LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. - The Gwinnett Stripers put to bed their hopes of an International League Wild Card berth Friday with a 4-3 loss to the Charlotte Knights at Coolray Field.
A win by the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders over the Pawtucket Red Sox Friday mathematically eliminated the Stripers from playoff contention with three regular season games remaining. Scranton can finish no worse than 71-67, while Gwinnett can finish no better than 71-68.
With left-hander Max Fried on the mound, the Stripers were in a hole early when Eloy Jimenez hit a two-out double and scored on a Matt Skole single in the first, though the lead was short-lived.
Austin Riley muscled an opposite-field home run (12) in the bottom of the frame to level the score against left-hander Jordan Guerrero. It was Riley's seventh long ball since August 21, matching Fresno's Kyle Tucker for the most in Minor League Baseball in that span. It also extended Riley's hitting streak to 10 games.
Rio Ruiz continued the bottom of the first with a single and moved to third on a Dustin Peterson double. Both runners scored on a Ryan Flaherty single, though he was thrown out trying to advance to second on the play.
Charlotte loaded the bases with no outs in the second. However, Fried allowed only the one run to score on a fielder's choice groundout, maintaining a 3-2 Stripers lead.
Fried lasted 5.0 innings, allowing two runs on six hits with a walk and eight strikeouts.
Rehabbing Atlanta Braves right-hander Brandon McCarthy entered in the sixth and got two quick outs before giving up a single to Patrick Leonard. Trayce Thompson then blasted a go-ahead two-run homer (4) to center for a 4-3 Knights lead.
The Stripers had two chances to tie or take the lead; first in the eighth inning, when Peterson hit a one-out double, but neither Flaherty nor Phil Gosselin could bring him home. The second chance came in the bottom of the ninth, as Xavier Avery led off with a single against Gregory Infante and moved to second on a wild pitch. After two outs, Michael Reed drew a walk to bring up the red-hot Riley. Infante won the battle, striking Riley out with a 97 mph fastball to end the rally and the game.
McCarthy (BS,1; L, 0-1) allowed four hits and two runs over 2.0 innings. Kyle Wright and Chad Sobotka threw a perfect inning each.
Guerrero (W, 7-2) surrendered three runs on eight hits while striking out nine over 6.0 innings. Tyler Danish (H, 4) kept the Stripers in check with a hit in 2.0 innings. Infante (S, 9) struck out a pair in the final frame.
Riley finished 2-for-5 with the homer. Ruiz was 3-for-4 with a run scored, while Peterson had two doubles.
Jimenez and Thompson were both 2-for-4 for the Knights.
The Stripers (68-68) and Knights (63-73) square off again Saturday with a 6:05 p.m. start at Coolray Field. Righty Wes Parsons (6-4, 3.40 ERA) gets the ball for Gwinnett against Charlotte lefty Colton Turner (0-1, 5.09 ERA). Dave Lezotte will have the play-by-play call on 97.7 and 93.5 FM "The Other Side of the River" beginning at 5:35 p.m.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.