The script going into the day was that Monday might be the last chance for Charlotte Knights’ fans to see Erik Johnson pitch before he returns to the major leagues.
But with the 2011 second-round pick exiting the game after six innings, a new plot emerged at BB&T BallPark as the game progressed.
With Charlotte trailing by a run in the ninth, Knights manager Joel Skinner had to decide between doing everything he could to win to the game and doing what he could to prepare his guys for the next level.
Skinner, who is in his fourth year as the Knights (13-24) manager, chose to prepare, and the result was a 6-5 loss in Charlotte’s series finale with the Buffalo Bisons.
When not-so fleet Matt Davidson led off the ninth with his third hit of the game, Skinner opted not to use a pinch runner.
Dan Black then singled, leaving runners on first and second with no outs.
Out came Gorkys Hernandez to run for Black – who represented the potential winning run – with Davidson remaining at second.
Skinner then played small ball, sending Alex Liddi – who had homered during the game – to the plate to bunt. Liddi fouled two attempts off before striking out.
Jared Mitchell suffered the same fate as Liddi for the second out.
Blake Tekotte then singled on a 3-1 fastball. The 8,568 fans in attendance rose to their feet in anticipation of a tying run but quickly quieted down when Davidson’s lack of speed forced him to stop at third.
Three hits into the ninth, the Knights had no runs to show for their efforts.
Carlos Sanchez (3-for-5) then stepped to the plate, needing a home run to hit for the cycle. Sanchez – who hadn’t homered in 738 days – took a strike, and then swung for the fences.
No, the ball didn’t leave the park. It sent right fielder back about 10 paces before landing harmlessly in his glove.
“The guys battled, and we ended up getting the go-ahead run to second base, but it wasn’t meant to be,” Skinner said. “I’m not going to pinch-run for (Davidson). Matt’s a prospect, and he needs to be out there running the bases just as well as everyone else.”
Javy Guerra was charged with a blown save in a game Johnson (0-0, 1.31 ERA) – who pitched six innings and struck out seven without issuing a walk – could have won.
With a third consecutive solid start, the 24-year-old could be heading back to the Chicago White Sox for his next start.
Skinner’s job, which he made clear Monday, is to make sure his guys are prepared when that call comes.
Hickory 12, Augusta 7: The Crawdads scored nine runs in the first three innings and coasted past visiting Augusta. Eduard Pinto drove in three runs for the Crawdads (16-20), and Travis Demeritte drove in two with a home run. Akeem Bostick (1-2) got the win, giving up eight hits in six innings.
Hagerstown 2, Kannapolis 1 (11): The Intimidators (19-17) gave up runs in the eighth and 11th innings to lose at Hagerstown (28-8). Robinson Leyer pitched six scoreless innings for Kannapolis, and Dylan Chavez (3-2) took the loss despite giving up only an unearned run.
Bisons 6, Knights 5
DP–Charlotte 1, Buffalo 2. LOB–Buffalo 7, Charlotte 6. 2B–Goedert, Pillar, Kawasaki, Wilkins, Sanchez, Davidson. 3B–Sanchez. HR—D.Johnson, Goedert, Liddi, Danks. SB–Sanchez.
HBP-Danks. T-2:44. A-8,568.