The Johnson City Cardinals dug out of a four-run hole, but a three-run deficit in the 10th inning was too much to overcome.
Bluefield scored three runs in the top of the 10th, then held on for a 7-6 victory Sunday night at Cardinal Park.
Kevin Pillar completed a 3-for-5, two-RBI night with a two-out single that gave the Blue Jays (26-20) a 5-4 lead. Art Charles, a 6-foot-6 first baseman, followed by lining a two-run double to right field. Charles’ hit proved invaluable, as Johnson City rallied for two in the 10th thanks, in part, to two hit batsmen and an error.
The Cardinals were unfortunate when David Washington’s bases-loaded, one-out line drive to right field was caught on a difficult chance by Javan Williams. Tyler Rahmatulla, who led off the bottom of the 10th with a double off the right field fence, had scored to make it 7-5 when Roberto De La Cruz reached on an error, and Gary Apelian tagged and scored on Washington’s line-out to cut Bluefield’s lead to one.
But Blue Jays closer Ian Kadish beared down and struck out Jesus Montero and Hector Garcia with fastballs to end it with the tying run stranded at second.
“There were a lot of positive things,” said manager Mike Shildt, whose first-place Cardinals fell to 30-16 on the season. “Guys competed well. We had the bases loaded ... and Washington just crushes a ball, and the guy makes a nice play.”
Pillar said the key to his final at-bat was laying off a good first-pitch changeup from Michael Santana after Santana had just entered from the bullpen.
“Then he missed with a fastball, so I was looking for a fastball to hit,” Pillar said. “He had good stuff, but I got a fastball to hit in a hitter’s count.”
Pillar was one of three Blue Jays to hit a home run. He hit a 2-2 fastball into a crosswind over the left field fence for a solo home run with two outs in the fourth. Two batters later, Daniel Arcila hit a two-run home run to give the Blue Jays a 4-0 lead.
Leadoff batter Peter Mooney’s two-out solo home run in the second provided the game’s first run.
Johnson City scored three in the fifth. Steven Ramos had an RBI double and ensuing batter Matt Williams hit a two-run single.
Roberto De La Cruz tied the scored at 4 with his 12th home run of the season in the sixth.
Cardinals right-handed starter Eduardo Hiraldo allowed two singles and two home runs during a five-pitch span in the fourth, and allowed all three Blue Jays home runs. But he settled in and allowed four runs in six innings. Left-handed reliever Nick Gillung followed with two innings of scoreless relief, before giving way to Roberto Canache.
“We’re down 4-0 and come right back and tie it,” Shildt said. “Gillung comes out of the bullpen and threw well. Cananche threw well. I made a decision, which didn’t work out, to bring Santana in. ... And Santana competed.”
Bluefield catcher Aaron Munoz had an effective performance. He threw out Ramos trying to steal second for the second out in the ninth. It was the second caught stealing for Ramos, who has 17 stolen bases.
Munoz also picked off Washington at second base with a throw-down after the pitch for the second out in the sixth.
“Munoz is a nice player,” Shildt said. “He likes to throw. He’s got an accurate arm. He’s got a quick release. Steven got a good jump and he made a nice throw.”
Ramos finished 3-for-5. Williams was 2-for-5, and Washington was 2-for-3 with a walk.
Jonathan Lucas (3-2) pitched a scoreless eighth and ninth for the victory.
The teams conclude the three-game series tonight at 7.