Charlie Haeger is best known as one of baseball's few knuckleball specialists.
But the Charlotte Knights right-hander has added an improved fastball to his repertoire, which he used to his advantage during a deceptively easy-looking 9-1 victory against the Rochester Red Wings Sunday at Knights Stadium.
Haeger (7-7) scattered seven hits and pitched a seven-inning, rain-shortened complete game to tie Heath Phillips for the all-time lead in victories (27) by a Knights pitcher. Previously this season, he'd become the Knights' all-time leader in starts (64) and strikeouts (332).
"His knuckleball was good today, but he was able to get the fastball over the plate, too," Charlotte manager Marc Bombard said. "When you're struggling sometimes you need another pitch, and that turned out to be the key to the game."
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Danny Richar staked the Knights to an early lead with a long, three-run home run in the first inning, one of three homers for Charlotte (41-50). But the game turned on Haeger's escape from a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the fifth, with Charlotte ahead 3-1.
Jeff Christy reached on an error by shortstop Chris Getz, Jason Pridie singled and Trevor Pouffe walked for Rochester. But Haeger struck out Darnell McDonald, Garrett Jones and Randy Ruiz to end the threat.
David Cook hit a two-run homer and Paul Phillips added a solo shot, his first homer of the season, in the fifth to stake Charlotte to an 8-1 lead.
"We had some good at-bats tonight, but nothing was easy under the conditions," said Bombard, whose team has scored 20 runs during the past two games.
The start was delayed 55 minutes by the bad weather, and again for 31 minutes after the seventh inning, before umpires called the game. By that time, the announced crowd of 2,107 had dwindled to a couple of dozen hardy fans.
In the third game of his rehab stint with the Knights, Chicago White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko was 1-for-2 with a double, a walk and a sacrifice fly.
• Keith Cannon covers the Knights for the Charlotte Observer.