The Johnson City Cardinals Report: 09/03/09

19-year-old Puerto Rican infielder Luis Mateo hit .428 this week in seven games to help lead Johnson City (6-5 week, 37-30 overall) to a second place finish in the Western Division of the Appalachian League.

The Johnson City Cardinals (37-30) finished in second place, seven and a half games behind the Elizabethton Twins (45-23).  Johnson City finished the year with a four-game win streak.  That equaled their longest of the year and was the best in the league to end the season.  The 37-30 record was the third best in the Appy League, behind the Danville Braves (47-21) and the Twins, who start a best-of-three championship series Wednesday September 2. 

 

There were three road games and eight home games this week.  I was able to attend five of the home games.  I also listened to three internet broadcasts (road games) by Nick Pierce, broadcaster for the Danville Braves in Danville, VA.  Drew Branyon broadcast a few of the innings for Danville during the third game of the series.  My summaries, pitch counts, and "quotes" are based on either Pierce's or Branyon's accounts of the game or my first hand observations.

 

Appalachian League All-Star Team

 

The votes were due by Noon on August 25 and the winners were announced that evening.  The Cardinals collected three of the team's 15 spots.  C Robert Stock, 3B Rich Racobaldo, and relief pitcher David Kington all were voted Appy All-Stars for 2009. 

 

Unfortunately, 1B Matt Adams (.372/.413/.584/.997) ran up against a very strong group of Appy first basemen.   The top of that list included Player of the Year Riaan Spanjer-Furstenburg (.357/.414/.543/.956 as of Aug 26) of the Danville Braves.  Adams' promotion to Batavia just past the middle of the season didn't help his cause.  However, Adams would have posted slightly better numbers than Spanjer-Furstenburg if he could have maintained his offensive output through the season.  Given Adam's even better performance in the New York-Penn League, that seems probable.

 

Racobaldo (.415/.476/.602/.1.077) had such a spectacular start to the Appy season that he won (tied with Pulaski Mariner 3B Vincent Catricala) despite the early promotion to Quad Cities.  His cause was helped by a relatively weak group of Appy third basemen and the fact that his name remained at the top of the league leaders for a couple of weeks after he left.  In fact, his name fell off the list just a few days before the votes were due.  Racobaldo got off to a slow start for Quad Cities but as of Aug 26, he was hitting .317 in his last ten games and was on a seven-game hit streak in the Midwest League. 

 

Robert Stock was a pretty easy pick for catcher with a relatively weak group in the Appy this year.  I analyzed the All-Star options based on games, at bats, and batting average.  19-year-old Fernando Cruz of the Burlington Royals posted the best fielding percentage (.994) and 18-year-old Miguel Gonzalez of the Bristol White Sox had the best caught-stealing percentage (35%).  Stock's offensive statistics were much better than Cruz's and Gonzalez's and the fielding (.984) and caught-stealing (31%) percentages were not far off.

 

Kington led the league in saves and that is what likely garnered him reliever of the year in the Appy.  However, if I could have voted for a Cardinal, I am not sure that Kington would have received my vote.  Kington had a very good year and made the most of his opportunities.  His pitches have a lot of movement although his strikeout numbers and fastball velocity are not typical of a closer.  Aaron Terry probably receives my vote.  

 

Ted Obregon was a distant second for me to 2B Jose Altuve of the Greeneville Astros.  Michael Swinson, due to injury, just didn't have enough at bats.  Justin Smith and Jesse Simpson didn't pitch enough innings.  Andy Moss, according to the way I reduced the field, was the best right-handed pitcher in the Appy League.  Moss had fewer total strikeouts than winner Vito Frabizio of the Bluefield Orioles but their strikeouts per nine innings were comparable.  Moss out performed Frabizio in all the other significant statistical categories (including ERA, BAA, ERA, and BAA w/RISP). 

 

Roster and Injury Updates

 

The active roster increased to 33 players (35 maximum) on Thursday and then dropped back down to 32 players on Saturday.  Two members of the roster were rehabbing injuries in Jupiter, FL at the end of the year and another player went home a few days early due to injury.  The active roster had 18 pitchers (10 tandem starters and 8 relievers) and 15 position players (3 catchers, 4 outfielders, and 8 infielders) at the end of the year.

 

Keith Butler was promoted from the Gulf Coast League (GCL) Cardinals on Thursday August 27.  Butler, a University of Kentucky signee and a 24th round pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft out of Wabash Valley Junior College (IL), pitched 21 games in relief in the GCL.  Butler was 1-1 with a 2.22 ERA and led the GCL Cardinals in games, games finished (14), strikeouts (34), and saves (6).  Butler was reported to be the only junior college pitcher in 2009 to have at least 6 wins and 6 saves.  Butler pitched twice out of the Johnson City bullpen after being called up. 

 

Robert Stock (.322), the Apply League All-Star catcher, was promoted to the A-Long Season Quad Cities River Bandits on Saturday after the game.  Stock will likely compete for one of the catching positions at Quad Cities next spring. 

 

David Kington (2-1, 3.31 ERA, 8 SV) was the only player to not see any action the last eleven games.  Kington last pitched on August 21 and missed the last 12 games of the year because he was "injured".  He left for home a few days early.   

