Alonzo Harris Backs Dustin Crenshaw in St. Paul Saints 10-3 Victory
The St. Paul Saints heavenly season continues as the club won their 68th game of the season, and still has a shot at that league record 73-win mark. Dustin Crenshaw returned from the disabled list and won his 14th game of the year, tied for first in the American Association. Alonzo Harris backed up the Saints starter’s performance, both at the plate and on the base paths, and Sam Maus became the improbable guy to help the club set a franchise record for home runs in a single season.
The game started out a little rough as the Kansas City T-Bones jumped out in front against Crenshaw in the top of the second, and St. Paul seemed to have no answer for Dustin Loggins early on. Both starters retired the side in the first, but in the bottom of the second Vladimir Frias singled with one out and scored on a double by Brent Peterson to make it 1-0 Kansas City.
Loggins had allowed just two walks through the first two frames and was pitching quite brilliantly, but the Saints responded to the run in the top of the third. Harris singled to get it started and promptly stole second. Vinny DiFazio then ripped a base hit that scored Harris and the game was tied.
It did not remain tied for long, as the T-Bones got a run right back in the bottom of the third. Starlin Rodriguez was the first batter of the frame and he took an 0-2 offering from Crenshaw and put it over the wall for his second home run of the season. That made it 2-1.
That seemed to awaken something in the St. Paul Saints’ bats, who came alive in the top of the fourth inning. Ian Gac singled to get the inning started and moved to second on a single by Joey Paciorek. Nate Hanson then grounded into a fielder’s choice that put Gac at third and Hanson at first. Dan Kaczrowski tied the score when he singled to score Gac, making it 2-2. That brought Harris to the plate. He fouled off the first pitch he saw from Loggins, then took a ball. The Saints center fielder then turned on a Loggins offering and drilled it over the left field wall for his 13th home run of the season. The three-run shot put St. Paul up 5-2, and they would not trail again.
In the bottom of the fourth the T-Bones got one of those runs back. Kyle Robinson was the first hitter of the inning and he homered down the left field line for his sixth of the season. That made it a two-run game, but Kansas City would get no closer.
In the sixth that Saints added two more runs. Paciorek began the inning with a single and Hanson followed with a walk. Kaczrowski then grounded to third. The third baseman tagged the bag to retire Paciorek, but his throw to first was wild and went up the right field line. Instead of it being a double-play, Hanson raced all the way around to score and Kaczrowski wound up at second. Harris’ single advanced Kaczrowski to third and, after Harris stole his second base of the game, Steve Nikorak hit a sacrifice fly that scored Kaczrowski to make it 7-3.
In the eighth Harris reached on a walk and stole second base, becoming the first Saints player to steal three bases in the same game this season. It also gives him 36 stolen bases this season, one behind the franchise record for successful steals in a season, an impressive mark for a guy who missed nearly 10 games earlier in the season. With Harris at second, DiFazio singled into left field to score Harris and make it a five-run lead.
Both Harris and DiFazio had very impressive games. DiFazio was 3-4 with 2 RBI, moving him three behind Angelo Songco for the American Association lead. Harris’ day was even more impressive, as he also went 3-4, but scored 3 times, drove in 3, and stole 3 bases.
The game was over for all intents and purposes, but a record was about to fall in the top of the ninth inning and the most unlikeliest of scenarios was about to make that happen. Angelo Songco was the first batter of the inning, and he ripped his 16th home run of the year to get it started. That moved him into a tie for second in the league, and was the 96th home run of the season by the club, tying the 1999 Saints team for most in a season.
The next batter was Sam Maus, who had come in to run for Gac two innings earlier. Maus was homerless in 278 career at-bats, but that all changed when he ripped his first home run of the season to make it 10-3. His team mockingly gave him the cold shoulder when he returned to the dugout, but then hugged him and high fives abounded.
For Crenshaw (14-2), he moved into a tie with teammate Kramer Sneed and Sioux City’s Patrick Johnson for the American Association lead in wins. The right-hander went 5 innings, allowing 6 hits, no walks and 3 earned runs. He struck out 4.
If the game wasn’t enough of a good sign for St. Paul Saints skipper George Tsamis, the work of the bullpen was the icing on the cake. Kevin Cravey made his debut for the team, and pitched two perfect innings of relief, striking out three in the process. Chris Peacock finished off the game with two quality innings of his own. This has to bolster the confidence for the team as they near the playoffs.
By Robert Pannier