Erik Johnson might have had to re-invent himself this year, after a failed attempt at securing the fifth starter spot with the Chicago White Sox started his 2014 season on the wrong foot. How about a pitcher’s version of the Triple Crown to mark 2015?
Johnson has a chance. He pitched eight innings Tuesday night, allowing two runs in a 7-2 win over Gwinnett to secure a series victory. He struck out seven and walked none while lowering his International League-leading ERA to 2.37. His 136 strikeouts lead the league. With his 11th win, he pulled within two of Columbus’ Toru Murata (13) for the league lead.
Johnson would need everything to fall right in his last two starts to tie Murata, but he wouldn’t mind the alternative either – getting a September call-up to Chicago.
Johnson gave up as season-high 10 hits, but two were bloops and two infield hits. He didn’t allow a run until the sixth when Braves’ newly acquired Cuban sensation Hector Olivera sent an RBI single to center. Gwinnett added one more on a wild pitch in the seventh, an inning prolonged by an infield hit.
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Rob Brantly gave Johnson breathing room in the sixth with a three-run homer, his fourth in 19 games for the Knights.
The Knights took leads of 1-0 and 3-0 on Ryan Weber, who was making a spot start for Gwinnett after Sugar Ray Marimon got called up Monday to Atlanta. Jason Coats capitalized on back-to-back Knights’ singles to lead off the third, driving in both runners on a single to left center for a 3-0 lead.
Quote: “I pay no attention to that,” Erik Johnson said of the league leader boards and explained his focus was on adjustments he made starting during the offseason to get back to the big leagues. “That’s the whole reason why I play. I want to play in the big leagues. I know that’s something that I strive for, and I think everyone in this clubhouse strives for. I want to play up there, and I want to stay up there.”
Worth mentioning: Leury Garcia swiped second base in the first inning to get his 30th stolen base on the season, becoming the 10th player in Knights history to steal at least 30 bases in a season.
What’s next? The Knights close out the three-game series against Gwinnett and the home stand with right-hander Hector Noesi (1-4, 4.30 ERA) facing right-hander Kanekoa Texeira (6-3, 3.59). Wednesday is “Bark in the BallPark.”