Three outs away from a series sweep, the Johnson City Cardinals fell apart.
The Bluefield Blue Jays scored four runs in the ninth inning Sunday night to beat Johnson City 10-7 at TVA Credit Union Ballpark and avert a three-game sweep.
The loss ended the Cardinals’ six-game home winning streak, and they fell to 25-19. They’re still holding a two-game lead over second-place Elizabethton in the Appalachian League’s West Division.
Reliever Enrique Perez, the Cards’ third pitcher, came on in the ninth to protect a 7-6 lead. He gave up back-to-back doubles to Davis Schneider and Andres Guerra to tie the game.
The Blue Jays took the lead when Johnson City shortstop Mateo Gill fielded a hard shot by Steward Berroa and his throw ended up in the Bluefield dugout.
After an RBI single by Miguel Hiraldo made it 9-7, the Cards made one last mistake. Catcher Aaron Antonini tried to pick Hiraldo off and his wild throw rolled into the right field corner. That allowed Hiraldo to score all the way from first without a play.
Perez (2-2) allowed four hits, and two of the four runs he gave up were unearned.
The Cards took a commanding lead in the third inning, scoring six runs while sending 12 batters to the plate. They loaded the bases thanks to singles from Carlos Soler and Diomedes Del Rio and having Ben Baird hit with a pitch. Gill and Liam Sabino followed with run-scoring singles before Chandler Redmond, the hero of the previous night’s win, and Kyle Skeels both walked to make it 4-0.
That spelled the end of the night for Bluefield starter Roither Hernandez, and Victor Garcia greeted reliever Luis Alvarez with an RBI single. Zach Jackson drew the third bases-loaded walk of the inning and Johnson City was up 6-0 before an out had been made.
A strikeout and a double play ended the inning quickly.
The Cards made it 7-3 in the fifth inning on Garcia’s RBI hit and had a chance to break it open with the bases loaded. Diomedes Del Rio grounded into a double play to end the threat.
Del Rio came to the plate twice with one out and the bases loaded and grounded into an inning-ending double play each time.
Hector Soto made his first start of the season a good one, holding the Blue Jays to three hits over five innings. He struck out six batters.
Soto would probably like to have one pitch back. He gave up a three-run home run to Schneider in the fourth inning. The bullpen couldn’t hold the lead and Soto was denied his first win.
Trailing 7-3, the Blue Jays struck for a single run in the seventh and two more in the eighth, setting up their ninth-inning heroics.
Schneider finished 3 for 4 with four RBIs for the Blue Jays, who improved to 22-22. Bluefield reliever Austin Havekost (1-0) worked two scoreless innings to earn the victory.
The Burlington Royals pay a visit to TVA Credit Union Ballpark on Monday night to start a three-game series. It’s the fourth game in a seven-game homestand for the Cardinals. Gates open at 6:30 p.m. and it’s Johnson City Press night and Dollar Monday at the ballpark.