 

Pablo Ortiz (2-0, 6.75 ERA), a starting tandem pitcher, missed his scheduled start on Monday July 20 due to weakness in his shoulder and elbow.  Ortiz is rehabbing in Jupiter, FL and made his first appearance for the GCL Cardinals on Friday August 28.  Ortiz allowed one run on two hits and a walk over one inning pitched.     

 

Outfielder C.J. Beatty (.179, 2 HR) injured his right hand/wrist on a strikeout in his first at bat on August 4.  He had to come out of the game early and was done for the season.  This was a new injury to add to his bruised elbow suffered earlier in the year.  Beatty had been restricted to DH prior to injuring his hand/wrist.  His last game in the outfield was June 26.  Beatty began his rehab in Jupiter, FL and reported on Thursday that "the stitches are out (and) the grip is coming around".   

 

Second baseman Luis Mateo (.344) suffered a hamstring injury on July 12 that was re-injured during warm-ups on July 23.  Mateo missed 38 games before returning to the lineup as the third baseman on Tuesday August 25.  Mateo started out 0-for-his-first-3 before doubling in his third game.   

 

Infielder Matt Rigoli (.179) was hit by a pitch in his left forearm/wrist/hand area on Thursday August 27.  The injury forced Rigoli to miss the last five games of the year. 

 

The Week in Review

 

NOTE:  Batting averages for hitters and win/loss records and ERAs for pitchers, where shown, are "current" (i.e. end of the year statistics).

 

Sunday:  The Cardinals started a 3-game series in Danville, VA against the first place Braves.  The two teams faced each other three times earlier this year in Johnson City with the Braves sweeping the Cardinals.  Those games were summarized here:  The Johnson City Cardinals Report: 07/26/09.  A victory by Danville would clinch the Eastern Division Championship for the Braves, who started the game with a ten game lead. 

 

The Cardinals seemed lethargic from the start, spotted the Braves a 9-0 lead through four innings, and ended up losing the game 9-6 in the top of the ninth inning with the bases loaded.  All 14 healthy position players had at least one at bat in the game with the last (potential game-winning) at bat going to pinch hitter Robert Stock (.322).  

 

Danville scored three runs in the second inning against starter Reynier Gonzalez (2-5, 6.08 ERA) on three singles, three stolen bases, and SS Yunier Castillo's 18th error (.902 fielding percentage).  The Braves added five more runs in the third inning on 2B Ted Obregon's 11th error, a stolen base, a hit batter, a single, a double, and a triple.  Three runs were scored against Gonzalez, who took his second loss of the year.  Gonzalez threw only 50 pitches (34 strikes, 10-for-16 first-pitch strikes) over two and one third innings pitched.  John Durham (1-1, 9.55 ERA) relieved Gonzalez with a runner on first.  Durham allowed a triple and one of his own runs to make the score 8-0 Danville through three innings.  The Braves extended the lead to 9-0 against Durham in the fourth inning on two singles, a walk, and a LF Rainel Rosario throwing error (his fifth). 

 

On the offensive side, DH Audry Perez (.258) broke up a perfect game by left handed pitcher Brett Oberholtzer when he led off the top of the fifth inning.  Perez was the only batter to finish the game with two hits.  The Cardinals broke up the shutout in the seventh inning.  Matt Rigoli (.179) led off with his first extra-base hit of the year (a double).  Rigoli advanced to third base on a Perez single and then later scored on a C Travis Tartamella (.183) fielder's choice. 

 

Andy Moss (1-2, 1.32 ERA) held the Braves scoreless through the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings despite having a little less control than he would have liked.  Moss threw 45 pitches (24 strikes, 7-for-12 first-pitch strikes) over three innings.  Moss allowed two groundball singles and walked two others on six pitches each.  Moss struck out two and lowered his league leading ERA to 1.45. 

 

The Braves made it more interesting in the eighth inning when they allowed two singles, hit two batters, threw two wild pitches, and committed an error to plate three more Cardinal runs.  Danville took a 9-4 lead into the ninth and made, what just a few innings earlier was a 9-0 blowout, even more interesting.  The Braves hit another batter, committed another error, and walked three before inducing a game ending groundout.  The groundout came in a 9-6 game with the bases loaded and with the Cardinals best hitter for average, Robert Stock (.322), at the plate.  The victory by Danville clinched the head-to-head season series for the Braves. 

 

Monday:  For the second time this year, Appy League Pitcher of the Year candidate Chris Masters shutout the Cardinals through six innings.  For the second night in a row, the Cardinals attempted a late-inning comeback against the Braves bullpen.  With the potential tying run at the plate, Johnson City lost 3-1 in a well pitched game by both teams. 

 

After throwing a six inning shutout on July 21 in Johnson City (two hits, no walks, four strikeouts), LHP Chris Masters followed that effort with another six inning shutout (three hits, two walks, six strikeouts) in Danville.  On the last night before the deadline for the media to vote for pitcher of the year candidates for the Appy League All-Star team, Masters secured my vote with his seventh victory. 

