JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. - C Julio Rodriguez and DH Luis Bandes slammed home runs in the first inning, but the Blue Jays rallied to score two in the eighth and three in the ninth, as Bluefield snuck by the Johnson City Cardinals, 5-2, in front of 2,457 fans at TVA Credit Union Ballpark on Wednesday night.
With the loss, Johnson City has tied a season-worst with a six-game losing streak and fall back to .500 at 33-33. Bluefield's victory improves their mark to an Appalachian League-best 45-22.
Despite the defeat, the Cardinals remain in the western division playoff hunt thanks to Greeneville's loss to Princeton. In order to make the postseason, the Redbirds need to win on Thursday and the Astros fall again to the Rays.
Johnson City had the early advantage, scoring a pair of runs off the league's Pitcher of the Year LHP Randy Pondler (1.0 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, SO). With two outs, Rodriguez (1-3, R, HR, RBI, BB) golfed the first pitch he saw over the left-field fence for a solo home run. The blast - his fifth of the year - put the Cardinals ahead, 1-0. Two offerings later, Bandes (2-4, R, HR, RBI, 2 SO) whacked a ball to left for a solo homer. The back-to-back jack - his team-leading 10th of the year - made it a 2-0 Johnson City lead.
RHP Zach Prendergast (6.2 IP, 3 H, BB, 9 SO) seemed to be in cruise control from that point forward. The 22-year-old right-hander punched out nine batters over 6.2 scoreless innings.
However, in the eighth, the Blue Jays bounced back to tie the game. 2B Jesus Navarro (0-3, R, BB, SO) walked with one out to start the rally and CF Chavez Young (1-1, R, RBI, BB) followed with a single to right. After a wild pitch moved the runners to second and third, SS Kevin Smith (2-5, 3 RBI, SO) hit a bouncing ball over third and into left. Both runners scored to even the tide at two.
The Jays grabbed the lead for good in the ninth. 3B Brandon Grudzielanek (1-4, R, SO) blooped a single to right to start the frame and moved to second on a walk to C Ryan Gold (0-2, R, 2 BB). Following a double steal and a strikeout, RF Antony Fuentes (0-3, R, BB, SO) drew a free pass to load the bases. After a pop out to right marked the second man retired in the frame, Young stepped up to the dish. On a 3-2 offering, the switch-hitter checked his swing, but it was ruled he did not go around - drawing a walk - forcing home a run to give the Blue Jays the edge, 3-2.
After the bases-loaded pass, Smith singled to left - making it a 4-2 ballgame - and another wild pitch added a third run, stretching the Cardinals deficit to 5-2.
Julio Rodriguez walked with two out in the ninth, but that was all the Redbirds would get, as RHP Ty Tice (1.0 IP, BB, 3 SO) struck out the side to earn his league-leading 12th save.
RHP Connor Law (2.0 IP, BB, 4 SO) earned his first Appy League win, tossing two scoreless innings of relief for the Jays. LHP Jacob Patterson (0.1 IP, H, 2 R, 2 ER, BB, SO) allowed the first two runners to get on in the ninth and suffered his third defeat of the year.
The Redbirds will look to snap the skid in Thursday's regular-season finale. Johnson City has not yet determined a starter, while Bluefield is expected to hand the ball to RHP Alvaro Galindo (3-4, 5.53 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. Thursday evening's contest can be heard on JCCardinals.com or via the TuneIn Radio and MiLB First Pitch apps.
It will be another Coors Light Thirsty Thursday with special $1 small, $2 medium and $3 large draft beer specials all night long. It is also WJHL Night at the ballpark. Fans are encouraged to arrive early, as the first 1,000 patrons through the gates will receive a Yadier Molina Bobblehead courtesy of Xtreme Painting.
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.