It was the 29th birthday for Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks starter Trey McNutt on Thursday, as he took to the hill against the St. Paul Saints. It looked like his birthday was going to be ruined when St. Paul grabbed a 2-1 lead in the top of the fourth, but Brennan Metzger delivered the best present of all, crushing his eighth home run of the season, a grand slam that put his starter on top on his way to his fifth victory of the year in the 5-2 victory. Metzger finished with 5-RBI
It was a scoreless duel after two innings, but the RedHawks would grab the lead in the bottom of the third. St. Paul starter Jake Matthys retired the first two batters of the inning, but the red-hot Tim Colwell drilled a ball to the wall in right that he legged out for a triple and he scored when Brennan Metzger followed with a base hit up the middle to give Fargo-Moorhead a 1-0 lead.
The St. Paul Saints responded with two runs in the top of the fourth. With one down, Dante Bichette, Jr. singled and he moved to third when Nathaniel Maggio bounced a ball off the turf and over the wall for a ground rule double. A single by Aaron Gretz brought home Bichette and Maggio scored on a sacrifice fly by Jake Smith to put the Saints up 2-1.
Matthys was pitching well for St. Paul, allowing just the two hits in the third inning hits through his first four frames of work, but things turned ugly in the fifth. Maikol Gonzalez started the inning with a single and Derrick Fox followed by reaching on an error. A sacrifice moved both runners into scoring position before Colwell walked to load the bases. That brought Metzger back to the plate, who crushed the first pitch he saw for a grand slam, putting the RedHawks back on top, 5-2.
It looked like the Saints would respond in the top of the sixth when Zach Walters and Bichette led off the inning with back-to-back singles, but McNutt remained calm, retiring the next three batters without allowing either runner to move up to preserve the three run lead. Trey McNutt (5-6) came out after giving up a one out hit in the seventh. He went 6.1-innings, allowing 9-hits and a run. The right-hander walked one and struck out 3.
Travis Ballew came on in the seventh and retired both batters he faced. Geoff Broussard tossed a perfect eighth-inning, and Randy McCurry came on in the ninth, retiring the side for his 14th save of the season.
The victory gave the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks a series victory as they took three of four from St. Paul. That moved them 2.5 games ahead of the Saints for second place in the North Division. Brennan Metzger finished 2-4 with a run and all five runs driven in. St. Paul was led by Dante Bichette, Jr. who was 2-4 with a run scored.
The St. Paul Saints will now head back home to begin a three-game set with the Kansas City T-Bones starting on Friday night. Matt Solter (2-4, 4.41) will go for St. Paul. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05.
By Robert Pannier