You could see the anger starting to boil over for Erik Johnson during the sixth inning of Thursdays 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 wasnt 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.
Thats baseball and thats how it goes down sometimes, said Johnson (3-6), who had cruised through five innings, allowing one run on two hits with five strikeouts.
Youve got to go with the punches and remember that you get the ball again in five days, he said. There are frustrating parts, but youve 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 hed 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 Ive had. Ive 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).
Johnsons pitch immediately following the one in the sixth when he didnt 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.
Thats the sharpest Ive seen (Johnson) all year, said Wilkins. He was pounding the zone and throwing strikes. He did a good job and wasnt 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.
E Garcia, Semien, Romine. DPScranton/WB 1, Charlotte 1. LOB Scranton/WB 7, Charlotte 5. 2BDanks, Almonte, Taylor. HRDanks, Semien, Wilkins 2, Roller, Phegley, Davidson. SFTaylor.. CSRichardson, Phegley.
WP-Johnson. HBP-Richardson (by Kussmaul). T-3:11. A-10,255.
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