CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- On the night when he received his International League Player of the Month award for July, Andy Wilkins showed off what has made him a serious contender for the next big IL award – the Most Valuable Player award.
Wilkins launched his 29th home run of the season, later added his 35th double of the year, and helped lead the Charlotte Knights to an exciting 17-4 win over the Gwinnett Braves on Monday from BB&T Ballpark in Uptown Charlotte. The win was Charlotte's 58th of the season and it came in front of a crowd of 9,409.
The Knights belted out 21 hits on the evening – a new season-high and scored 17 runs – one less than their season high of 18 – en route to a commanding 13-run win over the G-Braves. Charlotte added to their league-leading home run total with two big long balls from Wilkins and slugger Matt Tuiasosopo. The Knights now have a IL best 159 home runs this season.
Wilkins went 3-for-6 with three runs scored, the home run, and five RBIs on Monday. The Tulsa, OK native was a triple short of the cycle. For the season, Wilkins is now hitting .300 with a league-high 29 home runs and a league-high 82 RBIs. He's racked up two IL Player of the Week awards and has continued to power the Knights in the second half of the season.
Every Charlotte batter had at least one hit in the game, while eight of the nine had at least two hits. Michael Taylor chipped in with two hits and three RBIs, while Charlotte newcomer Josh Richmond had three hits in his BB&T Ballpark debut. Richmond was promoted to Charlotte from Double-A Birmingham on Saturday and made his Knights debut on Sunday.
Tuiasosopo added to Charlotte's seven-run seventh inning with 11th home run of the season – a grand slam off Gwinnett reliever Daniel Rodriguez. Tuiasosopo went 2-for-5 with a runs scored, the grand slam, and five RBIs.
Charlotte starter Chien-Ming Wang (12-8, 4.21) was sharp over seven innings on Monday en route to his 12th win of the season. Wang, who began the season with Triple-A Louisville, allowed three runs on nine hits while walking five batters. Wang now leads the International League in games started (26), innings pitched (158.1) and is tied for second in wins (12).
Atlanta Braves pitcher Shae Simmons started the game on a Major League rehab assignment and gave up four runs on two hits without getting an out in the first inning. Simmons (0-1, 36.00), who was saddled with the loss, also walked two batters in the first frame.
The two teams will conclude their two-game series on Tuesday with a 7:05 p.m. game from BB&T Ballpark. LHP Carlos Rodon – the number three overall pick in the 2014 MLB Draft by the White Sox – will get the start for the Knights and make his Triple-A debut. Rodon, a Holly Springs, NC native and a standout at NC State, was promoted from Winston-Salem (A+) just before Saturday's game.
Gates open at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday and the first 2,000 fans through the gates will receive a Jordan Danks Bobblehead, courtesy of Horizon Eye Care. Tuesday's game is also Twitter Tuesday, presented by BB&T. Pre-game radio coverage on Tuesday begins at 6:50 p.m. on ESPN Radio 730 AM, and WRHI (94.3 FM and 1340 AM). Fans can also listen online at www.charlotteknights.com as the "Voice of the Charlotte Knights" Matt Swierad and Knights radio broadcaster Mike Pacheco will have the call for all of the action.