The Charlotte Knights went down without much of a fight Sunday, falling 9-2 to the Norfolk Tides, who managed to make their way out of town with a season-opening series split.
The Knights (2-2) offense, which entered the day averaging just over five runs a game off Norfolk pitching, was held to just two hits over the first five innings off Norfolk Starter Zach Davies (1-0).
As a staff, Tides (2-2) pitchers struck out a season-high 18 Knights, with Davies accounting for eight.
Norfolk’s Steve Clevenger (3-for-5) finished the afternoon a triple short of hitting for the cycle. Clevenger’s home run was the first of two allowed in the fourth inning by Knights’ starter Scott Carroll (0-1), who allowed three runs (two earned) on five hits over four innings.
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Carroll, who held the Tides (2-2) without an earned run through the first three innings, appeared to tire towards the end of his outing. The veteran sinker-baller hadn’t thrown more than three innings at any point this spring. He threw 77 pitches on Sunday, 48 for strikes.
Knights’ first baseman Dan Black, who had three runs knocked in on Saturday, remained hot at the plate, going 2 for 4 with his first home run of the season to go along with a triple.
Black – who hit the home run batting right-handed and the triple from the left side of the plate – is now 4 for 7 on the season with four runs batted in.
The series split about summed up the Knights performance through the first four games of the season. After finishing last year 18 games below .500 (63-81), Charlotte looks like a much better team this season, but still has work to do.
The Knights have looked decent from the plate, but are striking out at way too high of a rate, with K’s accounting for 48 percent of their totals outs this season.
Former White Sox closer Matt Lindstrom has also been a bit of a disappointment out of the bullpen early on. The 35-year-old actually lowered his ERA from 40.50 to 27.00 by allowing two runs in the top of the ninth on Sunday.
“He just kind of mixed his pitches up well. He was commanding his changeup and nibbling with his fastball and that got us out of rhythm.” – Knights’ first baseman Dan Black talking about how Norfolk starter Zach Davies was able to keep the Knights bats off balance on Sunday.
Carlos Sanchez, who was optioned to Charlotte by the White Sox following Saturday’s game, finished 1-for-5 with three strikeouts in his 2015 Knights debut. Sanchez lost his roster spot in Chicago when Chris Sale came off the disabled list. … Knights shortstop Tyler Saladino got the day off after going 6-for-13 in Charlotte’s first three games of the season. Saladino is still recovering after undergoing Tommy John surgery eight months ago. … Knights’ designated hitter Engel Beltre, who batted in the No. 3 hole on Sunday, finished the game 0-for-5 with five swinging strikeouts. … The Knights entered Sunday leading the International League in attendance through three games (30,379) and drew an afternoon crowd of 8,680.
Knights vs. Bulls
at BB&T BallPark , Monday, 7:05 p.m.
CHA: RHP Shawn Haviland (0-0, 0.00 ERA)
DUR: LHP Scott Diamond (0-0, 0.00 ERA)
Tuesday, 7:05 p.m.
CHA: RHP Brad Penny (1-0, 4.76 ERA)
DUR: RHP Dylan Floro (1-0, 0.00 ERA)
Head-to-head: This is the first of seven series (23 games) between the Knights and Bulls this season. The teams will next face off April 20-23 in Durham.
Briefly: The Knights are striking out too much, with strikeouts accounting for 48 percent of their outs this season. … Erik Johnson, who spent much of this spring on the disabled list with an abdominal strain, is slated to pitch after Shawn Haviland on Monday. … Tyler Saladino has hits in all three games this season. … Dan Black’s home run Sunday was his first since Aug. 30 of 2014. … The Knights and Bulls split their 2014 season series, 10-10. Seth Lakso