Monday, May 5, 2014

Charlotte Knights come from eight runs down to defeat Lehigh Valley IronPigs, 9-8

One of their Achilles heals all season had been hitting with two outs and runners in scoring position.

A quick glance at the stat book showed as much, with a team average of .169 in those key situations entering Monday night.

So when Gorkys Hernandez stepped into the batter’s box in the bottom of the eighth inning with two outs and the go-ahead run on second, 8,223 fans at BB&T BallPark collectively held their breath. 

The result – a line drive single to right – bucked the trend and brought home both Blake Tekotte and Tyler Saladino to give the Knights their first lead of the game on their way to a 9-8 win over the IronPigs.

“I tried to look for one pitch,” said Hernandez, who entered the game hitting .143 with two outs and runners in scoring position. “I knew their pitcher threw hard and I was looking for a fastball and all I tried to do was get a single because I knew that could win the game and that’s what I did.”

In total, Charlotte scored four runs in the eighth to take the lead for good after trailing 8-0 midway through the fifth inning. The first run came by way of a bases-loaded walk by Saladino and the second via a fielder’s choice off the bat of Jared Mitchell.

Lehigh Valley roughed up Charlotte starter Dylan Axelrod in the first inning, which resulted in a short night for the right-hander. 

Axelrod retired Clete Thomas on a fly ball to centerfield to begin game, but then saw the inning go decidedly down hill from there.

Tyler Henson, followed up Thomas' at bat with a home run and became the first of nine consecutive IronPigs (15-15) to reach base in the inning.

When the dust finally settled, the 28-year-old had allowed seven runs on seven hits, a walk, and a hit batter.

The Knights, who snapped a six-game losing streak with the win, got two runs back in the fifth inning on back-to-back home runs from Dan Black (3-for-4) and Tekotte (1-for-3, BB).

In the seventh, Andy Wilkins (1-for-4) added a solo-shot and Carlos Sanchez (1-for-4) extended his hitting streak to eight games with Charlotte’s other big two-out two-run single of the night. 

“As an industry, everyone talks about situational hitting and advancing runners and all that type of stuff,” said Knights manager Joel Skinner. “Probably the biggest situation is hitting with two outs and with men on base and that’s something that when you see that happening, you usually see a lot of runs being scored and (more) wins.”  

A combination of Deunte Heath (4 IP, 1 R), Frank De Los Santos (2 IP, 0 R), Javy Guerra (1 IP, 0 R) and Frank Francisco (1 IP, 0 R) held the IronPigs to just one run over eight innings of relief.  

Guerra picked up his first win of the season and Francisco his first save.

“We had a lot of guys (available) today,” said Skinner. “Heath was already stretched out, so he fit in well. He did a great job, pitching four innings. He gave up a run late, but his pitching performance set up the whole game for us.”

The Knights will send Tommy Hanson (1-2, 4.73 ERA) to the mound on Tuesday night for game two of their four-game series with the IronPigs.

NotesPlaying in his second rehab game with the Knights, Chicago White Sox regular third baseman Conor Gillaspie finished the night 0-for-4, but hit the ball well in three of his four at-bats. Gillaspie, 26, had been hitting .302 over 16 games in Chicago this season before being sidelined with a hand contusion. Following the game, Skinner said that he wasn't sure how long Gillaspie would be with the Knights, "I’m not sure exactly what’s going on there," he said. "But I know that he’ll be here tomorrow."  ... Knights regular third baseman, Matt Davidson, missed his second consecutive game and "has a little injury issue" according to Skinner. The Knights coach expects him back soon though. ... As of right now, Thursday's starter is still listed as TBA, but it's likely that Felipe Paulino will make his second rehab appearance on that date.