Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Charlotte Knights fall in extras to Lehigh Valley despite strong start from Erik Johnson

Reid Brignac knocked in two runs, including the game-winner in the top of the 11th with a solo home run to sour what was otherwise an encouraging performance from the Knights on Wednesday.

Brignac’s third home run of the season saddled Charlotte with a 3-2 extra-innings loss to Lehigh Valley, despite a solid pitching performance from Erik Johnson.

Johnson – who entered the season as the White Sox No. 2 prospect, according to Baseball America – took the mound in front of a crowd of 8,631 fans that showed up at BB&T BallPark for the 11:05 a.m. game, and didn’t disappoint.

The 6-foot-3-inch 24-year-old right-hander turned in seven solid innings of work, allowing two runs, while scattering five hits and striking out four. He walked only one and threw 95 pitches, 63 for strikes.

“I felt good,” said Johnson, whose fastball hovered between 87 and 89 miles per hour on the day. “I was throwing my fastball where I wanted and my slider was working.”

Johnson mixed in his changeup more as the game progressed and showed a sharp curveball.

“(The White Sox) just want me to get back to me being me and attacking the zone with multiple pitches and working ahead.”  

“You just got the feeling that the first team to hit one out was going to win today’s game,” said Knights manager Joel Skinner. “But (Johnson) went out there and threw seven strong innings. The goal is to get him back on track, that’s all. Today was a step in the right direction.”

Live Updates: 

Final: Knights 2, IronPigs 3 -- With two outs Reid Brignac took David Purcey deep to right field for the game-winning run. In the bottom half of the inning, Carlos Sanchez extended his hitting streak to 10 games with a two out single, but was stranded there. 

End of 10th: Knights 2, IronPigs 2 -- Frank Francisco tossed a perfect inning with one K. In six appearances with the Knights (8 IP) the former Mets closer has yet to allow an earned run. 

Gimenez, Tekotte and Saladino all flied out. Tekotte's made it to the warning track in right. 

End of 9th: Knights 2, IronPigs 2 -- Veal hit Jim Murphy with one out, but got a 3-6-3 double-play ball off the bat of Steve Susdorf to end the inning. Frank Francisco is now warming in the Knights bullpen. 

Charlotte went in order in the bottom of the ninth against RHP Seth Rosin, who fanned Dan Black (looking) and Alex Liddi (swinging).  

End of 8th: Knights 2, IronPigs 2 -- Donnie Veal ran into some trouble with two outs when he allowed a double to Tyler Henson and then walked Maikel Franco, but was able to get out of it by striking out Reid Brignac.

Jared Mitchell led off the eighth with a single to right, but was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double. Gorkys Hernandez then struck out and Carlos Sanchez flied to center.

End of 7th: Knights 2, IronPigs 2 -- A nice bounce-back inning for Erik Johnson, who retired the IronPigs in order for the fourth time in seven innings today. With 95 pitches, his day is likely done. 

Johnson's line: 7 IP, 5 H, 2 R, BB, 4 K. His fastball was consistently in the 87-89 mph range. LHP Donnie Veal is warming. 

After singling with one out in the inning Knights RF Blake Tekotte was thrown out trying to steal second. Saladino then bounced to first to end the inning.

End of 6th: Knights 2, IronPigs 2 -- Johnson allowed back-to-back singles to open the inning, which led to a Reid Brignac sacrifice fly. However, the Knights answered in the bottom half when Andy Wilkins knocked in Carlos Sanchez with his second double of the afternoon. 

Sanchez reached base via a walk and has now reached safely in 23 straight games.

After Pettibone walked Dan Black, he was replaced by Justin De Frantus, who got out of the inning by inducing a double-play ball off the bat of Alex Liddi.

Pettibone's line: 5.1 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 2K(84 pitches, 52 for strikes).

End of 5th: Knights 1, IronPigs 1 -- Took Johnson just six pitches to retire the side. Both he and Pettibone have now retired the last 10 batters they've faced. 

End of 4th: Knights 1, IronPigs 1 -- Johnson and Pettibone have each now retired seven straight. This game is moving right along. 

End of 3rd: Knights 1, IronPigs 1 -- Both Erik Johnson and Jonathan Pettibone posted one-two-three innings. Each recorded a strikeout. 

End of 2nd: Knights 1, IronPigs 1 -- After retiring the first two batters of the inning, Johnson allowed three straight hits. Tyson Gillies picked up the RBI for Lehigh Valley with a double to right. 

Charlotte got the run right back in the bottom half of the inning thanks to a two-out RBI double off the wall in right off the bat of Tyler Saladino. Hector Gimenez scored from second on the play. 

End of 1st: Knights 0, IronPigs 0 -- Erik Johnson worked around a leadoff walk to post a scoreless first inning. He struck out a batter and threw 19 pitches. Andy Wilkins doubled with two down in the bottom half of the inning, but was stranded on second when Dan Black bounced to first. 


Knights (12-19)
Gorkys Hernandez CF
Carlos Sanchez 2B
Andy Wilkins 1B
Dan Black DH
Alex Liddi 3B
Hector Gimenez C
Blake Tekotte RF
Tyler Saladino SS
Jared Mitchell LF
Pitching: RHP Erik Johnson (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

IronPigs (15-16)
Matt Tolbert LF
Tyler Henson RF
Maikel Franco 3B
Reid Brignac 2B
Koyie Hill C
Jim Murphy 1B
Steve Susdorf DH
Ronny Cedeno SS
Tyson Gillies CF
Pitching: RHP Jonathan Pettibone (2-0, 3.38 ERA)

Game time: 11:05 a.m.

TV/Radio: MiLB.TV / ESPN 730

Stat of the Day: Josh Phegley has thrown out the last three IronPigs to attempt a steal. For the season, the Knights catcher has caught 40-perecnt (10 of 25) of would be base-stealers. 

Notes: Although 3B Conor Gillaspie is eligible to come off the White Sox disabled list today and is not in the Knights lineup; Chicago has not officially recalled him as of right now. Gillaspie is 2-for-12 with a home run in three rehab games with Charlotte. … Knights regular 3B Matt Davidson is not in the lineup for the fourth straight game and is dealing with a hand injury. … Erik Johnson, who is starting today’s game for the Knights, is ranked as the White Sox No. 2 prospect by Baseball America. Today is his second start with Charlotte since being assigned to Triple-A on April 26. Prior to that, Johnson made five starts for Chicago, going 1-1 with a 6.46 ERA. … 2B Carlos Sanchez has reached base in 22 straight games and is currently riding a nine-game hitting streak.

(Promoted) Knights Walkup Song of the Day: Zach Putnum – Trophies, by Young Money