The Johnson City Cardinals continued their stellar start to the season, posting a 5-2 record in last week’s action. Johnson City’s pitching staff was a major reason why, as it posted a combined ERA of 2.79. The Cardinals are 7-3 this season overall, which is not only tied for the best record in the Appalachian League with the Burlington Royals but it is also good for first place in the Appalachian League’s Western Division.
Sunday June 26: Elizabethton Twins 13 vs. Johnson City Cardinals 12
Johnson City’s home opener was eventful to say the least as the Cardinals and Twins combined to score 25 runs and pound out 27 hits in a three hour-thirty-one minute marathon contest. The difference in the game proved to be five errors by Johnson City, which led to six unearned runs for the Twins.
No Johnson City pitcher was hurt more by the fielding miscues than starter Jordan Hicks, as four of the six runs Hicks allowed when on the mound were unearned. Despite the errors, Johnson City held the lead until a three-run top of the eighth by Elizabethton put them ahead for good.
The Cardinals’ offense did pound out a season-high 12 runs in the loss as four players posted multi-hit performances. Leading the way was Andrew Knizner’s 3-for-5 outing with a triple and three RBI. It was the catcher’s second three-hit performance in the season’s first four games.
Tuesday June 28 (Game 1): Elizabethton Twins 0 vs. Johnson City Cardinals 2
After rain washed out play on Monday, the two teams played a pair of seven-inning games Tuesday evening. In the opener, the Cardinals’ pitching staff put together their first shutout of the 2016 season, a 2-0 victory over the Twins.
Daniel Castano tossed three shutout innings in his professional debut, while Ramon Santos took the ball the rest of the way to notch his first win of the season.
Offensively, the Cardinals did not muster much but they made the most of their limited opportunities. Johnson City got on the board thanks to doubles by DeAndre Asbury-Heath and Allen Cordoba in the third and took advantage of three walks and a hit batter to plate its second run in the fourth.
Tuesday June 28 (Game 2): Elizabethton Twins 1 vs. Johnson City Cardinals 3
Much like the first game of the twin bill, the Cardinals’ pitching staff stepped up in a big way in game two. Starting pitcher Ian Oxnevad was on his game, allowing just one run on five hits over six innings and reliever Yeison Medina pitched a scoreless seventh inning to help the Cardinals win the doubleheader over the Twins.
Catcher Joshua Lopez was a major cog in two of the three innings that the Cardinals scored in game two. Lopez notched RBI singles in the first and third innings. In both instances, Lopez drove in Yariel Gonzalez, who went 2-for-4.
Wednesday June 29: Johnson City Cardinals 5 at Danville Braves 3
Lefty David Oca became the first Johnson City starter to pitch into the seventh inning this season and the Cardinals withstood a late surge by the Braves to win game one of their second road series of the season Wednesday, 5-3.
Oca and the rest of Cardinals’ pitchers did an outstanding job in damage control as Danville left 12 runners on base and hit just 3-for-11 with runners in scoring position. Estarlin Arias, who picked up the save, notched perhaps the most critical out in the contest. The Braves had the tying run at the plate in the bottom of the ninth but Arias got a key groundout to preserve the win.
Allen Cordoba was the spark for Johnson City’s offense, reaching base in four of his five plate appearances, including a season-high three hits. Cordoba also scored two of the team’s five runs.
Thursday June 30: Johnson City Cardinals 0 at Danville Braves 3
In game two of the series at Danville, the Cardinals were shut out for the first time in 2016 as the Braves took home the victory, 3-0. Bryce Denton led Johnson City offensively, notching two of the team’s four hits, including a double. It marked Denton’ second multi-hit game this season.
Despite the loss, Johnson City received stellar pitching for the fourth game in a row. Frederis Parra was saddled with the loss despite throwing 5 1/3 innings, while allowing three runs (two earned). Relievers Levi MaVorhis and Noel Gonzalez closed out the game with 2 2/3 innings of hitless relief.
Friday July 1: Johnson City Cardinals 1 at Danville Braves 0
Jordan Hicks, Ross Vance and Leland Tilley combined to pick up Johnson City’s second shutout of the 2016 season. The trio allowed just six hits, three walks and struck out 13 batters to clinch the series win over the Braves.
