JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. - The Johnson City Cardinals dropped a 7-3 decision to the Greeneville Astros on Wednesday night at Cardinal Park. After the loss, the Cardinals still hold a two-game advantage over Kingsport for the final playoff spot in the West Division.
Greeneville (32-32) got on the board first Wednesday night as they won their sixth game against Johnson City this year in just seven total meetings. The Astros came alive in the third inning after two scoreless frames to start the game. Randy Cesar singled to lead off the inning in his first at-bat as a Greeneville Astro then he moved to second on a balk by Julio Mateo. After the balk, Alexander Melendez changed his approach and put a sacrifice bunt down in front of the plate, but a fielding error by Jose Godoy allowed Melendez to reach and Cesar took third. Jeffry Santos then grounded out to the pitcher to pick up the first RBI of the night. With two outs, Bryan Muniz was able to collect the second RBI as he singled to right field to make it 2-0 as Melendez scored.
In the home half, Johnson City (35-31) answered. Chris Rivera doubled off the wall in left field to start the frame. After Devante Lacy was retired, Carlos Torres delivered an RBI-single to center field to make it a 2-1 game.
In the fourth, the Astros were able to strike for two more runs. Both runs, however, came on back-to-back home runs off of Mateo. Hector Roa struck for the first home run by hitting a two-out bomb over the left-center field fence. Cesar then followed with a line drive home run down the left-field line. After the two long balls, the Astros extended their lead to 4-1.
In the fifth, Greeneville added their third straight two-run inning. Cesar Carrasco reached on a fielder's choice, as the Cards elected to get the lead runner going home for the second out. After Carrasco was aboard, Jocob Nottingham joined the home run club by hitting his fifth of the year, a two-run shot over the left-center field wall. It was the Astros' third home run of the night and it made the score 6-1.
Johnson City added a run in the sixth to make it 6-2. The Cards did their damage with two outs in the inning. Jesus Ustariz singled to center field to get on the base path. Jose Godoy drew a walk to put two runners on for the Cardinals. Rivera then hit his second double of the night to score Ustariz from second.
The Redbirds tried to threaten the Astros again in the seventh. A one-out double by Casey Turgeon followed by a single from Oscar Mercado and walk by Blake Drake loaded the bases. Casey Grayson then pushed Turgeon home with a single to make it 6-3. The RBI by Grayson was his 42nd on the year. With the tying run on first, Gerardo Juarez went to the mound for the Astros and sat down Ustariz and Godoy to end the inning.
Greeneville added their finally tally in the ninth with two singles and a double to make it 7-3. Bryan Muniz collected the first hit, while Carrasco moved him to third with a double before Roa collected the RBI on a single to left field.
Julio Mateo took the loss for Johnson City to fall to 1-1, while Agapito Barrios improved to 5-0 for Greeneville by collecting the victory.
The two teams return to Cardinal Park on Thursday night at 7 p.m. for game two of the three-game set as Johnson City looks to punch their ticket to the Appalachian League playoffs.