One night after doing just enough to win, Johnson City did just enough to lose Tuesday night.
The Cardinals hurt themselves defensively and offensively to abort the effects of a stellar pitching effort in a 2-1 loss to Bluefield in an Appalachian League baseball game at Cardinal Park.
Johnson City (18-18) fell into third place in the West Division as Greeneville clipped front-running Elizabethton and moved past the Cards into second place.
It wasn’t the pitchers’ fault for the Cardinals. They allowed just three hits and one earned run in nine rock-solid innings.
But outside of Team Casey (Grayson had three hits and Turgeon had two), the bats were mostly silent.
“It was not a good offensive game,” said Cardinals’ manager Johnny Rodriguez. “We had a bad approach, and didn’t do a good job baserunning.”
Defense was another sore spot for the Cardinals. They made three more errors, including two by Oscar Mercado. That gives the shortstop 20 on the season as he tries to learn a new position.
“It’s the routine plays,” said Rodriguez. “It’s baby steps for him. He’s getting better and feeling more comfortable. He’s going to be a good one.”
The pitching was certainly Johnson City’s highlight. Juan Perez was dialed in on the mound. He worked fast, stayed ahead of the hitters, and didn’t allow a hit until the fifth inning.
Unfortunately, Perez hurt himself in the second inning with a balk and wild pitch going a long way toward plating the first run of the game. Perez worked six innings, allowing just one hit and two runs, one earned. He walked two and struck out three, and lowered his ERA to 3.34.
Kevin Carlow, who entered the game with an ERA of 10.43 and a opponents’ batting average of .394, worked two shutout innings and allowed just one hit. He walked one and struck out three.
And Juan Caballero finished up with a scoreless, two-strikeout, ninth inning.
“The bullpen has been doing a good job,” said Rodriguez. “The starting pitchers have been doing a good job. We’ve just got to get the hitters going.”
Also hurting Perez was the effective pitching of Bluefield starter Joey Aquino, who allowed five hits and one unearned run in five innings. Jordan Romano followed with three scoreless innings, allowing one hit and striking out four.
Aquino (1-2) earned the win, and Dusty Isaacs finished up in the ninth to earn his fifth save of the season.
Bluefield got a cheap run in the second inning. Rowdy Tellez reached on an error, and went to second on a balk. Tellez then moved to third on a ground out, and eventually scored on a wild pitch.
The Blue Jays pushed their lead to 2-0 in the fifth inning, utilizing a walk, sacrifice bunt, ground out, and Kevin Garcia’s two-out looping single just over the infield to break up Perez’s no-hit bid.
Johnson City finally got on the board in the bottom of the fifth inning as Devante Lacy reached on a single and went to second on a fielding error. With one out, Lacy beat a throw from the shortstop to reach third base on an infield grounder.
Casey Turgeon followed with a grounder to score Lacy, who helped manufacture a run for the second straight game.
These teams finish their three-game set tonight at 7 o’clock at the Bird Yard.