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Once awash with middle infielders, Knights shuffle lineup to earn win

By Seth Lakso
Correspondent

When this season began, Tyler Saladino and Carlos Sanchez were the Knights’ starters up the middle.

Since then, Marcus Semien – a utility infielder / fledgling outfielder – and Micah Johnson – a second baseman – have each made their ways to Charlotte and in doing so created one of those problems an organization loves to have: too many quality middle infielders for two positions.

On Saturday, against all odds, Charlotte’s logjam up the middle turned into its greatest need in a 5-3 Knights win against the Syracuse Chiefs in front of 10,378 at BB&T BallPark.

With Johnson on his way to play in the Futures Game, Saladino relegated to DH duties with a sore forearm, and Sanchez (according to sources) taking his talents to Cleveland to join the Chicago White Sox, Knights manager Joel Skinner found himself in need of a shortstop.

His solution was to give Matt Davidson, the Knights’ normal third baseman, his first professional start at short and to move Matt Tuiasosopo from left to third.

“I just went into the clubhouse and said, “Hey, you’re playing short and you’re playing third,”’ said Skinner. “I moved Marcus over to second because I didn’t want to play against the grain from a standpoint of turning two.”

The patchwork lineup performed well in support of starter Daniel McCutchen, who gave the Knights a much-needed 6 2/3 innings, while striking out six and surrendering three runs.

“It was a whirlwind, kind of,” said Davidson, who had never played shortstop before in his life. “Luckily I had Marcus (Semien) out there to tell me what to do, because I had no idea. It was fun.. I have a newfound respect for those middle infield guys.”

McCutchen ultimately took a no-decision, but with only Taylor Thompson (2-0) – who tossed the game’s final 2 1/3 innings – and Nelvin Fuentes and Henry Rodriguez available in the Charlotte pen, his effort was not lost on Skinner.

“McCutchen was outstanding,” Skinner said. “To get us into the seventh inning (was huge) and then the job Taylor did… Both those guys were huge tonight. They were definitely the keys to the game.”

The Knights (39-58), who took the lead for good in the eighth when Michael Taylor doubled home Tuiasosopo with Manny Delcarmen (3-3) pitching for the Chiefs (57-38), finished with 12 hits. Jordan Danks and Semien each hit home runs.

“I didn’t want to let that game get away from us,” said Thompson, who struck out Zach Walters with the tying run on second to end the game. “We worked too hard to not win that game and we’d let the last few games get away from us. I just wanted to make sure and close it out no matter what.”

Charlotte can secure a series split with the Chiefs (57-38) with a win in Sunday’s final game of their four-game series. The newly acquired (from the Houston Astros) Bobby Doran is slated to start.

Notes: Following Saturday’s White Sox game, Chicago optioned RHP Andre Rienzo to the Knights. The native of Brazil was 4-5 with a 5.87 ERA in 14 appearances with the White Sox.

South Atlantic

Hickory 8, Rome 1: The Crawdads used a five-run second inning to set the tone and cruise to the road win. Cole Wiper scattered four hits over six inning to earn the win.

Jairo Beras went 4-for-5 and Janluis Castro was 3-for-4 to lead Hickory (56-37).

KNIGHTS 5, CHIEFS 3

Saturday’s box score

Syracuseabrhbi
Burriss ss5000
Walters 3b5120
Souza Jr. cf4010
Moore dh2112
Laird 3b4000
Dobbs 1b4000
Hood rf4120
Solano c3011
Johnson lf3021
Kobernus pr0000
Totals34394

Charlotteabrhbi
Semien 2b5123
Saladino dh4010
Phegley c5010
Danks cf3131
Davidson ss5020
Wilkins 1b4000
Tuiasosopo 3b3210
Tekotte lf3010
Taylor rf3111
Totals355125

Syracuse001200000390
Charlotte01011002X5120

DP–Charlotte 1. LOB–Syracuse 8, Charlotte 12. 2B–Hood, Walters, Davidson, Taylor, Semien. HR—Moore, Semien, Danks. SB–Semien, Saladino. CS—Souza.

SyracuseIPHRERBBSO
Roenicke583334
Martin210003
Dlcrmn L, 3-3132220

CharlotteIPHRERBBSO
McCutchen62/373316
Thpsn W, 2-021/320031

T-3:05. A-10,378.

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