The Appalachian League’s West Division-race is coming down to a photo finish.
On Tuesday night at Hunter Wright Stadium, the Johnson City Cardinals needed a win against Kingsport to stay alive for a postseason berth. The Cardinals got the job done, beating the Mets 9-4.
The Cards and Mets will play for the division crown on Tuesday and the loser will likely miss the playoffs entirely.
Johnson City did most of its damage in the opening three frames, scoring seven of the nine runs.
One night after getting hammered 15-6, the Cardinals were the ones laying the wood to Kingsport. Three of the first four batters reached safely for JC, with Liam Sabino knocking a ground-rule double over the left-centerfield wall to score Mateo Gil.
Sabino, Gil and Todd Lott each had two RBIs on the evening.
The Cards also got lights-out pitching from starter Hector Soto. He went five strong innings, striking out five batters and allowing just two hits. He notched the win.
John Witkowski came in and pitched the last 2⅔ innings to earn the save. He struck out and his frames were squeaky clean.
SPUTTERING METS OFFENSE
The offense didn’t really get started for the Mets until the sixth inning, when three runs were scored. Andres Regnault had a two-run double in that inning, but the rally was halted when Scott Ota was caught in a rundown between first and second.
The Mets did have one more good opportunity to score in the seventh with runners on first and second with just one out.
The Cardinals got out of that sticky situation thanks to a strikeout by Walker Robbins and a forceout at second.
The Mets’ pitching was not top-notch as starter Cesar Loaiza only last 1⅔ innings, allowing six runs on five hits. The Mets defense did not help out in the least, committing two errors — including one on a slow first-inning grounder to short (first baseman dropped the ball).
The winner of Wednesday’s game will win the division title and make the playoffs.
The loser can also advance if both Bristol and Elizabethton lose.
If Bristol loses to Danville and Elizabethton wins the series finale against Greeneville, Elizabethton will get the second playoff spot.
If Bristol wins, the Twins cannot make the playoffs.
FOR THE CROWN
On the final day of the regular season, the Mets and Cardinals have the first pitch slated for 6:30 p.m.