Josh Phegley entered this season fully expecting to compete with Tyler Flowers for the White Sox starting catching job.
Instead, Chicago chose to hand the job to Flowers and hold on to a Rule 5 catcher – in Adrian Nieto – who had never played above Class A ball in his professional career, as the backup.
The decision wasn’t exactly a vote of confidence.
After spending the second half of last year in the major leagues, where he hit .206, Phegley found himself back in Charlotte, working on the resume.
If you consider each game a bullet point on that resume, then Phegley’s three-hit, two-home run performance in Thursday’s 8-6 loss to Pawtucket in front of 10,291 at BB&T BallPark was the kind general managers around the league notice.
The three-hit night was the third straight by Phegley, who has hit at a .389 clip since the All-Star break (18 games).
He leads all IL catchers in home runs (20), RBIs (68) and is second in batting average (.289). He’s also caught 48 percent of potential base stealers, which also leads the league.
“I’m feeling more comfortable at the plate,” said Phegley, 26. “I’m just relaxing. I’m staying calm in the box and letting them throw me pitches to hit instead of chasing pitches.”
Phegley went down swinging at a knuckleball from PawSox starter Steven Wright in the second inning before reaching base in his next three trips.
After singling in the fourth, Phegley stepped to into the box in the sixth with two runners on, and deposited an 0-2 knuckler in the left-field bleachers to break a 1-1 tie.
Charlotte starter Erik Johnson, who held the PawSox to one run through six innings, while striking out five, ran into trouble in the seventh and was charged with three runs in the inning after being removed without recording an out.
In the ensuing inning, Phegley launched an 0-1 pitch from reliever Alex Wilson just to the right of the foul pole in left field for a two-run home run to put the Knights up 6-4.
The five-RBI night was one less than he recorded in a 12-10 win against Gwinnett on Wednesday and two short of his Knights career-high.
However, once again Pawtucket rallied, scoring the game’s next four runs off Matt Lindstrom (0-1) in the eighth.
After hitting just .175 in June, Phegley recovered to hit .354 in July and is an early favorite for IL Player of the Month with a gaudy .579 mark with three home runs and 13 RBIs in August.
“I think I was getting out of my approach towards the end of May and into June,” Phegley said. “I didn’t hit any home runs in April and I was trying to catch up and do too much. I had to realize that it’s a long season and you need to keep a consistent approach to have a good year.”
In the game’s final frame, Charlotte put the tying run aboard and had Phegley in the on-deck circle when Jordan Danks struck out to end the game.
“I definitely wanted that at-bat,” Phegley said. “It was tough seeing Jordan up there because he’s been a hot hitter for us. I could see him getting on and me having a chance to win the game for us there, but that’s not the way it ended up.”
Hagerstown 8, Kannapolis 1: Danny Hayes hit his team-leading 11th home run to help the Intimidators avoid a shutout in their loss at Hagerstown, Md.
Hayes, who is one homer ahead of teammate Trey Michalczewski to lead Kannapolis, finished the game 1-for-4 after his a solo shot with one out in the ninth. Adam Engel had half of the Intimidators’ hits, going 2-for-4.
Hagerstown had 13 hits, including five doubles, featuring three-hit games by leadoff man Rafael Bautista and Carlos Lopez.
Red Sox 8, Knights 6
E – Cecchini, Marrero, Henry, Johnson. LOB–PAW: 10, CHA: 7. 2B–Shaw 2, Spring, Lavarnway, Mitchell, Taylor. 3B–Henry. HR–Phegley 2. SF–Spring, Johnson.
WP-Wright. T-3:08. A-10,291.
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