 

Angel De Jesus (0-2, 6.46 ERA) picked up the loss despite pitching very well against the league's second best offense.  De Jesus scattered five hits over five innings while walking none and striking out four.  De Jesus allowed just one run in the bottom of the second inning when 17-year-old Panamanian-born Christian Bethancourt doubled down the right field line off the end of the bat and later scored on a groundball single.  De Jesus threw 67 pitches (46 strikes, 14-for-19 first-pitch strikes) while recording seven groundball outs.  De Jesus had only two three-ball counts. 

 

The Danville 1-0 lead lasted until the top of the seventh inning when second tandem starter Cale Johnson (2-1, 4.01 ERA) became his own worst enemy.  Johnson allowed a solid lead-off single before he actually kicked a bunt up the first base line that was rolling foul for another single.  With nobody out and with runners on first and second, Manager Mike Shildt brought the infield to the mound to discuss the next move in what was surely a sacrifice bunt situation.  Johnson proceeded to make a pickoff move toward second before his first pitch and got the runner trapped between second and third base.  However, as Johnson ran the runner toward third, he threw wildly into left field for an error and a 2-0 deficit.  A sacrifice bunt and a groundball single to center field made it 3-0 Braves and ended a short evening of work for Johnson. 

 

Johnson threw 28 pitches (21 strikes, 6-for-8 first-pitch strikes) while allowing four hits (including a double) over one and one third innings.  Johnson recorded three of his four outs by groundball.  Johnson had an impressive 4.38 groundball to fly ball out ratio in Johnson City after the game. 

 


Reliever Jose Rada (5-0, 1.76 ERA - pictured) came into the 3-0 game in the seventh and induced a 1-6-3 one hop double play with his third pitch to put out the fire.  Rada allowed a lead-off triple in the eighth but wriggled out of that jam with an infield-in groundout, an intentional walk, a strikeout, and another groundball out.  The intentional walk went to Riaan Spanjer-Furstenburg, who received my vote for Appy League first baseman of the year (since I couldn't vote for any Cardinals; sorry 1B Matt Adams). 

 

Johnson City threatened the Braves in the ninth with a 1B Jonathan Rodriguez (.250) five pitch lead-off walk, a LF Rainel Rosario (.272) groundball single, and a one-base fielding error on the single.  RF Edgar Lara (.237) came to the plate representing the tying run with runners on second and third and nobody out.  Lara hit a weak RBI (his 30th) groundout to score the Cardinals only run of the night. 

 

Johnson City had several chances to score against Masters and reliever David Hale.  The Cardinals were 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position.  Johnson City had runners on third base in four different innings (three against Masters) but couldn't get them home.  Johnson City moved to 0-5 against the Braves after being outhit 10-4. 

 

Tuesday:  The Cardinals faced a left-handed pitcher for the third night in a row but came away with their first win against Danville this year.  Starter Chris Notti (4-1, 3.83 ERA) had his best game of the year and led Johnson City to a 3-1 victory.  Danville finished the season series with the Cardinals by winning 5 of 6 games.  The Braves clinched the East Division Championship Monday night and the Cardinals were eliminated from the West Division race with an Elizabethton victory Tuesday night. 

 

Notti faced the minimum number of batters possible through five innings. Notti allowed just two groundball singles.  One through the legs of 3B Luis Mateo and one fielded up the middle by SS Yunier Castillo.  Both were tough plays that were ruled singles. 

 

The first Danville runner was erased on a first-pitch pitchout in the first inning.  Speedy Braves SS Mycal Jones was caught stealing for just the third time this year in 21 attempts by C Robert Stock and the good pitchout decision by Manager Mike Shildt.  The second runner was erased in the third inning on a Mateo-to-Obregon-to-Rodriguez (5-4-3) double play to end the inning.

 

Notti threw just 43 pitches (34 strikes, 13-for-15 first-pitch strikes) while walking none, striking out four, and picking up his fourth victory of the year.  Notti ran his no-earned runs streak to 8.2 IP over three games.  After the game, Notti had allowed just one earned run since July 21 and dropped his ERA from 8.50 to 4.12. 

 

The top of the third inning was mostly eventless (two walks, a strikeout, and a fly out) until the last pitch of the inning.  With LF Rainel Rosario (.272) at the plate facing a 1-2 count, LHP Ty Stovall threw a sharp breaking curve ball that, according to the play-by-play of Danville Braves radio announcer Drew Branyon, was "in the dirt".  Home plate umpire Matt Springer saw it differently and called Rosario out on strikes.  Rosario immediately said something to Springer, who ejected him.  A few minutes later, after emphatically banging his helmet on the back of the plate (presumably where the pitch bounced off the ground) and after tossing his helmet, Manager Mike Shildt was also ejected. 

 

Johnson City broke the scoreless tie in the fourth.  Stovall had been intermittently wild most of the night and it ended up chasing him from the game after six batters and one out.  Stovall struck out Stock to start the fourth but then proceeded to give up two singles, a passed ball, a walk, an RBI hit-batter, and an RBI walk.  Johnson City would hold onto the 2-0 lead until second tandem starter Zach Russell (0-0, 1.89 ERA) ran into trouble in the seventh inning. 

