Knights win, but face uphill climb to playoffs

mbanks@comporium.netJuly 29, 2013 

— As the Charlotte Knights enter their final full month of baseball in Fort Mill, they aren’t through making history.

Charlotte right-hander Andre Rienzo, 25, tossed a seven-inning no-hitter in game one of last Thursday’s doubleheader at Knights Stadium, as the Knights beat the Indianapolis Indians 1-0 ( see story, 2B). Rienzo, who improved to 8-6 with a 4.06 ERA on the year, struck-out a career-best 11 batters on the night.

The Knights, who will move into a new, Uptown Charlotte stadium after this season, are currently sitting in third place in the International League South Division with a 50-59 record through Sunday. They are 17 games from being eliminated from potentially winning the division and still could make the playoffs, but sit eight games back as of Sunday in the Wild Card race.

Designated hitter Brent Morel drove in three runs and four pitchers held the Gwinnett Braves in check Sunday in the Charlotte Knights’ 6-1 victory, their second win in a row.

The Knights won 6-5 in 12 innings late Saturday night.

Morel took over the team lead in RBIs, with 44, one more than Steve Tolleson and Mike McDade. Morel also stole his 11th base, tying him for second on the team with Tolleson, four behind Carlos Sanchez.

Tony Pena Jr. (4-8) picked up the win in 3 2/3 innings of relief, replacing starter Erik Johnson in the third inning.

Johnson was activated off the disable list Sunday and made his fourth start for the Knights. He went 2 1/3 innings in his first start since July 3 and allowed one run on two hits. He walked four, struck out three and threw 66 pitches.

Jake Petricka pitched the seventh and eighth innings, lowering his ERA to 1.46 in seven games with the Knights. Deunte Heath pitched a perfect ninth inning.

The Knights took a 2-0 lead in the second on back-to-back RBI singles by Steve Tolleson and Angel Sanchez.

Gwinnett made it 2-1 in the third inning on Brandon Boggs’ sacrifice fly off Pena, who entered the game with runners on second and third.

The Knights added two more runs in the fourth on RBI singles by Morel and Jordan Danks. Morel made it 6-1 in the seventh with a two-run double.

Chicago White Sox outfielder Dewayne Wise went 1-for-3 in his major league rehab assignment.

The Knights and Gwinnett close their series at 12:15 p.m. Monday.

Rienzo 3-0

Rienzo’s no-hitter was the first for a Knights hurler since Carlos Torres threw a five-inning perfect game for Charlotte June 18, 2009 in Pawtucket. The last nine-inning no-hitter by a Knights’ pitcher was by Tetsu Yofu, who threw his Aug. 1, 2004 against Durham at Knights Stadium.

For Rienzo, it was his third win during the month of July, all in consecutive starts. He allowed just five base runners on the evening en route to Charlotte’s second-straight win over first-place Indianapolis. He walked four batters and had one batter reach on an error. In all, Rienzo threw 112 pitches – 69 for strikes.

Charlotte’s only run of the game came on an Andy Wilkins RBI single in the bottom of the second inning off Indians starter Stolmy Pimentel.

The native of San Paublo, Brazil, signed with the White Sox in 2006 and has worked his way up the ladder. He is in his second season with the Knights after appearing in just one game for Charlotte last season.

Rienzo split time in 2012 between Winston-Salem (Single-A), Birmingham (Double-A) and Charlotte compiling a 7-3 record with a 2.53 ERA

The Knights will return home Aug. 5-8 in a four-game home stand against Leigh Valley before hitting the road against Durham for three games and then onto Scranton for four games.

The Charlotte Observer contributed.

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