The Johnson City Cardinals moved to an impressive 6-1 overall record in one-run games this season after recording all three of their victories this week by a single run. The Cardinals are four games behind the Elizabethton Twins (15-4). The Twins and Cardinals will face-off in Elizabethton six more times in their next 18 games. Those games may go a long way in determining whether or not Johnson City is ready to challenge the Twins for the Western Division lead.
Johnson City has hit twenty home runs in nineteen games; good for second in the league. The offense is no better than third in the ten-team league in all other categories. The pitchers continue to lead the league in shutouts (3) and walks (48). They have issued the fewest walks despite adding twenty to their season total in the last seven games. They also lead the league in holds (8).
I was able to attend five of the seven games this week in person and those observations provide the basis for this report. I attended the last two games of the home series against the Bristol White Sox and all three of the games at home against the Greeneville Astros and their 2009 first-round pick, high school SS Jiovanni Mier.
There were no changes in the roster this week and the number of players continues to hold at 32 (max of 35). That may be the first time I have been able to put that in a weekly report in the last two years.
Infielder Romulo Ruiz continues to nurse a leg injury that may keep him out for a few more games. Ruiz last played on July 3 but is expected to return next week. Ruiz started out hot in his first two games (3-for-9, 3 HR, 7 RBI) but then faded to a .120 season average. Ruiz was hitless in his last 16 at bats (including 9 strikeouts) before his injury.
The Week in Review
Johnson City lost two of three games at home against the Bristol White Sox, including being shutout for the first time this year in the middle game of the series.
Greeneville then came to Johnson City and dealt the Cardinals a hard loss in the first game of the series. The Cardinals took a 6-3 lead into the ninth inning only to see the Astros send nine hitters to the plate. They scored five runs against closer Dave Kington and reliever Jason Novak to go on to lose the game by a score of 8-6.
After an off-day due to a rain out, the Cardinals bounced back with a double header sweep of the Astros that was probably as enjoyable as the previous loss was frustrating.
The big blow in the first game was a pinch-hit, first-pitch, two-run home run from Audry Perez. The 380 foot drive over the scoreboard in left field came with two-outs in the bottom of the sixth of a seven inning game with the score tied 5-5. The Cardinals went on to win the game 7-6. Rich Racobaldo hit his first professional home run earlier in the game to celebrate his 24th birthday.
The big blow in the second game came with nobody out in a 2-2 game in the bottom of the seventh inning. Edgar Lara came to the plate and drove a 1-2 pitch over the right field wall for an exciting one-run victory.
The last game of the week was a 10-1 pounding in Elizabethton at the hands of the league-leading Twins. Anthony Ferrara gave up five runs in the bottom of the first inning to put the game out of reach early. Luis Mateo and Robert Stock each recorded two of the Cardinals six hits in the game.
Tandem Starting Pitchers
As a reminder, listed below are
the pairings for Johnson City. The
five primary starters (labeled "A") are still being limited to about 65 pitches
and the secondary starters are being limited to about 50 pitches. The five "A" pitchers all spent time in
the Cardinals organization last year and were competing for long season roster
spots during the Cardinals spring training. The five "B" pitchers were drafted
during the June 2009 First-Year Player Draft. The actual starter of the game rotates
every five days.
Tandem Starting Pitchers (10):
RHP Reynier Gonzalez (1A) and RHP Andy Moss (1B)
LHP Anthony Ferrara (4A) and RHP Michael Thompson (4B)
Who's Hot (Hitters)
3B Rich Racobaldo continues to lead the team in batting average (.393 AVG) and on-base percentage (.449 OBP). After noting that he needed to add some power to his numbers in my report last week, "Rock" responded by hitting two doubles and a home run this week to raise his slugging percentage to .525. After going 0-for-4 with no RBIs in his first game, Racobaldo has at least one hit or one RBI in each of his last 16 games. The now 24-year-old is sixth in the league in AVG and seventh in OBP.
RF Edgar Lara is third in the league in doubles (8), tied for sixth in home runs (4), and is sixth in slugging (.638). Lara continued to impress defensively also by adding his third and fourth outfield assists (15 games) and making at least one good catch on the berm in right field. One of his outfield assists was when he lost sight of a high pop-up but was able to record a force-out at second.
