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Six-run inning gives Cards win over Pulaski

July 17th, 2014 10:45 pm by Douglas Fritz

Six-run inning gives Cards win over Pulaski

With his team trailing by five runs, Johnson City Cardinals' manager Johnny Rodriguez tripped coming out of the dugout.

He almost fell face first but caught himself with his hands, got back up, and headed to the third-base coaching box.

Shortly thereafter the Cardinals put together a six-run rally to take the lead and eventually earned a 6-5 win over Pulaski on Thursday night at Cardinal Park.

“The whole team said when we scored six runs, 'You've got to do it all the time,' ” said Rodriguez with a laugh. “I said, 'I'm not superstitious, so I ain't doing that.”

The Cardinals improved to 13-13 and moved within 2½ games of first-place Elizabethton, which lost to Danville and fell to 16-11, in the West Division of the Appalachian League.

Trailing 5-0 heading to the bottom of the fourth inning, clawing its way out of an eight-losses-in-nine-games hole seemed a little far-fetched. But the Cards loaded the bases with nobody out, and Cole Lankford started the massive rally with a two-run single to left field.

Lankford said the team hasn't been focused on the recent struggles.

“Baseball is day to day,” said Lankford. “It's all about being consistent and showing up to the field.

“Everybody had good at-bats in that inning. No one panicked. Staying in the moment is the most important thing.”

Lankford finished with two hits and two RBIs, giving the Texas A&M product four hits in his last nine at-bats.

“(Hitting coach) Chris Swauger has been working with me every day,” said Lankford. “All the credit goes to him. He has really helped me.”

Jesus Ustariz followed with a single to reload the bases, and then Jose Godoy plated a run with a groundout to make it 5-3.

Carlos Torres kept the fun rolling with a sharp RBI single to center field. Then Anthony Ray went rip city, slashing a line-drive single to right field. His hit scored a pair of runs, and put the Cardinals on top.

“This team has a fighting spirit,” said Rodriguez. “I told them, 'Don't worry about the score. Everybody have one quality at-bat at a time. And they went out there and did it.”

Pulaski got out of the inning as Ray was tagged out trying to advance from second to third on an infield popup where third base was left uncovered.

It looked early on like the Mariners were going to head to the high seas and leave the Cardinals stranded ashore as they struck for a big lead through four innings. Taylor Zeutenhorst level-stroked a zip-line single to center, scoring Yordi Calderon in the second inning.

In the third inning, Rafael Hernandez had an RBI hit, and Estarlyn Morales followed suit to give the Mariners a commanding 3-0 advantage.

Pulaski added to its lead with Chase Nyman's RBI hit and another RBI rip from Fernandez.

Juan Perez started for the Cardinals, and struck out five batters in three innings. He was also touched for five hits, two walks and three runs. Sasha Kuebel (1-0) followed and struck out six in three innings, allowing three hits and two runs, and was given the win.

Jonathan Escudero worked a scoreless eighth, and Ismael Brito finished up with a scoreless ninth inning to earn his fourth save of the season.

“The relief corps was outstanding,” said Rodriguez. “Brito has been doing it all year.”

Blake Drake and Ustariz also had two hits for the Cardinals. Ray totaled two RBIs.

For Pulaski, Rafael Fernandez, Morales, and Daniel Torres each finished with two hits. Fernandez had two RBIs.

The teams finish their three-game set tonight at 7 o'clock.

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