Johnson City had plenty of reason to celebrate Tuesday night.
Coming off a five-game losing streak at the end of last week, the Cardinals took their second straight win over the Greeneville Astros 8-2 at Cardinal Park.
Combined with a 6-5 loss by Elizabethton to Burlington, the Cardinals (22-12) now own a three-game lead in the Appalachian League West Division standings.
“You always like to come out and get a lead early like we did tonight,” Johnson City manager Mike Shildt said. “We really put some good swings on the ball, like Roberto DeLaCruz with a three-run homer in the third inning. You can’t say enough about that.”
Greeneville, which scored one run in the top of the first, remains in the bottom of the division at 12-22.
The Astros’ lead was short-lived as Johnson City’s Gary Apelian responded with a RBI double in the bottom of the first. Johnson City took the lead an inning later as Roberto DeLaCruz doubled to score David Washington.
For the third straight inning, Johnson City had a run scored off a RBI double, this time coming from Tyler Rahmatulla. Different from the first two innings, the Cardinals were only getting warmed up.
DeLaCruz capped off a six-run inning with his three-run shot over right center field for an 8-1 lead.
It was DeLaCruz’s seventh home run of the season, and one of eight extra-base hits for the Cardinals. They included two doubles by Apelian in his first two at-bats.
“We just were looking to get a good pitch and putting a good swing on it,” said Apelian, who ended 2-for-4 with three RBIs. “A few games before, we were chasing some bad pitches. Tonight we were waiting until we got a pitch up and then we would get a good swing on it.”
Taking advantage of the scoring opportunities, the Cardinals were 5-for-13 with runners in scoring position and left only three men on base. On the other side, Greeneville was just 1-of-8 with runners on base and left nine stranded.
“As a manager and Smoky (Ramon Ortiz) as our hitting coach, we’ve been stressing that recently,” Shildt said. “We haven’t had as good an approach as we would like in those situations. To the guys’ credit, they had good approaches tonight which allowed them to be successful.”
Greeneville added a second run in the sixth inning when Jesse Wierzbicki led off with a triple and later scored off a wild pitch.
It was the last time the Astros would threaten as Johnson City starter Eduardo Hiradlo (1-1) recorded the next two outs and relievers Michael Santana, Tyler Mills and Manuel DeLaCruz gave up just two hits over the final 3 1/3 innings.
Roberto DeLaCruz, Steven Ramos, Matt Williams, David Washington and Garcia all collected two hits, the Cardinals pounded out 12 hits overall.
Apelian said it was a nice turnaround after Johnson City struggled at the plate during last week’s skid.
“You just have to keep a good mentality because you know you’re going to come out of it eventually,” Apelian said. “You just keep it simple, get a good swing on it and good things will happen.”
The final contest in the three-game series is scheduled for 7 p.m. tonight.