Shawn Hill retired nine of the first 10 Syracuse batters he faced on Thursday, but even early on there were ominous signs for the right-hander who tends to live and die with his sinking fastball.
The Chiefs (55-37) twice flied to the warning track in the second and by the end of the inning had as many fly outs (three) as groundouts – not the kind of ratio Hill aspires for in his starts.
Without the bowling-ball type action to his fastball, Syracuse was able to rack up 10 hits off Hill in six and 1/3 innings on the way to an 11-6 win over the Knights (38-57) in front of 9,416 at BB&T BallPark.
Hill did what he could to hold the Chiefs in check without his best stuff, until the levees broke in a three-run sixth inning that featured a double and two home runs off the 33-year-old and turned a 3-2 Charlotte edge into a 5-3 deficit they’d never recover from.
“I had nothing in my legs today,” said Hill, who fell to 3-4. “I was just gassed from the travel and all that stuff. Even before the game started, I was trying to get things going. It’s not an excuse or anything. I felt ok the first couple of innings, but even then, not near as strong as my last start.”
The big hit of the sixth was a two-run home run by Tyler Moore (2-for-4) that came on a changeup that Hill left up in the strike zone.
Steven Souza Jr., who entered the night leading the IL in batting average, finished 4-for-5 with three doubles, upping his average to a double-take inducing .374.
Before the sixth-inning outburst by the Chiefs, Josh Phegley (3-for-4) looked like the sure headliner of the day.
After being added to the International League All-Star Team earlier in the afternoon, the Knights catcher broke a 2-2 tie in the fifth inning with a shattered-bat single to left.
Blake Tekotte’s 11th home run of the season had tied the game at 2 prior to Phegley’s go-ahead single, but did little to hide the rough defensive game for the Knights’ right fielder, who walked off the field with three errors to his name.
Charlotte squandered chance to get to Syracuse starter Blake Treinen in the first inning when they managed just one run after loading the bases on three consecutive singles to begin the game.
Treinen recovered to strike out the side in the second inning on the way to an effective five-innings, in which he allowed eight hits and three runs to improve to 5-0.
Matt Tuiasosopo made things interesting with a three-run home run in the eighth to make the score 8-6, but Tekotte’s misplays (one in the eighth and another in the ninth) combined with a meltdown of a performance from Henry Rodriguez (three hits, four walks, one out) put the game out of reach.
“The inning they scored the three runs, (Hill) got beat by a couple balls that they got up in the air,” said Knights manager Joel Skinner. “But other than that he kept the ball on the ground most of the game. He gave us a chance to win. Things just got out of hand later.”
Notes: According to reports out of Houston (Charlotte has not yet confirmed), the Astros have traded 25-year-old Bobby Doran to the White Sox for a player to be named later. Doran -- who stands 6-foot-6 and is known for having good sink to his fastball -- is expected to report to Charlotte once the move becomes official. ... Phegley, Marcus Semien and Carlos Sanchez each finished the night with three hits.