Nashville, Rain Dampens Week for Saints
The Saints Story is a weekly publication that is focused on the St. Paul Saints, the AAA-affiliate of the Minnesota Twins. The Saints Story will discuss the past week’s games, take a look at what lay ahead, and discuss who’s hot and who’s not, plus much more. Also, news from throughout the Minnesota Twins minor league system will be provided, including from the Wichita Wind Surge (AA), the Cedar Rapids Kernels (High-A) and the Fort Myers Mighty Mussels (Low-A).
Record: 12-10, Fifth place in International League West Division.
Week Record: 2-3
Batting Average: .229 (18th in International League)
Team ERA: 4.74 (9th in International League)
St. Paul Saints Week in Review
The week got off to a great start for the St. Paul Saints as the club opened with victories in the first two games against the Nashville Sound. On Tuesday, Nashville grabbed a 1-0 lead in the top of the third inning, only to see St. Paul respond with four unanswered runs on their way to a 4-1 victory. The Saints scored a run in the third and fourth innings, and added two more in the eighth. Daniel Robertson drove home two runs in the contest. Dereck Rodriguez pitched very well for St. Paul, allowing five hits and a run while striking out six in 4.2 innings. Mario Sanchez (1-0) came out of the bullpen in the top of the fifth in earned the victory, tossing 2.1 innings of scoreless relief. In fact, the bullpen threw 4.1 scoreless innings allowing just one hit while striking out four.
Wednesday’s contest was a great pitchers’ duel, as the game headed to extra innings tied at two. That is when Royce Lewis lined a single up the middle, scoring Elliott Soto with the game-winning run. Lewis and Jose Miranda each finished with two hits and an RBI. Miranda hit his second homerun of the season. Devin Smeltzer continues his run to return to the Majors, allowing one run on three hits and 5.0 innings. Yennier Cano (1-0) earned the victory with two scoreless innings of relief.
Thursday night’s contest turned quickly, as Nashville scored runs in each of the first three innings on their way to a 6-2 victory. The Sound hit three homeruns in the contest, all solo homers. Ronny Henriquez struggled in his second appearance for St. Paul, allowing four runs in 2.2 innings as he suffered his first loss of the year. The bullpen performed admirably in this game, allowing two runs in 6.1 innings of relief.
Friday night’s contest got underway, but rain came with the score tied at three after seven innings. The Sound jumped out to a 3-0 lead with a run in the second and two in the third. The Saints responded with a run in the fourth and two more in the sixth to tie the score. Jake Cave was leading the way for St. Paul, recording two hits and scoring two runs while Soto had two RBI in the contest. Lewis had a huge game, going 1-1 with four walks, making him 6-14 with five walks through the first four games of the series. However, rain led to the game being postponed until Saturday evening. That is one Nashville scored a run in the eighth and added three more in the ninth to earn a 7-3 victory. Jon Singleton gave Nashville the lead for good with an RBI double. Trevor Megill, who earned his first save of the season in the first game of the series, suffered the loss.
Saturday’s regularly scheduled game followed, a contest Nashville easily won, scoring five runs in the third and fourth frames on their way to a 12-3 rain-shortened victory. The game was called after five innings as a downpour led to the umpires calling the contest. Jake Faria had been spectacular through his first three appearances for St. Paul, but was roughed up for six runs on seven hits and 2.0 innings, suffering the loss. Lewis went 1-2, hitting his third homerun of the season and adding a walk. He finished the week going 7-16 with six walks in six games.
Sunday’s contest was canceled as rain from the night before made the field conditions perilous. That left St. Paul 2-3 for the week. Nashville moved to 16-7, leading the West Division of the International League by 0.5 games over Columbus. St. Paul dropped a 5-5 at home and are 4-6 in their last 10 games.
The Week Ahead
The Saints will welcome the Iowa Cubs to town beginning on Tuesday. Iowa enters the contest 11-12, sixth place in the West Division, trailing St. Paul by 1.5 games. They have also lost three straight games and are 5-7 on the road this season.
Iowa has a spectacular pitching staff, second in the league in ERA at 3.31. It has been the hitting for this club that has doomed them, as they are 19th in the International League with a .217 batting average. Both Iowa and St. Paul are tied would 19 homeruns.
Eric Stout has been fantastic for Iowa, posting a 1.54 ERA in six appearances. He has struck out 21 batters in only 11.2 innings pitched, and could be headed back to the Majors if he is able to keep up this pace. Caleb Killian has been great in his four starts, posting a 1.72 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP. Robert Gsellman has been even better, making five appearances, four of which have been starts. He has a 1.17 ERA and a 0.78 WHIP. The Cubs starters have posted a 3.12 ERA.
Down on the Farm
AA-Wichita Wind Surge
The Wichita Wind Surge had a great week. The club dropped their first game against Arkansas, falling 10-4 on Tuesday. However, they responded with five straight victories. That moved Wichita to 13-8, tied for the top spot in the Texas League North Division.
Cole Sturgeon continues his resurgence. His batting average was at .179 on April 15, but he has responded with hits in eight of his last nine games, raising his average to .266. He is tied for the team lead in homers with three and leads the club with 17 RBI. Catcher Andrew Bechtold does not have a pretty batting average (.182), but he has 15 walks in 17 games to give him a .352 on base percentage.
