The Cardinals entered Saturday night’s action with 14 home runs in nine games, which enabled them to squeak by with a 4-5 record.
The Johnson City pitching staff has been plagued by big innings. Not being able to get anybody out has led to a team ERA of 7.14. That number seems astronomical until you realize it’s not even the worst ERA in the league.
In fact, it’s not even the worst one in their division.
The Greeneville Reds’ staff is pitching to an 8.89 ERA. They have allowed 90 runs in 10 games.
Despite the shaky pitching, the Cards have a star on the mound in the early going. Noel De Jesus is 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA in his two starts.
Leandro Cedeno has four of the Cards’ 14 home runs, including one over the tall center field wall at TVA Credit Union Ballpark. He’s one behind league home run leader Mason Martin of Bristol.
There’s no secret to the Kingsport Mets’ early success. When you’re hitting .342 as a team, you’re going to win some games.
That’s exactly what the Mets have done. A team effort has them atop the league’s batting statistics and the West Division standings.
Center fielder Anthony Dirocie is leading the way with a .571 batting average. Of course, this early in the season numbers can be skewed either way by a hot streak or a slump, and nobody’s been hotter than Dirocie. He has gone 11 for 15 over his last four games.
Four Mets are among the top 12 hitters in the league, including Guillermo Granadillo (.476), Luis Santana (.412) and Shervyen Newton (.375).
On the mound, Kingsport’s Jose Butto hasn’t allowed a run in his first two starts, covering 10 2/3 innings. He’s held opponents to six hits while helping his team to a 7-2 start.
RUNNER ON SECOND
This is the first season the Appy League has used a controversial rule that places a runner on second base to begin each inning when the game goes into extra innings.
The rule played a part in Johnson City’s win over Kingsport on Friday night. Nolan Gorman began the top of the 10th on second for the Cards and eventually scored on a wild pitch.
In the bottom of the inning, Kingsport’s Yoel Romero started on second but was stranded at third.
It doesn’t seem like real baseball, but it’s a fact of life at the rookie-league level.
BAERGA ON THE MOUND
Danville’s Carlos Baerga has been the Apply League’s most versatile player over the first couple of weeks. The son of the former major-league star by the same name is usually an outfielder. He had five hits in his first 11 at-bats, a good start by any measure.
Then, one night his manager called upon him to pitch because the team’s staff was thin after a couple of extra-inning games. All Baerga did was earn a victory over the Pulaski Yankees. He gave up an unearned run, but struck out two batters in his one inning of work.
Former UNC Greensboro star Andrew Moritz is off to a solid start in the Appy League. The outfielder, drafted in the sixth round by the Atlanta Braves, is hitting .273 with a home run and six RBIs for Danville.
Moritz, who led the Southern Conference in hitting the past three seasons, was one of six UNCG players selected in the June draft. That school has had at least one player drafted in each of the last 18 years.
The Bluefield Blue Jays were one out away from a combined no-hitter on Sunday when Burlington’s Jose Marquez belted a two-out home run in the ninth inning.
Troy Watson, Cre Finfrock and Matt Harris had worked 8 2/3 innings of no-hit ball. They were bidding to pitch the Appy League’s first no-hitter since three Danville Braves combined on one last Aug. 8.
Dale Murphy will be on hand in Bristol on July 21 when the Pirates play host to the Kingsport Mets at Boyce Cox Field for Dale Murphy Night.
Murphy began his 20-year career in professional baseball with the Kingsport Braves in 1974. He went on to be the National League MVP twice and was an All-Star seven times. His visit to Bristol is being sponsored by Toyota of Kingsport.