The Johnson City Cardinals (10-5) made a busy 5-2 week go by in style, scoring series wins against Kingsport and Princeton while squeezing in a win against Elizabethton mid-week to remain in first place.
Sunday, June 29 at Howard Johnson Field - Completion of game from Saturday - Johnson City 12, Kingsport 6
In a contest carried over from Saturday, infielder Oscar Mercado (4-for-6, 3 RBI, 2-2B, 2 R, 3B) did the damage for the Cardinals all the way around.
Each Cardinal with a hit had a multi-hit day with first baseman Chris Rivera (3-for-5) and outfielder Devante Lacy (2-for-5) each adding two RBI in the win. Catcher Jose Godoy and Casey Grayson went for two and three hits while centerfielder Anthony Ray drove in a run and walked.
Starter Ian McKinney went just three innings before a rain delay and received the no-decision. Juan Perez picked up the action and got the win despite allowing six hits and five runs in three innings.
Monday, June 30 at Howard Johnson Field - Game One: Kingsport 7, Johnson City 4, Game Two: Johnson City 3, Kingsport 2
The Mets made things interesting in game one, scoring the victory in Washington County.
Third baseman Chris Rivera had two hits while first baseman Jesus Ustariz tacked on two RBI.
In game two, Kingsport out-hit Johnson City, six to five, but infielder Casey Grayson drove in two runs in the third off a double and later scored on an error to help the Cards take the series.
Tuesday, July 1 at Howard Johnson Field - Johnson City 7, Elizabethton 4
After three solid appearances from Landon Beck, the Cardinals' rookie finally got into the win column.
Beck (3 IP, 6 K) helped Johnson City get a small bit of separation from the Elizabethon Twins to open the month of July.
Catcher Jose Godoy went 3-for-4 while infielders Casey Grayson and Jesus Ustariz chipped in two hits while shortstop Oscar Mercado added two RBI. Casey Turgeon brought production around the base paths, scoring twice.
Thursday, July 3 at Howard Johnson Field - Princeton 7, Johnson City 1
Johnson City used seven pitchers against Princeton to open their cross-league series but were unable to stymie the visitors. Steven Farinaro (1-2) recorded the loss while Jesus Ustariz drove in the Cardinals' lone run off one of the team's combined six hits on the night.
Friday, July 4 at Howard Johnson Field - Johnson City 7, Princeton 0
Ian McKinney kept things running smooth on the hill in his first year with the Cards. McKinney tossed a two-hitter with 10 strikeouts in the shutout while his offense rang in Independence Day with style.
Casey Grayson (3-for-4, 4 RBI, HR) from his DH spot and first baseman Jesus Ustariz (2-for-4, RBI, HR) each went yard while the team raked in 13 hits. Shortstop Oscar Mercado and outfielder Cole Lankford (RBI) went for two hits each and catcher Jose Godoy added a base knock to drive in an early run.
Saturday, July 5 at Howard Johnson Field - Johnson City 3, Princeton 1
On the Cardinals' fireworks night, they used a dinger from outfielder Blake Drake to steal the show.
Johnson City's right fielder cranked a three-run homer in the third to help Johnson City pull away with the series against their East Division rivals.
Shortstop Oscar Mercado and first baseman Casey Grayson had 2-for-4 outings at the plate.
Juan Perez (3-0) provided some pivotal moments over five innings en route to victory. Perez allowed one run on four hits and rang up three batters. Landon Beck also chipped in three scoreless innings out of the bullpen.
Juan Caballero looked sharp during his Johnson City debut by scoring a save, tossing a flawless ninth inning with one hit and two strikeouts.
Oscar Mercado - The Cardinals' shortstop had a productive week scoring five times, roping across two runs on seven hits. Mercado currently holds a .258 batting average.
Jesus Ustariz - The infielder brought a mean swing to the plate last week with five RBI, a home run and seven hits in five games.
Casey Turgeon - Turgeon had a hit in all five appearances last week and scored four times. Turgeon sports a .366 batting average and a .490 OBP on the year.
Ian McKinney - McKinney has continued to impress in his three starts, including a two-hitter last week, to boast his record to 2-0 with an 0.50 ERA.
Devante Lacy - Lacy saw increased time this week and opened things up early in the week with two RBI on Sunday.
Kevin Carlow - In five games, the Cardinals reliever has hit some snags including a loss last week. Carlow holds a 6.48 ERA on the season, second highest on the ball club.
Carlos Torres - After being hot the previous week, Torres only chipped in just one hit last week in five games.
The Cardinals have been relatively heathy this season with no players currently listed on the DL.
* The Johnson City Cardinals have the second-lowest ERA at 2.91. League rival Elizabethton, their next opponent, boasts the lowest.
* Johnson City has a .290 team batting average and are second in the Appalachian League in RBI with 71.
* Casey Grayson and Jose Godoy have emerged as the leaders at the plate batting .396 and .395, respectively. Godoy is second in league in OBP at .489 and has 12 RBI in 11 games.
* Cole Lankford originally joined the organization as a catcher but has been moved to various positions due to an abundance of catchers and is providing a spark offensively, batting .294 with an OBP of .385.
*Ian McKinney ranks among the top three in the league in pitching with a 0.50 ERA over 18 innings.
Righty Juan Caballero was moved to Johnson City on July 4 from the Gulf Coast League.
Appalachian League Standings
Appy League West
1) Johnson City Cardinals 10-5
2) Elizabethton Twins 10-6
3) Greeneville Astros 7-9
4) Kingsport Mets 7-9
5) Bristol Pirates 3-12
Appy League East
1) Danville Braves 11-5
2) Pulaski Mariners 9-7
3) Burlington Royals 8-8
4) Princeton Rays 8-8
5) Bluefield Blue Jays 6-10
The Week Ahead
The Cardinals try to get some separation in the West this week with a three-day home stand against the Elizabethton Twins starting on Sunday. It will all be on the road for the remainder of the week with three games against Greeneville and then to Burlington on Saturday.
Follow Curtis Carden on Twitter @CurtisCarden_ER.
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