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Charlotte Knights are shattering home run records set by Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez

Top White Sox prospect Luis Robert a hit with AAA Charlotte

Luis Robert, a 21-year-old outfielder from Cuba, is considered the No. 1 prospect in the Chicago White Sox organization. The White Sox promoted him to their Triple-A affiliate Charlotte Knights in July.
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Luis Robert, a 21-year-old outfielder from Cuba, is considered the No. 1 prospect in the Chicago White Sox organization. The White Sox promoted him to their Triple-A affiliate Charlotte Knights in July.

This late-season surge by the Charlotte Knights has produced a few records.

A season full of scores that read like they’re from a local slow-pitch softball diamond have put the 2019 Knights in the franchise’s record book for home runs.

Yoan Moncada’s 409-foot shot to right field at BB&T Ballpark on Saturday was Charlotte’s 186th home run of the season, and he is the 28th Knights’ player to homer this year. Both are records.

The Knights’ old season mark, 185, was set in 1993 when Charlotte was the Cleveland Indians Triple-A affiliate with players like Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez and Sandy Alomar.

Entering Tuesday night’s contest in Durham, the power-hitting blitz has helped Charlotte win 15 of its last 20 games. The Knights are a game ahead of Durham in the International League wild-card race and have climbed just 2.5 games behind Southern Division leader Gwinnett. The regular season ends Sept. 2.

The Knights lead the league in runs scored, RBIs, total bases and walks, and they are tied with Columbus for the lead in home runs. The team also is ranked top-five in hits, doubles, slugging percentage and batting average.

The home-run hitting has been scattered across the roster. The team leader, Daniel Palka (25), is only seventh in the league. But 10 players have 10 or more home runs.

Monday, catcher/first baseman Zack Collins became the second Knights’ player in as many weeks to be named International League Batter of the Week. Collins hit .538 (14-for-26) with four homers and nine RBIs in seven games last week. Infielder Ramon Torres won the award a week earlier.

By the way, the hitting is needed. The Knights rank 13th of 14 IL clubs in team ERA.

Here’s a look at the past week, and what lies ahead in the pennant race:

Last Tuesday: Charlotte had season highs of 15 runs and 23 hits in a 15-1 rout of visiting Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, the Northern Division leader. Luis Robert went 4-for-6 for the Knights.

Wednesday: Charlotte rallied from a 12-8 deficit to beat Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, 13-12, in 10 innings. Collins went 4-for-5 with two home runs and six RBIs.

Thursday: The Knights completed a sweep of Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, winning 7-5. Robert, Collins and Nick Madrigal each had two hits.

Friday: During the day, the White Sox assigned infielder Yoan Moncada to Charlotte for injury rehab. On the field, Madrigal and Collins homered, but the Knights lost an afternoon 5-4 decision to Western Division-leading Columbus.

Saturday: Charlotte edged Columbus, 7-6, in the opener of a doubleheader, with Palka hitting a home run. The Knights dropped the nightcap, 3-2, but Moncada smacked the franchise-record home run.

Sunday: Two-time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber lasted just one inning for Columbus due to a muscle injury, and the Knights beat the Clippers, 8-2. Robert and Charlie Tilson each drove in three runs.

Monday: Charlotte built an 11-1 lead, then hung on for a 13-11 victory at Durham. Robert, Moncada and Tilson each drove in three runs, and Robert hit a monstrous two-run homer.

Week ahead: The Knights play Wednesday and Thursday nights at Durham, then open their final home stand of the season. They host Norfolk (7:04 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 5:05 p.m. Sunday) and Durham (7:04 p.m. Monday through Wednesday).

Steve Lyttle on Twitter: @slyttle

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