Sunday, July 13, 2014

Knights enter All-Star break on high note with 13-8 win over Syracuse

Matt Tuiasosopo and Michael Taylor found themselves together on the Charlotte Knights roster for the first time on June 16.

The Knights entered that day 22 games below .500 on the season and with a clubhouse atmosphere that would have made Charlie Brown seem upbeat on his lowest of days.

On Sunday, a team that would be barely recognizable to the one that struggled through the first half of the season entered the All-Star break fresh off a 13-8 win over the International League-leading Syracuse Chiefs in front of 8,565 at BB&T BallPark.

The win improved the Knights to 17-12 since the acquisitions of Tuiasosopo (on 6/12) and Taylor (6/14) and salvaged a series split.

“Before I got here, there had been some struggles and we’ve talked about it,” said Taylor, who went 2-for-4 with a grand slam on Sunday. “But it seems maybe within the first week I was here, the mood changed.

“It changed from ‘Oh no, here we go again', or, 'How are we going to score enough runs?’ To one where it feels like if (the other team) scores three runs, that we feel like we’ll come back and score five.”

In the case of Sunday’s win, The Chiefs (57-39) scored three runs in the top of the first off Bobby Doran (1-0) in his Charlotte debut and the Knights (40-58) responded with eight of their own in the bottom half.

Both Marcus Semien (3-for-4) and Matt Davidson (2-for-4) hit home runs in the first inning, with Semien also adding a double to jumpstart a 13-hit day for a Charlotte offense that has hit .334 over its last 11 games.

The home run for Davidson was his league-leading (among active players) 17th of the season.

Taylor Hill (9-4), who started the game for the Chiefs, entered the day with the IL’s lowest earned run average (2.04), but lasted just 1/3 of an inning and allowed six hits, a walk, and seven earned runs. The outing was the shortest of Hill’s season by 3 and 2/3’s innings and upped his ERA to 2.63.

The eight runs were a season-high for an inning for Charlotte, and gave Doran, who wound up allowing four runs while scattering six hits and striking out six over five innings, new life.

“The first inning wasn’t what I was hoping it would be,” said Doran, who needed 38 pitches to get through the frame. “I think just the situation, having a new team, new environment, new catcher, just all that kind of stuff just built up.

“That bottom half really took the edge off a three-run top of the first,” Doran continued. “I was able to get a breather, regroup myself, and go back at it.”

In a way, Doran’s start was a lot like the Knights season. They were roughed up early on, but have since regrouped and gotten back at it.

Asked about what the presence of Tuiasosopo – who reached base three times on Sunday – and Taylor has meant to the team, Knights manger Joel Skinner didn’t mix words.

“The way they go about their business (stands out),” he said. “Those guys have been at this level and they’ve brought a mature atmosphere to our clubhouse. They’re just good people and it’s rubbed off on everyone.”

Notes: Carlos Sanchez was officially called up to the Chicago White Sox on Sunday. He started at shortstop and went 0-for-5. … The Knights called up Justin Jirschele from (A+) Winston-Salem to take Sanchez’ roster spot. Jirschele was hitting .343 (34-for-99) in 33 games with the Dash. He finished 0-for-3 with a RBI … In another move, the White Sox released RHP Henry Rodriguez (0-1, 21.60 ERA in 1.2 IP) and added RHP Andre Rienzo (who was optioned back to Triple-A by Chicago following Saturday night’s game) to the roster. Rienzo threw two innings on Sunday and allowed one run … Micah Johnson played for the US Team in Sunday's Futures Game at Minnesota’s Target Field and finished 0-for-2. ... Tyler Saladino (forearm strain) has been ruled out for Wednesday's Triple-A All Star game.