Slow starts and hard losses led the Johnson City Cardinals to a 1-6 week. Along with the 27-35 overall record was the reality that an Appalachian League playoff berth is not to be. Prior to 2015, the Cardinals had missed the playoffs just one time in the past five years.
Here’s how it all went down:
August 23rd: Danville Braves 6, Johnson City Cardinals 4
In the series opener against the Danville Braves at Legion Field in Danville, Virginia on Sunday night, the Cardinals finally got some runs on the board in the top of the fourth inning, after the Braves jumped out to an early lead. The Braves scored one run on the bottom of the second and added in three more in the bottom of the third.
The Cards put two runs on the board when Allen Staton and Eliezer Alvarez scored when Chris Rivera doubled on a fly ball to center field in the top of the fourth. The Birds tacked on one more run in the fourth inning when Chris Rivera, who had a hit and two RBI in the contest, scored when Ricardo Bautista singled on a ground ball to center field.
The Cards came back to tie the game in the top of the 5th inning, 4-4. A Ryan McCarvel single to left field followed a walk to Luke Doyle, who would eventually score on a sacrifice fly from the bat of center fielder Magnerius Sierra.
The Braves scored an additional two runs in the bottom of the eighth inning against Cardinals pitcher Sasha Kuebel, who took the loss. Bautista also had three hits on the night.
August 24th: Danville Braves 4, Johnson City Cardinals 3
It was yet another slow, low scoring game for the Cardinals on Monday night as they faced the Danville Braves for game #2 of the Appy League series in Danville, Virginia.
The Cardinals struck first, in the top of the third inning. Hunter Newman doubled to left field before Anthony Ray singled to right field, giving the Cardinals the lead, 1-0. The Braves answered back in the second inning to make the score 2-1.
Neither team would score again until the top of the 7th when the Braves pitcher threw four wild pitches and the Cards put two more runs on the board to take a 3-2 lead. Ryan McCarvel sent a one out single to left field and eventually advanced to third on two straight wild pitches by Braves pitcher Luis Gamez, the second being a chased strike three by Hunter Newman, who got on base. Bautista, who replaced DeAndre Asbury-Heath in the 6th inning, was the next batter in the lineup for the Birds and reached base on a single, to make the score 3-2 in favor of the Cards.
The Braves got down to business in the 8th inning by scoring two runs to take the lead. In the top of the 9th, the Braves closer struck out two of the Cardinals three batters, ending the game at 4-3. Julio Mateo recorded the loss. Left fielder Ray had two hits.
August 25th: Danville Braves 8, Johnson City Cardinals 4
On Tuesday evening, the Cards lost game #3, 8-4, giving the Danville Braves the sweep. The Braves started hot, recording five first-inning runs on three hits to take an early 3-0 lead before adding another quick run in the bottom of the second. The Braves would add another three spot in the bottom of the fourth inning before the Cardinals would even get on the board.
In the fifth, Allen Staton and Hunter Newman scored. Joey Hawkins reached on a fielding error by Braves shortstop Yeudi Grullon, pushing Newman and Hawkins across home plate and McCarvel to second after pinch running for Rivera, who was hit by a pitch one batter before.
The Cardinal again scored two runs in the top of the 6th inning when Sierra and Chinea scored off plays by Allen Staton who singled on a ground ball and Hunter Newman, who hit a sacrifice fly ball to right field, but it wasn’t enough.
August 26th: Johnson City Cardinals 4, Elizabethton Twins 2
The Cardinals faced the Twins of Elizabethton at Cardinals Park on Wednesday for a mid-week single game between the two Appy League rivals. The Cards got going early, scoring two quick runs in the bottom of the first. The first run came on an Allen Staton line drive homer over the left field wall which pushed Luke Doyle, who walked two batters before, across home plate.
The Twins answered right back in the top of the second by scoring two runs of their own, but after losing an important Appalachian League series on Tuesday, the Cards kept the momentum alive just enough to score two more runs in the bottom of the sixth inning, and keep the Twins scoreless for the remainder of the game. The first run of the 6th came on yet another Staton two-run home run, his 9th homer of the year, and second time hitting two homers in a single game.
Chandler Hawkins recorded the win, his third of the year, and Andersen Gerdel earned his first save.
August 27th: Princeton Rays 7 at Johnson City Cardinals 4
The Cardinals opened up a three game home series on Thursday against the Princeton Rays at Cardinal Park, but the outcome was not positive for Johnson City, and they lost to Princeton, 7-4.
Princeton’s bats came out hot in the first inning, scoring five runs against Cardinals starting pitcher Jonathan Escudero. The Cardinals got one run on the board in the bottom of the second on a wild pitch by Royals pitcher Blake Bivens with Magneuris Sierra batting, and Chris Rivera scored.
