The Kingsport Mets' longest homestand of the season didn't get off to a very strong start.
The Princeton Rays swept Tuesday's doubleheader from the K-Mets at Hunter Wright Stadium, scoring a 2-0 win in the opener and then jumping on top early en route to a 6-2 decision in the nightcap.
Kingsport (29-22) is trying to make the Appalachian League playoffs for the first time since 1996, and this is a crucial homestand in obtaining that goal. The K-Mets, who are second in the West Division, open the nine-game stretch against Princeton and Bristol, which are both in last place in their respective divisions. With these two losses and Johnson City beating Greeneville, the Cardinals have pulled within 2 ½ games of the K-Mets for second place.
Princeton was the better team on Tuesday, however. In the opener, D.J. Slaton (2-2) carried a shutout into the seventh, and the Rays did all their damage on Kingsport in one inning. Princeton touched Martires Arias (1-6) for two runs on three singles and a stolen base in the fourth. Arias, who went six full frames, retired the side in order in each of his other innings of work.
The K-Mets mustered their best rally in an attempt to score with just one out to go, when Zach Mathieu and Richie Rodriguez strung together consecutive singles. Princeton brought in Isaac Gil to get the final out and he succeeded, striking out Michael Bernal to end the game and log his fourth save.
Princeton jumped on Kingsport from the start of the second game, touching up the K-Mets for four runs on six hits in the first two innings. A double, an error, a wild pitch, and a solo home run by Emmanuel Paulino in the fourth made it a 6-0 ballgame.
The K-Mets never recovered, though Richie Rodriguez did lead off the sixth with a home run to left that broke up a second straight shutout. Kingsport got another run in the seventh when Pedro Perez led off with a double and scored on Adrian Abreu's two-out single.
Jacob Faria (2-3) went six solid innings to win the nightcap for Princeton with his pitch to Rodriguez his only major mistake. Luis Cabrera worked the seventh.
Yoan Gonzalez (3-3) lasted just three innings in starting the nightcap for Princeton. Zachary Dotson followed, making his Kingsport debut and allowing two runs on two hits in his only inning of work.
Rodriguez had two hits in each end of the twin bill for the K-Mets.
It was a good night for Princeton shortstop Spencer Edwards, who had four total hits and went 3-for-4 with two runs scored in the second game. Hunter Lockwood posted a trio of extra-base hits in the nightcap, two triples and a double.
NOTES: Princeton was hitting .209, the second-lowest batting average in the Appy, coming into this twin bill. … Kingsport and Princeton conclude this three-game series on Wednesday. Chris Flexen (6-1, 2.39 ERA) is set to pitch for the K-Mets. … The loss in the opener marked just the third time this season that Kingsport has been shut out. … Tyler Bashlor and Ruben Reyes closed out both ends of the doubleheader for Kingsport, with Bashlor pitching the seventh inning in the opener.