An Appalachian League three-peat could still be in the Cards.
Silfredo Garcia pitched six shutout innings and fellow right-hander Ronald Shaban worked two innings for his 17th save as the Johnson City Cardinals defeated Burlington 2-1 in game one the playoff semfinal series Wednesday night at Cardinal Park.
Carson Kelly’s solo home run in the fourth inning and Jeremy Schaffer’s RBI single in the seventh was enough for the Cardinals, who will try to clinch the series tonight in Burlington, N.C.
Garcia (5-2) concluded his outing by getting Mark Threlkeld to line out to left field to end the sixth with the bases loaded. He pumped his fist and waved his arms as he walked toward the dugout with 1-0 lead preserved.
Garcia, whose three-quarter delivery enhances the slider away and his sinker, loaded the bases with a hit-batsman and two walks. But he battled for each of his 92 pitches (unofficial).
“Basically, he lost a little feel,” pitching coach Doug White said. “I think he was getting a little tired. So he was pitchiing on pure heart right there, and he just did the best he could to find a pitch that would work for him. The ball got hit hard, but it found somebody to catch it.”
Garcia allowed two hits, walked four and struck out six in six innings, and Cardinals manager Oiver Marmol didn’t consider pulling Garcia before then.
“The one thing I went out there to tell him was we gave you the ball in this position because we believe in you,” Marmol said. “So you’re the guy we’re gonna depend on, this is your game and I’m gonna let you get out of it. And that’s exactly what he did. He’s a tough kid.”
Shaban’s mental toughness was evident, too. He inherited the bases loaded with a 2-0 lead and none out in the eighth inning. Shaban threw a slider away and appeared to get a 5-2-3 double play from Patrick Leonard on the first pitch. But first baseman Jeremy Schaffer couldn’t hold on to catcher Gerwuins Velazco’s throw for the second out, and Humberto Artreaga alertly scored from second on the play to get Burlington within a run (2-1).
“My job’s not to get upset if someone makes a play or doesn’t make a play,” Shaban said. “My job’s to keep executing my pitches.”
And Shaban did. He repsponded by striking out Threlkeld with a fastball away and got Fred Ford swinging at a slider away to retire the side with the tying run at third.
“That’s why he’s got 17 saves now,” Marmol said. “The kid is unbelievable in those situations. He leads the league in saves and I’m glad he’s on our side.”
It was Shaban’s first two-inning save of the season.
“Shaban’s our guy, man, and I appreciate him having to go two innings for us in that situation,” White said. “But there was no question there at all.”
Bruce Caldwell was 0-for-0 with four walks for Johnson City. Ildemaro Vargos had a two-out double in the third that would’ve been good for an RBI if previous batter C.J. McElroy hadn’t been called out on what looked like a bunt single.
Ricardo Lizcano, who turned 22 on Wednesday, also had a double.
Christian Binford allowed one run in six innings for the Royals. Arteaga went 2-for-4.
The slow-cooked pressure of playoff basebal l was evident in the latter innings. Marmol’s wife, Amber, pumped up the crowd via the public address microphone.
Zachary Petrick, a 6-foot-3 right-hander, will start for the Cardinals. Colin Rodgers will pitch for Burlington.
Elizabethton defeated Danville 4-0 in game one of the other series. The Twins host Danville tonight at 7 in game two.
The Paintsville Yankees were the last Appalachian League team to win three straight titles (1979-81).