Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Brad Penny and Charlotte Knights fall to Durham Bulls, 12-8

Brad Penny’s mission this spring has been to reinvent himself as a sinkerball pitcher.

His two-seam fastball has always had solid downward action, but until the last couple of years, the 36-year-old two-time All Star preferred to blow Major League hitters away with his plus fastball.

On Tuesday, the 6-foot-4-inch 235-pound righthander – who now rarely tops 91 miles-per hour on the radar gun – found out how futile things can feel when the sinker isn’t…well…sinking the way he'd like it to.  

The Durham Bulls knocked the Knights’ elder statesman around to the tune of six runs on 11 hits over three and 2/3 innings of work on their way to a 12-8 win over Charlotte in front of 6,710 at BB&T Ballpark, earning a split in their short two-game series in the process.  

Penny took the ball on Opening Day for the Knights (3-3) and showed what he can do when his two-seam fastball is working, recording 12 groundball outs and just one fly out in a win over the Norfolk Tides. But his performance on Tuesday was a reminder that his transformation is still a work in progress.

After recording five of the game’s first six outs via the ground, Penny’s sinker flattened out and Durham capitalized, smacking five-straight hits to begin a four-run third inning that cut the Knights’ lead to 5-4. Penny (1-1) then went back out for the fourth inning, but was sent to the showers early after allowing two more hits and another run.

Things didn’t get much prettier from a pitching standpoint for the Knights (3-3) after Penny’s exit when Arcenio Leon allowed a one-out grand slam to Durham’s Corey Brown (2 for 5, 5 RBI) in the 6th inning to give the Bulls (3-3) a 10-5 lead.

The Bulls finished the night with at least a hit in every inning except the ninth.

The Knights, who entered the night leading the International League with a collective .283 team batting average, turned in another solid showing from the plate, knocking reigning IL Pitcher of the Week Dylan Floro around for four runs in the first inning and one more in the second.

First baseman Neftali Soto, who finished 3 for 4 with three runs knocked in and two scored, led the Charlotte offensive attack on Tuesday, but the rough start by Penny and the big blow by Brown were just too much for the Knights to overcome.


“What worked so well last week was that I was setting up way off (the plate) and (Penny) was starting it off out over the plate and (the ball) was finishing down and in. Tonight was just one of those games where it was a constant battle for him to get the feel of the sinker and his off-speed stuff and it was unfortunate how it turned out.”  – Knights’ catcher Kevan Smith.

Worth mentioning
The two teams combined for 31 hits and 20 runs on Tuesday after combining for just 14 hits and three runs in a Knights’ 3-0 win on Monday. … Both Trayce Thompson (six games) and Tyler Saladino (five games) extended their current hitting streaks. … Matt Davidson finished the night 2 for 4 with a double and the defensive play of the game at third base. The Knights third baseman was charged with his first error of the season in the eighth inning when he failed to handle a tricky hop. Davidson had successfully converted his first 22 attempts this season. … Veteran reliever Matt Lindstrom allowed two runs on a walk and a home run in an inning of work. The former White Sox closer has now allowed seven runs in 2 and 2/3 innings of work over three appearances.

What's next?

The Knights will now pack up and head to Coolray Field to take on Gwinnett on Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. RHP Chris Beck (0-0, 5.79) will take the mound across from LHP Manny Baneulos (0-0, 2.45). White Sox top prospect Carlos Rodon is slated to toss for the Knights in Gwinnett on Thursday.