In a battle of aces, the Charlotte Knights Erik Johnson and the Rochester Red Wings Pat Dean battled pitch-for-pitch for seven innings against each other. It was a classic pitchers’ duel where one pitch could make all the difference in the game, and that proved to be the difference as Charlotte won this contest 3-1.
Dean retired six of the first seven hitters he retired, only giving up a two-out single in the second. In the third, Dean’s run came to an end. Kevan Smith doubled to begin the inning and moved to third on a perfect sacrifice bunt by Chris Curley. The next batter was Micah Johnson who doubled to the wall in left field to easily score Smith. Two batters later Jason Coats singled to center, bringing Johnson home to give the Knights the 2-0 lead.
Johnson was dominating the Red Wings lineup. The right-hander retired the first 10 batters in order, before James Beresford broke up the streak with a one-out single. In the bottom of the fifth the Rochester Red Wings cut the lead in half. With two outs Ryan Wheeler singled and Doug Bernier followed with a walk. That brought Carlos Paulino to the plate, who doubled to left field, bringing home Wheeler to make it 2-1.
That is the way it would remain while the two starters were on the mound. Dean kept the Knights off the board, dominating in the fourth and the fifth innings. In the sixth Charlotte got two runners on with one out, but Dean got a strike out and a fly out to end the threat. In the seventh the visitors got a lead-off single but Dean made key pitches to retire the side and keep his team a run behind.
Johnson was equally as effective. He retired the side in order in the sixth, but got into a little trouble in the seventh, courtesy of an error. Oswaldo Arcia singled to start the inning and Jose Martinez reached on an error to make it first and second and no one out. This was a time that the Charlotte Knights needed a big pitch from their starter, and Johnson came up big, getting Ryan Wheeler to hit into a double-play before striking out Bernier.
Dean (5-7) pitched 7 outstanding innings, allowing 7 hits, 2 walks and 2 earned runs. Johnson (7-5) also pitched 7, allowing only 4 hits and a walk, while striking out 8.
In the ninth the Knights would extend their lead to two. Back-to-back singles by Kevan Smith and Chris Curley put runners at first and second with one out. Two batters later Tyler Saladino lined a single into center field driving Smith into score.
In the bottom of the ninth the Knights turned to Zach Phillips to close it out. He retired the Red Wings in order for his fifth save, securing the 3-1 win.
Smith finished 3-4 with 2 runs and an RBI.
These two teams will go at it again tomorrow. Tyler Duffey (2-4, 3.35) goes for the Rochester Red Wings. Brad Penny (3-3, 4.28) heads to the mound for Charlotte. Game time is 7:05.
By Robert Pannier