The late inning comeback has been the trademark of the St. Paul Saints this season, and it looked like they were going to pull off another one as the Saints rallied from three down in the ninth, but a bang-bang play would end the rally as St. Paul fell to the Lincoln Saltdogs, 7-6. Randolph Oduber had the big hit of the contest, a three run double in the eighth that put Lincoln on top for good as the Saints dropped their fifth straight at home.
The St. Paul Saints were looking to get off to a good start, and they would do so, taking the lead in the bottom of the first. Max Murphy grounded a single into left field to start the frame and scored when Noah Perio, Jr. dropped a ball just out of the reach of the second baseman for a double. That made it 1-0.
Lincoln responded right away in the top of the second. Cesar Valera lined a single into right-center to get the inning started and moved to second on a two-out walk to Dashenko Ricardo. Eddie Medina looked like he would get out of the second unscathed, but he hit Christian Ibarra to load the bases. T.J. Bennett followed by lining a ball off the glove of Saints first baseman Matt Snyder for a two-run single to put the Saltdogs on top, 2-1.
The Saints were able to respond in the bottom of the second to tie the game. Justin O’Conner led off the inning by crushing his team leading ninth homer of the year over the wall in left field.
It looked like Lincoln would retake the lead in the top of the third when Medina walked the first two batters of the inning. The Saints bullpen began to scurry, but the right-hander got two pop outs before inducing a ground out to end the threat.
Lincoln Saltdogs starter Austin Robichaux had done a little Houdini act of his own in the fourth. He loaded the bases with one down, but struck out Murphy and Perio to end the threat.
That proved to be huge, as the Saltdogs took the lead in the top of the sixth. Brandon Jacobs singled with one out. Ricardo hit a ball that would have been a double-play, but Lincoln had Jacobs moving on a hit-n-run and that proved to be crucial. The only play was at first, allowing Jacobs to move to second. He then scored when Ibarra hit a ball off the wall in left field.
That would be it for Medina. Ken Frosch came on and walked Bennett. Beck Wheeler then relieved and was greeted by a single off the bat of Curt Smith to extend the Saltdogs lead to two.
As they had done in the second, the Saints responded right away in the bottom half of the sixth. With one down, Anthony Phillips walked. Kyle Barrett then worked the count full, fouling off three pitches to stay alive before he walked. Lincoln Manager Bobby Brown came out and it looked like he may bring the hook, but Robichaux talked his way into staying in. Max Murphy then blasted the next pitch over the left fielder’s head and to the wall for a double. Both runners came into score and the game was tied at four.
The Lincoln Saltdogs would retake the lead in the top of the eighth. With one down, both Bennett and Smith reached on opposite field singles that were just out of the reach of the Saints shortstop. Andrew Thome retired the second batter, but Nathaniel Maggio reached when his ground ball was knocked down by Perio but the second baseman could not make a play. With the bases loaded, Randolph Oduber lined a ball down the line in left that cleared the bases. The double scored three to make it 7-4.
In the ninth, Lincoln sent Jose Jose on looking to close it out, and the Saints would begin to rally. Burt Reynolds grounded a single up the middle before Brady Shoemaker dropped in a single just out of the reach of the second baseman. Dante Bichette, Jr. hit into a fielder’s choice before O’Conner popped out. That brought Snyder to the plate, who hit a ball into no-man’s land that Maggio was able to field. He had no play at second and threw to Jose who was covering, but he dropped the ball, allowing a run to score to cut the deficit to two. Phillips then hit a hard grounder to short. The throw was to second, but into the runner, allowing everyone to reach on the fielder’s choice. Bichette scored as Snyder moved 90 feet away. Next up was Barrett, who hit a chopper just to the right of Jose. He fielded the ball and made a high throw that nailed the Saints runner by a hair for the final out.
Derek Gordon (3-0) earned the win with 2.2 scoreless innings of relief. Jose Jose earned his fifth save. T.J. Bennett was 2-4 with a run and 2-RBI for Lincoln. Max Murphy was 2-5 with a run and 2-RBI for St. Paul.
These two teams continue their series tomorrow. St. Paul sends Chris Nunn (0-1, 2.08) to the hill against Michael Tamburino (4-2, 2.80). first pitch is scheduled for 7:05.
By Robert Pannier