Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Charlotte Knights rally for rainy 9-8 win over Bats in Shawn Hill's BB&T debut

It’s one of those things in baseball that you can’t really explain. There’s no rhyme or reason to it, but anyone who watches the game enough will swear by it.

More times than not, the player who makes a spectacular defensive play to end an inning, will invariably leadoff the next. Ask around if you’re not familiar with the phenomenon.

It was Jordan Danks who did the honors in an eventual (there was an 1:17 rain delay) Knights 9-8 win over the Louisville Bats in front of a group of 8,548 Tuesday night diehards at BB&T Ballpark.

With a run already home in the top of the sixth inning and the tying run on first, Bats catcher Tucker Barnhart barreled up a ball to dead center.

“It’s kind of a graveyard out there,” Danks had said of his domain earlier this week. “It’s probably one of the areas in the park that really does play true.”

As the ball traveled towards the triangle just below the batter’s eye, so too did the 6-foot-4-inch Danks, his long legs looking giraffe-esk, as they made up ground with each step.

Danks reached out and pulled the ball in over his right shoulder as he hit the warning track.

He then made his way back to the dugout, grabbed his helmet, stepped to the plate and cracked his 11th home run of the season to put Charlotte up 4-2 moments before the skies opened up.

“It’s a one-out-of-nine chance (of Danks leading off),” Knights manager Joel Skinner said with a chuckle. “That’s the odds. That’s something that people talk about, but that’s always my candid answer. Sometimes I’ll ask the players what the odds are and then say, ‘they’re one-in-nine!’”

Following the delay, things got sloppy.

The Knights added two more runs in what ended up being a two-hour sixth inning on a two-run shot off the bat of Matt Tuiasosopo. Charlotte then allowed four runs in the top of the seventh when Mitchell Boggs came on and was worse than the weather, allowing three hits and a walk while failing to retire a batter.

The four-run inning erased Knights starter Shawn Hill -- who made his BB&T BallPark debut -- from the decision after he had tossed six innings and allowed two runs on five hits and four Ks.

In the bottom half, Charlotte re-took a one-run lead, only to give it back in the top of the eighth and then, once more, reclaim it in the bottom of the eighth. (Are you keeping up?!?)

The game-winning hit came on a two-out RBI single by Carlos Sanchez with two runners aboard that got past the Louisville right fielder, allowing Tyler Saladino to score all the way from first.  

“Give credit to Saladino,” Skinner said. “He kept his head down and gave (third base coach) Ryan (Newman) something to work with coming around third. It was just great base running all around."

Saladino slid into home head first, narrowly beating the throw. 

"I didn’t see much because my back was to the ball and I was running to third," he said. "I was only expecting to go to third and (even at that) I was expecting it to be close because the ball was going to be taking (the outfielder) in that direction. I looked up and Newman was just waving like crazy so I kept on going and got in there safe."

In total, the two teams combined for 12 hits, three walks, and 11 runs after the delay, before Ryan Kussmaul was able to retire the Bats in order in the ninth to record his third save of the season.

Charlotte finished the game with 13 hits, three each by Saladino (3-for-5, 2R) and Micahel Taylor (3-for-4, 2R, RBI). Catcher Miguel Gonzalez hit his first home run with the Knights in the fifth inning.

“We just had good at-bats,” Saladino said. “That’s what it came down to. We swung at good pitches, barreled them up and it worked out.”