Sunday, July 20, 2014

Andy Wilkins makes it five home runs in four days; Justin Jirschele records first Class AAA hit, but Knights fall 16-5

Every winning streak eventually comes to an end.

On Sunday, the Charlotte Knights snapped their five-gamer in style, leaving nothing to chance in a 16-5 loss to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders in front of 9,806 at BB&T BallPark.

Daniel McCutchen got the start for Charlotte and allowed 11 runs over four and 1/3 innings of work, departing with the Knights trailing 9-1.

Shawn Hill, who was activated off the disabled list prior to the game, came on in relief and proceeded to allow two inherited runners to score and then five more of his own accord over the game’s next three innings.

“Those kinds of games are going to happen,” said Andy Wilkins, who homered twice in the loss. “You just need to limit the amount of times. It was a rough one though.”

The two home runs extended Wilkins’ International League-leading total to 21 on the season. He finished the game 3-for-5 with two runs and two RBIs and is now hitting .444 over his last 11 games with seven home runs (five this series).

The RailRiders (47-54), who avoided a four-game sweep with the win, finished the night with 17 hits. The 16-runs allowed tied a season-high for the Knights (43-59) and the 11-run loss was one less than a 14-2 drubbing at the hands of Columbus back on June 10. 

The game was, however, not without a silver lining.

With the knowledge that Justin Jirschele’s time with Charlotte was up (with the pending arrival of Carlos Sanchez from the Chicago White Sox), Knights manager Joel Skinner sent the 24-year-old up to pinch hit for Micah Johnson in the eighth inning in search of his first Class AAA hit.

“I wanted him to get a base hit because I knew he was going down,” Skinner said. “The game was out of hand and that gave me a chance to get him an at-bat. He’d already had a sacrifice fly and he had a good game when he played here once earlier this season.”

Jirschele, who had been with the Knights since being called up from Class A+ Winston-Salem where he had been hitting .343, fell behind in the count no balls and two strikes, before sending a ball just inches wide of the foul line.

On the ensuing pitch, Jirschele sliced a line drive to left center for his first hit and second RBI.

"We were all hoping the ball down the line was going to be a hit," Wilkins said. "But he struck that next pitch well. We all like 'Jersch', so it was good to see."  

After signing with the White Sox as an undrafted free agent back in 2012 and never playing above the Class A+ level prior to last week, the hit was a special one for Jirschele, who received the ball when he returned to the dugout.  

“It was a good feeling,” he said. “It’s always a bummer coming in when you’re down and the game’s kind of out of whack, but I was happy that Skinns (Skinner) got me in there for an AB and I just wanted to put the bat on the ball and see what would happen.

“This is a great team,” he continued. “They kind of took me under their wing and treated me really well. Playing in a ballpark like this and seeing what these guys go out and do every day and their approach, just (makes me want to) work my tail off to try to get back here for good someday."  

NotesFollowing the game Justin Jirschele was called into Skinner's office and told he'd be heading back to Winston-Salem. ... Carlos Sanchez is expected to be available on Monday. ... Taylor Thompson, 27, who was promoted to the White Sox this morning tossed 1.2 scoreless innings with two strikeouts in his Major League debut.