Lucas Stewart homered for the second straight game and the K-Mets defeated the Greeneville Astros by a 5-3 margin.
Back in June as the Appalachian League season was just beginning, Kingsport got swept in a three-game series at home by these same Astros, who outscored the K-Mets by a combined 18-3 margin.
Since then, the K-Mets (15-17) have beaten Greeneville four consecutive times.
Of more immediate concern, Kingsport’s won two straight overall and four of its last five to now trail the Astros (16-16) for third place in the West Division by just a single game.
Five of the K-Mets’ eight hits Saturday night went for extra bases, but defense made the difference in this one.
Kingsport turned inning-ending double plays in the first, second and fourth frames. The latter twin killing ended a rough fourth in which K-Mets starter Jonathan Kountis issued four walks before being removed.
Saturday’s game marked the second straight in which the Mets’ eight position players did not commit an error.
“I don’t want to jinx us, but we’re playing more solid defense,” manager Mike DiFelice said. “We’re not giving as many outs — whether it’s misplays or errors.”
Greeneville, meanwhile, made a bunch of miscues in the bottom half of the fourth. After Aderlin Rodriguez’s leadoff double and Stewart’s home run to center-right, Kingsport loaded the bases on three consecutive Astros errors. The K-Mets got only one run from the bases-loaded scenario, but held onto their lead for the remainder.
Javier Rodriguez’s two-out double plated Stewart for an insurance run in the fifth, and Ray Van Gurp’s RBI single brought home Albert Cordero in the sixth.
T.J. Chism (3-0), the first man out of the bullpen for Kingsport, logged the win. He and Orlando Tovar each pitched the Mets out of a jam with men on base.
Tovar spelled Jhonathan Torres in the sixth after Torres allowed a two-run single.
Richard Peña finished up for his second save. He yielded two singles but got backed up by a nice game-ending play from Aderlin Rodriguez, who threw to Stewart for the last out.
Rodriguez, who also leads the team in home runs (eight) and RBIs (25), has improved markedly on defense since the Appy season started. DiFelice credited coach Luis Rivera for that.
“When you evaluate him, his bat is going to always be his strength. Even in the big leagues, you don’t see many one-sided third basemen. You’ve got to be able to make the routine plays,” DiFelice said.
“Maybe two weeks ago, that ball at the end of the game there probably gets through. And then we’re in a jam. That’s the accountability that’s happened.”
Aderlin Rodriguez and Van Gurp each had two hits. Stewart’s homer was his fourth. His first two also came in back-to-back games.
The Mets promoted catcher Patrick Farrell, a 32nd-round pick in the June draft, to low-A Savannah after Friday’s game.
Kingsport concludes its series with Greeneville and its six-game homestand tonight.