Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Charlotte Knights bats continue to struggle at BB&T Ballpark in loss to Gwinnett

By Seth Lakso, Charlotte Observer Correspondent 

When BB&T Ballpark was first opened, Charlotte Knights’ players marveled at the short porches down the left and right field lines.

During their first round of batting practice, they spoke openly about how well the ball carried. Knights’ starter, Andre Rienzo, even joked, “It looks like a hitter’s park, right? I’m scared to pitch here a little. The ball flies.”

However, after Wednesday night’s 7-2 loss to the Gwinnett Braves in front of a crowd of 8,872, it’s becoming clear that that early optimism isn’t translating into runs for the home team.

Through six games, the Knights – who stranded seven runners on base on Wednesday – are averaging just three runs a contest and hitting a collective .213 (43 for 202) at the unfriendly confines of BB&T and have now dropped three straight.

“I think that we’re just going through something right now,” said Charlotte hitting coach Andy Tomberlin. “You know, hitting is contagious. Once you start getting a few knocks, it just seems to flow a little bit. Right now, we’re just trying to get our timing together. I think as a group we just need to put together some quality at bats.

“We had some balls hit hard that they made plays on and that kind of shut down some momentum, but that’s the game,” continued Tomberlin. “You just have to keep grinding and finding ways.”

Dylan Axelrod (L, 1-1) got the start for the Knights (6-8) and did his job, making it through six innings, allowing four runs on six hits and striking out five.

Long balls by the Braves' Steven Lerud and Joey Terdoslavich, along with a triple that appeared to actually be a home run, but was not called as such by the umpires, by former Knight Tyler Greene, were his only major mistakes.

Daniel Rodriguez (W, 2-1) started opposite Axelrod for the Braves (6-7). The southpaw allowed one run over five innings, while striking out six Charlotte batters.
Trailing 4-1 entering the bottom of the sixth the Knights tried to make a game of it when Josh Phegley (2 for 4) tripled to begin the inning and then caught a break when Denis Phipps reached on a two-out error by the Braves third basemen, allowing Phegley to score.

However, two innings later the Braves added two more runs off veteran reliever Javy Guerra, who entered the game having not allowed a run in 5.2 innings pitched this season.

The stunned look on shortstop Alex Liddi’s face when Braves centerfielder Todd Cunningham robbed him of what looked like a sure double to lead off the bottom of the ninth with a full extension dive, said more than any stat could.

“I hit it hard and it was in the gap and he made a good play and I was just like, ‘Are you kidding me?’” said Liddi, who finished Wednesday 0 for 4 one night after connecting on his first home run of the season.

Liddi’s partner on the left side of the diamond on Wednesday night, Matt Davidson (1 for 4, 3 LOB), also seemed frustrated at the plate. 

Over his last six home games Davidson, who is ranked by Baseball America as the Knights top prospect has gone 3 for 21 with 0 runs bated in and 11 strikeouts.

“Some of it is that balls aren’t falling and some of it is that we’re swinging at bad pitches, giving up at bats too easily,” said Liddi, whose average now stands at .171. “We need to stick our noses in there a little more and be more tough at the plate."