KINGSPORT — As the Appalachian League season nears its midpoint, the Kingsport Mets are playing a better brand of baseball.
Friday night’s 7-4 victory over the Greeneville Astros sent the K-Mets to their third win in the past four games. Kingsport has won eight of its past 11, dating back to a 13-6 triumph at Johnson City on July 12.
In the process, the K-Mets (14-17) have climbed out of the basement of the West Division. Though Kingsport gained no ground on the first-place Cardinals on Friday, it did close the gap on the third-place Astros (16-15) and now trails them by just two games.
“It’s a little tough getting to know everybody at first and trying to win right away,” said K-Mets first baseman Lucas Stewart, whose solo home run in the seventh inning closed scoring. “I think everybody’s kind of starting to mesh and everybody’s just going out there and playing and doing what they’re capable of doing.”
Stewart’s been on quite a tear, hitting .353 with nine RBIs and all three of his home runs in his past 10 games played. He’s hooked several well-hit balls foul past the first-base line during Kingsport’s current homestand but finally got one, smashing the offering from Greeneville reliever Philip Rorabaugh over the center-right wall.
“A lot of pitchers are pitching me in. I think it’s the long arms and the wood bat, which is also probably why I’ve been getting hit quite a bit,” said the 6-foot-4 Stewart, who’s sustained 11 of the 22 plunkings of K-Met hitters. “I got it on the barrel right there in my last at-bat. It felt good.”
Some of his teammates also have to be feeling good about their recent work.
Chase Greene, who missed almost the entire first month of the season, went 3-for-4 with two runs scored out of the leadoff spot. Catcher Patrick Farrell belted a two-run single, the highlight in a four-run fifth, and has tallied at least one hit in four of five games as a professional.
The fifth-inning outburst also broke a 2-all tie. All nine K-Met hitters came to bat in the frame.
“The fifth inning, right there in the meat and potato of the game, it’s going to be one team or the other and we come out and put up a four-spot to give us a cushion,” Kingsport skipper Mike DiFelice said.
Lachlan Hodge looked sharp before leaving abruptly in the eighth inning. Entering the game with a 12.08 ERA, Hodge threw two scoreless innings in relief of starter Eduardo Aldama (1-0) before leaving because of an injury.
“The guy’s elbow’s sore so we’ve got to find out what it is,” DiFelice said of Hodge, who was lifted quickly after walking the leadoff man in the eighth.
Michael Weldon pitched his way out of trouble in the ninth for his fourth save.
Nelfi Zapata and John Semel had two hits apiece at the bottom of the K-Mets lineup.
Greeneville’s Telvin Nash crushed a solo home run to deep center in the top of the fourth. Fellow Astro Marcus Nidiffer, a Tennessee High alum, went 1-for-4 out of the cleanup spot.