It was a bookend of runs on this night. The St. Paul Saints scored six runs in the first three innings, and then recorded 12 in the last three innings. The 18-runs backed Dustin Crenshaw, who recorded win No. 11, keeping him atop the leader board in the American Association in that category.
It got off to a great start for the St. Paul Saints. Fernando Gonzalez started for the Gary Southshore RailCats and he was going to find himself struggling from the start. In the top of the first inning the RailCats starter retired the first two Saints hitters, but then walked Vinny DiFazio. That proved to be crucial as Angelo Songco followed with his 11th home run of the season to make it 2-0. That shot gave Songco sole possession of the team’s home run lead, but he would not be alone atop for long.
In the top of the second St. Paul extended their lead. Ryan Lashley led off the second inning with his second home run of the year, to make it 3-0. Lashley has been an absolute beast in the Saints lineup. In just his 11th game since joining the team, the Saints third baseman is hitting .409 (18-44) with nine extra-base hits. He has also scored 14 runs and driven in 11. He finished the day 4-5 with 3 runs scored and 3 RBI. It was his second four-hit game out of his last four.
In the top of the third two more runs would come home. Willie Argo led off the frame with a fly ball to the wall that he legged it into a triple. DiFazio followed with a single that scored Argo. Songco walked, and Mike Kvasnicka grounded into a fielder’s choice that cut down Songco. The relay throw to first was wild and DiFazio came all the way around to score, with Kvasnicka winding up at second. He scored when Joey Paciorek hit a sacrifice fly to make it 6-0.
Crenshaw breezed through the first two frames, giving up lone singles in each inning, but Gary got on the board in the third. Following the three-run top half of the inning, Ryan Brockett doubled with one out and moved to third on a ground out. Drew Martinez grounded to short, but an error allowed Martinez to reach and Brockett scored.
The game was through its first three innings, and seven runs had already scored, but then both clubs saw their bats go silent. For the next three innings neither team could get much going. When the seventh inning came that all changed.
Alonzo Harris began the top half of the seventh with a single, and he moved to third on a single by Argo. Argo stole second to put both runners in scoring position with no one out. On an 0-1 pitch DiFazio lined a single into left-center that scored both runs. Songco reached on a fielder’s choice, and Kvasnicka followed with a single that sent DiFazio home. Ryan Lashley then singled to load the bases and Paciorek followed with a single that brought home Songco. Steve Nikorak brought home Kvasnicka on a double play and Dan Kaczrowski plated the final run with a base hit that scored Lashley. That made it 12-1.
In the bottom of the seventh manager George Tsamis brought in Dylan Chavez to replace Crenshaw. The lefty walked the first two hitters he faced, and a flyout moved Brandon Thomas from second to third. That allowed him to score on a sacrifice fly by Martinez that gave the RailCats their second run of the game.
Gonzalez was out after seven and replaced by Shawn ONeill, yet he did not fare much better. Argo drew a walk to begin the eighth and DiFazio followed with a single that put two on with no one out. Songco then ripped a double to bring home DiFazio. It was another impressive performance for Songco, who went 2-5 with 3 runs, 3 RBI and a walk.
Two batters later it was Lashley with a double that scored both runners. Lashley came home on a double by Nikorak and the St. Paul Saints were up 16-2.
In the ninth came the cherry on the top of the cake. Argo singled with one out, and DiFazio followed with his 11th home run of the season. That tied him, again, with Songco for the team lead. It also gave DiFazio a most impressive day at the plate. The Saints DH was 4-5 with 5 runs scored and 5 RBI. He also drew a walk.
Not to be ignored, Argo also had an impressive day at the plate. The left fielder was 4-5 with 4 runs scored and he, too, drew a walk.
Crenshaw moved to 11-1 with the win. He went 6 innings, allowing 8 hits and a walk. The run against him was not earned and he struck out 2. The performance lowered his ERA to 2.07.
According to St. Paul Saints Media guru Sean Aronson the Saints set several franchise records as well as an individual league record. According to Aronson:
The Saints “tied a franchise record for largest margin of victory, 16, with an 18-2 win over the Gary SouthShore Railcats. In the process they kept their streak alive of not losing a series, improving to 17-0-2. Vinny DiFazio tied an American Association and franchise record with five runs scored and for the first time in franchise history the Saints won 20 games in July and have two 20-win months.”
By Robert Pannier