E-Twins drop two games to JC Cards


Photo by Dave Boyd ElizabethtonÕs Ron Perodin makes the bat meet the ball on Friday night.

By Michelle Prater
STAR Staff
mprater@starhq.com
Joe O'Brien Field resembled a lake Friday night as the Twins' firm grasp on the West Division lead was washed away by two losses -- 7-6 and 9-0 -- to Johnson City.
Now barely clinging to the lead, the Twins have embarked on a six-game road trip to try to compensate for Friday night's losses.
"Maybe we can right this ship, and put these games behind us," said Elizabethton manager Ray Smith. "We can learn something, and apply it on the road."
After being suspended Tuesday night because of rain, the remaining six and a half innings were slated to be finished Friday night, followed by the originally scheduled game. However, in "the game that never ends," Mother Nature stepped in again, and forced officials to call a two-hour halt because of lightning and rain.
"The other night we had problems [with the tarp] for the first time this year," Twins general manager Mike Mains said of Tuesday night's scurry to cover the field against the sudden onslaught of rain. Fortunately, the rain didn't come as suddenly Friday night, and the crew was able to cover the entire infield before the sprinkle grew into the downpour that would suspend the game halfway through the bottom of the ninth inning.
Picking up in the bottom of the third inning, the Twins had a successful comeback against Johnson City's 1-0 lead that carried over from Tuesday night, scoring four runs in the third inning. With the Twins batting all the way around, Denard Span, Angelo Fermin and Kyle Phillips each got a base hit while Johnson City pitcher Stuart Pomeranz walked three batters. The rookie pitcher hit Dusty Goman with a pitch in his first inning of the season.
Johnson City scored again in the fourth with a base hit each from Kevin House and Andy Schutzenhofer, followed by another hit from Angel Perez that sent House across the plate. The Twins knocked out the chance of scoring again, making the third out at first base, leaving two Cardinals on base.
Elizabethton widened the gap on the scoreboard in the fifth inning, with Span, Fermin, and Phillips again taking a base each. Span made it across home plate on a pitching error from Johnson City's Miguel Chavez.
As Brock Peterson popped a sacrifice fly out to left center field, Fermin attempted to make a dash for home, and was caught between third base and home plate. As the ball was thrown to home, Fermin faked to third and then hustled to home plate, making a safe slide in before the ball could make it to third baseman Tanner Wootan and back home, placing the Twins in a 6-2 lead.
That lead was soon to be lost, however, as the Cardinals scored four runs in the seventh inning against Chris Schutt and Ryan Hader's pitching. Schutt allowed a hit from Sal Frisella and walked three batters, giving Johnson City the first point of the inning.
Hader couldn't stop the roll the Cardinals were on, walking Daric Barton and giving Johnson City another RBI. A base hit from Kevin House and a pass ball on Twins catcher Josh Johnson sent two more Cardinals home, tying the score at six.
"It was frustrating," said Smith after the game. "We had a 6-2 lead late in the game during the seventh. The bullpen has been pretty effective all year long, but they struggled again. They came in and starting walking people. They get a little hit here and get a little hit there, and next thing you know, you're tied."
The Twins were unable to pull ahead in the last two innings. The Cardinals' designated hitter Levi Webber hit a fly ball to right center field, gaining two bases, followed by a pop-up to center field by Barton.
Twins pitcher Julio DePaula walked Schutzenhofer, loading the bases. Johnson City coach Ron "Pop" Warner pinch-hit the giant Andrew Davie, who drove Webber home for the winning run.
Elizabethton had one out and Ron Perodin on base during the bottom of the ninth when lightning struck nearby, and play was stopped. After the rain subsided, Peterson flew out at left field and pinch hitter Justin Sims struck out for the final out of the game.
Due to the rain, Mayberry's favorite deputy was unable to do his comical act, but instead mingled with the fans and enforced good behavior with his presence.
"He'll be back on the 18th because he likes the fans so much," said Mains. "Our fans will love that."
The second game didn't start until after 10:30 p.m. due to the rain, but the attendance remained at 405. John Uhl was the starting pitcher for Elizabethton, against Johnson City's Matthew Weagle. No runs were scored for either side during the first inning.
In the second, the Cardinals' right-fielder Sal Frisella hit a ground ball down the third base line, gaining first base. Daric Barton followed with a fly ball that landed in the midst of three Twins in left field, and catcher Brandon Yarborough gained an RBI with a base hit.
After another 0 on the scoreboard for the Twins in the third, the Cardinals took a gigantic lead, with five, almost consecutive, RBIs from Andrew Davie, Barton, Tavaris Gary, and two from Yarborough. The first was against Uhl, and the remaining four were against John Lynch.
Twins manager Smith cycled through five pitchers during the seven inning game, often substituting mid-inning, but was still unable to stop Johnson City's solid hitting. Cardinals shortstop Cal Hayes Jr. smashed a homer in the top of the sixth, gaining two RBIs.
Twins pitcher Culpepper walked Schutzenhofer and Davie, and allowed a hit from left-fielder Cody Haerther. Culpepper hit Sal Frisella with a pitch while the bases were loaded, giving Johnson City another point and bringing the score to 9-0.
After the Twins had Jason Pospishil on base and two outs in the bottom of the sixth, Cardinal pitcher Joshua Markham threw a high pitch to Denard Span, hitting his helmet and knocking him to the ground. After a brief stop in play, Smith took Span to the showers and sent Ron Perodin in as a pinch runner. After the game, Span seemed to be fine; he was able to walk around and said, "I'm all right. I've got a big lump on my head though."
With two men on base, things looked promising for the Twins, but a fly out from Fermin ended the inning. As players and fans alike grew tired, the seventh inning was quick. Gary and Yarborough were the first two outs for the Twins, and after Culpepper walked Perez, he struck out Hayes, putting an end to Hayes' hitting streak and the inning.
Kyle Phillips gave a wake-up call to the fans in the stands behind first base, letting a slippery bat fly over the screen and into the bleachers, which harmlessly with a clang between the few fans that remained to watch the late-ending game. Gomon was out on a fly ball, and catcher Jesse Collins was tagged out at first base, finishing the game in the early morning hours with a 9-0 score.