The Cardinals added two more runs in the bottom of the fifth. The first run came on Joey Hawkins’ sacrifice fly to right field as DeAndre Asbury-Heath scored. Allen Staton then grounded out to short, leaving room for Sierra to cross home plate. The Birds added one more run on the board in the sixth when Eliezer Alvarez made a huge play and tripled to right field. With Hunter Newman batting, Royals pitcher Deivy Mendez threw a wild pitch, and Alvarez scored.
The Royals added two more runs in the top of the 8th, and the Cardinals could not answer back, making the final score 7-4. Sierra and Alvarez each had two hits. Ronnie Williams took the loss, his second of the season.
August 28th: Princeton Rays 7 at Johnson City Cardinals 2
JC got on the board quickly in the bottom of the first, when Alvarez singled on a ground ball to center field and Ryan McCarvel, who tripled to center the play before, scored.
The Royals scored two runs in the second inning and then three more in the fourth, making the score 5-1. The Cardinals added one run in the bottom of the fourth inning when McCarvel homered on a fly ball to left center field, his fourth homer of the year. That was the final run the Cardinals would put on the board for the night.
The 7-2 loss mathematically eliminated the Birds from the playoffs. Juan Bautista was hit with his second loss of the season, but pitched a gutsy effort after giving up back-to-back dingers. He held Rays in scoring position to end the fourth and fifth innings. McCarvel had three hits, and Alvarez added two hits and an RBI.
August 29th: Princeton Rays 11 at Johnson City Cardinals 7
The Princeton Rays got game #3 going very quickly on Friday night by scoring five runs in the top of the first inning. The Cardinals could only answer back in the bottom of the inning with a single Ryan McCarvel score, when Alvarez singled on a ground ball to center field.
The Birds put one more run on the board in the second when Anthony Ray scored after a Luke Doyle ground out to second base. The Royals put one run up in both the third and sixth innings while the Birds went scoreless until the 8th when their bats really came alive.
The Cards had their biggest and most productive inning of the game in the bottom of the eighth, where they scored four runs. It started when Chris Chinea homered on a fly ball to right field, also sending McCarvel across the plate, making the score 7-5. The Cards recorded one more run in the inning when Ricardo Bautista singled on a line drive to right field, and Hunter Newman scored.
Princeton added four runs in the top of the 9th inning, and the Birds’ mere one additional run in the bottom inning was not enough, giving Princeton the series sweep. Chinea recorded three hits and three RBI. Ramon Santos took his fifth loss on the year.
Eliezer Alvarez – The infielder was placed on the All-Star Team and for good reason. Alvarez has consistently performed and produced for the Birds this season, and in his last ten games, that did not change (.303, 10 H, 4 RBI).
Edmundo Sosa - Sosa is another Cardinals All-Star. His last 20 games are a great illustration of his individual success (.350, 14 H, 5 RBI), although the team results have not been ideal.
Ricardo Bautista - Bautista has struggled a lot this season at the dish. However, going into the series at Burlington, he made a few changes and his approach and mechanics at the plate were drastically different. He has begun to focus more on the middle of the plate, and the change has seemed to work over the last 10 games (.306, 11 H, 5 RBI).
Hunter Newman - Newman’s bat has come alive in the second half of the season, but especially in August and in his last 10 games (.303, 10 H, 3 RBI).
Ronnie Williams - The 19-year-old (3-2, 3.88 ERA) has been outstanding this season, though his August has been up and down. He has a 3.91 ERA including three home runs allowed in 23 innings this month, while holding opponents to a collective .198 batting average. He has not tallied a win in four starts, since the beginning of August against Bluefield.
Magneuris Sierra - Sierra is the final Cardinals All-Star. In his last 10 games, Sierra has been cold, batting .216 with 8 H, 7 RBI in his 37 at-bats.
DeAndre Asbury-Heath - Asbury-Heath has struggled in his last 10 games (.194, 6 H, 1 RBI), lowering his season average to .230.
Chris Rivera - In his last ten games, the catcher has struggled (.188, 6 H, 3 RBI), dropping his season mark to just .228.
• IF Allen Staton assigned to Palm Beach Cardinals from Johnson City Cardinals
• LHR Sasha Kuebel assigned to Peoria Chiefs from Johnson City Cardinals
The Cardinals begin and end the week with a three-game Appalachian League home series against the Pulaski Yankees starting Sunday. Tuesday evening will mark the conclusion of the 2015 season for the Cardinals, as they did not receive a playoff bid for only the second time in the last six years.
The defending league champion Cardinals will need to make up 1 1/2 games on the Bristol Pirates during the final series to avoid a last-place finish.
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