JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. - The Johnson City Cardinals won their fourth series of the season by getting a 3-1 victory over the Princeton Rays in the deciding game at Cardinal Park on Saturday night.
Johnson City (10-5) got on the first in the matchup, which normally means good things for the Cards as they are 8-0 when scoring first. In their first trip to the plate, Oscar Mercado dropped the first of the game into left field. Blake Drake followed with another single, then Casey Grayson got the third straight single in the inning for the Cardinals and scored Oscar Mercado to give Johnson City an early 1-0 advantage.
In the third frame the Cardinals used a strong swing from Drake to tack on two more runs to their lead. Mercado once again singled with one out, and then stole second base to get into scoring position. Drake then came to the plate and drove a 3-0 fastball out of the ballpark over the left field fence to give the Cardinals a 3-0 lead. It was the sixth home run of the year for Johnson City and the first for Drake.
Princeton (8-8) tried to rally in the fifth but came up short after putting only one run on the board. Patrick Grady singled up the middle to lead off the inning. Taylor Hawkins then drew a walk to put runners on first and second. With the tying run at the plate, Mercado made a fantastic diving catch to retire Enmanuel Paulino for the first out. Thomas Milone then reached on a fielder's choice to move Grady to third, while Hawkins was retired at second. With Riley Unroe at the plate, a wild pitch from Juan Perez allowed Grady to score to make it 3-1. Unroe then finished the at-bat by hitting a line drive to Carlos Torres in center field that was caught.
Juan Perez earned the victory for Johnson City to improve to 2-0. Perez went five innings allowing one run on four hits with three strikeouts. Juan Caballero made his Johnson City debut tonight allowing just one hit with two strikeouts in one inning of work to pick up his first save. Trevor Lubking (0-2) took the loss for the Rays after allowing three runs in four innings while just fanning one Johnson City batter.
Johnson City will now start a three-game series with Elizabethton on Sunday at 4 p.m. to finish out their 10-game homestand. The Cardinals are 5-2 through seven games of the 10 at Cardinal Park. Matt Pearce is scheduled as the Sunday starter for Johnson City.