If there’s one thing the Charlotte Knights are doing right this season, it’s winning the close ballgames.
The Knights pulled out another close one Monday night at BB&T Ballpark, edging the Columbus Clippers 8-6 to improve their lead atop the International League South standings.
Four Charlotte pitchers combined for 14 strikeouts, getting the Knights out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth inning, and George Kottares and Matt Davidson both connected on multi-run home runs.
That helped Charlotte (25-19) win its second straight, and remain 1½ games up on Norfolk in the IL-South standings. The Knights are now 14-9 in games decided by two runs or less.
“The bullpen gave us a chance to come back,” Knights manager Joel Skinner said. “The job (Daniel) Webb did in getting us off the field in the sixth (inning). Damage control was big there.”
Webb, the third of Charlotte’s four pitchers, got the win in relief, improving to 1-1 on the season.
Webb came on with one out in the top of the sixth for Onelki Garcia, with the bases loaded and the Knights up 7-6. He went on to retire the next two batters.
Charlotte had taken the lead thanks to two big innings – four runs in the bottom of the second, aided by Kottares’ two-run homer; and three runs in the fifth on Davidson’s three-run shot.
The Knights added an insurance run in the seventh on Tyler Saladino’s RBI single.
Jairo Asencio got his ninth save of the season for Charlotte, giving up a pair of singles in the top of the ninth, then striking out the next three batters.
Clippers LF Jerry Sands, who played college ball at Catawba, came on for starter Carlos Moncrief in the fifth inning. He went 0 for 2, with a strikeout. … Knights starter Erik Johnson threw six strikeouts in 41/3 innings, Garcia –called up from Double-A Birmingham earlier Monday – had two strikeouts, and Webb and Asencio had three strikeouts each. … 1B-DH Dan Black went on the temporary inactive list Monday. Black is tops in the IL in on-base percentage (.457) and slugging percentage (.568).
Game 2 in the four-game Clippers-Knights home series will be at 7:05 p.m. Tuesday. RHP Kyle Drabek (0-2, 2.32 ERA) will be on the mound for Charlotte; LHP Nick Maronde (0-5, 5.95 ERA) for the Clippers.
“It’s all coming together. We stayed in the game all nine innings. It sometimes gets long and tough, but our pitching staff doing a pretty good job this year, and have kept us in games. We’re always in striking distance, and we’ve got some pretty good batters here.” – Matt Davidson