Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Charlotte Knights out of sync in 6-0 loss to Durham Bulls

By Seth Lakso, Charlotte Observer Correspondent 

Monday was not a day for schedules or routines at BB&T Ballpark.

First, news came that the visiting Durham Bulls had scratched their scheduled starter and moments later came word that the game’s start time had been pushed back thirty minutes to avoid incoming precipitation.

The rain didn’t make its way to the ballpark until the seventh inning, the Knights bats, which were held off the scoreboard in a 6-0 loss, never showed up at all. 

Andre Rienzo got the start on the mound for Charlotte and looked uncomfortable almost from the first pitch. The righthander struggled to locate his off-speed offerings early on and the Bulls took advantage with a four-run first inning.

Rienzo managed to navigate through the next three innings without surrendering another run.

“The loss was my fault,” said Rienzo (L, 0-2), who wasn't interested in making excuses. “I was supposed to be out there more -- five-six innings -- and I couldn’t do that today.

“I take all the responsibility,” he continued. “(Controlling the off-speed pitches) was my problem. If I don’t have control of them, they’re just sitting on fastballs. After the first inning, I tried to focus on what was to come and try to keep my team in the game, but the damage had already been done.”

Meanwhile, a combination of Juan Sandoval, Juan Carlos Oviedo (or Leo Nunez, depending on who you ask), Steve Geltz, Adam Liberatore, and Kirby Yates combined to hold the Knights to just three hits.

A Gorkys Hernandez double in the eighth -- with most of the 8,480 fans already gone -- was the Knights' lone extra-base hit.

The loss dropped Charlotte to 2-2 on its current eight-game home stand and gave the Bulls their sixth straight win and fourth in five games against the Knights.

Durham second baseman Mikie Mahtook finished the night 5-for-5 with two runs scored and an RBI.

After allowing a walk and a single to open the game, the Bulls took a one-run lead off Rienzo, when a toss back to the infield from right field was cut off and thrown away by shortstop Tyler Saladino.

Following a ground out, Rienzo then allowed four straight Bulls to reach base and two more runs.

Juan Sandoval, who was pulled from his normal roll as a reliever to start the game for Durham in place of Enny Romero tossed three scoreless innings. Oviedo (W, 1-0) and Geltz then combined to hold the Knights hitless through the next four frames.

The Bulls added two insurance runs off Charlotte righthander Ryan Kussmaul in the seventh thanks to a sac fly and Vince Belnome’s first home run of the season, which the crowd tossed back onto the field.

“Tonight we walked people and had an error in the first inning,” said Knights manager Joel Skinner, as he dismissed the notion that the delay had effect on the team’s performance. “Any time you do that it’s a bad combination. That’s pretty much what’s happened.”

The Knights will conclude their short two-game series with the Bulls at 7:05 p.m. tomorrow.