The Royals jumped out to an early three-run lead and pulled away to a 9-2 win over the Cardinals on Monday night at TVA Credit Union Ballpark. It came less than 24 hours after Burlington beat Pulaski 5-4 in 17 innings to reach the championship series.
The task is straightforward for the Cardinals if they are to win the club’s fifth Appalachian League championship since 2010 and 10th title overall. They must put Monday’s ugly loss behind them and win the next two games on the road. The series resumes Tuesday.
Play now shifts to Burlington Athletic Stadium for the rest of the best-of-3 series.
“We feel confident,” Johnson City manager Roberto Espinoza said. “We’ve been able to bounce back all season. We just have to play a good game tomorrow. We have Hector Soto coming in as our guy and he’s been pitching good games for us. He just has to do the job tomorrow.”
The Cardinals’ only runs came on a pair of solo home runs.
Chandler Redmond homered on a line drive shot over right field in the second inning. Carlos Soler hit another solo shot near the same spot in the fifth inning.
Johnson City threatened again in the eighth inning. Redmond pounded a double off the left center field wall between long hit balls by Todd Lott and Trejyn Fletcher which reached the warning track.
It was the second night in a row which Redmond homered. He hit a two-run shot to lift Johnson City to a 7-5 win over Bristol in Game 3 of the West Division championship series.
“The whole playoffs I’ve been seeing the ball well and putting good swings on it,” Redmond said. “I’ve been trying not to do too much, not to force anything and it’s helping me out.”
Johnson City starter Julio Puello had a rough start, giving up seven hits and seven runs over six innings.
It included giving up a solo home run to the Royals’ Vinnie Pasquantino in the first inning and a two-run shot to Jake Means in the top of the sixth.
Enrique Perez, Wilberto Rivera and Alex Gallegos each saw an inning of action for the Cardinals. Rivera gave up two hits and two runs.
Overall, the Royals outhit the Cardinals 10-6 and they went 5-for-9 with runners in scoring position. Conversely, Johnson City was 0-for-6 in the same situations, leaving 10 runners stranded.
Means drove in three runs, while Jack Gethings and Pasquantino each scored twice for the Royals.
Heribert Garcia struck out six, while allowing two hits and two runs over five innings to earn the victory. Alex Smith threw the next three innings before A.J. Franklin closed it out.
Burlington is looking for its third Appalachian League title and its first since becoming a Royals affiliate in 2006. The previous titles in 1987 and 1993 were with the Indians organization.