 

Russell ran the "minimum-faced" streak to six innings with a 1-2-3 sixth.  That streak ended quickly with a four-pitch walk to start the seventh.  Although Russell retired the next three batters in order, the leadoff walk scored on a stolen base, a groundout, and a wild pitch. That made the score 2-1 Braves. 

 

Johnson City immediately got the run back in the eighth inning.  Stock led off with a single, advanced to second on a balk, advanced to third on a passed ball, and then scored on a 1B Romulo Ruiz (.134) two-out RBI single.  Johnson City took a 3-1 lead to the ninth inning after Russell retired the Braves in 1-2-3 fashion in the eighth inning.

 

Russell threw a few more balls than he would have liked over three innings (37 pitches, 21 strikes, 4-for-10 first-pitch strikes).  Russell retired his nine batters without allowing a hit and collected his second hold. 

 

Reliever Aaron Terry (6-0, 2.08 ERA, 6 SV) retired the first two batters on a groundout and strikeout before running into trouble.  Back-to-back singles brought Appy League All-Star OF Cory Harrilchak to the plate representing the potential game-winning run.  Terry induced a groundball out from the left-handed hitter with his third (0-2 count) pitch to end the game.  Terry earned his fifth save on 15 pitches (12 strikes). 

 

Wednesday:  With the Western Division race already decided, the rubber match between the first and second place teams had a little less meeting.  The Elizabethton Twins came to Johnson City for the eleventh and final game between the two.  The season series was tied 5-5 so bragging rights for the season series were at stake.  Johnson City won the game 7-5.  Despite their second place finish, Johnson City finished the 38-game season against the West with a 22-16 record and by winning all four season series. 

 

Johnson City jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first on RBI singles from 3B Kleininger Teran (.245) and RF Edgar Lara (.237) and never trailed after that.  Starter Anthony Ferrara (4-1, 3.24 ERA) pitched 5 scoreless innings to pick up his third win.  Ferrara scattered six hits with his 71 pitches (43 strikes, 10-for-20 first-pitch strikes) while walking none and striking out three. 

 

The Cardinals led 7-0 after six innings when they scored four runs and sent 10 batters to the plate in the bottom of the sixth.  The Cardinals collected four walks (one with the bases loaded) and RBI hits from CF Ross Smith (eleventh double) and 2B Ted Obregon (bunt single).

 

Second tandem starter Michael Thompson (1-3, 7.25 ERA) had a 13 pitch 1-2-3 sixth inning before running into big trouble in the seventh.   Thompson recorded only one out in the seventh on 17 pitches.  He allowed three runs on four hits (including a double and a home run) before being pulled. 

 

Relievers Travis Lawler, Jose Rada, and Jason Novak finished the game with only Novak allowing any runs.  Rada entered the 7-3 game with the bases loaded and got out of the jam with a 7-pitch swinging strikeout.  Thompson got his league leading fifth hold and Rada got his third hold (third in the league). 

 

Thursday:  The Princeton Rays came to Johnson City for a 5-game series after rain suspended one game and postponed another due to rain in Princeton, WV during the Cardinals visit in late July.  Thursday brought a doubleheader that included completion of a suspended game followed by a 7-inning game.  The Cardinals lost Game 1 by a score of 7-4 and lost Game 2 by a score of 14-2.  Johnson City was outscored on the evening 19-4 and was outhit 17-9.  Cardinal pitchers walked 11 batters in 11 innings pitched on the evening.  

 

Game 1:  The first four innings of the suspended game were summarized here:  The Johnson City Cardinals Report: 07/26/09.  Four players who played for Johnson City on July 25 (Michael Swinson, Matt Adams, Rich Racobaldo, and CJ Beatty) had to be substituted for in the lineup.  CF Ross Smith finally got credited for his two-run home run that supplied all the scoring for the Cardinals on July 25. 

 

The suspended game resumed at 4 PM on a weekday in front of just about nobody.  The game was tied 2-2 and started with the Cardinals (visitors) batting in the top of the fifth inning.  The Cardinals scored their only two runs for the night after the Rays led 7-2.  C Robert Stock (.322) hit a no-doubter solo home run (his third) to right field to lead off the eighth on his eighth pitch of the at bat.  CF Ross Smith (.190) hit his first triple on a 400+ foot drive to dead center field with one out in the ninth.  Smith scored on the very next delivery (wild pitch).

 

Left-handed starter Patrick Daugherty (0-2, 8.57 ERA) and reliever Kyle Heim (0-1, 7.71 ERA) got all of the pitching action in the four innings played.  They both struggled with their control.  Daugherty gave up all five runs but three of those scored after Heim entered the game.  All three of the batters Daugherty walked ended up scoring.  Surprisingly enough, Daugherty challenged his 13 hitters early in the count with his 54 pitches by starting 8 with called strikes, 2 with swinging strikes, and 2 others with foul balls (12-for-13 first pitch strikes). 

 

Heim came in with the bases loaded and gave up a two-RBI double and an RBI-walk to complete the scoring.  Heim was only 4-for-9 with his first pitch strikes.  Heim also hit a batter with his first pitch in the eighth. 

