Justin Nicolino: 6 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 5 K (W, 2-1)
Zach Thompson: 1 ⅓ IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K (H, 1)
Jose Ruiz: 1 ⅓ IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K (S, 3)
Danny Mendick (3B): 1-for-3, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 2 BB, 2 K; 1 PO
Matt Skole (DH): 3-for-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI
Seby Zavala (C): 1-for-3, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K **MVP**
Adam Engel (CF): 2-for-4, 2 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 K
Ryan Goins (2B): 3-for-4, 1 2B, 1 K; 1 SB
Justin Nicolino turned in a strong three-hit performance as the Knights prevailed over the semi-neighboring Bulls. This was Nicolino’s fourth start with the team after signing with the Sox as a free agent in early May; he threw just over 200 innings for the Miami Marlins from 2015-17 but has not appeared in the majors since then. The lefty was the Blue Jays second-round draft pick in 2010 and hasn’t lived up to that potential in the nine years since then (including this because it is unbelievable to me that 2010 was nine years ago), but this was his best start of the season so far and the thing about hope is that it springs eternal, so.
Top bullpen prospect Zach Thompson also threw one of his stronger outings of the season, despite giving up what’s in the box score as a double steal of second and home. Jose Ruiz, who’s been up and down between the Sox and the Knights all year, hasn’t had time to give up a run in Triple-A and continued that streak tonight.
Danny Mendick was all over the place, hitting a double, walking twice, and making a sterling defensive play. Seby Zavala absolutely crushed a two-run home run in the third inning, his second dong in seven games back from the injured list on May 14. He also has nine RBI in that stretch. Adam Engel, of all people, also homered.
(Do the Knights know something we don’t? Welington Castillo leaves the game injured in Minnesota, Thyago Vieira is sent down to Charlotte, and on a weekend the Chicago White Sox might need a second catcher to back up James McCann, Charlotte throws down a #NextSox for a fairly-unheralded prospect ... no, nah, they probably don’t know something we don’t, just employing their sexy social media shorthand.)
Kyle Kubat: 5 ⅔ IP, 5 H, 4 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 3 K (W, 5-1)
Luis Robert (CF): 2-for-5, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 K; 1 SB
Luis Alexander Basabe (DH): 2-for-5, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 K; 1 SB
Luis González (LF): 1-for-5, 1 R, 1 K
Blake Rutherford (RF): 2-for-4, 2 R, 1 2B, 3 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K
Ti’Quan Forbes (3B): 3-for-4, 2 R, 1 2B, 4 RBI, 1 K, 1 HBP **MVP**
Laz Rivera (SS): 1-for-5, 1 R, 1 K
Mitch Roman (2B): 4-for-5, 2 RBI, 1 CS
We’ve been waiting for this game for a while, haven’t we? This is a box score like most people were expecting consistently from Opening Day onwards, with the talent on this team. This is that Dash magic offense from last season, transplanted a little further south, hoping to one day migrate much further north. Lefty Kyle Kubat gave up four runs, but only one was earned thanks to one of Laz Rivera’s two errors and Mitch Roman’s. Kubat is a softer-throwing contact pitcher, and when his defense isn’t on point behind him, he’s just not going to be as effective. Otherwise, he did what he’s been consistently doing all season: throwing off-speed stuff, not necessarily fooling anyone but not giving up a whole lot either.
The rest of the bullpen didn’t fare so well; Mauricio Cabrera gave up two runs of his own in addition to letting one of Kubat’s inherited runners score and Danny Dopico gave up a run in his inning and a third, although his season ERA remains a solid 3.32. Luis Martinez made his fifth straight scoreless appearance.
Obviously, offense was where it was at in this game. Luis Robert started off the game by reaching on an error by the shortstop, something I don’t have stats on but have seen him do more than any other player (Nick Madrigal is probably second). Basabe followed it up with a single. A double steal and a Yermin Mercedes walk later and Blake Rutherford was up with the bases loaded. Rutherford, whose 10-game average has risen to a (very) relatively healthy .257, delivered with a two-run single. Forbes followed it up with a single of his own, running himself out of the basepaths at second base. (In a case of parallelism, the first Lookouts batter, Alfredo Rodriguez, also reached on an error by the shortstop, Laz.)
