GREENEVILLE — The Kingsport Mets moved their dreams for the Appalachian League title a little closer to fruition Sunday evening.
The K-Mets edged Greeneville 3-1 at Pioneer Park in the opener of the three-game West Division series, which was pushed back a day because of rain.
During a season in which Kingsport has made a habit of scoring late to tie or win, it did the opposite this time then rode solid defense and pitching to the win.
The Mets plated two runs in the first inning thanks to RBI singles by Jeyckol De Leon and Joe Tuschak.
Their third and final run came in the fourth. Catcher Adrian Abreu was hit in the head by an inside pitch. After being checked out, he went to first and then took second base on a walk, later scoring on Yeixon Ruiz’s single.
Ruiz finished the evening 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored.
That was all the offense produced. Of the K-Mets’ five hits, none came after the fourth inning.
Fortunately for them, their pitching made further offense unnecessary.
Kingsport ace Chris Flexen took the victory after going five innings and allowing five hits. Reliever Persio Reyes went the final four innings, giving up only two hits.
“Flexen did not have his best stuff and actually made too many pitches,” said K-Mets manager Jose Leger. “He was behind on some batters, but he battled. After five innings he was up to 92 pitches and we decided to go to Reyes.”
Greeneville’s only run came in the seventh inning. With two outs, Brent Phillips singled and scored one batter later when Brian Holberton doubled.
The Astros had their opportunities, leaving a total of nine runners stranded on base.
A win Monday puts the Mets into the best-of-three league championship series against Pulaski. The Mariners beat Bluefield 6-4 on Sunday to claim the East Division title.
According to Appalachian League championship rules, in odd-numbered years the westernmost club hosts Game 1 and the easternmost team gets games 2 and 3. Thus if Kingsport advances, the Mets get Game 1 and travel for 2 and 3.
Kingsport won four of six games against Pulaski in their regular-season meetings.
“These guys are doing a great job of playing ‘pitch by pitch’ and they are focused and they play loose,” Leger said.
“People see this game as important, but we see every game as important and that is what has gotten us here.”
Game time Monday at Hunter Wright Stadium is 7 p.m. Carlos Gomez (2-0, 0.00 ERA) starts for the K-Mets.