One of their Achilles’ heels all season had been hitting with two outs and runners in scoring position.
A quick glance at the stat book showed as much, with a team average of .169 in those key situations entering Monday night.
So when Gorkys Hernandez stepped into the batter’s box in the eighth inning with two outs and the potential go-ahead run on second, 8,223 fans at BB&T BallPark collectively held their breath.
The result – a line-drive single – bucked the trend and brought home Blake Tekotte and Tyler Saladino to give the Knights their first lead of the game on their way to a 9-8 win against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs.
“I tried to look for one pitch,” said Hernandez, who entered the game hitting .143 with two outs and runners in scoring position. “I knew their pitcher threw hard and I was looking for a fastball, and all I tried to do was get a single because I knew that could win the game and that’s what I did.”
Charlotte scored four runs in the eighth to take the lead for good after trailing 8-0 midway through the fifth inning. The first run came by way of a bases-loaded walk to Saladino and the second via a fielder’s choice off the bat of Jared Mitchell.
Lehigh Valley roughed up Charlotte starter Dylan Axelrod in the first inning, sending him to an early exit.
Axelrod retired Clete Thomas on a fly ball to center field to begin game, but then he saw the inning go decidedly downhill.
Tyler Henson, followed Thomas with a home run and became the first of nine consecutive IronPigs (15-15) to reach base in the inning.
When the dust finally settled, Axelrod had allowed seven runs on seven hits, a walk and a hit batter.
The Knights, who snapped a six-game losing streak, got two runs back in the fifth on back-to-back home runs from Dan Black (3-for-4) and Tekotte (1-for-3).
In the seventh, Andy Wilkins (1-for-4) added a solo shot and Carlos Sanchez (1-for-4) extended his hitting streak to eight games with Charlotte’s other big two-out, two-run single of the night.
“As an industry, everyone talks about situational hitting and advancing runners and all that type of stuff,” said Knights manager Joel Skinner. “Probably the biggest situation is hitting with two outs and with men on base, and that’s something that when you see that happening, you usually see a lot of runs being scored and (more) wins.”
A combination of Deunte Heath, Frank De Los Santos, Javy Guerra and Frank Francisco held the IronPigs to one run over eight innings of relief.
Guerra picked up his first win of the season and Francisco his first save.
“We had a lot of guys (available) today,” said Skinner. “Heath was already stretched out, so he fit in well. He did a great job, pitching four innings. He gave up a run late, but his pitching performance set up the whole game for us.”
Kannapolis 5, Hickory 2: Robinson Leyer pitched five strong innings to lead the Kannapolis Intimidators at home for a split the four-game series. Leyer struck out seven and walked one.
Knights 9, IronPigs 8
E — Mitchell. DP–Charlotte 2. LOB–Lehigh Valley 10, Charlotte 4. 2B–Phegley, Castro. HR—Henson, Black. SF–Henson. CS—Castro.
HBP–Murphy. T-3:03. A-8,223.
The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.
Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email email@example.com to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.Read moreRead less