It was a very warm evening in St. Paul, MN when left-hander Pedro Hernandez took to the mound for the St. Paul Saints. Little did a packed house at CHS Field know that the starter was going to be warmer than anything the Sun had to offer, as he pitched 8 outstanding innings in a 3-2 victory over the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks.
Hernandez pitched a gem, and gave fans a little more emotion than they are used to seeing. His command was on, and he gave the Saints bullpen a much needed rest on a day where the temperatures climbed into the mid-80s.
The Saints starter was opposed by Tyler Alexander for Fargo-Moorhead, and the left-hander for the visitors pitched an outstanding game as well. Both starters retired the side in the first inning, but both offenses were able to get on the scoreboard in the second.
In the top of the second Hernandez retired the first hitter of the inning, but Joe Dunigan hit an o-1 pitch the opposite way over the left field wall for his fourth home run of the year.
In the bottom of the second the Saints got the run back and added an additional one, as the Fargo-Moorhead defense aided the rally. With one out Dan Kaczrowski walked. Mitch Elliot then attempted to beat out a bunt for a hit. Alexander leapt off the mound and looked like he had enough time to nail Elliot, but his throw was wild, allowing Elliot to reach and both runners to get into scoring position. Alonzo Harris brought Kaczrowski home with a sacrifice fly and Anthony Phillips’ infield single scored Elliot to give the home team a one-run lead.
Staked to the 2-1 lead, the St. Paul starter left the RedHawks hitters shaking their collective heads with each at-bat. It wasn’t just his pitching either, as his pick-off move was aiding in the outing as well. He gave up a hit or walk in each of the next four innings but two of the runners were nailed trying to steal against Saints catcher Mike Kvasnicka and Hernandez eliminated another with a double-play. He simply was not letting anything get going for Fargo-Moorhead.
Alexander was pitching extremely well as well, but in the sixth the final run scored against him became the difference in the game. Kaczrowski singled to lead off the inning, and the Fargo starter was replaced by Benji Waite. Elliot laid down a perfect bunt to move Kaczrowski to second, and a base hit by Harris put runners at the corners with one out. A sacrifice fly by Phillips brought Kaczrowski home and it was 3-1.
That run proved pivotal as Joe Staley’s fourth home run of the season in the top of the eighth inning pulled the RedHawks within one. The inning could have gotten much worse had it not been for an amazing play by Elliot in left field. Following the home run Anthony Renz reached on a single and moved to second a base hit by Frank Salerno. Drew Muren hit a ball that was slicing down the left field and looked like it would drop in for a sure double, but Elliot raced over and made a diving catch about 6 inches from the left field line for the final out.
In the eighth manager George Tsamis stayed with his starter and he was rewarded. Hernandez retired Zach Penprase on a popout before striking out Chad Mozingo for the second out. Joe Bonfe walked to bring Dunigan to the plate. The Fargo right fielder worked the count to 2-2, but Hernandez blew the third strike by him and pumped his fist following the strike out. It was huge and kept the Saints in front by one.
Ryan Rodebaugh came in to close it out in the ninth. He struck out the first two hitters of the inning, then got Mike Schultz to fly out to end the game.
Hernandez (5-2) went 8 innings, allowing 8 hits, 2 walks and 2 earned runs. He struck out 9 in winning his fifth game of the season. Rodebaugh came on for his ninth save. Alexander (0-1) took the loss.
By Robert Pannier