American Association hitters have long been perplexed by veteran right-handers Tim Brown and Mark Hamburger, and that proved to be the case on Wednesday night as well as the two squared off in a battle of two of the most successful pitchers in the history of the league. Brown pitched an excellent game for the Wichita Wingnuts, but a three-run first proved to be too insurmountable of a lead for the team to overcome, as Hamburger was stellar in the 3-1 victory. The Saints starter went the distance, tossing his seventh complete game of the season. That gives him 159.1-innings pitched, a new American Association record.
The St. Paul Saints took the lead in the bottom of the first inning. Tim Colwell led off the frame with a ground ball that Christian Stringer was able knock down but could not make a play on. Two batters later, Brady Shoemaker drilled a ball deep over the right field fence for his 20th homer of the season. That made him just the third player in Saints history to reach that mark. Dan Johnson followed by drawing a walk and moved to third on a base hit by Nate Hanson. With two down, Mitch Delfino dropped a bloop single into left that scored Johnson to make it 3-0.
With the early lead, Mark Hamburger came out rolling. He retired the side in order in the first on just 12-pitches. Over the next four frames he never allowed more than one batter to reach in any inning, giving up just three total singles.
In the sixth, Wichita finally got on the board. Martin Medina led off the inning with a drive into left-center that Tony Thomas could just not reach. The ball bounced between him and Kes Carter and over the wall for a double. Brent Clevlen followed with a double to the wall in right-center and St. Paul’s lead was just two.
While Hamburger was pitching a gem, so was Tim Brown. After giving up the three-runs in the first, the right-hander rolled through the next five frames. He retired seven in a row at one point before giving up a lead-off single in the bottom of the fourth. The Wingnuts starter then induced a double-play, starting a run of eight straight retired.
In the bottom of the seventh, the Saints threatened to extend their lead. Thomas led off the inning with a double off the wall in right. Two batters later Mitch Delfino singled into right, moving Thomas to third. Brown fanned Maxx Garrett before walking Colwell to load the bases. Carter worked the count to 2-1, but the Wingnuts starter got him to ground out to end the threat and keep this a two-run game.
After giving up the run in the sixth, Mark Hamburger (13-6) rolled. He retired the final three batters in the sixth, starting a run of 12-straight retired by the right-hander to close out the game. The complete game gave him 159.1 innings pitched this season, an American Association record. He allowed 6-hits and a run while striking out 4.
Brady Shoemaker led the offense, with a run and 2-RBI for the Saints.
The final game of this four-game series is set for Thursday evening. Alex Boshers (10-3, 3.73) goes for the Wichita Wingnuts against Ryan Zimmerman (6-6, 4.90). First pitch is set for 7:05.
By Robert Pannier