Saturday, July 12, 2014

Sans Carlos Sanchez, Knights patch together 5-3 win over Syracuse Chiefs

When this season began, Tyler Saladino and Carlos Sanchez were the Knights starters up the middle.

Since then, Marcus Semien – a utility infielder / fledgling outfielder – and Micah Johnson – a second baseman – have each made their ways to Charlotte and in doing so created one of those problems an organization loves to have: too many quality middle infielders for two positions each night.

On Saturday, against all odds, Charlotte’s logjam up the middle turned into its greatest need in a 5-3 win over the Syracuse Chiefs in front of 10,378 at BB&T BallPark.

With Johnson on his way to play in the 2014 Futures Game, Saladino relegated to DH duties with a sore throwing arm, and Sanchez (according to sources) taking his talents to Cleveland to join the Chicago White Sox, Knights manager Joel Skinner found himself in need of a shortstop.

His solution was to give Matt Davidson, the Knights normal third baseman, his first professional start at the six, and to move Matt Tuiasosopo from left to third.

“I just went into the clubhouse and said, “Hey, you’re playing short and you’re playing third,”’ said Skinner. “I moved Marcus over to second because I didn’t want to play against the grain from a standpoint of turning two.”

The patchwork lineup performed well in support of starter Daniel McCutchen, who gave the Knights a much-needed 6.2 innings, while striking out six and surrendering three runs.

“It was a whirlwind kind of,” said Davidson, who had never played shortstop before in his life. “Luckily I had Marcus (Semien) out there to tell me what to do because I had no idea. It was fun.. I have a new found respect for those middle infield guys.” 

At one point in the sixth inning, Davidson fielded a ball deep in the hole and jumped up like you’re used to seeing Derek Jeter do in an effort to make the throw to first, while falling away from the play.

The throw sailed wide of the bag and the runner was safe, but the attempt was undeniably fun to watch.

“I kind of missed my shot,” said Davidson with a laugh. “That was my time to shine and I just over corrected too much. I think the angle from third is a little steeper. I didn’t need to correct it as much. That’s at least what I’m going to tell everyone.” 

McCutchen ultimately took a no-decision, but with only Taylor Thompson (2-0) – who tossed the game’s final 2.1 innings – Nelvin Fuentes and Henry Rodriguez available in the Charlotte pen, his effort was not lost on Skinner or his teammates.

“McCutchen was outstanding,” said Skinner. “To get us into the seventh inning (was huge) and then the job Taylor did… Both those guys were huge tonight. They were definitely the keys to the game.”

“It was big,” said Thompson of McCutchen’s performance. “He got us into the seventh and we needed it bad because we were stretched out. We needed at least six and he did that and I was lucky enough to get through the last few innings for us to get the win.”

The Knights (39-58), who took the lead for good in the eighth when Michael Taylor doubled home Tuiasosopo with Manny Delcarmen (3-3) pitching for the Chiefs (57-38), finished with 12 hits. Jordan Danks (3-for-3, R RBI) and Marcus Semien (2-for-5, R, three RBI) each hit home runs.

The two-hit night raised Semien’s average to .221 with the Knights after he had been below the Mendoza line for the better part of the last month.

Following the two-run eighth inning, Thompson struck out Zach Walters on a splitter with the tying run on second to end the game

“I didn’t want to let that game get away from us,” said Thompson. “We worked too hard to not win that game and we’d let the last few games get away from us. I just wanted to make sure and close it out no matter what.”

Charlotte can secure a series split with the Chiefs (57-38) with a win in the final game of their four-game series on Sunday afternoon. The newly acquired (from the Houston Astros) Bobby Doran is slated to start.

Notes: Following Saturday’s White Sox game, Chicago optioned RHP Andre Rienzo to the Knights. The native of Brazil was 4-5 with a 5.87 ERA in 14 appearances with the White Sox.