Despite dropping four of seven games this week, the Johnson City Cardinals remain in first place in the Appalachian League’s Western Division. The Cardinals sit just three percentage points ahead of the second-place Greeneville Astros for the division lead. Johnson City will look to get back to its winning ways in the coming days as eight of the team’s next 12 games will be played at home.
Sunday July 17, 2016: Johnson City Cardinals 1 at Pulaski Yankees 5
The Cardinals got on the board early with an unearned run in the top of the second inning but they were unable to hold the lead for long as the Yankees answered with four in the bottom half of the second. After tying the score at one a piece, Pulaski went on to tack on four more runs en route to a 5-1 win. This marked the first series loss for Johnson City in 2016.
Starter Daniel Castano, the 19th round selection by the Cardinals in this June’s draft, was bitten by the long ball as he allowed a pair of Pulaski home runs which accounted for four of the team’s five runs. Prior to this, Castano had not allowed an earned run in 9 2/3 innings to begin his professional career.
Johnson City’s offense was stymied by Pulaski’s pitching staff as it only managed seven baserunners. The Cardinals tallied five hits with two of those coming off the bat of J.R. Davis. It was the sixth multi-hit game for Davis since joining Johnson City after helping lead Oklahoma State to a College World Series berth.
Monday July 18, 2016: Johnson City Cardinals 6 at Pulaski Yankees 2
Yariel Gonzalez and Luis Bandes both launched their first home runs of the season to help stake starter Ian Oxnevad to a 6-0 lead. Oxnevad, along with relievers Anthony Shew and Noel Gonzalez, made those six runs stand up as the Cardinals snapped their three-game losing streak by defeating the Yankees, 6-2.
Bandes was definitely the offensive star, going 3-for-4 with four RBI. The three hits, which were a season-high for Bandes, were a welcome sight for the Cardinals’ outfielder as he went 1-for-12 prior to Monday.
On the mound, Oxnevad picked up his third victory of the season throwing 6 1/3 innings while allowing two runs to go along with nine strikeouts. Oxnevad now has a record of 3-1 with a 2.92 ERA in 31 innings pitched. In those 31 frames pitched, 2015 8th round selection has struck out 31 batters, which is tied for the fourth-most in the Appalachian League.
Tuesday July 19, 2016: Greeneville Astros 3 at Johnson City Cardinals 4
Johnson City trailed Greeneville by a score of 3-2 after starting pitcher Frederis Parra exited the game after six innings. Fortunately for the Cardinals, their bullpen threw three scoreless innings to keep them within striking distance. The stellar work by the bullpen paid off as Johnson City tied the score at three in the seventh before Allen Cordoba came through with a RBI single in the bottom of the ninth to score DeAndre Asbury-Heath to give Johnson City its second straight win, 4-3.
In addition to the performances by Corboba and Asbury-Heath, the Cardinals also received a significant boost from their third and fourth place hitters in Matt Fiedler and Yariel Gonzalez. The duo went a combined 5-for-7 with three doubles and three RBI.
Estarlin Arias picked up his third win of the season to improve his record to 3-0 after throwing a spotless ninth inning. Arias has been one of Cardinals’ best options out of the bullpen this season as he has allowed a run in just one of his seven appearances and has held opponents to a .174 batting average.
Wednesday July 20, 2016: Greeneville Astros 6 at Johnson City Cardinals 7 (13 innings)
A day after walking the Astros off in the ninth inning, the Cardinals treated the home crowd to their second walk-off victory in as many nights this time in 13 innings. The Cardinals loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the 13th when they called on pinch hitter Andrew Knizner. Knizner grounded into what looked like an inning-ending 6-2-3 double play but Greeneville’s first baseman dropped the throw from the catcher and the runner at second base, Bryce Denton, came all the way around from second to score the winning run.
Denton’s outstanding base running in the bottom of the 13th was not the only thing that the youngest member of Johnson City’s team accomplished Wednesday evening. Denton went 4-for-6 at the plate with two runs scored. The four-hit effort was Denton’s first multi-hit game since tallying three hits at Danville on June 30th.
