2019 American Association Playoff Preview: Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks vs. St. Paul Saints
In American Association Daily, Robert Pannier previews the North Division playoff series between the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks and the St. Paul Saints. This series features the teams with the two best records in the American Association this season. St. Paul dominated the RedHawks during the regular season, winning nine of 12 games.
Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks vs. St. Paul Saints Tale of the Tape
(League ranking is in parenthesis)
Record: 63-37 (2)
Record – One-Run Games: 14-11
Record – Score First: 36-21
Record – Last 10: 4-6
Batting Average: .294 (1)
Homeruns: 99 (4)
Runs Scored: 568 (3)
Stolen Bases: 78 (7)
ERA: 3.74 (1)
Strikeouts: 782 (4)
Saves: 36 (1)
Opponent Batting Average: .261 (5)
Fielding Percentage: .978 (T-7)
Errors: 69 (T-2)
St. Paul Saints:
Record: 64-36 (1)
Record – One-Run Games: 24-15
Record – Score First: 43-14
Record – Last 10: 8-2
Batting Average: .272 (6)
Homeruns: 108 (2)
Runs Scored: 550 (4)
Stolen Bases: 72 (8)
ERA: 4.05 (3)
Strikeouts: 732 (6)
Saves: 31 (2)
Opponent Batting Average: .255 (4)
Fielding Percentage: .981 (T-2)
Errors: 71 (5)
How They Got Here
After a slow May where the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks went 8-7, the team caught fire. They went 19-8 in June and 16-10 in July, jumping ahead of the Saints in the North Division standings, and holding that spot until the final few days of the season. Despite going 20-12 in their last 32 games, injuries and a hot Saints team dropped them to second.
Fargo-Moorhead had arguably the best team on paper. It is no coincidence that they are first in ERA and first in hitting as they boast one of the deepest lineups, one that hit for average and power, and they have an outstanding pitching staff.
The top of this batting order is deadly. Tim Colwell (.321) and Brennan Metzger (.314) know how to get on base to make things happen, combining for 38 stolen bases. They set the table for two guys (Correlle Prime and Leobaldo Pina) who are both MVP candidates.
Everything was going perfectly for this team. They looked like a lock to reach the championship series, but injuries to Daniel Comstock and Yhoxian Medina in the final two weeks of the season, and the retirement of T.J. Bennett have this team looking ordinary. They still have six players hitting .300 or better, but it is not the same team.
The St. Pau Saints have been first or second in the division almost from start to finish. St. Paul came out of May 9-5, then went 18-9 in June, 16-12 in July and 21-10 in August and September.
This is a team that lost the league MVP when Max Murphy had his contract purchased yet still was the top team in the league. Three members of their starting rotation, including the guy leading the league in ERA, had their contracts purchased. They lost their closer for nearly a month, yet still found a way to have the best record in the American Association.
The job that Manager George Tsamis has done has been nothing short of miraculous. He has milked every ounce of performance out of this team and this is why they are where they are at. That has especially been true in the starting rotation. Eddie Medina set a personal high with 10 wins this season and was the stabilizing force in this rotation. That is because Tsamis was forced to use four former relievers and a rookie in the rotation and that group combined to go 20-6.
The Saints have benefitted greatly from their lineup as well. Brady Shoemaker is an MVP candidate after hitting .319 with 18 homers and 71 RBI. He led the team in homers, and the Saints were second in the American Association in homeruns.
The combination of the “relievers-made-starters” rotation and this potent lineup helped the Saints set a league record for one-run victories this season.
St. Paul won the season series, 9-3
June 11 – Fargo-Moorhead 4, St. Paul 7
June 12 – Fargo-Moorhead 7, St. Paul 1
June 13 – Fargo-Moorhead 2, St. Paul 3
June 28 – St. Paul 5, Fargo-Moorhead 4
June 28 – St. Paul 1, Fargo-Moorhead 11
June 28 – St. Paul 6, Fargo-Moorhead 8
July 19 – St. Paul 3, Fargo-Moorhead 2
July 20 – St. Paul 4, Fargo-Moorhead 3
July 21 – St. Paul 10, Fargo-Moorhead 3
August 28 – Fargo-Moorhead 3, St. Paul 4
August 29 – Fargo-Moorhead 9, St. Paul 12
August 30 – Fargo-Moorhead 3, St. Paul 4
RedHawks Leaders Against Saints:
Brennan Metzger: .388, 11 R, 5 RBI
Devan Ahart: .382, 8 R, 7 RBI
Correlle Prime: 3 HR, .22, 8 R, 8 RBI
Carter Hope: 0.00 ERA, 5 appearances, 7 IP
Michael Hope: 0.87 ERA, 6 appearanes, 10.1 IP
Sebastian Kessay: 1.23, 1-0, 7.1 IP, 12 K
Saints Leaders Against RedHawks:
John Silviano: .391, 6 R, HR, 3 RBI
Jeremy Martinez: 4 HR, .333, 8 R, 10 RBI
Chesny Young: .390, 5 R, 3 RBI
Tanner Kiest: 0.00 ERA 2 Saves
Ken Frosch: 0.00, 2-0, 8 appearances
Mike Devine: 0.00, 2-0
Eddie Medina: 1.88, 1-0, 14.1 IP, 10 K
These two teams have met in the playoffs three times before. In 1996, St. Paul defeated Fargo-Moorhead 3-0 in the championship series. The RedHawks defeated the Saints in the semifinal round in 1998, 3-0, but lost to St. Paul in the semifinals in 2004, the last time the Saints won the title.
Keys to Success
- Hold leads. In that most recent three game set in St. Paul, the RedHawks had the lead in every one of those contests, including an 8-2 advantage in the second game of that series. The Fargo-Moorhead bullpen has been great this season against every team but St. Paul. That needs to change rapidly.
- Produce at the top of the order. With Medina out, the lineup is not as strong offensively so it can be better defensively. That means that they are not likely to get much production out of the 7, 8, and 9 hitters. Pina and Prime are going to have to have a huge series to take the pressure off the bottom of the order.
- The bottom of the rotation must produce. Sebastian Kessay and Michael Tamburino have been great of late, but Ryan Williams and Bret Helton have allowed a combined total of 13 runs in their last 24.1 innings pitched. They need at least one great start out of one of these guys to win this series.
- Score early. The St. Paul Saints were 43-14 during the regular season when they scored first. They were tied with Fargo for the most games where they scored first (57), but the RedHawks were only 36-21 in those games. The Saints won better than 75 percent of their games when they got on the board first.
- Count on your offense. That 12-9 victory in late August proved how formidable this team is. There is no need to panic when they fall behind early. They are never out of games.
- Get credible starting pitching. That Saints don’t need anyone but Medina to have a big series. If they can get an average of four innings out of their starters, allowing no more than three runs, they will win. That bullpen is that good and that deep.
The St. Paul Saints are 17-3 in their last 20 games. That is really good by any standard. They have not only played better than the RedHawks of late, but beat them head-to-head n six straight contests.
Fargo-Moorhead has not been the same since losing three key players. They still have a potent lineup, but their formula for success has not worked well against the Saints. Take St. Paul to win in four.
By Robert Pannier