After allowing nine runs in one-third inning in his previous start in Johnson City, the Elizabethton Twins left-hander pitched five shutout innings of relief for the victory in the Twins’ 8-1 defeat of the Cardinals on Friday.
Penilla (3-1) struck out six, walked none and allowed four hits.
“You want to go out there and be successful every time out, but that’s not the nature of the game,” Elizabethton manager Ray Smith said. “Sometimes you got it, sometimes you don’t. … And sometimes you’ve got great stuff in the pen and you go out there and you can’t locate, and you get rocked.
“He was able to get ahead of the hitters using that breaking ball. So that was the difference between the last time he pitched here when he couldn’t locate … and got tattooed. Hopefully, his confidence will get ratcheted up with his successful outing today and it’ll carry on the rest of the season.”
The Twins (22-13) lost pitchers Stephen Gonsalves and Josue Montanez via promotions to Cedar Rapids on Friday.
“They both got moved up, and good for them,” Smith said. “That’s what this is all about, but somebody will have to pick up the slack.”
Reliever John Curtiss started against Johnson City. He allowed one run on four hits and a walk while striking out four in three innings.
“He tired a little bit and started elevating the ball in that third inning,” Smith said, “and made a couple of pitches to kind of bail himself out after giving up that one run.”
Indeed, the Cardinals left the bases loaded in the third inning after Casey Turgeon’s one-out single scored Jose Gomez to tie the score at 1.
The Twins answered with two runs in the fourth, which Max Murphy led off with a home run to right field. It was his ninth of the season.
“He’s got some snap in his bat, some life in his bat,” Smith said. “And he’s a guy that kind of zones pitches up in different situations. He got a ball middle away and he was looking to go that way. He’s got some oppo pop. Whatever offense we’ve had, he’s right in the middle of it.”
Elizabethton scored five runs in an ugly fifth that included an error, one hit-batsman, two walks and three wild pitches from Cardinals pitchers.
Johnson City starter Matt Pearce (1-3) was lifted after a walk, hitting a batter and allowing Nick Gordon’s RBI single in succession to being the fifth. Reliever Josh Wirsu took over the struggles from there, walking the first batter he faced (Murphy) and giving up a two-run double to Jorge Fernandez and a line-drive single to Tyler Mautner before retiring the side.
“Our starter and middle reliever didn’t do the job in the fourth and fifth innings,” Cardinals manager Johnny Rodriguez said. “And we had the bases loaded and couldn’t capitalize, and we had first and third with one out and couldn’t score.”
Mautner was 3-for-4 with an RBI. Fernandez was 2-for-4 with two doubles and three RBIs.
Turgeon went 2-for-5 to raise his average to .375. Murphy (1-for-3, two runs) is hitting .372.
Gomez and Jose Godoy each had two hits for the Cardinals (16-17), who outhit Elizabethton, 10-7.
“We didn’t exactly tear the cover off the ball,” Smith said. “But we took advantage of some wild pitches and we bunched a couple of hits there and a couple of walks and we were able to dent the scoreboard. One good thing about the game is there’s a bunch of different ways you can score runs.”
Game two of the series is tonight at 7.