Thursday July 21, 2016: Greeneville Astros 6 at Johnson City Cardinals 1
Following back-to-back walk-off wins, the Cardinals came up flat in Thursday’s series finale against the Astros falling, 6-1. Johnson City was haunted by four throwing errors and ineffective relief pitching in the loss. Starter Austin Sexton was dealt the loss despite allowing just one run on three hits in four innings.
Bryce Denton accounted for the lone run for the Cardinals with a solo home run in the fifth inning. The home run was Denton’s first of the season and the second of his professional career.
Friday July 22, 2016: Johnson City Cardinals 8 at Elizabethton Twins 12
The promotion for Friday’s game in Elizabethton was a fireworks show following the game but the Cardinals and Twins provided some fireworks of their own during the game as a total of 15 runs were scored in the first four innings. The Cardinals held an 8-7 lead at that point, but it would disappear with one swing from Lewin Diaz in the bottom of the sixth as he deposited a Yeison Medina offering over the right field fence for a grand slam, giving the Twins the lead for good as they went on to win, 12-8.
Ramon Santos did not fare well, allowing seven runs (three earned) in his first start of the season. This outing continues a trend for Santos on the road as he holds an ERA of 5.00 in nine innings pitched away from Johnson City. Comparatively, Santos has a 0.96 ERA in 9 1/3 innings at his home ballpark.
Saturday July 23, 2016: Johnson City Cardinals 5 at Elizabethton Twins 6
After combining for 20 runs in Friday’s series opener, the Cardinals and Twins were locked in a pitchers’ duel in game two in the early going between Daniel Castano and Sean Poppen. In the bottom of the fifth inning, the Twins grew a 2-1 lead to 6-1 thanks to a triple, wild pitch on a strikeout, home run and a pair of singles to chase Castano from the game. The Cardinals cut into Elizabethton’s lead, however, scoring three in the sixth and another in the eighth, but their comeback came up just short.
Johnson City’s comeback attempt Saturday all started with the stellar relief outing by Levi MaVorhis. After allowing a single to the first batter he faced, MaVorhis retired nine straight Twins to give Johnson City a chance to get back within striking distance.
Caleb Lopes. Lopes collected seven hits in 16 at-bats in five starts last week. Lopes is the 33rd round selection by the Cardinals last month out of University of West Georgia. Perhaps even more impressive has been the patience that Lopes has shown at the plate as he leads the team with a .474 on-base percentage.
Matt Fiedler. After starting his professional career slowly, Fiedler has begun to show why he was named the Big 10 Player of the Year this past season. Fiedler is hitting .368 with six doubles and four RBI over his past 10 games played. He also currently has a team-best seven-game hitting streak and a 14-game on-base streak.
Jordan Hicks. Hicks continues to be one of Johnson City’s top pitchers in the early stages of the season. The 19-year old right-hander holds a 2.03 ERA in 26 2/3 innings pitched, which is not only the top mark for Johnson City but also ranks fourth in the Appalachian League.
Jonathan Rivera. Rivera has struggled as of late with just three hits in his last 20 at-bats. Despite the lack of base hits, Rivera has drove in his share of runs during the stretch with five RBI.
Daniel Castano. After beginning his professional career with 9 2/3 scoreless innings, Castano has hit his first wall this week. In two starts last week the former Baylor hurler allowed 11 earned runs on 15 hits in 10 innings pitched.
Shane Billings. Billings had a rough go of it last week at the plate hitting .174 in 23 at-bats. Billings, who is batting .241 overall this season, is one of only two players on the team that have over 80 at-bats (83) to date, joining Allen Cordoba (84).
By The Numbers
136 – Through 28 games this season, the Cardinals have scored 136 runs, the same amount that they have allowed.
3.90 – The Cardinals’ pitching staff has been the strength of the team so far this season pitching to a tune of a 3.90 ERA, second in the Appalachian League behind Greeneville (3.77).
.234 – Johnson City has used multiple lineups during the season, but a glaring concern is the lack of offensive production from the No. 3 spot in the batting order. The Cardinals’ No. 3 hitters are hitting just .234 with no home runs.
There were no transactions last week.
There were no injuries last week.
Appalachian League Western Division Standings
The Cardinals will close out their series with Elizabethton Sunday with a 6 p.m. first pitch. Johnson City will then return home for a seven-game home stand with Danville and Kingsport beginning Monday evening.
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