 

Game 2:  Johnson City jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first and then everything went downhill after that.  2B Luis Mateo (.344) led off with a double (his seventh) to the right center field wall on the first pitch of the inning.  DH Robert Stock (.322) hit a 1-1 pitch up the middle for an RBI single and alertly took second base on a late and high throw home from center field.  One batter later, Stock scored on a first pitch RBI single of the left field wall by 1B Jonathan Rodriguez (.250).

 

Starter Randy Santos (1-7, 5.40 ERA) threw a lot of pitches (35) through the first two innings but made it through scoreless (bloop single, hit batter in the helmet, wild pitch, and two strikeouts).  Santos looked to have a good start in the third inning when he struck out the first batter swinging on three pitches but the 0-2 pitch was in the dirt and got past Stock for a wild pitch.  Santos was then a bit slow and lazy fielding a sacrifice bunt and suddenly the Rays had runners on first and second with nobody out.  An RBI single, a walk, and a grand slam home run quickly made the score 5-2 Rays. 

 

Santos got through the fourth inning scoreless but left the game after four innings having thrown 86 pitches (49 strikes, 14-for-21 first-pitch strikes).  Santos collected his seventh loss of the year. 

 

The Cardinals managed only four hits in the last six innings.  Mateo and Stock each finished the game going 2-for-3.  The Cardinals had plenty of base runners but finished the game 3-for-15 with runners in scoring position and left 10 on base. 

 

Reliever John Durham (1-1, 9.55 ERA) entered to start the fifth inning and escaped the inning scoreless (allowing a double on 13 pitches).  The sixth inning was a different story for Durham though.  Durham faced 9 batters (32 pitches), allowing 5 runs on three doubles, a triple, and a walk. 

 

Things only got worse in the seventh.  Reliever Travis Lawler (2-1, 4.34 ERA) faced 10 batters (37 pitches), allowing 4 runs on three hits, two walks, and two errors.  The Cardinals loaded the bases in the bottom of the seventh in a 14-2 game with a walk and two consecutive hit batters.  Pinch hitter Matt Rigoli (.179) was hit in the hand/wrist/lower arm area and was in significant pain.  Rigoli likely lost some playing time due to the injury. 

 

Friday:  A scheduled afternoon doubleheader was rained out.  One game was cancelled and was not be made up.  The other game was rescheduled for a Saturday doubleheader.   

 

Saturday:  The Cardinals entered the doubleheader looking for its first win of the year against the Rays, who held a 3-0 season series lead over Johnson City.  Both teams pitched a 7-inning shutout to split the two games.  The Rays won Game 1 by a score of 3-0 while the Cardinals won Game 2 by a score of 4-0.  

 

Game 1:  Starter Andy Moss (1-2, 1.32 ERA) pitched well again in a pitcher's duel with left-handed Ray's starter Julius Dettrich (5-5, 2.92 ERA).  Unfortunately for Moss, neither the Cardinal offense nor the Cardinal defense helped him out in a 3-0 loss.  Moss pitched five innings allowing two unearned runs and picking up the hard-luck loss.  On the personal side, Moss extended his earned run scoreless streak to 17.1 innings and lowered his league leading ERA to 1.32. 

 

Moss allowed just two groundball singles through the first four scoreless innings.  Moss started out the fifth inning with a strikeout before walking two and loading the bases with a single.  Moss induced a line out to 1B Romulo Ruiz before a two-out throwing error (his 12th) by 2B Ted Obregon allowed two runs to score. 

 

Johnson City could only manage four hits, two walks (both by CF Ross Smith), and a hit batter (Smith) for base runners.  The Cardinals finished the game 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position.  Johnson City never advanced a runner to third base and could only get two runners as far as second base. 

 

Game 2:  Starter Reynier Gonzalez (2-5, 6.08 ERA) managed to keep the Rays off of the scoreboard through four and one third innings despite a hit batter, two errors, two hits, and three walks.  Gonzalez was aided by a double play and a caught stealing (CS) with C Travis Tartamella (18% of runners CS).  Relievers Jose Rada (5-0, 1.76 ERA, 1 SV) and Aaron Terry (6-0, 2.08 ERA, 6 SV) finished the game by allowing no hits or walks and striking out two over two and two thirds innings.  The pitching trio combined for the Cardinals fifth shutout (second in league).  Rada inherited two of Gonzalez's runners (allowing neither to score) and collected his fifth win. 

 

2B Ted Obregon (.268) gave the Cardinals a lead in the third inning they would never relinquish when he singled home LF Joey Hage (.176) with two outs.  The big offensive blow in the game was by RF Edgar Lara (.237).  Lara hit a two-run home run (team leading ninth; fifth in league) in the fourth inning to extend the Cardinals lead to 3-0.  Lara added his team leading 34th RBI in the sixth inning on a fielding error to give Johnson City the final 4-0 score.   

 

With the victory in Game 2, Johnson City clinched second place in the Western Division and a better than .500 win-loss percentage for the second year in a row.  The last back-to-back winning years for the Cardinals were 1995-1996. 

 

Sunday:  The Pulaski Mariners came to Johnson City for the last three games of the year.  The Mariners won two-out-of-three games against the Cardinals in late June in Pulaski, VA.   The Mariners brought three Appy League All-Stars with them:  LF Brandon Haveman, SS Gabriel Noriega, and 3B Vincent Catricala (who tied for 3B with Rich Racobaldo).  The Cardinals could bring their season victory total to 37 wins with a sweep of the Mariners.  It would be the most victories for Johnson City since 1996 if they could pull off the sweep. 

