The Appalachian League’s West Division race is in for a photo finish.
On Tuesday night at Hunter Wright Stadium, Johnson City needed a win against Kingsport to stay alive for a postseason berth. The Cardinals got the job done, beating the K-Mets 9-4.
The Cards and Mets play for the division crown Wednesday — and the loser is likely to miss the playoffs entirely.
Johnson City did most of its damage over the opening three frames when it scored seven of its runs.
The Cardinals, one night after getting hammered 15-6 at Hunter Wright, took their turn at laying the wood to Kingsport. Three of their first four batters reached safely and Liam Sabino knocked a ground-rule double over the wall in left-center to score Mateo Gil.
Sabino, Gil and Todd Lott each had two RBIs.
The Cards also got lights-out pitching from starter Hector Soto (1-1), who went five strong innings. Soto struck out five and allowed just two hits.
John Witkowski pitched the last 2 2/3 innings to earn the save. He struck out and his frames were squeaky clean.
SPUTTERING METS OFFENSE
The K-Mets’ offense didn’t really get started until the sixth, when they scored three runs. Andres Regnault had a two-run double in the inning, but the rally ended when Scott Ota was caught in a rundown between first and second.
The K-Mets manufactured on one more good opportunity in the seventh when they put 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.
LESS THAN STELLAR
K-Mets starting pitcher Cesar Loaiza lasted only 1 2/3 innings, during which he gave up six runs on five hits.
Kingsport’s defense did not help out either, committing two errors — including one on a slow first-inning grounder to short on which the first baseman dropped the ball.
The winner of Wednesday’s regular-season finale takes the division title and makes the playoffs. The loser needs both Bristol and Elizabethton to lose to keep playing.
If Bristol loses to Danville and Elizabethton wins the series finale against Greeneville, Elizabethton earns the second playoff spot.
If Bristol wins, the Twins cannot make the playoffs.
FOR THE CROWN
Postseason hopes for both the K-Mets and Cards hang in the balance when they meet Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at Hunter Wright.