The Appalachian League’s wild, wild West Division produced a wild one Tuesday at Cardinal Park.
The Kingsport Mets gift-wrapped the Johnson City Cardinals a five-run first inning, but then hit three home runs while rallying for an 8-7 victory.
The win wasn’t complete until left-handed reliever David Roseboom got Oscar Mercado and Blake Drake to retire the side with the bases loaded after Johnson City had scored two in the ninth.
Following Mercado’s pop-out to second base on the first pitch for the second out, Drake worked the count to 3-0. But with nowhere to put him, Roseboom responded with a strike, setting the stage for a big swing and miss from Drake on a 3-1 fastball. Drake flew out to left field to end it on the ensuing pitch, but the 3-1 pitch seemed like the pitch of the game.
“At that point I wasn’t trying to go for corners,” said Roseboom, a former USC Upstate player who recorded his third save of the season. “It was just challenge him right down the middle and just throw it as hard as I could right down the middle. If he would’ve got a hold of it and hit it, I’d tip my hat to him.”
The Mets improved to 26-26. And Johnson City fell to 26-24, two and a half games behind division-leading Elizabethton. The fourth-place Mets are three and a half games out of first.
“Being in a playoff run is always fun – especially getting down to the last two weeks,” Roseboom said. “Everything means something. If we’re fortunate enough to get in there, we’ll look back to this game.”
The Cardinals scored five runs in the first inning thanks, in part, to two hit batsmen, two wild pitches, two errors, a walk and a passed ball.
Two runs scored on one of the wild pitches. Mercado scored from third base, and when catcher Jose Garcia’s throw got away after hitting the sliding Mercado, Blake Drake came home after beginning the pitch at second base.
The Cards capped the frame with Carlos Torres’ two-run flare single to center after Chris Rivera walked, Bladimil Franco reached on an error and they each advanced a base on a wild pitch.
Ivan Wilson hit a three-run home run in the fifth to cut Kingsport’s deficit to 5-4. Wuilmer Becerra’s one-out solo home run tied the score in the eighth and the Mets added three more in the frame, which included a double from Luis Ortega, a long home run by Vicente Lupo and a two-out RBI single from Luis Guillorme.
“Our bullpen let us down in the eighth inning,” Johnson City manager Johnny Rodriguez said. “Four runs allowed is too many by a bullpen. We fought back, and we could’ve added the (winning) runs, but we didn’t.
“We should’ve had it. We should’ve put it away early but we didn’t. We let ‘em hang around.”
Cardinals starter Matt Pearce allowed four runs in five innings. He struck out five while giving up four hits and two walks.
Former Knox Halls pitcher Bryce Beeler (3-1) pitched four innings of scoreless and hitless relief for the victory.
Guillorme and Jean Rodriguez each had two hits for Kingsport, which out-hit Johnson City, 9-4.
The Cardinals begin a 15-day road trip with a doubleheader today at Pulaski.