Knights crush Bats 8-1 in series opener [Sports]

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The Charlotte Knights took an early lead, extended it late, and got terrific pitching while trouncing the Louisville Bats 8-1 Thursday night. Matt Zaleski (4-5) started for the Knights and went six innings giving up one run on four hits while walking two and striking out five. A Louisville Slugger Field crowd of 7,980 saw the Bats (43-70) drop their third straight while the Knights (64-49) won for the 15th time in their last 22 games.

The Knights blew it open with a six-run sixth inning. After Conor Jackson homered off Josh Judy to start the inning, Judy allowed three straight singles to Dan Johsnon, Greg Golson, and Jared Mitchell. Carlos Fisher entered and walked Josh Phegley and Jim Gallagher to score two more and make it 5-0.

After a pair of strikeouts, Fisher looked like he was going to get out of the inning and avoid major damage when he got Drew Garcia to bloop a shallow fly ball down the left field line. Willie Harris and Didi Gregorius gave chase but the ball dropped in just out of their reach. Three runs scored on the play, giving the Knights an 8-0 lead.

The big inning came after Bats starter Todd Redmond came out of the game after throwing just 73 pitches over five innings of work. Redmond surrendered just two runs on three hits while walking one and striking out four. The runs Redmond gave up were unearned

With one out in the first, Redmond was hit in the leg on a line drive off the bat of Drew Garcia. Redmond recovered in time to field the ball but made an errant throw down the right field line, allowing Garcia to advance to second.

Redmond appeared to be fine after striking out Jackson looking for the second out of the inning. But the next batter, Dan Johnson, jacked his league-leading 24th home run to give the Knights a 2-0 lead. The homer gave Johnson 71 RBIs on the year, good for second in the league.

“I think (Redmond) is going to be perfectly fine,” Bats manager David Bell said. “He took a pretty good shot on the lower leg. As the game went on he was limping more and more. After the fifth, I felt it was a wise decision to pull him.”

For the fourth time this season, the Bats used six total pitchers Thursday. It was the third straight game they’ve used at least four pitchers.

“We’d like our starters to go as deep in the game as we can,” Bell said. “Because we carry (enough) relievers, we don’t feel like we’ve overused anyone.”

The lone Bats run came on Denis Phipps’ leadoff homer in the sixth, his sixth homer of the season.

Rising star Didi Gregorius went 2-for-3 for the Bats. He has now hit safely in 17 of 21 games since his promotion July 10. In that time, he is hitting .310 with five doubles, a triple, five home runs, 12 RBIs, and nine multi-hit games.

The teams continue their four game series Friday night. Pedro Villarreal (3-7, 4.09 ERA), who came off the disabled list Thursday, will make the start for the Bats. Villarreal last pitched July 20 when he took the loss, giving up six runs in four innings. He’ll be opposed by Charlotte righty Matt Zaleski (3-5, 4.14 ERA). First pitch Friday is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. Fans can enjoy fireworks after the game.

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