Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Micah Johnson sparks Knights to 4-3 win over Norfolk

Here's an extended version of tonight's gamer... 

Micah Johnson is going to be fun to watch.

Making his BB&T BallPark debut, Charlotte’s newest addition finished the night 2-for-3 with a double; a walk, a run scored and an RBI in the Knights 4-3 win over the Norfolk Tides on Tuesday night.

Johnson – who is ranked by as the White Sox No. 3 prospect – was called up from Double-A Birmingham on May 13 and had appeared in six games prior to Tuesday. His .329 average with Birmingham was tops in the Southern League. 

In Norfolk this past Sunday, Johnson’s home to first time on a groundball to second was recorded as 3.69 seconds by a scout. For some perspective, there are scouts that go their entire careers without clocking a time better than 3.8 seconds.

A time of 3.9 seconds grades out as an 8, or all-time great on a scouts’ scale. There is no such thing as a 9.

The 23-year-old switch hitter put that speed on display for the 9,510 in attendance in the fifth inning on Tuesday, when he turned an RBI ground ball up the middle into a double.  

“Obviously, he’s a top of the lineup type of guy with his abilities,” said Knight manager Joel Skinner of Johnson, who swiped a Minor League-high 84 bases last season.

“When he gets on base, he’s a guy that creates havoc. He’s aggressive. Tonight you saw the ground ball single he hit up the middle that turned into a double.”

Equally impressive was the way Johnson handled the at-bat against Norfolk ace – and Baltimore Orioles No. 2 prospect – Kevin Gausman (0-2, 2.90 ERA). 

Johnson came to the plate with two outs, Blake Tekotte on second, and the Knights trailing Gausman and the Tides 3-0 and quickly fell behind 0-2.

“He threw me a slider first pitch out of the zone and I thought it was going to keep coming back, but it didn’t and I wasn’t able to check my swing,” said Johnson. “I remember thinking, ‘This is a bad start.’”

He then fouled the next pitch off before taking to next two to even the count at 2-and-2.

Gausman’s next pitch was a 96 mph fastball up and in and Johnson barely fouled it off.

“He kept trying to throw fastballs inside and I was just trying to battle at that point.” He said. “He throws pretty hard, so I was trying to make contact, foul off the tough ones and then hopefully get a pitch I could handle.”

After running the count full, Johnson sent another fastball right back up the middle – it glanced off the second baseman’s glove as he made a diving attempt – to get the Knights on the board.

The hit raised Johnson’s average to .333 (10-for-30) and extended his current hitting streak to six games. It also led to the first of four runs Charlotte would score in the inning.

Carlos Sanchez knocked in Johnson and came in to score on a go-ahead two-run home run by Josh Phegley that wound up being the difference in the game.

(Johnson’s) done everything, from a standpoint of what his game is,” said Skinner. “I think he has an understanding of what he’s trying to do.”

After revealing his home-to-first time, Johnson had some fun with reporters after the game, saying, “I don’t really know what that means or anything.”

He's well aware of what it means and so are the White Sox.