Anthony Garcia doubled and homered and David Washington capped a four-run fourth inning with a two-run home run that gave the Johnson City Cardinals the lead for good in a 9-4 win against the Greeneville Astros on Tuesday at Cardinal Park.
Washington’s home run came on a 3-2 pitch. The 6-foot-5 left-handed batting first baseman, who came in hitting .209 with one home run in 67 at-bats, fouled off the previous two pitches after getting ahead 3-0 in the count. He pulled a 3-0 pitch foul sharply.
“I don’t get too worried about stats, because he’s been taking better at-bats,” said Johnson City manager Mike Shildt, whose first-place Cardinals (16-5) have won four straight. “Case in point, he gets in a 3-0 count — and that’s a situation where he’s hitting in the middle of the lineup — and you show some confidence in him by letting him swing 3-0. And he put a good swing on it. And then, obviously, he went on to hit a big two-run homer.”
The key plate appearance in the inning was Kolby Byrd’s 11- or 12-pitch walk that gave the Cardinals runners at first and second with one out. Byrd fouled off pitch after pitch while appearing to demoralize Greeneville starter Tyson Perez, who only two batters earlier had a perfect game going through 31â„3 innings.
“You’ve got to give Kolby Byrd a lot of credit for that at-bat,” Shildt said.
If Kolby didn’t drain Perez’s spirit Garcia certainly did when he hit an 0-2 offspeed pitch down the left field line for an RBI double.
“It feels great right now,” said Garcia, who is hitting .339 with six doubles, a triple and a home run. “(Byrd) had a very important at-bat. I was supporting him: ‘Keep battling, keep battling.’”
Garcia and Shildt are quick to credit hitting coach Ramon “Smokey” Ortiz.
“Smokey does a nice job of giving them a plan getting them to execute it,” Shildt said. “And Garcia swings the bat well. He’s always ready to hit a fastball. He’s the ball well and he’s a pretty disciplined hitter. He hit that ball well down the line and he obviously put a good swing on that home run.”
Left-hander Kyle Hald (2-0) allowed one run in four innings of relief for the victory. Hald struck out five while allowing two hits and a walk, and he got out of a bases-loaded jam with two strikeouts after entering for Ryan Sherriff in the fifth.
“Hald did a heck of a job getting out of that,” Shildt said.
Designated hitter Chase Davidson, a former Georgia Bulldog, was 3-for-4 with a home run and two RBIs for Greeneville.
Notes: Johnson City center fielder Steven Ramos stole his league-leading 13th base. ... Greenevile right fielder Ariel Ovandon left the game in the top of the first after fouling the first pitch he saw off his foot. ... Game two of the three-game series is tonight at 7.