PRINCETON, W.V. - Johnson City held a 7-1 lead after six-and-a-half innings, but Princeton rallied to score the final seven runs of the game, walking-off the Cardinals in the bottom of the ninth, as the Rays completed the sweep with an 8-7 win on Monday night at Hunnicutt Field.
With the loss, Johnson City has dropped four straight and fall to 33-31 on the season. Princeton's victory improves their overall mark to 28-36.
The Redbirds' defeat - coupled with Greeneville's win over Elizabethton - puts them in a tie with the Astros for the final playoff spot in the Appalachian League western division. Since Greeneville holds the tie-breaker, Johnson City no longer controls their own destiny for a playoff bid.
Ahead 7-6 going into the bottom of the ninth, 3B Justin Bridgman (1-3, 2 R, BB) drew a walk to start the inning. After stealing second base - and with two outs - CF Michael Smith (1-5, R, RBI) dunked a base-hit into left field, scoring the runner to tie the game at seven. The next man - SS Zach Rutherford (2-5, R, RBI, SO) - slapped a single into left to score Smith and give the Rays a walk-off win, 8-7.
The Redbirds held a 7-1 advantage going to the bottom of the seventh, but Princeton scratched across two in that inning and three more in the eighth to pull within a run.
With one out in the seventh, 2B Trey Hair (2-4, R) singled and scored on a double by RF Moises Gomez (1-4, R, 2B, RBI) to cut the Rays' deficit to five, 7-2. On a ground out by Bridgman, Gomez advanced to third and was awarded home on defensive obstruction to make it 7-3.
Princeton rallied in the eighth with two outs. Three straight singles from Rutherford, C Ronaldo Hernandez (1-4, R) and DH Devin Davis (1-4, R, RBI, SO) brought home a tally, trimming Johnson City's advantage to 7-4. Two more runs would score on an error to slice the Cardinals' lead down to one, 7-6.
Johnson City struck first with a two-run third inning. LF Walker Robbins (1-4, R, SO) started the frame with a single and advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt and a ground out. After a walk to 3B Brady Whalen (1-4, R, BB, SO), a passed ball allowed the 19-year-old to score, giving Johnson City a 1-0 edge. With a man at second, C Julio Rodriguez (1-5, R, RBI) banged a liner to right that was dropped, allowing Whalen to cross home and put the Redbirds ahead, 2-0.
After Princeton scored a run in the bottom of the inning on a RBI triple by 1B Billy King (1-4, 3B, RBI), Johnson City grabbed the lead with a five-run fifth.
2B Irving Lopez (0-4, R, BB, SO) walked and Whalen singled to start the attack, putting runners at first and third. A fielder's choice by Rodriguez brought home the Mesa, Ariz. resident, stretching the Johnson City advantage to 3-1. Then, the long ball came into play. 1B Luis Bandes (1-3, R, HR, 2 RBI, BB) cracked a towering two-run blast to left - his ninth homer of the year - to give the Cardinals a 5-1 lead. Following a free pass to SS Imeldo Diaz (0-2, R, 2 BB, SO), DH Stanley Espinal (1-3, R, HR, 2 RBI, BB, SO) wallopped a two-run dinger to left - his second of the season - giving the Cards a six-run cushion, 7-1.
The late-inning loss spoiled another strong performance by RHP Evan Guillory (6.2 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 2 SO). The Jennings, La. native allowed just three runs (two earned) over 6.2 innings for a no-decision. The Rays' starter - RHP Dylan Thompson (2.2 IP, H, 2 R, 4 BB, SO) - did not factor into the decision either.
RHP Kyle Goodbrand (3.0 IP, H, 3 SO) ended up earning his league-leading seventh win of the season with three shutout innings of relief for Princeton. LHP Jacob Patterson (0.0 IP, 2 H, R, ER) surrendered the game-winning run and suffered his second defeat of the campaign.
The Redbirds will look get back in the win column on Tuesday, as they return home to open up the final homestand of the season against the Bluefield Blue Jays, the rookie affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays. RHP Alvaro Seijas (4-2, 4.87 ERA) is slated to take the hill for the Cards in the lid-lifter. Bluefield is expected to hand the ball to LHP Jordan Barrett (2-2, 3.26 ERA).
The Cardinals Pre-Game Show will kick off the broadcast at 6:45 p.m. ET, leading up to the 7:00 p.m. ET start at TVA Credit Union Ballpark. Tuesday evening's contest can be heard on JCCardinals.com or via the TuneIn Radio and MiLB First Pitch apps.
It will be the final Tennessee Pride Tuesday of the season presented by Citi. All barbecue sandwiches, Dr. Enuf, and local brewed 16 oz. craft beers will be sold for just two dollars all night long.
Single-game tickets are still available and can be purchased online at JCCardinals.com or by calling the Cardinals' Ticket Office at (423) 461-4866.
ABOUT THE JOHNSON CITY CARDINALS
The Johnson City Cardinals are the Rookie affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals. Members of the ten-team Appalachian League, Cardinals baseball has been entertaining families and fans of America's national pastime in the East Tennessee region for 80 years. To learn more about the Johnson City Cardinals, visit www.jccardinals.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.