Thursday, May 14, 2015

Knights fall 5-4 in extras to Bats, Skinner ejected after bizarre start to game

As far as strange starts to baseball games go, the first inning of Thursday night's Charlotte Knights-Louisville Bats matchup ranks right up there.

The Knights (19-14) saw their five-game winning streak come to an end, 5-4, at the hands of the Bats (14-20) in 10 innings, but it was the unusual way in which the game began that will likely be talked about in the Minor League offices for days to come.

Three "thrown" pitches into the game, Louisville leadoff man Hernan Iribarren had walked, Charlotte manager Joel Skinner had been thrown out of the game, and Knights' starter Brad Penny had adopted an interesting new technique for avoiding "pitch timer" violations.

Unbeknownst to both Penny (3-3) and Skinner, home-plate umpire Doug Vines had charged the Knights' starting pitcher with a ball for taking too long to step on the rubber before the first pitch of the game. So when Penny threw what he thought was his third ball of the game, he was confused to see Iribarren make his way to first.

Realizing what had happened, Penny barked his displeasure at Vines, as Skinner made his way out to argue the right-hander's case. Following a short chat between Skinner and Vines, where it's safe to say the two agreed to disagree, Skinner had earned the earliest ejection of his four-year tenure as the Knights' skipper.

For the remainder of the game, Penny made a point to deliberately walk around to the back of the pitcher's mound before toeing the rubber and starting the 20-second pitch timer.

Penny ended up turning in his best start of the season, holding Louisville to one run over five innings of work, while striking out six. However, Maikel Cleto and Jairo Asencio combined to allow three runs in the ninth to squander a 4-1 lead and send the game into extras.

Asencio (0-2) was touched up for another run in the 10th to earn his second loss.

"When I got on the mound the anthem had just ended and all I had was a minute. To me, rushing me is not... I need to take my time to, number one, make sure I don't get injured, and to rush because of what I think to be a stupid rule is dumb. I wasn't aware that I'd been given a ball. (Vines) didn't tell me. He actually told me to hurry up. I hurried up, and that was it." -- Knights' starter Brad Penny. 

Worth mentioning
Knights’ starting pitching dominated the Bats over the course of their four-game series. Kyle Drabek (5IP, 1H, 0R), Chris Beck (6IP, 1H, 0R), Junior Guerra (6IP, 5H, 2R) and Brad Penny (5IP, 7H, 1R) combined to toss 22 innings in the series, while allowing just three runs and striking out 24. … Matt Tuiasosopo (3 for 4, HR, 2B, BB) finished the game a triple short of the cycle. … While the "pitch timer" has been on all season, balls and strikes for violation only began being awarded on May 1. Penny was not penalized in his previous start this May. ... Although the pitch timer was instituted to speed up games, Thursday night's lasted a grueling three hours and 33 minutes. ... Prior to the game, the Chicago White Sox announced that second baseman Micah Johnson had been reassigned to the Knights. Johnson was hitting .270 (20-74) with two doubles, three RBI, eight runs scored, five walks and three stolen bases over 27 games with Chicago this season. ... White Sox General Manager Rick Hahn told members of the Chicago media that Knights second baseman Carlos Sanchez would be recalled by the big league club on Friday. Sanchez' .344 batting average with Charlotte was tied for fifth in the International League. 

What's next?
The Knights will play the first game of a three-game series with the Syracuse Chiefs on Friday at 7:05 p.m. at BB&T Ballpark. RHP Erik Johnson (3-2, 4.39) will take the mound for the Knights against Syracuse RHP A.J. Cole (0-1 2.67).