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Knights 9, RailRiders 5

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Erik Johnson’s pitching almost overshadows Knights’ power surge in win

By Seth Lakso
Correspondent
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/07/17/23/48/165nnT.Em.138.jpeg|367
    Jeff Siner - jsiner@charlotteobserver.com
    Charlotte Knights Andy Wilkins (17) smiles and jokes with catcher Josh Phegley (4) following Phegley's home run against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders at BB&T BallPark in Charlotteon Thursday. Wilkins would hit two home runs during the game.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/07/17/23/48/1k6c7V.Em.138.jpeg|213
    Jeff Siner - jsiner@charlotteobserver.com
    Newly acquired Charlotte Knights pitcher Chien-Ming Wang leans along the railing in the team's dugout before Thursday’s game. Wang was acquired by the White Sox organization through free agency. Wang has his first start for the Knights on Friday.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/07/17/23/47/xCCll.Em.138.jpeg|248
    Jeff Siner - jsiner@charlotteobserver.com
    Alex Price, 12 , and Jake Hasner, 11 fight for a baseball after Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders first baseman Austin Romine (2) tossed a ball into the stands at BB&T BallPark in Charlotte.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/07/17/23/48/1vaVai.Em.138.jpeg|270
    Jeff Siner - jsiner@charlotteobserver.com
    Charlotte Knights catcher Josh Phegley (4) stands in the batters box facing Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders pitcher Bryan Mitchell (15) on Thursday at BB&T BallPark in Charlotte as teammate Jordan Danks (20) waits in the on-deck circle.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/07/17/23/48/1iWB9e.Em.138.jpeg|236
    Jeff Siner - jsiner@charlotteobserver.com
    Charlotte Knights Jordan Danks (20) rounds first heading for a double as Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders first baseman Austin Romine (2) runs alongside.

You could see the anger starting to boil over for Erik Johnson during the sixth inning of Thursday’s 9-5 Charlotte Knights win against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders when the right-hander failed to get the call on a two-strike fastball that looked to catch the inside corner of the plate.

Knights catcher Josh Phegley held the ball in place for a couple of extra seconds, Charlotte players barked from the bench, and Johnson took a jab at the return throw from Phegley that would have made Muhammad Ali look twice.

It wasn’t so much the umpiring that had Johnson on edge as it was the four-run inning by the RailRiders in front of 10,255 at BB&T BallPark.

“That’s baseball and that’s how it goes down sometimes,” said Johnson (3-6), who had cruised through five innings, allowing one run on two hits with five strikeouts.

“You’ve got to go with the punches and remember that you get the ball again in five days,” he said. “There are frustrating parts, but you’ve got to take away the positives and keep building and working.”

In a season seemingly has been a never-ending series of one step forward followed by two steps back for Johnson, whose ERA now stands at 6.80, the All-Star break was a chance to hit reset and his first five innings were exactly what he’d hoped they would be.

“You could tell I had my command and I was hitting the glove and working ahead and punching guys out,” said Johnson.

“My hits were down and there were no walks tonight. It was one of the sharpest outings I’ve had. I’ve been working on a few things and I thought they all came together tonight.”

The Knights (41-58), who won for the third consecutive game, pounded out a season-high six home runs in support of Johnson, with two coming from Andy Wilkins (3-for-4) and one each from Matt Davidson, Marcus Semien, Phegley and Jordan Danks.

Davidson (1-for-4) and Wilkins are tied atop the Class AAA International League with 18 home runs each. Charlotte entered the day leading the league in home runs (117), 32 more than second-placed Toledo (85).

Johnson’s pitch immediately following the one in the sixth when he didn’t get the call was laced back up the middle for the RailRiders’ fifth hit of the inning and led to Charlotte manager Joel Skinner turning the game over to the bullpen.

You could see Johnson talking to himself as he walked off the mound, but the pats on the back soon began.

“That’s the sharpest I’ve seen (Johnson) all year,” said Wilkins. “He was pounding the zone and throwing strikes. He did a good job and wasn’t behind too many hitters. He just came out and attacked and it was good to see.”

Notes: The Chicago White Sox signed Chien-Ming Wang and assigned him to the Knights. Wang, who recently opted out of his contract with Cincinnati, posted an 8-5 record with a 3.70 ERA in 19 games for Class AAA Louisville. He is scheduled to start Friday. … In a separate move, Dylan Axelrod was traded to the Cincinnati organization.

Scranton/WBabrhbi
Pirela lf5001
Refsnyder 2b5110
Almonte rf5111
Garcia 3b4012
Roller dh4121
Romine 1b4010
Murphy c4000
Richardson cf3120
Angelini ss3120
Totals375105

Charlotteabrhbi
Johnson 2b5000
Semien ss4211
Phegley c4132
Danks cf4221
Davidson 3b4111
Wilkins 1b4333
Tuiasosopo lf2000
Tekotte dh3000
Taylor rf3011
Totals339119

Scranton/WB0000140005102
Charlotte02114010x9111

E — Garcia, Semien, Romine. DP–Scranton/WB 1, Charlotte 1. LOB– Scranton/WB 7, Charlotte 5. 2B–Danks, Almonte, Taylor. HR—Danks, Semien, Wilkins 2, Roller, Phegley, Davidson. SF–Taylor.. CS—Richardson, Phegley.

ScrantonIPHRERBBSO
Mitchell L,0-1476633
Burawa1/322210
Venditte221104
Daley100002

CharlotteIPHRERBBSO
Johnson W,3-651/375405
Kussmaul12/310002
Thompson220012

WP-Johnson. HBP-Richardson (by Kussmaul). T-3:11. A-10,255.

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