With the Charlotte Knights playing their third game in 24 hours, starting pitcher Brad Penny knew what his team desired of him when he took the mound on Friday night.
Having used six relievers in their first two games against the Gwinnett Braves, the Knights looked to Penny to eat up as many innings as possible and reduce the bullpen’s workload.
In Game 2 of Friday’s doubleheader against Gwinnett, Penny did just that, tossing a complete game for the Knights to seal an 11-2 victory in front of a record 10,686 fans at BB&T BallPark. The complete game was the first by Charlotte since July 7, 2013.
“With our schedule, we needed something like that,” said Penny after the game with an ice pack wrapped around his right shoulder. “A lot of ground balls. They’re a real aggressive team. They’re swinging at the second pitch every time, so they let me get deep into the game by being aggressive and it worked to our advantage.”
Penny opened the game by pitching three perfect innings. He didn’t allow a base runner until the top of the fourth inning, when Eric Young Jr. hit a two-out single.
Behind eight total runs between the third and fifth innings, highlighted by three home runs, the Knights (45-37) led 8-0 entering the top of the sixth inning, where Penny ran into his biggest obstacle.
Gwinnett (42-39) opened the top of the sixth inning with two singles and a walk to load the bases. But Penny only allowed one run to score and escaped the inning with a double play.
Penny attacked the strike zone throughout the night, resulting in 20 of the 27 outs he recorded to come off of groundouts.
“He pitched ahead in the count, forced them to swing the bats, got a lot of groundball outs and we made a couple of nice plays for him, which is conducive to getting guys swinging the bats,” said Charlotte manager Joel Skinner.
“It was just a well-rounded game from his standpoint and from the defense behind him.”
The Knights tacked on three more runs between the sixth and eighth innings to take an 11-1 lead.
Despite allowing one run in the top of the ninth inning, Penny threw only 88 pitches and cruised to his first complete game since Sept. 30, 2009 as a member of the San Francisco Giants.
“I understood the situation, but the only thing you can do is go out there and give your team a chance to win,” he said. “We had a lot of good defensive plays tonight. Everything was in my favor tonight.”