Jeff Diehl’s fly ball to left in the bottom of the ninth inning was deep enough to plate leadoff man Yeixon Ruiz, lifting the Kingsport Mets to a 7-6 Appalachian League win over the Princeton Rays at Hunter Wright Stadium Wednesday night.
The game saw both teams combine for nine errors — six by Princeton — but Kingsport’s penchant for winning close ballgames carried the night.
The weather, in contrast, was beautiful and cool, feeling more like autumn than August.
“I don’t know what to say about that game. It was just an ugly game. We didn’t play good defense but I guess we took advantage of them playing worse than we did,” said K-Mets manager Jose Leger, whose 30-22 team moved within 2 games of West Division leader Greeneville.
A missed-catch error by Princeton third baseman Leopoldo Correa on Jeff McNeil’s bunt contributed mightily to the fate of losing pitcher Oscar Armenta (1-2).
With McNeil on first and Ruiz on second, Joe Tuschak’s subsequent sac bunt was a textbook freebie. Armenta loaded the bags for a force-out with an intentional walk to Jeckol De Leon, who got two consecutive hits on his previous two at-bats.
Diehl, who scored Kingsport’s first run in the second inning on his lone hit of the game, settled it with his sacrifice fly.
Ruiz crossing the the plate with the winning run was a nice redemption narrative for such a shenanigans-laden game.
With one out in the first inning, Ruiz was poised to score from third when De Leon cranked a line drive to center. The distracted leadoff man left early and the go-ahead run was erased by Princeton’s appeal.
Ruiz, who went 2-for-5 with two stolen bases, made good for the first inning mistake during Kingsport’s five-run rally in the fifth frame. He stole home on a called play during Joe Tuschak’s at-bat that resulted in a throwing error from Princeton first baseman Travis Flores.
“Sometimes you’ve got a lefty on the mound and they’ve got the long leg kick. So right there 0-2 on the hitter, you’re going for something,” Leger said. “So I put the steal on and told Ruiz, if he picks up his leg to go to first base, then you’re going. It definitely worked out.”
Kingsport’s 6-3 lead got whittled down in the sixth by Hunter Lockerwood’s two-run shot over the Domtar sign in left field. It was the Rays’ second blast of the night. They got am earlier solo shot in the fourth from Yoel Araujo.
A throwing error by K-Mets third baseman Ritchie Rodriguez, his second of the night, allowed the tying run to score in the eighth.
McNeil and Amed Rosario each had two hits for Kingsport.
After suffering the eighth-inning indignity of his second blown save of the season, late reliever Robert Coles (2-1) survived a bases-loaded jam in the ninth to pick up the win.
Lockwood went 3-for-5 with three RBIs for the Rays (16-37). Elias Torres had a pair of doubles. Travis Flores had a double.
The K-Mets begin a three-game series with the Bristol White Sox tonight at Hunter Wright Stadium. First pitch is at 7 p.m.