It was an exciting week for the Johnson City Cardinals, filled with Appalachian League action and trades, with victories and defeats alike. The Cards concluded their longest winning streak of the season this week, five games, but they also had it broken, with three consecutive losses. With many ups and downs, the 3-3 week was one to remember for players and fans alike.
Here's how it all went down!
August 2nd: Johnson City Cardinals 4, Bluefield Blue Jays 2
The Cardinals had no problem getting the sweep against the Bluefield Blue Jays on Sunday evening, when they easily defeated the Jays 4-2 at Cardinal Park.
Although the Birds started the game quite sluggish, the ball got rolling in the bottom of the fifth when Eliezer Alvarez scored on a Ryan McCarvel line drive to right field and Chris Chinea’s sacrifice fly to left field sent McCarvel home. The Birds scored single runs in the 6th and 8th innings, and were led in hits by Alvarez, with three. Chris Rivera added two RBI.
Ronnie Williams pitched his best game of the season to date with just one unearned run allowed in six innings on three hits and a walk. Steven De La Cruz earned the save, his fifth.
August 3rd: Johnson City Cardinals 9, Elizabethton Twins 8
In game one in the series against the Elizabethton Twins at Cardinals Park on Monday evening, Cardinals infielder Allen Staton led the way, going 4-for-4 with five RBI to help the Birds defeat the Twins 9-8. The 22-year-old, who is batting .344 on the year, started in the first inning by singling to left field, pushing Luke Doyle home plate for the Cards first run.
The Cardinals had a huge inning in the 6th, scoring five runs, and virtually ending the game right there, or so many would think. However, the Twins answered with five funs of their own in the eighth, all charged to Juan Caballero. Ismael Brito stopped the bleeding, however, and earned the save. Starter Juan Bautista got the win after yielding three runs, two earned, over six innings.
August 4th: Johnson City Cardinals 5, Elizabethton Twins 2
Although scoring for both teams was less than on Monday night, the Cards continued to have big plays from multiple players, and they once again overtook the Twins in game two of the series.
Going into the 5th inning, the score was tied 1-1 after both teams scored a single run in the second, but the Cardinals had a big inning, with four runs scored. Chris Chinea’s homer brought in both Anthony Ray and Magnueris Sierra. Elizabethton scored one more run in the top of the 7th, making the final result 5-2. Sierra, Alvarez, and Bautista had two hits apiece. Staton extended his hit streak to 10 games, while hitting an RBI double.
Starter Ramon Santos got the win, his first of the year, after allowing one run in 5 2/3 innings. De La Cruz got the save, his second of the week and sixth of the year. This win was the Cardinals their fifth straight, their longest winning streak of the season.
August 6th: Johnson City Cardinals 2, Elizabethton Twins 4
After two big wins against the Elizabethton Twins and an off day on Wednesday to relax and reload, the Cardinals were looking to get the sweep against the Twins on Thursday evening, but unfortunately came up short.
The game was scoreless until the top of the sixth when the Twins scored on a line drive to Cardinals right fielder Ricardo Bautista. The Cardinals got on the board in the bottom of the 7th inning, where they scored their first and only runs. The first was on a Staton double to right field and three batters later, Joey Hawkins tied the game on an RBI single.
With the game tied, going into extra innings, the Twins finally put two more runs on the board in the top of the 12th against reliever Harley Holt, ending the series 2-1 with the Birds on top and snapping Johnson City’s five-game winning streak.
Starting pitcher Josh Wirsu (7 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 6 SO) had a phenomenal performance, bouncing back from his last performance vs. the Twins, in which he only lasted 3 1/3 innings.
August 7th: Kingsport Mets 4, Johnson City Cardinals 0
The Cardinals couldn’t seem to get the ball rolling on Friday in game #1 in a series against the Kingsport Mets, on the road at Hunter Wright Stadium, the first time that these two teams have met since the Cards season opener.
JC went into the game with Kingsport having won back-to-back series at home against Bluefield and Elizabethton. The the Birds were 9-4 in their last 13 games, the best record in the league over that stretch.
Kingsport got a quick run on the board against Cards starting pitcher Brennan Leitao, who took the loss after giving up three runs in four innings. The JC newcomer fanned six Mets.
The Cards had only two hits, Sosa and Chinea each with one.
August 8th: Kingsport Mets 9, Johnson City Cardinals 8
The Cardinals once again came up short against the Kingsport Mets on Saturday in the teams’ second series of the season. The Cards got their first two runs on the board in the 4th, when Chris Rivera doubled, sending Staton and Alvarez home.
The game was back and forth through the whole contest, and in the 7th inning, bats came alive. The Cardinals and Mets scored five and four runs, respectively. The ball got rolling for the Birds on a Luke Doyle triple to right field, sending in Anthony Ray scoring the Cards fourth run, tying the game. Edmundo Sosa tripled next, and Sierra singled, adding two more runs. Sierra stole second with Staton swinging, his 7th stolen base of the year. Alvarez homered to right field, scoring the Cards final runs of the game.