 

Johnson City won the opener 6-1 and outhit the Mariners 11-5.  Johnson City was 6-for-11 with runners in scoring position.  Pulaski's only score was a first inning solo home run from Appy League All-Star 3B Vinnie Catricala.  It was all Cardinals after the top of the first inning as they scored 6 unanswered runs. 

 

Cale Johnson (2-1, 4.01 ERA) started and managed to spread out a few big hits (two doubles and a home run) to get his second win.  Johnson threw 66 pitches (45 strikes, 10-for-19 first-pitch strikes) over five innings allowing one run and four hits while walking none and striking out three.  Johnson saved a run from scoring against him with a spectacular play in the second inning.  With a runner on second base and with two outs in a 3-1 game, Johnson leaped high in the air off the mound to snare a wicked one hopper that was destined for center field. 

 

Angel De Jesus (0-2, 6.46 ERA) followed Johnson with three shutout innings.  De Jesus has settled down nicely since his promotion from the GCL.  De Jesus threw just 41 pitches (30 strikes, 6-for-10 first-pitch strikes) and looked like he could have easily pitched another inning.  De Jesus allowed just one hit while striking out three and recording his second hold. 

 

Keith Butler (0-0, 0.00 ERA) made his Johnson City debut in the ninth in a 6-1 game.  Butler threw a Cardinal game high 22 pitches in the inning (16 strikes, 3-for-4 first pitch strikes) while walking one and striking out two (both swinging).  Butler looks to have pretty good velocity with his fastball.  Catricala extended his battle with Butler to eight pitches before grounding out. 

 

It was really good to see Luis Mateo (.344) back and healthy.  Mateo played a steady third base and was 3-for-4 with a run scored.  C Audry Perez (.258), who is remarkably still looking to throw out his first base runner of the year (0-for-11 on caught stealing), hit his eighth home run (second on team and seventh in league) in the first inning.  The two-run blast was a no doubter (~390 feet) to left center field that cleared the netting over the scoreboard.  2B Ted Obregon nabbed his team leading 14th stolen base.  DH Edgar Lara (.237) hit his team leading 15th double (eighth in league) and recorded his team leading 35th RBI.  

 

Monday:  Four Cardinal pitchers combined for a six-hit shutout (sixth; first in league) as Johnson City won 3-0.  Pulaski was 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position and left ten men on base.  The win gave the Cardinals a 2-0 series lead and a 3-2 series lead for the year.  With a win in the last game, Johnson City (36-30) would exceed their win total from 2008 (36-30) and would win the most games in a season since 1996 (42). 

 

Starter Zach Russell (0-0, 1.89 ERA) really struggled with his control by walking five over three and two thirds innings.  Russell really came through in pressure situations though by recording three swinging strikeouts; two with the bases loaded and one out in the first inning and the third with runners on first and second base with nobody out. 

 

When Russell walked two in the fourth inning, it was time for reliever Travis Lawler (2-1, 4.05 ERA) to put out the fire.  Lawler induced a fly out to get out of the inning and then allowed two singles in the fifth before getting out of that jam with a swinging strikeout.  Lawler got his second win. 

 

Chris Notti (4-1, 3.83 ERA) pitched three scoreless innings to pull his August ERA over 24.1 IP down to a very impressive 0.38.  If there was an organizational award for biggest turnaround during a season, Notti would be a shoe-in.  The following table illustrates Notti's month-by-month improvement via his batting average allowed and ERA:

 

Month

ERA

BAA

June

11.57

.400

July

6.55

.347

August

0.37

.194

 

Notti allowed just two hits and no walks while striking out three and recording his second hold.

 

Notti's August statistics were very comparable to the St. Louis Cardinals organizational pitcher for August Daniel Calhoun:

 

Pitcher

Record

ERA

IP

H

ER

BB

SO

GO/AO

BAA

Calhoun

2-0

1.03

26.1

18

3

3

24

1.60

.184

Notti

3-0

0.37

24.1

18

1

3

21

2.33

.194

 

Aaron Terry (6-0, 2.08 ERA, 6 SV) recorded his sixth save (all in August) by working a 1-2-3 ninth with one swinging strikeout. 

 

2B/3B Luis Mateo (.344) led the offense with his second multi-hit game in a row.  Mateo was 2-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI.  LF Joey Hage (.176), before being pulled from the game for defensive purposes, was 1-for-1 with a double, two runs scored, and a walk.  CF/LF Rainel Rosario (.272) added an RBI-double (his 12th; second on team). 

 

Tuesday:  A Johnson City win would give them their seventh season-series victory and would tie for their longest winning streak of the year (four games).   It would also give them their best win total since 1996.  With all that on the line, the Cardinals came through with a 6-1 victory.  In the three game sweep against the Mariners, Johnson City outscored Pulaski 15-2. 

