McKnight yields one hit in Chiefs' win

Cardinals prospect strikes out six over seven scoreless innings

Blake McKnight is 4-7 with a 3.13 ERA in 13 starts after opening the season in the bullpen. (Dennis Sievers/Peoria Chiefs)

By Kelsie Heneghan / | July 26, 2014 2:16 AM ET

While Blake McKnight is getting comfortable on a Midwest League mound, he's constantly looking for change.

After making a few mechanical tweaks, the Cardinals prospect allowed one hit over seven innings Friday as Class A Peoria edged visiting Lansing, 1-0.

"I felt really good. I had a little control issue in the first inning, walked the one guy, but then I settled down," McKnight said. "I think I just did a really good job of keeping the ball down in the zone and mixing in my off-speed pitches."

The 23-year-old right-hander notched season highs in innings and with six strikeouts while issuing two walks. After allowing a one-out single to D.J. Davis in the second inning, he retired nine straight Lugnuts.

"Once you're dialed into that groove, it's a little easier to stay in that groove," he said. "Anytime you have a great start, it feels good. I've just been trying to build on each start and I've been getting comfortable on the mound and in the league.

"I'll start in six days and hopefully I'll go -- it will be difficult to do better than I didn't tonight -- but I'll just try to build off it."

The Cardinals selected McKnight in the 38th round of last year's Draft and sent him to the Appalachian League, where he went 3-1 with a 2.69 ERA in 11 games (10 starts) for Johnson City. The Missouri native returned to the midwest and began his sophomore campaign in the Peoria bullpen, compiling a 7.71 ERA in six appearances.

The Chiefs moved McKnight into the rotation at the beginning of May, and his statistics have slowly improved. On Friday, he lowered his ERA to 3.83.

"I've been working with [pitching coach Jason] Simontacchi in the bullpen," he said. "I've switched my footing from the third-base to the first-base side of the rubber and it's helped me control both sides of the plate."

While McKnight kept posting zeros, so did the Lugnuts, meaning every pitch could lead to a loss. But he welcomed that kind of pressure.

"I think it actually really helps because it helps you do your best. It also helps because the innings go a little quicker and are fast-moving," he said. "It's tough [to get the no-decision], but we got the 'W' in the long run."

Jhonny Polanco (3-0) relieved McKnight and fanned two over two hitless frames to pick up the victory and complete Peoria's first one-hitter since 2011.

The Chiefs scored the game's lone run in the eighth when Rowan Wick singled, stole second and came home on a base hit by Justin Ringo.

Lansing starter Brad Allen matched McKnight for five innings, yielding four hits and two walks while striking out seven. Alonzo Gonzalez fell to 1-1 after giving up a run on two hits in 2 1/3 frames.

Kelsie Heneghan is a contributor to Follow her on Twitter @Kelsie_Heneghan. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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