But the Appalachian League is professional, and Devante Lacy was ready to go when his chance arrived. Entering as a pinch-runner, Lacy streaked home from third base on a wild pitch in the bottom of the eighth inning to give Johnson City the lead in an eventual 7-4 win over Elizabethton on Tuesday night at Cardinal Park.
The Cardinals improved to 8-4 and took over first place in the West Division from the Twins (8-5).
Cardinals manager Johnny Rodriguez said Lacy was the perfect fit for the situation after Jose Godoy led off with his third hit of the game.
“One thing about Lacy, he gives everything he has,” said Rodriguez. “He’s an aggressive player.”
After Lacy put the Cardinals ahead, another hustling play gave them a comfort zone. Oscar Mercado’s ground ball to shortstop turned into a two-run single. Mercado beat the throw at first base, scoring Carlos Torres — and a hustling Casey Turgeon also raced home as nobody covered the plate.
“I tell the runners, we’re going hard in that situation, in case anything happens,” said Rodriguez. “If it was a tie game, I may not have sent him. But up two, I thought it was worth the chance to try to get a three-run lead.”
Overall, Rodriguez said he liked the way his team played.
“(Elizabethton) is a team that has been a champion,” said Rodriguez. “We’ve been a champion. We played with an edge tonight, but we want to play like that every game.”
Landon Beck battled through some wildness in three innings to earn the win. He walked four and struck out six. Anderson Gerdel blew through the ninth inning to earn his third save of the season.
Jordan DeLorenzo was solid in a starting role for the Cardinals, working four innings and allowing three hits and two runs, both unearned. He walked one and struck out six.
Elizabethton jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the second inning, thanks to a two-out throwing error by the Cardinals. With runners on second and third, Brett Doe hit a grounder up the middle, and Mercado ran it down from his shortstop position. Unfortunately, Mercado’s throw was in the dirt and both runners scored.
Jesus Ustariz cut it to 2-1 with an RBI single in the bottom of the second inning.
Blake Drake had an RBI hit in the bottom of the fifth to tie the game. Casey Grayson later added an RBI single, and Chris Rivera drove in Blake with a sacrifice fly to make it 4-2.
The Twins evened the score on a pair of bases-loaded walks in the sixth inning.
Grayson and Ustariz each had two hits for the Cardinals. The Twins got two hits from Dutch Deol.
“We just couldn’t overcome all the snafus,” said Twins manager Ray Smith. “We had difficulty mentally, and they took advantage of our defensive issues.”
The Cardinals will be without Rodriguez for some upcoming games as he faces a suspension for touching an umpire during the first game of Monday’s doubleheader.
“It was my fault,” said Rodriguez. “Put that in big letters.
“I also want to say that I never say bad words. My testimony for Christ is more important.”
Both Elizabethton and Johnson City have an off day today.