 

The game was a pitcher's duel for the first six and half innings.  Cardinal starting pitcher Michael Thompson (1-3, 7.25 ERA) and Mariner starting pitcher John Housey (3-2, 2.62 ERA) each struck out nine.  Thompson garnered his total through four innings while Housey took five.  Thompson looked to be relying more on his off-speed pitches than he did earlier in the year and the results were positive.  Thompson threw 73 pitches (44 strikes, 9-for-17 first-pitch strikes) over four innings while allowing three hits and two walks.  Thompson twice recorded all three outs in an inning via the strikeout. 

 

Johnson City took a 1-0 lead in the second inning on a LF Rainel Rosario (.272) single, two errors, and a wild pitch.  The Mariners responded with one run in the fifth inning during second tandem starter Anthony Ferrara's first inning of work.  Ferrara (4-1, 3.24 ERA) threw a shaky 29 pitches in his first inning while walking two and hitting a batter.  Ferrara settled down nicely after that to collect his fourth win.  Ferrara finished with 58 pitches (32 strikes, 6-for-13 first-pitch strikes) over three innings.  Ferrara allowed only one hit while striking out five.  

 

Audry Perez (.258), in a 1-1 game in the bottom of the seventh, crushed the first pitch he saw (which was also the first pitch from Mariner reliever Kyle Witten) over the left field netting above the scoreboard for a "no doubter" home run.  It was Perez's ninth home run of the year.  That tied him with Edgar Lara for the team lead and pushed him into fifth place in the league.  Perez added a two-out two-RBI triple in the ninth inning when he went the opposite way on 1-2 pitch.  The low and hard-hit one-hopper went directly over the first base bag into the right field corner. 

 

Johnson City gave a 2-1 lead to recent GCL call-up Keith Butler (0-0, 0.00 ERA) in the eighth inning.  Butler retired all three batters he faced, two via swinging strikeouts, on 12 pitches (seven strikes, 2-for-3 first-pitch strikes). Butler recorded his first hold.  It was Johnson City's 26th hold, eleven more than second place.  The last place Burlington Royals recorded only three holds. 

 

The Cardinals, who had managed only three hits through the first seven innings, decided to finally put on their hitting shoes with two outs in the eighth inning of their last game.  Luis Mateo (.344) singled, Kleininger Teran (.245) walked, Perez tripled, Rosario singled, and then Edgar Lara (.237) doubled to score four and give a 6-1 lead to reliever Jose Rada.  Rada retired the Mariners in 1-2-3 order on just seven pitches (six strikes, 3-for-3 first-pitch strikes) while striking out one (three called strikes). 

 

Tandem Starting Pitchers

 

Listed below were the pairings for Johnson City in 2009.

 

RHP Reynier Gonzalez and RHP Andy Moss

RHP Cale Johnson (replaced Pablo Ortiz) and RHP Angel De Jesus (replaced Jesse Simpson)

RHP Chris Notti and RHP Zach Russell (replaced Justin Smith)

LHP Anthony Ferrara and RHP Michael Thompson

RHP Randy Santos and LHP Patrick Daugherty (replaced John Durham)

 

Who Was Hot the Last Eleven Games (Hitters)

 

Only 3-of-15 hitters batted above .300.

 

2B/3B Luis Mateo (.344) was 9-for-21 (.428) in seven games this week with four runs, a double, two RBIs, and two walks.  Mateo hit left-handed pitching this year with a line of .375/.464/.542.  Mateo was obviously anxious to swing the bat after missing 38 games in a row as he struck out 13 times this week. 

 

LF Joey Hage (.176) was 4-for-11 (.364) in five games with four runs, three doubles, and four walks.  Hage had a four game hit streak to end the year and increased his average by 51 points this week.

 

C/DH Audry Perez (.258) was 7-for-23 (.304) this week with three runs, a triple, two home runs, and six RBIs in seven games.  Perez had a .318/.318/.659/.977 line against left-handed pitching this year and finished fifth in the league in home runs (9).  Perez went 0-for-12 this year in catching base stealers. 

 

Who Was Not Hot the Last Eleven Games (Hitters)

 

Nine of Johnson City's fifteen hitters hit .200 or below this week. 

 

·         Hector Alvarez (.228) was 0-for-15 (.000) with six strikeouts. 

·         Ted Obregon (.268) was 3-for-29 (.103) with twelve strikeouts. 

·         Travis Tartamella (.183) was 2-for-16 (.125) with three strikeouts.

·         Yunier Castillo (.259) was 3-for-21 (.143) with six strikeouts.  I was ready to give Castillo a big cheer for collecting his first walk in 170 at bats during his last game.  Castillo, in his second-to-last at bat of the year, went to a 3-0 count for the first time I can remember.  However, I had to hold my cheer as he then proceeded to watch three consecutive strikes cross the plate. 

·         Kleininger Teran (.245) was 4-for-23 (.174) with five strikeouts. 

·         Romulo Ruiz (.134) was 3-for-17 (.176) seven strikeouts.

·         Ross Smith (.190) was 5-for-26 (.192) with seven strikeouts.

·         Edgar Lara (.237) was 7-for-36 (.194) with twelve strikeouts. 

·         Matt Rigoli (.179) was 1-for-5 (.200). 