The Cardinals generated all the offense they would need in the top of the first inning. A pair of singles, a hit batter and a wild pitch that scored leadoff hitter Carlos Torres was the lone run scored in the game. In addition to scoring the eventual winning run, Torres also posted his season-best 2-for-4 day at the plate. DeAndre Asbury-Heath also tallied a pair of base hits in three at-bats.
Saturday July 2: Princeton Rays 10 vs. Johnson City Cardinals 11
After allowing seven runs in its previous five games, Johnson City was thrust back into a slugfest in its return home for the series opener against Princeton. The Cardinals held a 7-5 lead heading into the ninth inning, before Princeton rallied to score five runs. That forced the Cardinals to mount a rally of their own. They did just that. Johnson City used three singles, a bases loaded walk and a RBI groundout to make the score 10-9. Following an RBI groundout by pinch hitter Andrew Knizner, Caleb Lopes hit a ground ball to the Rays’ shortstop. The grounder went through the shortstop’s legs as both the tying and winning runs came in to give Johnson City its seventh win of the season.
Yariel Gonzalez was Johnson City’s top offensive player in Saturday’s game going 3-for-4 with three runs scored. Yeison Medina picked up his second win of the season despite blowing the save in the top of the ninth inning. However, Ramon Santos posted the best pitching performance Saturday tossing 3 1/3 scoreless innings to go along with six strikeouts.
Allen Cordoba. After struggling in the first three games of the season, Cordoba has picked up his work at the plate, hitting .429 with a team-best nine hits in last week’s action. Cordoba has also shown some power potential as of late with a pair of doubles and a triple.
Andrew Knizner. The seventh round selection out of NC State in this June’s draft continues to be one of the top hitters for Johnson City through the first part of the season. Knizner hit .294 and drove in a team-high five runs in six games last week.
Ramon Santos. Santos has been one of the most valuable pitchers for the Cardinals through 10 games this season. Santos made his season debut with four scoreless innings Tuesday against Elizabethton and followed that up with 3 1/3 shutout frames in Saturday’s win over Princeton. In addition to keeping the other team off the scoreboard, Santos has averaged roughly a strikeout per inning (7 strikeouts/7 1/3 innings pitched) and has kept the other team off the base paths with a WHIP of 0.82.
Austin Sexton. Sexton ran into trouble early and often in his start against Princeton on Saturday. Sexton, who was making his second professional start, allowed five runs on seven hits in just 3 2/3 innings of work. Despite the rough start Saturday, Sexton’s numbers are still solid with a 4.05 ERA and six strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings.
Luis Bandes. Bandes' batting average slipped a bit over this past week, as he hit .176 in 17 at bats. Despite the slumping batting average, Bandes has found a way to chip in offensively scoring four runs, and driving in three more.
Yeison Medina. Medina posted a 1-0 record and recorded a save last week but struggled in allowing baserunners. Medina surrendered a .417 opponent’s batting average and holds the highest WHIP on the Cardinals’ pitching staff at 2.18.
By The Numbers
4.59 – Johnson City’s pitching staff struggled through the first four games of the season with a team ERA of 6.43. Following those games, however, the Cardinals have pitched far better posting a 1.84 ERA in the next six contests, which is an improvement of 4.59.
.526 – Catcher Joshua Lopez has been a major contributor in Johnson City’s seven wins this season. Lopez is batting .526 with one home run and nine RBI in those seven games. Lopez’s nine RBI currently is the fifth-most in the Appalachian League.
.400 – Although he is batting .115 overall, Matt Fiedler has put forth his best efforts when playing on his home field, hitting .400 and showing some plate discipline with three walks.
Second baseman Andrew Brodbeck was returned Saturday to Single-A Palm Beach after hitting .273 with one home run and two RBI in six games. Brodbeck, who was the ninth round selection by the Cardinals in 2015, played for Palm Beach earlier this season appearing in 12 games and hitting .237.
There were no injuries last week.
Appalachian League Western Division Standings
The Cardinals will continue their series with Princeton with a 6 p.m. contest Sunday before wrapping up the three-game set with a Fourth of July matinee at 2 p.m. Following the two games against the Rays, Johnson City will conclude its four-game home stand Tuesday with a 7 p.m. tilt against Elizabethton. The Cards will head to Kingsport for a three-game set with the Mets Wednesday through Friday before closing out the week at home against Bluefield.
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