The American Association Championship got underway on Tuesday night, but it was not the kind of contest the St. Paul Saints had been hoping for as former Saint Noah Perio, Jr. hit a pair of home runs and the Kansas City T-Bones crushed St. Paul 11-4. Every player in the Kansas City lineup had at least one hit and all but two scored at least one run in the thrashing. Barrett Astin won his second game of the postseason with six solid innings.
The two out run would be the nemesis of the St. Paul Saints all night long and it started in the top of the first. Ryan Brett led off the game with a double down the line in left. St. Paul starter Chris Nunn was able to retire the next two batters but, on a 3-1 pitch, Noah Perio, Jr. hit a ball down the line in left field that the wind continued to carry, landing over the left field wall for a two run homer.
An inning later, the Kansas City T-Bones would be back on the board. Alay Lago started the inning with a base hit. Two batters later, another former Saint, Anthony Phillips, singled. Nunn was able to strike out Danny Hayes, but Ryan Brett kept the inning alive with an RBI single into left that brought home Lago. Mason Davis followed with a double, driving home both runners to extend the Kansas City lead to five.
St. Paul got one of those runs back in the bottom half of the inning. Barrett Astin retired the first two batters of the inning, but walked Dan Motl. Motl then stole second and used his speed to get St. Paul on the board. Joey Wong grounded a ball up the middle that Lago was able to knock down, but it scooted away from his glove. Motl never stopped running, rounding third with a full head his speed and scoring to cut the deficit to four.
The T-Bones got that run back in the top of the third. Nunn retired the first two batters of the inning, but Lago and Keith Curcio kept the inning alive with back-to-back singles. Phillips then grounded down to third, but Dante Bichette, Jr. booted the grounder, allowing Lago to score to make it 6-1.
Nunn came out in the fourth, as Matt Solter came on. After retiring the first batter of the frame, the right-hander hit Mason Davis. With Todd Cunningham at the plate, Saints catcher Justin O’Conner attempted to pick off Davis at first, but his throw was wild, going up the line in right field and allowing Davis to race into third. Cunningham then grounded to Brady Shoemaker at first who decided to come home, but his throw was in the dirt as Davis easily scored. The wild throw allowed Cunningham to reach second with the Saints third error of the game.
Leading 7-1 entering the sixth, Kansas City would blow this game open. Cunningham doubled with one down and scored when Perio blasted his second home run of the game, a ball that cleared the right field fence for a two run homer. Adrian Nieto followed with a double and he scored on a base hit by Lago. That made it 10-1.
Barrett Astin (2-0) came out after six. He had been brilliant after allowing the second inning run, retiring 12 in a row at one point. He saw his streak end when Shoemaker singled with two outs in the sixth. The right-hander allowed just 4-hits and a run, walking 2 while striking out one.
Kevin Hill came out of the Kansas City T-Bones bullpen, and the Saints would put together a little bit of a rally in the seventh. O’Conner was hit by a pitch to start the inning and moved to second on a Motl bloop single to center. A base hit by Wong brought O’Conner home with the second run of the night for St. Paul. An error allowed Max Murphy to reach to load the bases and there was still no one out. Kyle Barrett then hit into a fielder’s choice, scoring Motl while putting runners at the corners. However, St. Paul could not take advantage, as Burt Reynolds struck out before Shoemaker grounded out to end the inning.
Kansas City got that run back in the top of the eighth. With one down, Nieto connected on his second homer of the postseason. That made it 11-3.
St. Paul would look to rally in the ninth when they loaded the bases with no one out. With Adam Bedlay on the mound, he walked the first three batters of the inning. Motl would score on a sacrifice fly to make it 11-4, and a two out walk to Shoemaker reloaded the bases. However, Bedlay got Zach Walters to fly out to end the game.
The Kansas City T-Bones rapped out 20 hits. Noah Perio, Jr. finished the night 3-6 with 2-runs and 4-RBI to go along with his two home runs. Ryan Brett was 4-6 with 2-runs scored and an RBI. Alay Lago also had 4-hits, scoring twice and adding an RBI. Mason Davis drove in two. Dan Motl had a hit, walked twice and scored 3-runs for St. Paul. Joey Wong had 2-hits and drove in 2.
By Robert Pannier