Thursday, April 17, 2014

Charlotte Knights extend losing streak to four in 1-0 loss to Gwinnett Braves

By Seth Lakso, Charlotte Observer Correspondent 

With one out in the fourth inning and Braves leadoff man Todd Cunningham on third, Tommy La Stella sent a sinking line drive into the outfield.

Knights’ centerfielder Gorkys Hernandez came charging in to make the catch, as Cunningham retreated to third to tag up.

Hernandez’ throw made it all the way to Charlotte catcher Josh Phegley on the fly, a full step ahead of Cunningham.

The record crowd of 10,323 on hand at BB&T Ballpark on Thursday erupted with the kind of sound you hear in the background of a SportsCenter Web Gem replay, and then, just a quickly, fell silent, as the ball trickled out of Phegley's glove and toward the Braves batter’s box. 

The run was Gwinnett’s only of the night, but it was all they needed to hand Charlotte its fourth consecutive home loss, 1-0.

“Gorkys made a nice throw and when Phegley put his glove down, (Cunningham) kicked the ball right out of it,” said Knights manager Joel Skinner. “It’s a situation where he’s going down to get his glove in front of home plate and the kid’s cleat went right through his web and dislodged the ball.”

“I caught it clean and I went to put the tag on and (Cunningham) slid and his spikes went straight into my glove and just basically yanked the ball out,” said Phegley, who was charged with an error on the play. “There’s nothing you can really do about it, just bad timing I guess.”

The Knights entered Thursday night’s game with the second lowest batting average in the International League at .215 and it looked as though they might be catching a break when Braves starter Yunesky Maya had to leave the game one batter into the second inning with a leg injury.

However, the Gwinnett bullpen put up one zero after the next for the game’s remaining eight frames, holding the Knights -- who had two hits in the first inning -- to just three more for the remainder of the game.  

Twice Charlotte put a runner on third with one out and each time the next batter up struck out and the inning ultimately ended without a run.

Asked if he felt as though his guys are pressing at the plate, Skinner replied, “Overall, your first 50-100 at bats, it’s just human nature to want to get off to a good start, so you’re always going to kind of fight some of that a little bit. As a group, you feed off each other. Once a couple guys get going things should loosen up.”

Knights’ starter Charlie Leesman went seven innings, allowed four hits, one unearned run, and struck out four. He was helped out by three double plays turned behind him during the game. 

“Tonight, he just threw strikes with all his stuff,” said Phegley of Leesman, who fell to 0-2 on the season despite lowering his ERA to 1.59. “He’s got good movement on his fastball and he gets a lot of groundballs with it. He had some downward cut to his fastball and I just stuck with it as long as they weren’t squaring it up and it worked pretty well.”  

In three starts this season, the Knights’ southpaw has allowed just five runs (three earned). However, in those starts, he’s received just six total runs of support from the Charlotte bats.

With the loss, the Knights dropped to 6-9 on the season and 2-5 on their current eight-game home stand.

With Atlanta Braves lefty Mike Minor, who is with Gwinnett on rehab assignment, slated to start against Charlotte Friday, things won’t get any easier. 


Anonymous said...

well.. they have a brand new million dollar stadium and they still arent any better team to go watch then they were in Ft Mill. How long will it take for the new wears off and no one wants to watch a losing team