A late push by the Johnson City Cardinals (37-31) have them reaching the playoffs of the rookie Appalachian League. Johnson City ended the regular season by taking series from West Division rivals Kingsport and Greeneville.
Sunday, August 24 at Hunter Wright Stadium - Kingsport 9, Johnson City 1
Christian Muscarello cranked the first home run of his career in the ninth but it proved to be too little, too late for Johnson City. Centerfielder Blake Drake went 2-for-4 at the plate with a double.
Landon Beck (1-1) picked up his first loss after going five innings. Beck allowed three runs, one earned, giving up seven hits and striking out five.
Monday, August 25 at Hunter Wright Stadium - Johnson City 5, Kingsport 3
The Cardinals used two-run innings in the first and fifth to knot up the road series against the Mets.
Outfielder Blake Drake led Johnson City, going 3-for-5, and left fielder Devante Lacy tacked on two hits. First baseman Casey Grayson contributed a two-RBI double. Jesus Ustariz and Carlos Torres also drove in a run each in the victory.
Tuesday, August 26 at Hunter Wright Stadium - Johnson City 3, Kingsport 2
It was slim pickings offensively but Kevin Carlow (3-3) in relief and four Kingsport errors allowed Johnson City to take the rubber match in the series.
Wednesday, August 27 at Howard Johnson Field - Greeneville 7, Johnson City 3
Greeneville made things interesting for the Cardinals in the final series of the regular season.
Third baseman Chris Rivera was the lone Johnson City player to have multiple hits in with two doubles and an RBI in four at-bats. Carlos Torres and Casey Grayson (RBI) had the other hits for the Redbirds.
Starter Julio Mateo absorbed his first loss after going 4 2/3 innings and allowing three earned runs on seven hits.
Thursday, August 28 at Howard Johnson Field - Johnson City 12, Greeneville 10
After 27 hits and 22 runs combined, the Cardinals came out on top, punching their ticket for the postseason with the win.
Shortstop Oscar Mercado led the offensive production with four RBI on two hits. Outfielders Devante Lacy (2-for-4, 3 RBI) and Blake Drake (2-for-4, 2 RBI) brought the boom stick while catcher Jose Godoy and outfielder Carlos Torres both scored.
Jonathan Escudero (5-1) kept busy during s successful week by getting his fifth win through 1 2/3 innings in relief. Starter Juan Perez had a no decision.
Friday, August 29 at Howard Johnson Field - Johnson City 7, Greeneville 2
It was the perfect way to end the regular season, at home with a big win.
Casey Grayson (2-for-3) led the offense, knocking in three runs and adding his fifth home run in the fifth, a solo blast. Jesus Ustariz went perfect at the dish (4-for-4 with a walk).
Steven Farinaro (3-4) went six complete, scattering two runs on two hits with four strikeouts in the win.
Casey Grayson - The Cardinals leader in batting average (.306) had a big week with five key hits. Grayson finished the regular season as the lone Cardinal over .300 in batting average.
Oscar Mercado - The Appalachian League leader in stolen bases (26) added five hits during the week with four RBI.
Jonathan Escudero - Escudero had a successful week on the mound with one win and one save. The reliever is 5-1 on the year with a 2.68 ERA.
Landon Beck - After appearing in 13 games, Beck picked up his first loss of the season last week. Beck is 1-1 on the year with a solid 3.19 ERA.
Anthony Ray - The Cardinals outfielder missed the final week of the regular season. No official announcement was made of the reason.
Catcher Adam Ehrlich moved from Johnson City to Palm Beach on Friday.
Johnson City stockpiled four members of the Gulf Coast League Redbirds, joining the squad on Sunday, August 31.
Final Appalachian League Standings
Appalachian League West
1) Elizabethton Twins 38-30 *
2) Johnson City Cardinals 37-31 *
3) Kingsport Mets 34-34
4) Greeneville Astros 32-34
5) Bristol Pirates 22-46
Appalachian League East
1) Princeton Rays 40-28 *
2) Danville Braves 38-30 *
3) Pulaski Mariners 36-30
4) Bluefield Blue Jays 33-35
5) Burlington Royals 28-40
(* denotes teams that qualified for postseason)
The Week Ahead
In the best of three semi-finals, second-place Johnson City gets the first game at home, on Sunday, followed by road contest(s) at the Elizabethton Twins. For the three-game finals, this winner will take on the survivor of the first-round matchup between the Princeton Rays and Danville Braves.
Follow Curtis Carden on Twitter @CurtisCarden_ER.
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