Max Smith, a 31st-round draft pick out of UNLV, led the way, going 4-for-5 with a home run, a double and two runs scored.
“I’ve been working on attacking the pitches that I need to attack,” Smith said. “I was seeing the ball well. My first career home run was awesome. I was just trying to put the ball in play hard and when you do that, good things happen. It was definitely a good night.”
One of the costly errors, a throwing error in the decisive third inning, resulted in two runs scored. Add in a two-run double by Matt Wallner and a RBI single by Parker Phillips, a 22-year-old from Clarksville called up from the Gulf Coast League, and the Twins scored five runs in the inning. Wallner, Phillips and Trevor Jensen all ended with two hits.
The Twins (16-11) now hold a 1½-game lead over the Cardinals (14-12) in the Appalachian League West Division standings.
Elizabethton starter Tyler Benninghoff (2-1) had six strikeouts and gave up three hits and three runs over six solid innings. The 6-foot-4 right hander talked about starting strong and then relying on the defense.
“Usually when I struggle, it’s in the first inning when I’m hot and sweaty and can’t get a good grip on the ball,” Benninghoff said. “I had a lot of confidence, pitching in the (strike) zone and attacking the hitters.
“The defense made some incredible plays. Jensen made a couple of great catches in foul territory, then (Ruben) Santana and (Seth) Gray made a couple of great plays up the middle. It was easy to pitch with those guys tonight.”
Frandy Torres threw the next 1 2/3 innings before Dylan Thomas threw the final 1 1/3 innings to record his third save of the season.
Jake Sommers, who got the start for Johnson City after Dalton Roach was called up to State College, suffered the loss. Sommers (1-1), the Cardinals’ 10th-round pick from Wisconsin-Milwaukee, gave up seven hits and six runs over four innings.
John Witkowski and Wilberto Rivera each threw two innings of relief.
Carlos Soler had a RBI double in the top of the second to give Johnson City the early lead before the big third inning for the Twins made it a 5-1 game.
The Cardinals cut into the lead in the fourth with Jhon Torres scoring on a Twins fielding error and Zach Jackson coming home on a wild pitch.
Smith belted his solo home run over right field for the Twins in the bottom of the fourth for a 6-3 lead.
The teams traded runs in the seventh inning. Johnson City’s Victor Garcia cracked a homer to right center field. Elizabethton answered in the bottom of the inning with Kidany Salva’s RBI single, scoring Phillips.
Jackson hit a single to right field to score Todd Lott for the game’s final run.
Jackson led the Cardinals, going 2-for-4, driving in a run and scoring twice. Torres reached base twice with two walks. The Cardinals were just 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position.
Elizabethton will head to Greeneville for a three-game series starting Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. Johnson City will host Bristol to start its own three-game series.