BY JIM MILLER
One week after treating the home fans to a 17-inning game against Danville, the Greeneville Astros worked overtime in Friday's doubleheader against the Johnson City Cardinals.
Johnson City took the opener 1-0 in nine innings, but Greeneville came back in game two with a pair of sixth-inning runs to claim a 4-2 victory and give the Astros a split of the twin-bill with the Cardinals in front of 1,162 fans at Pioneer Park.
The win in the nightcap allowed the Astros (10-7) to salvage the final game of the three-game series with the Cardinals (9-9) and maintain second place in the Appalachian League West Division behind Elizabethton.
CARDINALS TAKE GAME ONE
In game one, starting pitchers Adrian Houser of Greeneville and Stalyn Lopez of Johnson City matched zeroes into the sixth inning, and the Cardinals nudged across the winning run in the top of the ninth on a hit batter with the bases loaded.
The Astros, who left 10 runners on base, wasted a bases-loaded, one-out situation in the sixth and saw the potential winning run doubled off second base in the eighth in dropping their third straight game. It was also the first time this season that the Astros were shut out.
Johnson City managed just seven hits against three Greeneville pitchers, but it was a hit batter that was the difference. Lance Jeffries was plunked with two outs in the ninth to force across the only run of the game, and three Cardinal pitchers combined to blank the Astros on six hits.
The Astros stranded a pair of runners in the first, and the Cardinals left the bases loaded in the second as Houser struck out Jeffries on three pitches.
From there, neither team mounted much of a rally until the bottom of the fifth, when the Astros put runners at first and second with one out. However, Lopez was able to induce Ernesto Genoves to ground into a double play to escape without any damage.
In the Astros' sixth, Michael Martinez walked with one out and pinch-runner Brian Blasik moved to third on a bloop single by Ariel Ovando. After an intentional walk to Jean Batista loaded the bases, Lopez fanned Angel Ibanez for the second out. Righthander Jeffrey Rauh took over in relief for the Cardinals and struck out Jimmy Howick on a high fastball to keep the game scoreless.
The game went to extra innings following the seventh, and both teams were unable to convert leadoff singles in the eighth. The Astros nearly won the game in their half of the eighth, as Terrell Joyce led off with a single and pinch-runner Josh Magee moved to second on a sacrifice. On a 3-0 count, Ovando hit a screaming line drive up the middle directly into the glove of Rauh, who was able to double off Magee to end the inning.
In the ninth, the Cardinals broke through with a two-out run against Astros reliever Mike Hauschild (0-1). Bruce Caldwell reached on an infield single in the hole between first and second, Carson Kelly followed with a single to left and Steve Bean walked to load the bases. Jeffries was then drilled by an inside fastball to force home Caldwell with the game's first run.
Ronald Shaban pitched a hitless ninth in relief of Rauh (1-0) to earn his fifth save in as many chances this season.
Houser was outstanding on the mound in his seven innings for the Astros. The 19-year-old righthander scattered four hits and struck out six, dropping his earned run average to 2.86 for the season. Lopez gave up five hits and fanned four in 5 2/3 scoreless innings for the Cardinals, who received 3 1/3 innings of one-hit relief from Rauh and Shaban.
ERRORS PAVE WAY FOR ASTROS VICTORY
In game two, the Astros overcame an early 2-0 deficit with single runs in the fourth and fifth innings, then took the lead with two unearned runs in the sixth. Greeneville's Richard Rodriguez and Zachary Dando combined for a one-hitter in the victory, yielding just a two-run home run to Johnson City's Jeremy Schaffer in the first inning.
The Cardinals jumped to a 2-0 lead after just three batters. C.J. McElroy was hit by the game's first pitch from Richard Rodriguez, stole second and scored on a two-run home run to left by Schaffer, his second of the season.
Greeneville threatened in the bottom of the second, as Joyce and Genoves reached on back-to-back singles and moved to second and third on a wild pitch by Johnson City starter Cory Jones. The Astros were unable to cash in, as Jones struck out Ovando and Howick and got Ricky Ginger's on a fly ball to center to retire the side.
The Astros finally dented the scoreboard for the first time in 19 innings in the bottom of the fourth. A leadoff single by Joyce, a one-out single from Ovando and a walk to Howick loaded the bases for Gingras. A comebacker was knocked down by Jones, who could only recover in time to get the out at first as Joyce crossed the plate to make it a 2-1 Cardinals lead.
In the fifth, the Astros tied the game at 2-2 when Jose Monzon led off the inning with a solo home run to left field, his second homer of the year. The inning ended when Joyce was thrown out at third base trying to stretch a double into a triple, his third hit of the game and fifth of the doubleheader.
The Astros took a 4-2 lead in the sixth thanks to back-to-back throwing errors from first baseman Schaffer. With one out, Ovando singled to right off Joseph Donofrio (0-1) and Howick walked. Gingras then hit a chopper to Schaffer, whose throw to second was 15 feet wide of the bag, allowing Ovando to scamper home with the go-ahead run.
The next batter, Ibanez, hit another grounder to first that Schaffer fielded and threw wildly to home, enabling Howick to score for a 4-2 Greeneville lead. Dando (2-0) closed out the win with a perfect seventh, as he and Rodriguez combined to retire 19 of the Cardinals' last 21 batters following Schaffer's homer.
Rodriguez gave the Astros their second excellent start of the night, working five full innings and allowing just the home run by Schaffer to go with five strikeouts and one walk. Jones struck out five and allowed two runs on six hits for the Cardinals in five innings.
The Astros will continue their nine-game homestand tonight at 6 p.m. when the Bristol Sox arrive to Pioneer Park for the start of a three-game series.
Because of Thursday night's rain out and Friday night's doubleheader, the Parrot Head Night and The Caribbean Cowboys Band pregame concert has been rescheduled for Friday, July 13 beginning at 5:30 p.m.