 

Who Was Hot the Last Eleven Games (Starting Pitchers)

 

Angel De Jesus (0-2, 6.46 ERA) recorded a 0.75 WHIP over two appearances and eight innings this week.  De Jesus allowed only one earned run (1.12 ERA) while walking none and striking out seven.   

 

Chris Notti (4-1, 3.83 ERA), after a really rough start to the year, lowered his August ERA to 0.37.  Notti recorded a 0.50 WHIP over two appearances and eight innings this week.  Notti allowed no earned runs or walks while striking out six. 

 

Zach Russell (0-0, 1.89 ERA) started to remind me of Blake King.  Russell is good for at least one walk and one strikeout virtually every inning.  Russell recorded a 1.20 WHIP over two appearances and six and two thirds innings this week.  Russell allowed only one earned run (1.35 ERA) on just two hits while walking six and striking out six.  Russell didn't allow any hits this year over four innings pitched with runners in scoring position (RISP).  He did walk five and strikeout five over those same four innings.  Right handed hitters batted just .098 against Russell.   

 

Anthony Ferrara (4-1, 3.24 ERA) was 2-0 with a 1.12 ERA this week.  Ferrara allowed just one earned run over two appearances and eight innings pitched.  He allowed seven hits, walked two, and struck out eight.  The very surprising stat to me about Ferrara was that the left-handed pitcher allowed left-handed hitters to hit .368 against him.  On the very positive side was Ferrara's ability to keep the ball inside the park.  Ferrara allowed just one home run over 50 IP.  Forty of those innings were on hitter friendly (and home run friendly) Howard Johnson Field. 

 

Other starters with noteworthy statistics this week:

·         Michael Thompson (1-3, 7.25 ERA) struck out eleven batters over five and one third innings (17.5 strikeouts per nine innings pitched). 

·         Randy Santos (1-7, 5.40 ERA) averaged 11.2 strikeouts per nine innings pitched. 

·         Andy Moss (1-2, 1.32 ERA) extended his no earned runs allowed streak to 17.1 IP.

 

Who Was Hot the Last Eleven Games (Relievers)

 

Jose Rada (5-0, 1.76 ERA) recorded a 0.53 WHIP over four appearances and five and two thirds innings pitched.  Rada won a game and recorded his third hold.  Rada allowed no earned runs and just one hit while walking two and striking out four.  Rada has allowed just a .114 batting average with RISP and a .131 batting average with runners on base.  He has allowed only one home run over 30.2 IP. 

 

Other relievers with noteworthy statistics this week:

·         Keith Butler (0-0. 0.00 ERA) averaged 18 strikeouts per nine innings pitched. 

·         Aaron Terry (6-0, 2.08 ERA, 6 SV) recorded two saves and a 0.67 WHIP. 

 

Who Was Not Hot the Last Eleven Games (Pitchers)

 

Starters Patrick Daugherty (0-2, 11.57 ERA) and Reynier Gonzalez (2-5, 6.08 ERA) recorded WHIPs of 1.65 or greater this week.   

 

Reliever Travis Lawler (2-1, 4.05 ERA) recorded a WHIP of 3.0 this week. 

Reliever John Durham (1-1, 9.55 ERA) recorded a WHIP of 2.8 this week.

Reliever Kyle Heim (0-1, 7.71 ERA) recorded a WHIP of 2.4 this week. 

Reliever Jason Novak (0-1, 6.00 ERA) recorded a WHIP of 2.0 this week. 

 

Team Hitting

 

A review of the team league leaders showed that Johnson City hit 65 home runs (second in league).  The offense was second in slugging (.417) and was third in wins (37), doubles (122), and on-base plus slugging (.749).  The Cardinal hitters were ninth out of ten in triples (12), strikeouts (562), and stolen bases (54).  Their team batting average (.260) fell for the fifth week in a row to fall to fifth in that category. 

 

Team Pitching

 

The pitchers moved up to first in the league in shutouts (6) with two more this week.  They finished third in the league in strikeouts (552).  The Cardinal pitchers led the league in holds (26) but were ninth in hit batters (49).  They were fourth through eighth in all other pitching categories.  The team ERA (4.34) and walks plus hits per inning pitched or WHIP (1.37) both improved for the third week in a row.   

 

Individual (Top Ten) League Leaders

 

Andy Moss:  1st in ERA (1.32), 4th in WHIP (1.01), 10th in holds (2).

Aaron Terry:  2nd in saves (6), 3rd in wins (6), 3rd in games (21), 5th in games finished (12).

Jose Rada:  1st in games (23), 3rd in holds (3), 6th in wins (5). 

David Kington:  1st in saves (8), 1st in games finished (17), 8th in games (19). 

Michael Thompson:  1st in holds (5).

Travis Lawler:  3rd in holds (3). 

Zach Russell:  10th in holds (2).

Chris Notti:  10th in holds (2).

Jason Novak:  10th in holds (2).

Angel De Jesus:  10th in holds (2).

 

Edgar Lara:  1st in games (64), 7th in doubles (16), 5th in home runs (9), 10th in walks (26).

Ross Smith:  8th in games (61),

Audry Perez:  5th in home runs (9).

 

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E-mail Shawn at stkerrick@gmail.com

 

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