Who saw this coming?
A day after watching a high-octane, intimidating Memphis Redbirds lineup pound out 18 runs on 18 hits (including five home runs), recently promoted starter Johan Dominguez showed no fear — and a lot of skill — on the way to a 3-2 Knights’ win.
Dominguez battled for 4⅔ innings tonight, giving up four hits, one earned run and two walks while striking out nine. He features a 94-mph fastball, change-up and curve — and he had command of all three pitches tonight.
“He grabbed the ball and went right after this team,” manager Wes Helms said. “He did an amazing job for us. He kept them out of their approaches and didn’t let them dig in, and they didn’t look comfortable off of him tonight.”
Dominguez, a 6’4, 190-pound righty, was acquired in an August 2018 trade with the Brewers for reliever Xavier Cedeno. He split time in 2021 between Winston-Salem and Birmingham, with so-so results, and also got hit hard in two late-season starts in Charlotte.
However, in his only appearance this season before tonight, Dominguez threw five innings of three-hit shutout ball five days ago in a start for Birmingham. He received the call to Charlotte in place of Jimmy Lambert, who started for the White Sox in the series finale against Seattle earlier in the day. Lambert is remaining in Chicago for the time being, so Dominguez has more starts coming his way if this is a sign of things to come.
After Dominguez, Helms turned to Zach Muckenhirn, Tyler Johnson, Hunter Schryver and Andrew Perez, who combined for the final 4⅓ innings, surrendering just one hit (a solo homer) and one walk while fanning six Redbirds.
Muckenhirn and Schryver have been solid in their handful of appearances so far this year, but tonight represented nice bounce-back performances for Johnson and Perez, who’ve struggled out of the gate.
Helms said he and pitching coach Matt Zaleski met with the pitching staff today to talk about yesterday’s meltdown.
“Pitchers left some balls over the middle of the plate and got hit really hard last night,” Helms said. “We told the pitchers to relax and trust your stuff, don’t try to do too much even though you are in a bandbox of a ballpark. And tonight the pitchers stepped up.”
A night after they scored 14 runs themselves, the Knights’ hitters were held to just five hits. But two of those were clutch, two-out hits by Ryder Jones and Romy Gonzalez, and it was just enough for the win.
“Ryder had a great at bat, lefty-lefty, and shot one the other way when they were in the shift,” Helms said. “And then Romy, that’s the guy you want up there at the plate. Remillard did a great job getting to second base for him and that’s the guy Romy is. You want him in those situations with runners in scoring position and the game on the line.”