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By Douglas Fritz
Press Sports Writer
Johnson City couldn't close the door, and it cost the Cardinals their second straight loss.
In a Sunday night Appalachian League game that lasted 4 hours and 39 minutes, the Cardinals blew a three-run ninth-inning lead against the Kingsport Mets and eventually lost 7-6 in 13 innings at Cardinal Park.
Johnson City fell to 10-3 on the season, and faces a week-long road trip that begins at Kingsport tonight. The Mets (7-6) and Bristol (7-6) are tied for second place in the West Division.
It was certainly a tough loss for the Cardinals, but manager Mike Shildt said it can be part of the growing process.
“The effort was there, so I can't fault anybody for that,” said Shildt. “That's why we're here, to learn from these things.”
Kingsport seized control in the top of the 13th inning thanks in a big way to a nasty hop on what should have been a single to center by Yucary De La Cruz. The ball took a seriously high bounce over the head of Cardinals' center field Steven Ramos and became a two-out RBI triple.
“It was just one of those nights,” said Shildt.
Chad Zurcher followed with a single and the Mets led 7-5.
But in this wacky game, the Cards weren't done. With two out, Ramos got picked off of first base and was caught in a rundown. However, the Mets failed to execute properly and Ramos wound up at second base with his third stolen base of the game.
After Tyler Rahmatulla walked, Neil Pritchard made it 7-6 with an RBI single. Ramos got his fourth stolen base, putting him 90 feet away before Kingsport's Mark Picca got Matt Williams looking for strike three to end the game.
Picca got his first save, and Dustin Emmons (1-0) got the win with three perfect innings of relief.
Cardinals' starter Tyrell Jenkins should have earned the win, tossing five innings and allowing nine hits and two runs, one earned. He walked none and struck out six, but the bullpen couldn't finish it.
“(Jenkins) was lights out,” said Shildt. “Every time he goes out, he looks more comfortable with the game.”
Johnson City appeared to have the game under wraps, taking a 5-2 lead into the top of the ninth inning. However, things went awry in a hurry.
Reliever Tyler Mills walked the leadoff batter, and Tillman Pugh somehow managed an RBI ground-ball triple down the left field line. The ball was slowly retrieved from left field as Pugh cruised into third base.
Shildt then gave the ball to Dyllon Nuernberg on the mound, and he surrendered an RBI single to Jeffrey Glenn to make it 5-4.
After a sacrifice bunt and a strikeout, Nuernberg tossed a pair of wild pitches to give up the lead.
At that point, both teams' offenses went silent. The Mets threatened in each of their first extra-inning at-bats, but Johnson City went nine up and nine down.
Much earlier in the game, the Mets struck first. They got an RBI double from Jeffrey Glenn in the top of the second.
However, Johnson City bounced back quickly and loudly in the third inning. The Cards scored four times, plating the first two on an error and a wild pitch.
Anthony Garcia later added an RBI double and Gary Apelian brought in a run with a sacrifice fly.
Johnson City scored an unusual run in the sixth inning. With one out and Ramos on second base, Rahmatulla hit a fly ball to deep center field. The center fielder routinely made the catch on the high fly ball, but his throw back to the infield wasn't sharp. Ramos never stopped running and made it a two-base sacrifice fly for a 5-2 lead.
Williams, Ramos and Garcia each had two hits for the Cardinals. Ramos scored three runs.
Kingsport, which totaled 17 hits, got multi-hit performances from seven different players. Pugh led the way with three hits, and Glenn added two RBIs.