FORT MILL --
With their back against the wall, the Charlotte Knights were trying to avoid something that hadn’t happen all season to them – getting swept in a series.
Unfortunately for them, it did happen and the sweep couldn’t have come at a worse time – in the International League Championship Series as they fell to the Pawtucket 4-1 in game three in the best-of-five series.
Pawtucket won its first International League championship since 1984 with the sweep. It was also the first time Charlotte made it to the International League championship series and lost.
Knights manager Joel Skinner said he didn’t realize Charlotte hadn’t been swept all season in a series.
“We never really paid attention to that stuff,” he said. “Playoff baseball can be that way. Once you look back over the whole thing and realize how good these guys did, it was a great season. We had a lot of individual accomplishments. There were a lot of positive things that happened.”
The Knights dropped game one 7-2 and game two 2-0 before coming back home to play game three.
Charlotte started Scott Carroll, who was 4-6 with a 4.74 ERA during the regular season.
Pawtucket started Nelson Figueroa, who went 12-5 with a 3.89 ERA during the regular season. Figueroa split time last season between Indianapolis and Oklahoma City in Triple-A and in Houston with the Astros.
Knights designated hitter Greg Golson doubled with two outs in the bottom of the first, but was thrown out at home by Pawtucket left fielder J.C. Linares for the third out while trying to score later in the inning.
In the top of the second, Pawtucket got on the board first after starting the inning with a leadoff single from third baseman Danny Valencia. Valencia scored three batters later as Red Sox catcher Mike Rivera singled him in. Pawtucket’s Andy LaRoche doubled earlier in the inning to push Rivera to third.
LaRoche scored on a sacrifice to right field off the bat of Red Sox centerfielder Che-Hsuan Lin.
Left fielder Jared Mitchell singled in the second inning for the Knights, but after that threat to score in the first inning, Charlotte struggled to get on base.
Pawtucket threatened in the top of the fourth inning after LaRoche got hit by a pitch and moved to second on a single up the middle from Rivera.
Lin singled with two outs in the inning to load the bases, but Carroll got out of the inning and saved a run from scoring by handling a dribbler back to the mound.
In both the fourth and fifth innings the Knights had lead-off hitters – Golson and Mitchell – single to get on. Charlotte shortstop Carlos Sanchez singled in the fifth inning to score Mitchell and give the Knights their first and only run of the game. It was their first run in 18 innings.
After a 1-2-3 sixth inning for Pawtucket, the Knights started a rally in the sixth as second baseman Drew Garcia singled to start the bottom of the inning and then Golson reached on an error by Red Sox third baseman Danny Valencia to put runners on first and third base, all with no outs. However, Figueroa was able to battle back and stranded the Knights runners at the corners.
In the top of the seventh, Pawtucket added an insurance run after an error by Sanchez put Lin on first. Lin was tripled in by designated hitter Jeremy Hazelbaker.
Carroll was pulled after the triple having gone six and a third inning and allowing four runs on six hits while walking two and striking out seven.
Linares then singled off Knights relief pitcher Santos Rodriguez scoring Hazelbaker and making it 4-1.
From the time Golson reached in the sixth inning, Charlotte had six straight hitters retired and only had two batters reach base the rest of the game.
International League Game Three
Pawtucket 4, Charlotte 1
Pawtucket 020 000 200 – 4 7 1
Charlotte 000 010 000 – 1 7 1
W – Nelson Figueroa, L – Scott Carroll, S – Josh Fields.
2B – Greg Golson (Charlotte), Andy LaRoche (Pawtucket).
3B – Jeremy Hazelbaker (Pawtucket).
LOB – Pawtucket 6, Charlotte 6.
Leading hitters: Pawtucket – Mike Rivera 2-3 RBI; Charlotte – Greg Golson 2-4, Jared Mitchell 2-3.