Wichita has the best ERA in the Texas league (4.12). It has been the incredible job of this bullpen that has made this group so effective. The Wichita bullpen is 9-2 with a 3.68 ERA, which leads the league. Right-hander Tyler Viza is leading the way, going 4-0 with a 0.59 ERA. In 15.1 innings, Viza has allowed 10 hits and four walks while striking out 25. Austin Schuffer and Evan Sisk have also been spectacular. Both relievers have appeared in seven games and each has a 0.00 ERA. Schuffer has allowed eight baserunners and 11.1 innings, striking out 14. Sisk has allowed just three hits and 10.1 innings pitched, striking out nine. Simeon Woods Richardson could be the next player called up to St. Paul if need be, as he is 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA in four starts. Woods Richardson has allowed seven hits in 21.2 innings pitched.
Wichita welcomes Tulsa to town in a battle of the top two teams in the North Division. Wichita will be looking for a little payback in the series, as they were swept by the Drillers to start the season. Tulsa has been spectacular on the road at 7-2. They are seventh in ERA at 5.40 and are sixth in batting average at .247. Tulsa leads the league in homeruns with 32.
High-A-Cedar Rapids Kernels
The Cedar Rapids Kernels split their six games with Beloit during the week, winning the first three games of the series before dropping the final three. The pitching staff was spectacular starting the week, holding Beloit to a single run through the first three contests as the Kernels earned a pair of 3-0 victories and a 2-1 win. However, Beloit responded, dominating the last two games of the series as they outscored Cedar Rapids 20-7.
Cedar Rapids is tied for the league lead in batting at .250. Christian Encarnacion Strand still leads the club with a .395 batting average and five home runs. He had three two-hit games in the series, but also went hitless in the other three contests. Anthony Prato had one hit through the first four games of the series, but responded with a 2-3 performance in the final game.
The Kernels are getting solid pitching as well, second in the Midwest League with a 3.36 ERA. It has been the starters leading the way, as they have posted a 3.00 ERA, a .199 opponent batting average, and a 1.00 WHIP. The bullpen has a quartet of hurlers who had been spectacular for this club. Each have appeared in six games. Bobby Milacki has allowed one unearned run in 9.1 innings, striking out nine, while Bradley Hanner has given of one earned run in 9.0 innings pitched. Osiris German has given up one earned run in 7.2 innings and Derek Molina has yielded one earned run in 7.0 innings. That gives the quartet 33.0 innings pitched, allowing three earned runs while striking out 34.
Starter Sean Mooney has looked very good in his three outings, posting a 2.08 ERA. Brent Hendrick tossed five shutout innings in the 3-0 victory over Beloit on Wednesday. That lowered his ERA to 2.55 and four starts. He has struck out 28 in 17.2 innings pitched with the 0.74 WHIP.
The Kernels will welcome the Quad Cities River Bandits to town starting on Tuesday. Quad Cities is fourth in the West Division at 9-12, 6.0 games behind Cedar Rapids. They are 3-6 on the road. The River Bandits are tied with the Kernels for the best batting average in the league at .250, and are second in homeruns with 22. The pitching staff has been a disaster so far, posting a 5.25 ERA. The starting staff has been the major culprit, posting a 7.48 ERA.
A- Fort Myers Mighty Mussels
The Fort Myers Mighty Mussels had two of their games wiped out by rain and a third suspended as they went 1-2 during the week against Clearwater. The Mighty Mussels dropped the first two games of the series, outscored by Clearwater 13-4, but rebounded with a 3-2 victory on Thursday. Friday and Saturday’s games were postponed, with Sunday’s contest suspended at 4-4.
Starter John Stankiewicz was outstanding in the victory on Thursday, allowing one unearned run in 5.2 innings pitched. He is now 3-0 with a 0.83 ERA in four starts, striking out 31 in 21.2 innings pitched. Fort Myers is getting outstanding pitching, fourth in the league with a 3.25 ERA, and it has been the performance of their starting pitching that has made the difference, as they are second in the league with a 2.67 ERA and lead with a 1.06 WHIP.
Besides Stankiewicz, Travis Adams (1.20), Marco Raya (1.74), and David Festa (1.93) have made this starting staff as challenging to face as any in the league. The four starters have combined to make 12 starts, with all posting ERA’s under 2.00. They have allowed a combined total of 10 earned runs in 61 innings pitched. The relievers have not fared as well, however, posting a 3.87 ERA, eighth best in the league.
The Fort Myers lineup is hitting .219, tied for fifth in the league. Emmanuel Rodriguez is only hitting .241, but has walked 18 times in 17 games, giving him a .440 on base percentage. Plus, he leads the club with five home runs and 13 runs scored. Kyler Fedko is the team leader with a .359 batting average. Fedko had a pair of two-hit games in the series against Clearwater, giving him five multiple hit games this season.
The Mighty Mussels travel to take on Lakeland on Tuesday. Lakeland is 9-11, putting them fourth in the West Division, 3.5 games behind Bradenton. The Flying Tigers are fourth in the league in batting at .227 and eighth in pitching with a 3.79 ERA. Chris Meyers has been leading this team, posting a .281 batting average with three home runs and 15 RBI in 16 games.
By Robert Pannier