1B Matt Adams is leading the team in on-base plus slugging percentage (1.007 OPS), runs batted in (13 RBI), and home runs (4 HR). Perhaps more impressively, the left-handed hitter only has nine strikeouts in 56 at-bats (AB). Adams is tenth in the league in AVG (.375), is tied for sixth in HR (4), and is eighth in both OPS and SLG (.607). His averages get even better with runners on (.452) and with runners in scoring position (.444 w/RISP).
CF Michael Swinson is getting hot now. In his current five game hit streak, Swinson is 9-for-18 (.500) with two doubles, 1 HR, 2 RBI, three walks, and just two strikeouts. The 19-year-old left-handed hitter from Douglas, GA has been smooth in the outfield as well. Swinson has not committed any errors (25 putouts) and has recorded three assists.
C Robert Stock (pictured) has been a consistent hitter (.317 AVG in 41 AB) for the Cardinals but where the 19-year-old's statistics really shine is his ability to hit with runners on base and with runners in scoring position. His AVG/OBP/SLG/OPS line with runners on base is an impressive .412/.524/.529/1.053. His line with RISP is an even better .462/.500/.615/1.115. The Cardinals plan to focus the former University of Southern California catcher/pitcher on hitting and fielding but is still a work in progress behind the plate. Although Stock has only one passed ball, he is looking to improve his defensive statistics against base runners and to save more wild pitches for the pitchers. Stock has thrown out only 35 percent of would-be base stealers (8 of 23) and is having difficulty smothering the balls in the dirt so that they don't roll away too far.
Who's Not Hot (Hitters)
C Travis Tartamella is 1-for-11 (.091) in July and 1-for-15 against right-handed pitchers (.067).
IF Hector Alvarez is one for his last seven (.143) with four strikeouts.
IF Ted Obregon is hitless in his last nine at bats with three strikeouts.
OF CJ Beatty is 1-for-11 (.091) in his last three games.
1B Matt Rigoli is hitless in his last seven at bats with five strikeouts.
Who's Hot (Pitchers)
Michael Thompson (13 IP) and Justin Smith (12.1 IP) have each reached double digits in innings pitched while allowing only one walk. Smith has 19 strikeouts and Thompson has 17 strikeouts. Smith leads the team in walks plus hits per inning pitched (WHIP) at 0.73.
Travis Lawler (5.2 IP) leads the team in earned run average (0.00 ERA).
Andy Moss is the only pitcher on the team with an ERA (0.69) and WHIP (0.92) that are both less than one. He is also the only pitcher on the team who would have a chance at pitching a complete game in less than one hour. His fielders have to pay close attention when he is pitching. Moss is ready to throw his next pitch before he gets the ball back from the catcher and he consistently lets it loose within a second or two of getting his sign from the catcher.
Randy Santos (12 IP), Pablo Ortiz (11.1 IP), and Jesse Simpson (11 IP) have each reached double digits in innings pitched without allowing a home run.
Dave Kington is leading the league in saves (5) and games (8). Kington is second on the team in WHIP (0.83). Dave has allowed more earned runs (3) and walks (3) than hits (2) in his six innings pitched.
Despite only pitching six innings this year, RHP Aaron Terry (3-0, 4.50 ERA) is tied for the league lead in victories. Terry also leads the team in strikeouts per nine innings (15.0). Terry will be looking to improve his walks per nine innings (9.0).
Who's Not Hot (Pitchers)
While there are several pitchers with high ERAs, none of them have consistently pitched poorly. Anthony Ferrara had a really bad outing on Saturday night even though he had three pretty good outings before that. There are several pitchers that have shown a lot of inconsistency from game-to-game however, all of them continue to show glimmers of good performance.
Week Four Schedule
Game 20 (Sun): Randy Santos followed by John Durham – @ Elizabethton Twins
Game 21 (Mon): Andy Moss followed by Reynier Gonzalez – @ Elizabethton Twins
Tuesday: Appalachian League Off-Day (MLB All-Star game in St. Louis)
Game 22 (Wed): Jesse Simpson followed by Pablo Ortiz – vs. Greenville Astros
Game 23 (Thu): Justin Smith followed by Chris Notti – vs. Greenville Astros
Game 24 (Fri): Michael Thompson followed by Anthony Ferrara – vs. Greenville Astros
Game 25 (Sat): John Durham followed by Randy Santos – @ Bluefield Orioles
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