The Twins (11-8) blew open a close one in the bottom of the sixth inning with three runs that put the game out of reach. The Twins loaded the bases with one out and went to work with patience at the plate and one timely hit.
Max Smith got the scoring started with a RBI single that scored Seth Gray.
Like a well-oiled machine, Elizabethton drew three walks in the next four batters, accounting for two more runs.
Prelander Berroa got his first win of the season (1-1), pitching five innings and striking out three.
Johnson City was 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and left eight runners stranded.
The second half of the home-and-home between the rivals will be Monday at 6:30 p.m. at TVA Credit Union Ballpark in Johnson City.
GETTING TO JUSTO
Johnson City (10-8) starter Francisco Justo had been one of the best pitchers in the Appalachian League coming into Sunday’s game, boasting a 1.10 ERA with two wins in three starts and recording 15 strikeouts.
In his Cardinals debut, he carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning against Greeneville before it was broken up.
Justo was roughed up in the matchup against the Twins before he even got out of the first frame. Charles Mack got it started for Elizabethton with a one-out single and he was batted in three pitches later thanks to a Seth Gray RBI double off the wall in left.
Gray didn’t have to wait long on the bases to come home, as Matt Wallner smashed a two-run home run over the scoreboard in right field.
Elizabethton had jumped on the JC ace, going up 3-0 at the end of the first.
He ended up with the loss, allowing four runs on four hits and surrendering two homers. It was his first loss of the season, and his record is now 2-1.
TWINS GET ONE MORE, JC RESPONDS
With Justo still in the game, Mack led off the third inning with a solo shot over the right field wall and into the parking lot to extend the Elizabethton lead to 4-0.
The Cardinals got on the board in the top of the fourth and it started by Chandler Redmond leading off with a double.
After a fly out to center and a passed ball, Redmond moved to third. Zach Jackson was able to get him home with a sacrifice fly to right, but it was unearned.
The Cardinals cut into the deficit and trailed 4-1.
CARDS BACK IN IT
Johnson City was able to hang a pair of runs in the top of the sixth with no outs and draw even with a score.
Mateo Gil started it with a leadoff single and then Jhon Torres walked to get runners on first and second. After Chandler Redmond singled and drove in Gil from second, Elizabethton starter Berroa was relieved in favor of Osiris German.
After Torres scored from third on an RBI grounder by Todd Lott, German was able to get out of the inning without any further damage.
Elizabethton still led 4-3 after five and a half innings were completed.