WMYT My12 / ESPN 730 

Roster Move: On Saturday, the Knights activated RHP Matt Lindstrom from the DL. 

Friday, May 15, 2015

Knights issue Chiefs free pass, fall 9-3 in Micah Johnson's return

Don't walk the leadoff man. It's Baseball 101.

On Friday, the Charlotte Knights' pitching staff chose to put the long-held theory to the test and paid for it in the win-loss column, dropping a 9-3 game to the Syracuse Chiefs in front of 10,534 at BB&T Ballpark.  

Statistically speaking, a leadoff walk will score 38-percent of the time. In Friday's loss, the Chiefs scored 100-percent of the time.

Syracuse batters earned free passes to begin the third, fifth and sixth innings, and in each occasion went on to post a crooked number on the scoreboard.

Erik Johnson (3-3) got the start for the Knights (19-15) and was perfect through two innings before walking Matt den Dekker to start the third inning. Following back-to-back groundouts handled easily by the newly-reassigned Micah Johnson, Emmanuel Burriss (3 for 5) ripped a triple to right-center to tie the game at 1-1.

Two innings later, Johnson missed wide with a 3-1 fastball to Steve Lerud. After the right-hander once again retired the next two batters (sacrifice bunt, strikeout), Tony Gwynn Jr. came up with a two-out RBI double to put Syracuse (16-19) on top for good.

It was the final inning for Johnson, whose final lane read: 5IP, 3H, 3R, 4BB, 5K -- 101 pitches (59 strikes).

An inning later, it was Jared Casey's turn to spot the Chiefs a runner on first. After a second walk, a wild pitch and a single, Burriss knocked in his third and fourth runs of the game with a single that bounced off the pitcher's mound and into centerfield.

Matthew Spann (1-0), who was promoted from the Class A+ Carolina League's Potomac Nationals earlier in the day, made the spot start for the Chiefs in place of A.J. Cole, who was promoted to the Nationals, and held the Knights to one unearned run on two hits over six innings.

Charlotte loaded the bases with no one out in the bottom of the seventh and made it a 6-3 game thanks to a RBI fielder's choice by Drew Garcia and a sacrifice fly by Johnson, but that's as close as the Knights would get, with the Chiefs adding three insurance runs in the ninth off Daniel Webb.

Quote:
"The (leadoff walks) pushed up (Johnson's) pitch count. You could probably take away 25-30 pitches just from that alone. Leadoff walks make it conducive for the other team to score, and even because of that, he still was able to pitch around it a little bit. But, you know, I think he threw close to 100 pitches through five innings." -- Knights' manager Joel Skinner. 

Worth mentioning
In his first appearance since being reassigned by the Chicago White Sox to the Knights, Micah Johnson batted leadoff and played second base. Johnson finished the night 0-3 with a walk, a stolen base, and a sacrifice fly. Johnson filled the roster spot vacated by Carlos Sanchez, whose promotion to Chicago was made official on Friday. ... Knights first baseman Dan Black (1-for-3, 2B) knocked in his 21st run of the season with a first-inning double to pull even with Matt Davidson for the team lead in RBI. ... The sellout crowd of 10,534 was the Knights' largest of the regular season and their 10th in 20 openings at BB&T Ballpark this year. The Knights posted a Minor-League best 31 sellouts in 2014. 

What's next?
The Knights will play the second game of their three-game series with the Chiefs on Saturday at 7:05 p.m. at BB&T Ballpark. RHP Kyle Drabek (0-1, 1.89) will take the mound for the Knights against Chiefs’ RHP Scott McGregor (3-2 3.62).

Micah Johnson spoke after the game

Here's the transcript...

Q: What was the message from the White Sox when they reassigned you to Charlotte?
A: Nothing really, they don't tell you much. They just send you down. 

Q: That was it? They just walked in and...
A: Na, I got a phone call.

Q: What are you planning to work on in Charlotte?
A: I'm going to work on everything I've always done. I work every day at the same stuff. No need to change. I'll keep working in the cage, on the field defensively, stealing, base running. Nothing specific, I'm just going to keep working. That doesn't' change. 

Q: More confidence at the plate after facing Major League pitching all season?
A: No, I'm a pretty confident guy I think. My confidence was pretty good at the plate. I thought I held my own pretty decently at the plate, so my confidence has always been there. Tonight, I hit balls well and that's all I can do. You can't follow it, so all you can do is put the barrel to it -- which I did three times tonight -- and the rest will take care of itself.

Q: How do you feel defensively right now?
A: Great. I feel really good, really confident. My hands have been working really well. Me and (White Sox third base coach) Joe McEwing did early work pretty much every day for probably the last three weeks, just working on ground balls and everything has been great. The ground balls have been smooth really. Today, I got a chance to go out there and make a few plays, but, you know, defense is good man. I feel confident about it. 

Game 34 lineups: Micah Johnson leading off and playing second for Charlotte Knights

Here are the lineups:

Chiefs (15-19)
Emmanuel Burriss SS
Tony Gwynn Jr. LF
Darin Mastroianni CF
Ian Stewart 3B
Mark Minicozzi DH
Kila Ka'aihue 1B
Matt den Dekker RF
Steve Lerud C
Josh Johnson 2B
Pitching: LHP Matthew Spann (NR)

Knights (19-14)
Micah Johnson 2B
Jason Coats LF
Neftali Soto 1B
Matt Davidson 3B 
Dan Black DH
Trayce Thompson CF
Matt Tuiasosopo RF
Kevan Smith C
Drew Garcia SS
Pitching: RHP Erik Johnson (3-2, 4.39)

Game time: 7:05 p.m.

TV/Radio: MiLB.TV / ESPN 730