With the way Johnson City has been playing baseball this season, an early lead looked pretty solid.
However, Greeneville put up seven unanswered runs in a four-inning stretch and eventually earned a 7-4 win over the Cardinals in an Appalachian League game Wednesday night at Cardinal Park.
Johnson City (16-6) saw its West Division lead shrink to 3 ½ games over Elizabethton while last-place Greeneville improved to 8-14.
Chase Davidson was a key part of the Astros’ comeback. He connected on a solo homer in the top of the fourth inning to cut into a 4-0 deficit, and later added an insurance run with an unusual homer.
In fact, it was Davidson’s first-ever inside-the-park home run at any level.
“Never,” said the 41st-round draft pick out of the University of Georgia.
Davidson’s adventure began when Johnson City left fielder Ronald Castillo apparently lost a fly ball in the lights in the seventh inning.
“My first base coach helped me out a lot,” said Davidson. “He told me to get going. I knew (Castillo) wasn’t under it because I saw him standing close to where he was when I hit it. And I thought the ball was down the line more.”
When the 6-foot-5, 222-pound Davidson reached second, he said he thought there was a chance to circle the bases.
“I was kind of surprised when I was sent home,” said Davidson. “I tripped coming around third.”
But while Davidson’s hit was the most entertaining play of the night, it was a shaky fifth inning that really cost the Cardinals.
After four impressive innings, Johnson City starter Eduardo Hiraldo gave up a double, two walks, hit a batter and there was a key error. When the dust settled, Bristol led 5-4 on the strength of Jesse Wierzbicki’s two-out two-run single.
Cards manager Mike Shildt said Hiraldo’s late struggles didn’t completely erase the good start.
“You have to take the positives initially,” said Shildt. “He pitched four solid innings. He got a tough error in the fifth inning, but pitching and defense go hand in hand.”
Once Greeneville got the lead, the bullpen locked things down. In five innings, the Astros’ pen allowed one hit and racked up six strikeouts. Most of that damage was done by Zachary Dando.
“Dando’s breaking ball was working,” said Shildt. “It was down, and we couldn’t put together good swings.”
Things looked a lot better for Johnson City early. The Cards got out of the gates quickly as Tyler Rahmatulla doubled and David Bergen walked. Anthony Garcia followed with a two-run triple.
In the second inning, Roberto De La Cruz stroked a double to put runners on second and third. Jesus Montero then whipped a liner than landed just inside the right field line for a two-RBI double to make it 4-0.
De La Cruz was the only Cardinals’ player with two hits, and both were doubles.
Greeneville got multi-hit efforts from Jordan Scott, Davidson and Jose Vargas. Dando got the win to improve to 1-1, and Steve Martin finished up with a scoreless ninth to earn his first save.
The teams meet again tonight at 7 o’clock.