Robert, who I miss dearly here in Winston, got in on the RBI parade in the fourth, singling in Forbes, who had reached via HBP. The Barons then scored five runs in the fifth, an inning that saw four singles (González, Mercedes, Roman, Robert), two walks (Gavin Sheets, then Rutherford to force in a run), and a Ti’Quan Forbes bases-clearing double. This game snapped a 10-game RBI-less streak for him; weirdly, he also had four in his last game with an RBI, thanks to a grand slam.
They tacked on two more in the seventh. Rutherford, having what is hopefully an offensive breakout, was involved; he hit a double to lead off the inning. Laz singled him over and Roman singled him in. Basabe then singled him in. Isn’t this so good to see? This is so good to see.
Konnor Pilkington: 4 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 3 BB, 2 K
Codi Heuer: 2 ⅔ IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 2 K (L, 2-1)
Kevin Escorcia: 1 ⅓ IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K
Nick Madrigal (2B): 1-for-4, 1 RBI
Jameson Fisher (1B): 2-for-4, 1 BB, 1 K
Zach Remillard (SS): 0-for-4, 1 R, 1 BB, 2 K
Craig Dedelow (DH): 1-for-4, 3 R, 1 2B, 1 BB
Carlos Perez (C): 2-for-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 K; 1 E
Jordan George (RF): 1-for-3, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 2 BB **MVP**
JJ Muno (PH-LF): 1-for-3, 1 R, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K
Last year’s third-round draft pick Konnor Pilkington’s struggles continue, but despite giving up six runs, it was not he but reliever Codi Heuer hung with the loss. Pilkington gave up three straight singles to open the game and then looked like he might escape with only one run, after a sacrifice fly and strikeout, but Marcus Wilson’s three-run shot put an end to that brief hope. The two other runs he gave up were also with two outs.
The Dash chipped away at the lead all game, finally erasing Pilkington from factoring in the decision by tying it up in the seventh. They scored two runs without gathering a single hit: Remillard walked and advanced to second on a wild pitch, then reached third on an error by the first baseman that also allowed Dedelow to reach. George walked, loading the bases; Muno walked as well, forcing in a run. Tyler Frost was responsible for the final Dash run by getting hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, and we thank him for his effort.
Heuer only ran into trouble in his third inning, longer than he normally pitches. A few singles, a walk, a wild pitch, and a HBP spelled doom for the hard-throwing righty. Escorcia was excellent out of the bullpen.
Jonathan Stiever: 5 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 4 K
Andrew Perez: 3 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 K
Sam Long: 1 IP, 0 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K; 1 E (L, 2-1)
Ian Dawkins (CF): 2-for-4, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 CS
Lenyn Sosa (SS): 2-for-4, 1 3B, 1 BB; 1 E
Alex Destino (RF): 1-for-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI; 1 E **MVP**
Jhoandro Alfaro (C): 1-for-4, 1 2B, 2 K
Kannapolis made four errors and got six hits, generally and specifically a losing combination. Jonathan Stiever had another good start, although his multiple walks broke a six-start streak in which he walked only three over 37 innings pitched. Andrew Perez pitched admirably over three scoreless. Sam Long was hung with a tough-luck loss, but I guess it’s not really tough luck if your own error leads directly to the walk-off.
Sosa, Destino, and Luis Curbelo all didn’t help the cause either defensively. At the plate, Sosa hit his first triple of the year; he’s two games removed from a seven-game hitting streak in which has batting average rose exactly two points (.220 to .222; that’s what going 1-for-4 or -5 will do, I guess). Destino provided the only runs of the game in the sixth inning with a tater. Ian Dawkins also reached base three times, but, you know, what’s new.