Johnson City got this far with a take-the-same-approach-every-day attitude.
So why change now?
The Cardinals, who defeated Burlington 4-3 in the in the Appalachian League regular season finale for both teams Tuesday night at Cardinal Park, will travel to play Danville in the opening round of the playoffs tonight at 7 o’clock.
“I couldn’t be more pleased with this group from Day 1 to now,” said Cardinals manager Mike Shildt.
West Division champion Johnson City finished 45-23 while Danville was second in the East Division with a record of 39-29.
Cards’ right fielder Gary Apelian said the players’ approach will be the same tonight.
“We will just go out there like it’s another game,” said Apelian, who was 2 for 3 with two doubles and two RBIs on Tuesday. “It’s still the game of baseball. We’re not going to hit the ball and run to third base. We will just play the game.”
Shildt said emotions could run a little higher tonight, but added he doesn’t really expect it.
“There’s always a human element to it, but I think they’re going to play the right way and compete,” said Shildt. “It has been a real blessing to manage this group.”
Tyrell Jenkins (4-2) will get the starting nod on the mound for the Cardinals.
In Tuesday’s game, Tyler Melling had an effective start, but Brandon Creath pitched two perfect innings to get his first victory of the season. Willy Paulino followed with two hitless innings to earn his first save.
Johnson City got off to a nice start as Bryvic Valera cracked a triple off the right fielder’s glove. Matt Williams followed with a double off the left field wall, and one out later Apelian played wall ball to plate Williams.
The 2-0 lead was short-lived as Murray Watts crushed a solo homer to right and Derek Hamblen’s two-out RBI triple tied the game.
Johnson City slipped back ahead in the third on Valera’s RBI groundout, but Jose Rodriguez’s RBI double plated Hamblen in the fifth to tie the score at 3-3.
The back and forth continued in the bottom of the sixth inning as Apelian ripped a double to right-center field to put the Cardinals ahead for good.
Williams finished with two hits for the Cards while Hamblen had two hits for the Royals.
Notes: Johnson City, which is in the playoffs for the second straight season, will return home Thursday for the Game 2 of the best-of-three series. Kyle Hald (7-0) will be the starting pitcher. …
Thursday’s game will begin at 7 p.m. with the gates opening at 6 o’clock. If the series goes to a third game, the Cardinals will play at home Friday at 7 p.m. ...
The winner of the series will play the winner of the Elizabethton and Bluefield. ...
Playoff tickets are $4 for general admission seats and $6 for reserved seats. There will be no passes, discounts, or regular season tickets accepted for the playoffs. Season reserved seat holders will have the option to purchase their seats for post season play.
For more information please contact the Cardinals front office at (423)-461-4866 or visit jccardinals.com.