KINGSPORT — The Kingsport Mets have a lot of speed this season.
The Burlington Royals might be just a little bit faster.
Royals left fielder Derek Rodriguez led off the ninth inning with a triple and went on to score, lifting Burlington to a 5-4 Appalachian League win over the K-Mets at Hunter Wright Stadium on Wednesday night.
The Royals (18-31) have been trying to climb out of the east division cellar this month. They picked up two wins out of three in Kingsport and are now 8-4 in the month of August.
“Shoot, this month has just been our month,” said Rodriguez, who went 4-for-4 and stole two bases batting at the bottom of the Burlington order.
“The only series we’ve lost (in August) is Elizabethton. We’ve been on a streak and hopefully, we’ll keep it that way.”
Rodriguez went 0-for-3 on Tuesday but was inspired watching his teammates at the top of the order successfully bunt for base hits. The K-Mets infielders were better prepared Wednesday, but Rodriguez still managed to collect Burlington’s lone bunt single.
He generated a couple of slap hits in the fifth and seventh innings, which included scoring from third during a double-steal in the fifth inning. Rodriguez’s first triple of the season appeared to catch Kingsport right fielder John Semel unawares.
“Right after the bat I saw he took a bad route,” said Rodriguez. “I was just putting my head down and booking it. I was like, ‘that third bag is mine! Turn on the boosters, it’s time to go!’”
Yowell Espinal’s following fly ball to right field gave Rodriguez ample time to tag up and score, shifting the burden to K-Mets reliever Chris Hilliard (3-3).
Royals stopper Onassis Sirrett gave up singles to Luis Nieves and Kurt Steinhauer before closing the door for his third save of the season, preserving the win for middle reliever Lee Roberts (2-0).
Kingsport Mets manager Mike DiFelice, whose squad led 3-0 through four, said Burlington’s speed posed dilemmas for his fielders.
“What are you going to defend? A bunt or let them hit it back?” DiFelice said. “That kid had a good night at the plate, slapping balls over here and over there. Then he drives the ball to left -center field and one-hops the wall.”
The Royals got themselves back in the game by being aggressive on the basepaths, collecting five stolen bags on the night and advancing runners on two sacrifice bunts.
Luis Del Rosario went 3-for-5 with a double and two stolen bases. Espinal went 2-for-4, stole a base and got caught stealing once. Ben Tschepikow had a double.
Richard Lucas went 2-for-5 for Kingsport, including a solo home run over the Green Bank sign in right field in the third inning. It was his third of the season.
Joseph Bonfe went 2-for-4 with an RBI, while Nieves went 2-for-4 with an RBI. Taylor Freeman had a double and a sacrifice fly for the K-Mets (17-27).
Kingsport hits the road for a three-game series at Johnson City today. They return to Hunter Wright Sunday for a home stand with Princeton.