The escape artist formally known as Dylan Axelrod was on point in the first inning of Monday’s 8-6 Charlotte Knights victory against the Toledo Mud Hens.
To the dismay of the crowd of 8,616 at BB&T BallPark, Axelrod began the game by allowing Toledo runners to second and third without recording an out.
Micah Johnson then saved a mistake when he went vertical to snag a line drive from Tyler Collins, who had turned on a hanging breaking ball.
With the game’s first out behind him, Axelrod went to work.
He began by coming inside on long-time minor leaguer Mike Hessman to induce a lazy fly to short and went to a 1-2 count on James McCann before generating a bouncing ball to second to complete the scoreless inning.
“Being able to get out of the first inning was big,” Axelrod said. “It could have gone the other way pretty easily if I had caved in and given up those runs.
“I really tried to bear down and throw my best stuff. I probably focused just a little bit more. It’s almost one of those things where you wish you did it before you got into trouble.”
From then on there was no touching Axelrod, who held Toledo in a state of arrested development over the next five innings.
The former mainstay in the 2013 Chicago White Sox rotation allowed just three hits. He struck out five and walked two on his way to win No. 4 of the season.
“A lot of games are won and lost in the first inning,” Knights manager Joel Skinner said.
On a night when center field doubled as a graveyard for well-hit fly balls, Matt Davidson, Andy Wilkins and Jordan Danks still managed to homer.
Danks’ home run came in the eighth and brought home two runs that eventually loomed large when Taylor Thompson ran into trouble in the ninth.
Thompson allowed two runs on two walks and three hits before securing the final out on a strikeout of Hessman with the bases loaded.
The win gave the Knights their first series win (3-1) since they took three of four games from Durham at BB&T BallPark on April 22-25.
“I can’t really remember that last time we took three out of four from anyone,” said Danks, who was with Chicago the last time it happened. “We’re rolling right now and hopefully that continues on to this next series.”
• Eric Surkamp, who posted a 1-0 mark with a 0.64 ERA over two starts last week, was named the International League Pitcher of the Week.
Hickory 2, Kannapolis 0: Crawdads starting pitcher Akeem Bostick (4-3), from Florence, S.C., threw five innings – including 14 consecutive outs – in a win for the hosts.
Knights 8, Mud Hens 6
E — Tekotte, Perez. DP–Toledo 1, Charlotte 1. LOB–Toledo 7, Charlotte 11. 2B–Tuiasosopo, Gaynor, McCann. HR—Davidson, Wilkins, Lennerton, Danks. . SB–Carrera, Sanchez. CS—Semien.
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