Noah Nunez pitched 5 1/3 dominant innings as the Mets defeated the Cardinals 9-4 in front an enthusiastic crowd of 2,714 at TVA Credit Union Ballpark.
The Mets improved to 4-0. Johnson City fell to 1-3.
“Overall, I think we’ve been tremendous so far and hopefully we can keep it going,” Kingsport manager Sean Ratliff said. “You want to play well in all three phases of the game. We’ve gotten big innings when we needed. Pitching’s been outstanding. Defensively, we’ve been solid overall. We’ve had some lapses here and there, but you expect that at this level.”
Nunez (1-0) allowed two hits. Moises Castillo, the second batter he faced, doubled solidly to right-center field. Nunez then retired the next seven batters. The Cards didn’t get another hit until Jonatan Machado’s single in the sixth.
By the time he left with a 6-0 lead, Nunez had struck out seven batters and walked two. The 39th-round pick in the 2017 draft went 1-2 last year in the Gulf Coast League.
“He was hitting his spots, moving the ball in and out, changing speeds,” Ratliff said. “He put us in position to win the ballgame. He was excellent tonight.”
Kingsport shortstop Shervyen Newton reached base his first four times up, with a walk and three hits. Even when he made an out, it was entertaining.
In the seventh inning, Newton thought he had walked and flipped his bat away, only to find out the pitch was called a strike by home plate umpire Adam Clark. Newton came back to the plate and took another pitch, sprinted toward first, only to be rung up as a strikeout victim.
In his next at-bat, Newton tried to call time. It wasn’t granted and when the pitch was a called third strike, Newton threw his helmet and Clark ejected him from the game.
Moments after Nunez was pulled in favor of reliever Dariel Rivera, Johnson City’s Leandro Cedeno hit a memorable home run. Cedeno crushed a pitch to center field. The towering drive kept carrying until it hit the top of the wall, high above the 400-foot mark, and bounced over for a two-run homer.
The hit sounded as impressive as it looked.
“This is my fifth year and that’s the first time that I saw that, the first time I saw a guy hit one straightaway over that wall,” Cards manager Roberto Espinoza said. “It says 400 feet but we know it’s more than that. That was really impressive.”
The Mets broke the game open with a five-run fourth inning. After Gavin Garay got things started with a run-scoring double high off the right field wall — it missed being a home run by inches — Newton and Luis Santana added RBI doubles of their own.
Yoel Romero had a sacrifice fly and another run scored on an error in the uprising.
BY THE NUMBERS
Machado and Castillo each had two hits for the Cards. Johnson City catcher Benito Santiago, who played at Tennessee, got his first professional hit in the ninth inning.
Luis Santana also had three hits for the Mets.
ALL AT ONCE
Cards starter Edwar Ramirez cruised through the first three innings, striking out four and not allowing a runner past second.
It all fell apart for Ramirez (0-1) in the fourth inning. He wound up allowing eight hits and five earned runs.
The two teams play the second game of the three-game set Saturday at 7 p.m. at TVA Credit Union Ballpark with pregame entertainment being provided by local country band JB 5 N Dime.