Sunday, August 31, 2014

Chris Beck finishes the season strong in Knights loss to Gwinnett

After a season full of steps forward, Chris Beck – the White Sox’ ninth-ranked prospect – wasn’t going to let his year come to an end on a low note.

On Sunday, the 2012 second-round draft pick held the Gwinnett Braves scoreless on four hits over five innings in an eventual 6-0 Knights loss in front of 10,574 at BB&T BallPark.

Three pitches into the game, Beck – who was activated off the disabled list earlier in the day – had already recorded his first strikeout and set the tone for an outing worth remembering.

“Easily the best command I’ve had all year, especially with my breaking stuff,” said Beck, who struck out a season-high six. “I’ve got to give some credit to (Knights pitcher) Taylor Thompson. He has this sneaky jump to the plate and I thought about doing that and worked on extending my stride and was able to keep the ball down in the zone with everything. It worked out well.”

The right-hander came in off his worst showing of the season: a 2/3’s of an inning effort in Gwinnett on Aug. 20, where he allowed five runs on four hits and four walks before being lifted due to back spasms.

Beck, who made his seventh start for the Knights (63-80) after beginning the year with Class AA Birmingham, flashed the Braves (64-77) a 95-mile-per-hour fastball, a changeup at 82 with good arm-side fade, and his signature power slider.

After allowing a hit in each of the first two innings, the 6-foot-3-inch, 225-pound 23-year-old found his rhythm in the third, striking out the side on 13 pitches.

Beck made it four Ks in a row when he got Braves’ No. 3 hitter and second-ranked prospect, Christian Bethancourt (2-for-4, 2 RBI), swinging on a slider to open the fourth. 

“Last Sunday of the season and there was no reason to hold anything back,” said Beck, who finished the year 1-3 with a 4.05 ERA in Class AAA. “I really needed to redeem myself after my last start and to go into the offseason with some momentum. The last (start) is easily forgettable after this one.”

Charlotte was without its top power threat in Andy Wilkins, who was called up by the White Sox earlier in the day, and it showed as Gwinnett starter Terry Doyle (4-4) held the depleted lineup scoreless on three hits over seven-plus innings. 

Jarrett Casey (1-3) allowed four runs (three earned) in 1 and 2/3 innings of relief to take the loss.

Asked what his immediate future might hold, Beck paused.

“No clue and I’m kind of good with that for right now,” he said. “Whatever the White Sox want to do, that’s their decision. Hopefully, my performance now and in the future can sway their mind one way over another, but there’s a plan there higher than I can reach with my mental capacity and I’m just going to leave it at that.”

Notes: The Knights will conclude their inaugural season in Uptown Charlotte Monday against the Braves. First pitch is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. … Sunday’s crowd of 10,574 was the largest in BB&T BallPark history.