Unfortunately the Mets added in four runs that same inning, making the final score 9-8, in their favor. Allowing the final Mets run, Sasha Kuebel took the blown save and the loss, though starter Ryan Helsley gave up four runs in four innings and four more came home during new reliever Frederis Parra’s 2/3 of an inning stint.
Cardinals rookie infielder Allen Staton was the Appy League Hitter of the Week for the period ending July 2nd, and continues on his tear since joining JC. This week, he ended his 11 game hitting streak in a loss to the Kingsport Mets. The 2015 non-drafted free agent has hit in 23 of 25 of his games played, while tallying an RBI in 11 of his last 14. Staton leads all Cardinals with 26 RBI, which is also top ten in the league, and .600 slugging percentage, even though he missed the first two weeks of the Appy League season. He produced the first four-hit game by a Cardinal since Casey Turgeon since 2014, and the first Cardinal grand slam since Chris Rivera in 2014.
Chris Chinea did some big things this week. One of the most memorable standout moments came in the August 4th game against the Elizabethton Twins, where he hit a bomb, allowing both Ray and Sierra to score. It was not only a huge leadership moment for the veteran, but was also monumental because Chinea is the only Appy League batter to homer off of Elizabethton pitcher Andro Cutura. Cutura has only allowed two home runs in 40 IP, both to Chinea. Chinea is batting .327 on the year, ninth in the league.
Second baseman Eliezer Alvarez has been red-hot, batting .417 over his last 10 games with 11 runs scored and 11 RBI. The 21-year-old has raised his season average to .329, eighth in the Appy League.
Outfielder Magneuris Sierra is batting .395 over his last 10 games, raising his season mark to .345, second in the league batting race. However, his extra-base power has been lacking, with 43 of this 50 hits for Johnson City having been singles.
After a disastrous start to the season (15 earned runs in his first three starts totaling eight innings), Ramon Santos is improving. The 20-year-old right-hander’s last four starts have been better, with a total of nine earned runs allowed in 23 innings (3.52 ERA).
Reliever Chandler Hawkins has logged a 2.37 ERA through his first 10 professional outings. The right-hander has 17 strikeouts in 19 innings, but his walk count is high at nine.
Ricardo Bautista continues his struggles, batting just .138 over his last 10 games and .175 on the season. The 19-year-old outfielder has 34 strikeouts in 80 at-bats, for a whopping 42.5 percent strikeout rate.
Anthony Ray is hitting .200 over his last 10 games, which actually raised his season average to .188. The 20-year-old outfielder has just two extra-base hits in 85 at-bats, both doubles.
DeAndre Asbury-Heath is another struggling outfielder, with a .176 mark over his last 10 games dropping his season average to .205. Like Ray, Asbury-Heath has been a singles hitter, with three doubles in 73 at-bats his only extra-base output.
Hunter Newman is in the midst of an 0-for-15 skid that includes five strikeouts. The first baseman’s line on the season is a disappointing .221/.250/.336/.586.
Josh Wirsu had a very good outing this past Thursday, as noted above, but the effort only lowered his season ERA to 7.01 in seven starts.
MLB Top Prospect List
Among MLB.com’s top 30 Cardinals prospects, just announced this week, are three Johnson City players.
Magneuris Sierra is now ranked 5th in the organization. MLB.com notes his plus speed on the bases and in the field and his plate presence. “He has better plate discipline and pitch recognition than most players his age.” The 19 year old is batting .336 on the year.
After a great start to his 2015 Appy League campaign, Edmundo Sosa is #6 on the Top 30 Prospect List. MLB.com had great things to say about the Panama native, including that, “He’s an instinctive defender with good hands.”
RHP Ronnie Williams is going 3.86 ERA in five starts with JC this season, and he is now ranked 14th on the Top Prospects List. The right-hander has developed “some depth to his curveball and some feel for his changeup.”
• P Frederis Parra assigned to Johnson City Cardinals from GCL Cardinals.
• C Ryan McCarvel assigned to GCL Cardinals from Johnson City Cardinals.
The Cardinals finish the week fourth in the Appy League West with a record of 21-22. The Greeneville Astros (23-20) are in first, while the Bristol Pirates round out last place in the West with a record of 20-22. Offensively, the Cardinals are leading the league in BA/ SLG%/ SB/ Hits.
The Cardinals have a big week in store, starting with the last game of the series against Kingsport on Sunday, followed by a series with Bristol at home through Wednesday, including double headers on Monday and Tuesday, due to games that were previously postponed. The week will come to a close with another series at home against the Kingsport Mets beginning on Thursday.
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