Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Charlotte Knights drop eighth straight, despite two home runs from Tyler Saladino

By Seth Lakso, Charlotte Observer Correspondent

They say the game of baseball isn't played on paper, but on Tuesday, it certainly stuck to the script. 

The Durham Bulls arrived at Charlotte’s BB&T Ballpark having won eight of their last 10 and boasting a pitching staff that entered the day leading the International League in strikeouts (204).

The Knights, on the other hand, returned home losers of seven in a row, with the league’s worse batting average (.209) in tow, as well as the most strikeouts (188).

The result was exactly what you’d expect given those numbers, as Charlotte fell for the eighth-straight time, 8-4, in front of a crowd of 8,751 at BB&T Ballpark.

Tyler Saladino (3 for 4) finished with two home runs and all four of the Knights (6-13) RBIs, while Durham pitching posted 14 Ks.

“It’s a long season,” said Saladino, who likened the losing streak to a 9-20 month of August he went through with Double-A Birmingham last season. “If things aren’t going your way, (losses) can come in bunches and have a bit of a snowball effect from time to time. But it only takes a couple things to get going and then, the next thing you know, the questions can be turned around the other way.”

The Bulls (15-5) biggest blow of the game came in the third inning, when Justin Christian launched a three-run home run to put them up 3-0. Saladino’s first home run in the seventh cut the Bulls lead to 4-3, but veteran reliever Mitchell Boggs, allowed four runs over two innings of work to end any comeback ideas. 

The loss was Charlotte’s fifth straight against Durham, and dropped the team to 1-6 against its in-state foe this season. The eight-game losing streak is the franchise’s longest since another eight-game drought in 2010 (4/18-4/25).  

Dylan Axelrod (1-2, 4.71) took the loss for the Knights, tossing five innings of seven-hit, four-run (three earned) ball. He walked three, hit a batter, and struck out one.

Opposite Axelrod, Merrill Kelly (4-0, 1.50) was able to pick up his fourth win of this season and second against the Knights. Kelly lasted six innings. He allowed one run and struck out seven. 

“Obviously, we’ve had a real bad week from the standpoint of wins and losses,” said Knights manager Joel Skinner. “It’s eight in a row now, but you know, that’s baseball. You fix that by going out and winning some ballgames.”

The Knights haven't been helped by the rash of injuries that has hit their parent club, the Chicago White Sox. As of Tuesday, five players who began the season with Charlotte were with the White Sox, including outfielder Jordan Danks and starters Andre Rienzo and Charlie Leesman (who was scheduled to start on Wednesday).  

In seven games this season, the Bulls have now outscored the Knights, 44-20. The two teams will play again today at 11 a.m. with Deunte Heath scheduled to start opposite Durham’s Nathan Karns.

“It’s baseball,” said Saladino. “There’s ups and downs. You’ve just got to try and stay as consistent as you can. That’s what everyone’s trying to do. That’s our focus, trying to get back on and get some stuff going our way and try to win some ball games.”