Erik Johnson’s winless streak stretched to four games on Sunday, but his start was another step in the right direction.
For the second time in 11 starts, the White Sox No. 1 pitching prospect was able to finish seven innings. However, his Toledo counterpart was just a bit better in what wound up being a 4-3 Knights loss in front of 9,427 at BB&T BallPark.
Johnson held the Mud Hens to six hits on the afternoon, but was hurt by the fact that three of those knocks found their way over the fence.
“He threw the ball well,” Knights manager Joel Skinner said of Johnson. “He gave up the three home runs, but they didn’t come on gigantic mistakes or anything like that. He went out there for seven innings and was aggressive in the zone.”
Johnson finished the day with two strikeouts and, more importantly, just two walks for the second straight outing. Before his last start in Lehigh Valley, Johnson had issued at least five free passes in three straight outings.
On Sunday, he threw 91 pitches, 60 for strikes.
“I’m just building off my last outing,” Johnson said. “It was another one of those days where it felt good and it felt easy, you know, especially going and attacking the zone and being aggressive and filling the strike zone up. I was really just on the attack all game.”
The Mud Hens first got to Johnson in the third when Manny Pina ambushed the second pitch of the inning for a long home run to left. Johnson then allowed a one-out double and a two-out run-scoring single.
Over the course of the next four innings, Toledo would manage just two more hits off Johnson – one in the third and the last in the seventh – but both would leave the yard.
“Solo home runs usually don’t hurt you,” Johnson said. “You’re pitching to contact and letting them put the ball in play. That’s a product of trying to be efficient and being a starting pitcher and helping your team out by going six-seven innings.”
Robbie Ray, who was the key piece the Detroit Tigers got back from the Nationals in the Doug Fister trade this offseason, breezed through the first four innings before being touched up for two runs in the fifth.
The left-hander walked Matt Davidson and Michael Taylor with one out to set the table for a bases-clearing double off the bat of Tyler Saladino that made it a 3-2 game.
Ray would settle down and last into the seventh. He allowed four hits and struck out five.
The Knights put runners on first and second with no outs against Toledo reliever Kevin Whelan in the ninth, but mustered just one run.
Whelan walked Marcus Semien and Jordan Danks to begin the inning. A sacrifice bunt my Matt Davidson put the game’s tying run at second base, but Whelan recovered to get Taylor to bounce into a fielder’s choice and Andy Wilkins looking at strike three.
Mud Hens 4, Knights 3
E — Sanchez, C (6, throw). DP–(Collins-Lennerton-Perez, H); (Davidson-Johnson, Mica-Saladino). LOB–Toledo 5, Charlotte 4. 2B–Douglas (7, Johnson, E), Crowe (10, Fuentes); Saladino (13, Ray, R). HR—Pina (2, 3rd inning off Johnson, E, 0 on, 0 out), Gaynor (3, 4th inning off Johnson, E, 0 on, 1 out), Crowe (3, 7th inning off Johnson, E, 0 on, 0 out). SB–Danks, Jd (1, 2nd base off Ray, R/Pina).
WP-Boggs. T-2:33. A-9,427.
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