Cardinals cool off red-hot Astros 4-1
GREENEVILLE — Greeneville had their chances, but in the end, two scoring failures doomed their fate in a 4-1 loss against visiting Johnson City on Thursday night at Pioneer Park at Tusculum College.
The Astros loaded the bases late, but failed to get any momentum. They also had runners on second and third with less than two outs, but also squandered the moment.
With the loss, the Astros dip to 21-20 overall and fall three games behind Appalachian League West leader Elizabethton. With the victory, the Cardinals reach the .500 plateau at 19-19.
Greeneville skipper Josh Bonifay said his team’s failure to succeed in the clutch was their downfall
“A hit with runners on, in those situations, would have given us the win,” said Bonifay. “We have won seven out of our last 10 games, so that proves that lately we have been getting the key hits whenever we needed them. But, tonight we just couldn’t get the key hits. We have been getting those breaks, but tonight it wasn’t meant to be.”
Kristian Trompiz led the Astros with two hits, while Jason Martin added a double. Blake Drake hit a solo home run to lead Johnson City.
Matt Pearce (2-1) picked up the mound victory, while Josh James (1-2) took the loss. Jonathan Escudero grabbed his first save of the season for the Cardinals.
Both teams were scoreless until Johnson City was able to plate a run via Greeneville’s wildness in the top of the third.
James hit a batter and allowed two consecutive singles to load the bases. With two outs, he walked Casey Grayson to give the Cardinals a 1-0 lead.
In the bottom of the fourth, the Astros wasted a great opportunity to push their first run across the board. Martin led off the inning with a double off of Pearce. Martin was then sacrificed to third on a bunt by Antonio Nunez. However, Pearce and the Cardinals closed out the inning with an infield pop out and a called strikeout on Greeneville catcher Jacob Nottingham to maintain the 1-0 advantage.
With the game still close, Greeneville reached to their bullpen to begin the top of the fifth inning when James was pulled in favor of Aaron Greenwood. Greenwood’s entrance did not help the Astros as Drake upped the Johnson City lead with a long home run. With one out, Drake belted a fastball near the left field scoreboard to up the lead to 2-0.
The Cardinals’ offense was not finished crossing home plate in the inning. Cole Lankford roped a double down the left field line to score Casey Grayson and move Chris Rivera to third base. Rivera appeared to be out at third on the throw back in from left fielder Luis Reynosa, but he was called safe on the play.
After the call by the third base umpire, Bonifay raced out to dispute the safe call to no avail. Jesus Ustariz followed with an RBI ground out to second base to score Rivera and extend the lead to 4-0. Greenwood finally got out of the inning on a fly out to left field to close the three-run frame.
Pearce’s shutout remained until Greeneville pushed their only run across in the bottom of the fifth inning. Jeffry Santos picked up an RBI single, which scored Luis Reynosa to close the gap to 4-1.
Greeneville wasted their biggest chance at winning in the bottom of the seventh. They loaded the bases with one out and the top of the order up. But Martin and Nunez both struck out to squash hopes of a Greeneville victory.
Despite the defeat, Bonifay did mention a positive on Thursday night.
“I thought Angel Heredia threw a great game in relief,” added Bonifay. “He struck out five hitters in the final four innings. He is throwing the ball well and has a bright future ahead.”
-By Chris Ayers, Assistant Sports Editor