After dropping a 7-3 decision on Opening Day back on Thursday night, the Charlotte Knights were back at it again tonight in Durham as they took on the Durham Bulls in game 2 of their 4-game series to begin the season, and behind the strong outing from starter Erik Johnson, the Knights were able to get their first win of the 2016 campaign tonight as they came away with an 8-6 win over the Bulls at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
Charlotte would get on the board first in the opening frame of the game when Matt Davidson, last year’s home run leader in the International League, would send a 1-0 pitch from Bulls starter Matt Andriese over the right field fence to give the Knights an early 1-0 advantage in the game. The 1-0 lead wouldn’t last long for Charlotte, as Durham would come up to bat in the second inning of play, as the Bulls would have a rally of their own, starting with three straight singles off of Johnson, leading up to an RBI sacrifice fly off the bat of designated hitter Kyle Roller to bring home Richie Shaffer with the equalizing run to even things up at 1-1. Durham captured the lead on an RBI force out from left fielder Patrick Leonard, which allowed Nick Franklin to score to give the Bulls a 2-1 edge.
Despite that 2nd inning jam, Johnson was stellar in his first start of 2016, lasting 5 innings, allowing just 4 runs on 7 hits, while striking out 5 Durham batters and allowing just 1 walk on the night, as he did his part to keep the Knights in the game.
In the 5th inning, the Bulls would add on to their lead, as Shaffer would get two of his three RBIs of the night, with a double to left field to bring in Mikie Mahtook and Jaff Decker to make it a 4-1 game entering the top half of the sixth inning, which would turn out to be a huge inning for the Knights.
The four-run sixth inning would start when shortstop Tim Anderson got on with a infield hit to Daniel Robertson, then Carlos Sanchez would follow up with a single to center field. After Matt Davidson was called out on strikes, Knights first baseman Travis Ishikawa would deliver an RBI single to right field, bringing home Tim Anderson to cut the Durham lead to just 2 at 4-2, marking the end of the night for Andriese, who did not factor in the decision for the Bulls. With Tyler Sturdevant out of the Bulls bullpen, the Knights would cut it to one as Jason Coats would hit a line drive to center field for an RBI double to drive in Sanchez, as the one-out rally would continue on for Charlotte, as they trailed Durham by just one run. After a walk to Danny Hayes, Kevan Smith would come up to the plate, and his RBI sac fly was just enough to tie things up at 4 all, as Ishikawa would come in and score. Leury Garcia would draw a walk to load up the bases, and one batter later, Jacob May would draw an RBI walk to allow Coats to score the go-ahead run to give the Knights a 5-4 lead.
Charlotte would add on to the lead in the seventh, as Carlos Sanchez would launch his first home run of the season off of Durham reliever Ryan Garton to make it a 6-4 edge for the Knights, but the Bulls would strike back with a RBI double from Richie Shaffer, as Jaff Decker would score to make it 6-5.
Moving on to the 8th inning, Durham was looking for a rally of their own to tie up the game, and they would get it off the bat of Daniel Robertson, as he would send a 3-2 offering from Knights reliever Daniel Webb to center field to tie up the game at 6-6, making it interesting entering the 9th inning.
With two outs, the Knights would get the comeback going with a walk from Davidson, then Ishikawa would get on with a line drive single to center field, moving Davidson to second. The next batter was Jason Coats, who was looking for his third RBI of the night, and he would get it in clutch fashion on a looping line drive to center field to drive in Davidson and Ishikawa to give the Knights an 8-6 lead, as Webb, who suffered his first blown save of the year, would get the win in relief as the Knights would hold on to get their first win of 2016 tonight in Durham by the final score of 8-6.
Charlotte and Durham will meet again on Saturday afternoon in Durham for game three of the four-game series, as Chris Beck will be on the hill for Charlotte for his first start of the season, and he’ll be opposed by Durham starter Jamie Schultz, as the Knights continue their season opening road trip which will see them head up to Norfolk for a three-game set with the Tides(Orioles affiliate) from Monday-Wednesday of next week, before heading home to BB&T Ballpark for the home opener against these same Bulls next Thursday night.