The Johnson City Cardinals’ season-opening series with Greeneville was a hit-and-miss operation.
After striking out 16 times in a loss on Wednesday, the Cardinals allowed 19 hits as the Astros took the rubber game with a 10-3 victory on Thursday at Cardinal Park.
The two-time defending Appalachian League champion Cardinals watched Greeneville first baseman Jean Batista go 5-for-6 while teammates Jimmy Howick and Ariel Ovando each went 4-for-5 with three RBIs.
The left-handed batting Batista and Ovando each hit line-drives to right and left field. Ovando’s two-run double to right-center field highlighted a five-run first for the Astros. He also doubled off the left field fence, tripled to center and lined a single to right.
“Those kids are making some improvements,” said Greeneville manager Omar Lopez, who was eager to commend a hitting coach who knows a little something about swinging a bat, Cesar Cedeno. “The hard work that they did in Florida for three months and a half, I think, is working for them right now. It was pretty impressive tonight, and hopefully, they will be consistent for the rest of the season.”
Howick, who played in Johnson City against East Tennessee State while at Jacksonville, looked right at home in his return. His two-run double off the left field fence capped the five-run first. He also had an RBI single among his three other hits, and made a couple of fairly difficult chances look routine at shortstop.
The silver lining for Johnson City was first baseman Jeremy Schaffer. The former Tulane player hit his first professional home run, doubled, scored two runs and narrowly missed another RBI or two with an eighth-inning line-out to center field.
The double to right-center field and the home run to left each came on 1-1 fastballs.
“My game plan today was to look for a fastball up in the zone – get one to hit,” Schaffer said. “And I got one on the double and I got one on the home run. I felt like I was seeing the ball well and I had a good night at the plate.”
Right-hander Francis Martinez got the victory. He allowed two runs on three hits and a walk while striking out two in five innings.
“Ramirez was solid,” Lopez said. “The first three innings he was very good. He started to pitch away for contact probably the fourth and the fifth inning, but he made some pitches when he needed to.”
Ramirez also field his position. He got off the mound well toward third base to field C.J. McElroy’s good bunt, and made a quick, strong throw to retire the swift McElroy by a half-step for the second out in the fifth.
Ramirez was also assisted by center fielder D’Andre Toney, who got a good jump and made a sliding catch in shallow left-center field to rob Dutch Deol and strand runners at first and third in the second.
Right-hander Bryan Martinez took the loss, allowing seven runs in three innings. Jacob Booden, a 6-foot-7, 235-pounder, pitched two innings of scoreless relief.
The attendance was 775. The three-game series’ attendance was 4,813.
The St. Louis Cardinals’ World Series championship trophy was at the park.
Johnson City opens a three-game series in Bluefield tonight. Science Hill alumnus Daniel Norris is scheduled to start the series finale for the Blue Jays on Sunday.
Greeneville opens a series at Kingsport tonight.