There was no bailing out Dylan Axelrod on Saturday.
Five days after the Knights rallied from seven runs down after Axelrod lasted just one inning in a start against Lehigh Valley for a one-run win, Kyle Drabek made sure Buffalo didn’t suffer a similar fate.
The former key piece in the Philadelphia Phillies acquisition of Roy Halladay from the Toronto Blue jays in 2009, went six innings, struck out seven, and allowed two runs in what ended up being an 8-2 loss for the Knights in front of a sellout crowd of 10,226 at BB&T BallPark.
The win for Drabek – who has now twice battled back from Tommy John Surgery – evened the four-game series at one game apiece and snapped a four-game skid for the Bisons (19-14).
On Saturday, Axelrod lasted four innings and allowed four runs on five hits. The right-hander uncharacteristically struggled with his command for the second game in a row, walking five, while striking out just two.
Axelrod (1-4, 6.47) had a Jekyll and Hyde type of outing, allowing two runs to Buffalo in the first inning, before sending them down in order in the second.
Phegley (2-for-4) did what he could to keep his pitcher in the game when he connected on his third home run of the Knights' current eight-game home stand to tie the game at 2-2 in the first.
In the third, Axelrod’s control issues returned. After walking the leadoff man for the second time in three innings, he allowed a two-run home run to Kevin Pillar (3-for-4, HR, 2 RBIs 2 R).
There was some question over whether or not the 28-year-old would return for the fourth inning after he walked off the mound with 79 pitches at the conclusion of the third inning. However, he did, and managed to end his night with a scoreless frame.
Deunte Heath (2 IP) and Frank De Los Santos (1 IP) were each touched up for two runs in relief appearances before Taylor Thompson held Buffalo scoreless over the final two frames.
Playing in his second game since being reassigned to Charlotte, Jordan Danks knocked in a run with a single in the bottom of the eighth, but Ryan Rowland-Smith came on to toss a perfect ninth to end any comeback ideas.
Charlotte will send Tommy Hanson to the mound for game-three of the series on Sunday at 2:05 p.m.
Notes: On Saturday, the Chicago White Sox purchased the contract of Knights reliever and former Mets closer Frank Francisco. The 34-year-old appeared in six games (8 IP) for Charlotte and did not allow an earned run, while striking out 12. … Matt Davidson made his first appearance after missing the previous six games with a sore hand and finished the night 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.
Final: Knights 3, Bisons 8 -- Thompson held Buffalo scoreless in the ninth, but Ryan Rowland-Smith sent Charlotte down in order in the bottom half of the inning.
End of 8th: Knights 3, Bisons 8 -- Taylor Thompson came on in relief of De Los Santos and retired the Herd in order.
Playing in his second game since being reassigned to Charlotte, Jordan Danks knocked in Jared Mitchell (3-for-3) with a single.
End of 7th: Knights 2, Bisons 8 – Buffalo added two more runs off Frank De Los Santos after the lefty walked two and allowed two hits in the inning.
Charlotte, batting against Chad Jenkins, continued to struggle. Dan Black (2-for-3) singled with two outs, but never made it to second.
Kyle Drabek’s line: 6 IP, 5 H, 2 R (both unearned), 0 BB, 7 K – 92 pitches (61 strikes).
End of 6th: Knights 2, Bisons 6 – Heath struck out two in a scoreless inning. The Knights then went in order.
End of 5th: Knights 2, Bisons 6 – Matt Tuiasosopo sent Heath’s very first pitch into the left-centerfield bleachers. A walk followed by a fielder’s choice and a double by Kawasaki put Buffalo up four.
Saladino bounced to third. Jared Mitchell (2-for-2, 2B) then singled and was erased on a double-play ball off the bat of Gorkys Hernandez.
End of 4th: Knights 2, Bisons 4 – That’s the afternoon for Axelrod, who ended things with a scoreless inning. His line: 4 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 5 BB, 2 K – 98 pitches (57). RHP Deunte Heath will pitch the fifth.
Josh Phegley led off the inning with a single, but was stranded at second. Matt Davidson is now 0-for-2 with two K’s after missing the previous six games with a sore hand.
End of 3rd: Knights 2, Bisons 4 – Axelrod’s control issues returned in the third inning. After again walking the leadoff man, he allowed a two-run home run to Kevin Pillar (now 2-for-2 with 2B, HR). Axe then retired the next two before walking the bases loaded. Munenori Kawasaki bounced to short to end the inning.
Axelrod has thrown 79 pitches (43 strikes) through three innings.
Jared Mitchell led off the bottom half with a double to the gap in right center. A Gorkys Hernandez sacrifice fly moved him to third with one out, but Drabek recovered to strike out Carlos Sanchez and Jordan Danks. Missed opportunity.
End of 2nd: Knights 2, Bisons 2 – Axelrod looked much more comfortable in the second, retiring Jim Murphy and Munenori Kawasaki on groundballs before picking up his first K of the game vs. Bisons leadoff man Anthony Gose.
Dan Black singled with one out but was doubled up when he mistakenly thought a ball off the bat of Tyler Saladino was heading for the gap in right center.
End of 1st: Knights 2, Bisons 2 – Dylan Axelrod struggled with his command in the first inning, walking two and allowing two doubles all before recording the inning’s second out. After getting Ryan Goins to bounce out to first, Ryan Schimpf hit a ball to the warning track in center to end the inning.
The Knights picked up two unearned runs on a two-out two-run home run by Josh Phegley. Gorkys Hernandez reached on an error by Buffalo 2B Munenori Kawasaki to begin the game. The home run was Phegley’s third of this home stand.
Gorkys Hernandez RF
Carlos Sanchez 2B
Jordan Danks CF
Josh Phegley C
Andy Wilkins DH
Matt Davidson 3B
Dan Black 1B
Tyler Saladino SS
Jared Mitchell LF
Pitching: RHP Dylan Axelrod (1-3, 6.11)
Anthony Gose RF
Darin Mastroianni CF
Kevin Pillar LF
Dan Johnson DH
Matt Tuiasosopo 1B
Ryan Goins SS
Ryan Schimpf 3B
Jack Murphy C
Munenori Kawasaki 2B
Pitching: RHP Kyle Drabek (2-2, 4.85)
Game time: 7:05 p.m.
TV/Radio: MiLB.tv / ESPN 730
Stat of the Day: The Knights are 5-3 this season when CF Jordan Danks plays.
Notes: On Saturday, the Chicago White Sox purchased the contract of Knights reliever and former Mets closer Frank Francisco. The 34-year-old appeared in six games (8 IP) for Charlotte and did not allow an earned run, while striking out 12. … To make room on the Major League roster for Francisco, the White Sox designated RHP Maikel Cleto for assignment. … In his last start, Dylan Axelrod lasted just one inning. He allowed seven runs on seven hits to Lehigh Valley in a game the Knights eventually won 9-8. … After tossing eight scoreless innings last night, Charlotte LHP Charlie Leesman now ranks sixth in the International League with a 1.70 ERA. … Knights’ 3B Matt Davidson is back in the lineup tonight after missing the previous six games with a sore hand. ... Charlotte 2B Carlos Sanchez saw his 11-game hitting streak come to an end last night. He did, however, reach base three times in the game, extending his on-base streak to 25 games.
Knights Walkup Song of the Day: Hector Gimenez – Vivir Mi Vida, by Marc Anthony