But August has been a different story all together, and on Tuesday night at Hunter Wright Stadium, it was Pulaski that made all the right moves.
The Mariners came through with three early runs, put a crucial insurance run on the board in the seventh inning and held off a furious rally by Kingsport in the eighth to win 4-3.
The loss was the fourth in a row for the K-Mets, who fell four games behind Greeneville in the Western Division of the Appalachian League.
“We struggled,” Kingsport skipper Jose Leger said. “We swung at some pitches out of the zone and couldn’t get anything going early against their starter.”
Indeed, Pulaski starter Jose Flores set the tone with his five scoreless innings of work. Flores (5-0) surrendered just three hits, struck out seven batters and lowered his stellar ERA to 2.31.
Meanwhile, his teammates gave him a lead using a blend of opportunistic baserunning and timely hitting. Jeffrey Zimmerman got things started in the second when he doubled and eventually scored on a passed ball.
Zimmerman struck again in the third, connecting on an RBI double to plate Tyler Smith, who had just hit a run-scoring double of his own, to make the score 3-0.
A potential turning point in the game came in the bottom of the fourth when Kingsport loaded the bases with one out. Flores was able to get Amed Rosario to hit a tailor-made double-play ball.
“Now that you look back, it was a pretty significant play in the game to get the groundball double play to end the inning,” Pulaski manager Chris Prieto said. “Flores did a good job of getting out of some jams early on. He really had to pitch his way out of some trouble all the way through his outing, and it was nice to see him compete like that.”
From Leger’s perspective, the missed opportunity was a teachable moment for his talented 17-year-old prospect.
“Tough spot for a kid that’s only 17, but one day he’s going to come through and that ball is going to be hit far,” Leger said. “Sometimes they focus a little more on the result than the process, and that’s where they get out of their mechanics and you see some mistakes. It’s good for them to learn.”
After Pulaski manufactured another run in the seventh, the K-Mets finally broke through with three unearned runs in the eighth. Jeyckol De Leon, a player who dipped into the fountain of clutch on several occasions during the torrid July, came through with a key two-out, two-run double to pull the K-Mets (25-19) back within a run.
But Emilio Pagan came on for Pulaski (30-15) after De Leon’s hit and recorded the final four outs to earn his 10th save of the season. Persio Reyes (3-3) took the loss for Kingsport after giving up two earned runs on five hits in seven innings of work.