By Jason Huber. May 26, 2017. CHARLOTTE, NC — Playing in front of the second highest crowd of the season with 10,526 fans in attendance for Friday night’s game, the Charlotte Knights (23-23) were unable to get their bats swinging to full effect, falling 9-3 to Buffalo (25-20) in the first of a four-game home series against the Bisons at BB&T Ballpark.
COVER IMAGE: Charlotte catcher Carson Blair. Photographic image by Laura Wolff
Even with No. 1 prospect Yoan Moncada back in the lineup after a weeklong stay on the disabled list, Knights starting pitcher Reynaldo Lopez (5-2, 4.08) had his worst outing of the year and Charlotte could not come back from an early 4-0 deficit. With the loss, the Knights fell to a .500 record.
Lopez gave up only two runs or less in each of his last five starts. That streak was broken on Friday against the Bisons, as he pitched four innings and gave up eight runs on eight hits while recording four strikeouts. His ERA ballooned from 2.94 to 4.08.
Charlotte’s only offensive threats came early and late.
Designated hitter Rymer Liriano got things started in the bottom of the second when he lined a one-out triple to right. He then scored on a fielder’s choice as 1B Danny Hayes tapped a soft, slow-roller to first for the sacrifice groundout. That narrowed the early deficit to 4-1, but the Knights squandered a follow-up, two-out double to left by catcher Carson Blair, leaving him on second base when Jason Bourgeois was called out on strikes.
Perhaps as a prelude to the fireworks that would follow the game, the Knights flirted with a rebound in the ninth inning. The Bisons brought in their third pitcher of the game to start the inning, Texas A&M alum John Stilson, a journeyman righthander.
Two of the first three batters Stilson faced clubbed solo home runs. Jacob May led off with his third dinger of the year, then Adam Engle punched his 8th round trip ticket of the season with a one-out flier over the left-centerfield wall.
But that was it for Charlotte, as Stilson settled down and scattered two singles around two strikeouts to end the scoring threat with two men left on base.
Even with the loss, fans stayed around for the post-game fireworks after supporting the Knights late game push.
“We didn’t give them a whole lot to cheer for,” Engel recalled afterwards, but in the last inning when Jake [May] had a great inning, the crowd (went) crazy and it definitely helps having that energy. We are trying to fight back and having fans support us is a huge help. It picks us up when we are down.”
Buffalo’s 27-year-old starter, lefthander Brett Oberholtzer (1-2), just activated from the 7-day disabled list, pitched five strong innings for the visitors, allowing one run on three hits, walking one batter and striking out four in earning the win, his first of the young season. Lopez was credited with the loss.
The Bison’s offensive power was provided by leftfielder Roemon Fields, going 3-5, scoring a run and knocking in three runs. His hits included two doubles on his way to recording five total bases on the evening. Rightfielder Dwight Smith, Jr., was only 1-5 at the plate, but that hit was a two-out, two-run home run in the 4th, at Lopez’ expense.
In addition to the late solo home runs by May and Engle for Charlotte, catcher Carson Blair was 2-4 at the plate for his evening’s work.
The Knights will continue their seven game home stand and four game series against Buffalo on Saturday at 7:05 p.m.