The Cards won a thrilling Appalachian League West Division de facto title game 9-7 on Wednesday night and will be playing Bristol in a best-of-3 playoff series beginning Friday.
Weakened by the loss to Johnson City, the Mets’ playoff hopes completely vanished when Bristol polished off a 4-2 victory over Danville.
The offense got started early for the Cardinals (35-33) as Diomedes Del Rio hit Johnson City’s fourth grand slam of the season in the top of the second on an 0-2 count.
The fifth through eighth hitters in Johnson City’s lineup were a combined 8-for-18 with eight runs scored and seven RBIs.
METS GET BACK IN IT
Kingsport (34-34) fought back to score four runs in the third and tie the game.
Wilfred Astudillo smoked a ball down the right-field line for a three-run home run with two outs on a 3-2 count. That got the crowd back into the game, but it didn’t last long.
Chandler Redmond, who finished 2-for-5 with a solo homer in the sixth, led off the next inning for JC with a single. Then Victor Garcia came to the plate and hammered a ball to left for a two-run homer that put the Cards back in front.
From there, they never relinquished the lead.
IT’S NOT YOUR NIGHT
In the fifth inning, with runners on the corners and two outs, Scott Ota hit a high chopper down the first-base line that looked like a fair ball — which went over the first baseman’s head and was going to be a one- or two-run double.
However, home plate umpire Caleb Devier called the ball foul and the Kingsport crowd vehemently disagreed with him.
Ota flew out to center field on the next pitch to end the threat.
In the following frame for Kingsport, Tanner Murphy hit a long fly ball to deep left field that looked like it was going to clear the wall and draw Kingsport closer.
Instead, Cardinals left fielder Jhon Torres made a spectacular catch to rob Murphy of a solo homer.
Trailing 9-5 in the ninth, Kingsport needed some help. It did not start out well as both first-round draft pick Brett Baty and Cristofer Pujols struck out.
After Jaylen Palmer reached on an error by the shortstop, Andres Regnault hit a moonshot home run off the top of the left field light pole to cut the JC lead down to two.
Unfortunately for Kingsport, Astudillo struck out to end the game.
Johnson City’s Julio Puello earned the win after going five innings and striking out six.
It was the bullpen pitchers that were the heroes on Wednesday night as Will Guay and Dylan Pierce combined for the final four innings and gave up just one earned run and two hits.
Pierce struck out five of the seven batters he faced and earned the save.