The Cardinals got within 4-3 in the bottom of the seventh thanks to an RBI double from shortstop Christian Muscarello, who was making his professional debut.
But Bluefield (19-21) answered with six runs in the eighth and three more in the ninth. The Jays’ power surge began in the seventh when they broke a 2-2 tie with solo home runs from Dan Jansen and Gonzalez.
“Beginning in the seventh inning our bullpen did not do the job tonight,” said Johnson City manager Johnny Rodriguez, whose Cardinals fell to 18-19 on the season. “We were back in the game there at 4-3. The relievers did not do a good job locating.”
The Cardinals got exceptional defensive plays from third baseman Chris Rivera, first baseman Casey Grayson and right fielder Blake Drake, who ended the top of the fifth by catching Richard Urena’s sinking liner and then doubling Rolando Segovia off first base.
Grayson made a diving play to rob Rowdy Tellez of extra bases and retire the side in the third inning and made a difficult dig look easy on a short-hop throw from Muscarello to retire Trent Miller leading off the fourth.
Grayson was 2-for-4 with a double and three RBIs. His two-out, two-run double tied the score at 2 in the fifth.
Bluefield center fielder Josh Almonte made two impressive catches against the wall in left-center field. His first one robbed Cole Lankford and stranded runners at first and second in the fifth. The second one — on a well-hit ball by Carlos Torres — led to an inning-ending double play in the sixth, as Jesus Ustariz was doubled of first base, 8-4-3.
“Defensively, we made some great plays,” Rodriguez said. “Offensively, we had good at-bats. They robbed us of a couple more runs off the wall.”
Casey Turgeon was 2-for-5 with a double and two RBIs for Johnson City, raising his season average to .367. Ustariz was 2-for-5.
The Blue Jays piled up 16 hits. Jansen finished with three RBIs.
Left-handed starter Matthew Smoral struck out four and allowed three hits in four shutout innings for Bluefield. Francisco Rios (3-1) got the victory despite allowing six runs (four earned) in four innings.
Johnson City starter Steven Farinaro allowed two runs in 41?3 innings. Kender Villegas (1-1) took the loss. He allowed two runs on three hits in 22?3 innings, though he did strike out four and walk none while giving up three hits.
Ismael Brito allowed five runs in one-third inning and Jeff Barkley gave up four runs in 11?3 innings.
The Cardinals visit Greeneville tonight at 7.