By Seth Lakso, Charlotte Observer Correspondent
Knowing there was a runner on first and one out in the inning of a one-run game in the ninth, Knights second baseman Carlos Sanchez took off.
As the ball drifted towards the Knights’ bullpen, so too did Sanchez, who made the catch right on top of one of Charlotte’s exposed pitching mounds. Without a second of hesitation, Sanchez popped to his feet and fired to second to catch the runner trying to tag-up and end the game.
The double play was the highlight of the night for Charlotte, who handed the Durham Bulls their second straight loss in front of a record crowd of 10, 449 at BB&T Ballpark on Thursday.
“I saw him make a catch on the mound, a nice kind of over-the-shoulder type of play, and then throw a strike to second,” said Knights manager Joel Skinner.
“You know, he was throwing from the mound, so he must have gotten out front and made a nice pitch,” joked Skinner. “No, it was a nice play; it really was.”
For the second night in a row the Knights had to piece together a game from a pitching standpoint, with the night’s scheduled starter, Scott Carroll, put on hold in case he’s needed with the Chicago White Sox later this week.
And for the second night in a row, the pen was up to the task, holding Durham – who entered the night first in the International League in runs scored (105) and hits (198) – to just three runs on four hits.
Ryan Kussmaul started for the first time in his professional career and tossed 40 pitches over three innings. His only blemish was a solo home run he allowed to Wilson Betemit in the second inning.
Frank De Los Santos (W, 1-0, 0.00) followed up Kussmaul with three scoreless innings of his own, striking out four. Donnie Veal then tossed a scoreless inning before losing his command in the eighth and being charged with two runs following three straight walks to start the inning.
David Purcey then came on to toss the game’s final two innings and record his second save of the season.
“They’ve done a great job,” said Skinner of his relievers, who have held Durham to just four runs on 12 hits in 18 innings over the last 48 hours. “Tonight, obviously, we ran into a strike-throwing problem there, but Purcey was able to persevere and he got through that and the play Sanchez made was a nice way to finish the game.”
The Knights took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on an RBI double by Andy Wilkins and added three more runs in the sixth on an error, a wild pitch, and a sacrifice fly by Wilkins (1 for 3).
Through 10 home games the Knights have drawn 95,751 fans to Uptown’s BB&T Ballpark – the most by any Minor League team this season. The next highest attendance belongs to the Louisville Bats (74,119 in 11 games).
It took the Knights 27 games last season – or until May 28th – to hit the 90,000 mark in Fort Mill, S.C.
Charlotte improved to 3-6 against the Bulls this season. The two teams will conclude their four-game series on Friday when former Atlanta Braves ace Tommy Hanson (0-1, 9.00) takes on Durham southpaw Enny Romero (2-2, 4.43).
Notes: Knights manager Joel Skinner said that Scott Carroll didn't pitch because: "He’s on hold. He got bumped. At this level, sometimes you need to have guys available for the Major Leagues, so that’s how that worked tonight. Nothing has been done or anything, but again, they held him back and that’s all I can say about it." ... LHP Charlie Leesman is expected to rejoin the Knights sometime tomorrow and could be available to pitch should the game go into extras. ... Friday will be Tommy Hanson's (0-1, 9.00 ERA) BB&T Ballpark debut. He lasted just four innings in his first start with the Knights. Skinner said that he will be on a pitch count. ... Catcher Josh Phegley sat for the third straight game, but was available to pinch-hit. "He’s been available the whole time," said Skinner. "It’s not a DL situation. He’ll play (Friday). He could have played today, but holding him back one more day was my decision."