Facing the Pawtucket Red Sox for the second time in six days, Charlotte Knights starting pitcher Erik Johnson couldn’t remember the last time he started twice against the same team within such a short period of time.
Despite allowing one unearned run over eight innings June 10 at Pawtucket, the Knights fell when the Red Sox scored in the bottom of the ninth inning.
But Tuesday night, Charlotte rode Johnson to victory. Behind a career-high 11 strikeouts over six shutout innings, the right-hander guided the Knights to a 2-0 win in the opener of a three-game Class AAA International League baseball series against Pawtucket at BB&T BallPark.
Johnson (5-5, 3.34 ERA) struck out two of the first three batters he faced, and after loading the bases, he ended the first inning by striking out Garin Cecchini on a high fastball.
The first inning proved to be the best chance for the Red Sox (32-33) to score off Johnson, as he tallied seven strikeouts over the next three innings en route to breaking his previous record of 10 strikeouts in a game during the fourth inning.
The Knights (35-29) got on the board in the second inning, when Matt Davidson’s leadoff single eventually led to a RBI single by Tyler Colvin.
Charlotte added one run in the sixth inning via a RBI double by Trayce Thompson, and the Knights’ bullpen pitched three shutout innings to earn Johnson and the team the win.
Johnson “threw the ball well. He had all of his stuff working, kept the ball out of the middle of the plate, used both sides of the plate and was driving the ball down. As a result, when he would elevate it, it just made it that much better. It was a good outing on his part.” – Knights manager Joel Skinner on Johnson’s performance.
Charlotte pitchers struck out 18 batters combined, setting a game-high for the season. … After being promoted from Class AA Birmingham on Tuesday, first baseman Chris Marrero went 2-for-3 with a double in his Knights debut. … With Tuesday’s attendance of 9,118, the Knights are 607 fans away from welcoming their 1 millionth fan to BB&T BallPark.
The Knights and Red Sox will play Game 2 of their series at 7:05 p.m. Wednesday. Right-hander Scott Carroll (3-2, 2.37) isc scheduled to pitch for Charlotte against right-hander Jess Todd (2-2, 5.28).