St. Paul Saints Drop 8th in a Row, Fall to New Jersey Jackals 6-1: Saints Summary
For the eighth straight game in a row, the St. Paul Saints fell, this time a 6-1 decision to the New Jersey Jackals. The losing streak ties the team record, set twice, for most consecutive losses. The losing streak has all but eliminated the Saints from playoff contention, and for them to climb back into the race they are going to have to win virtually every game they have left.
Prior to the game the Saints added catcher Vinny DiFazio and activated starter Jeff Shields from the disabled list. The moves seemed to work. Shields was pitching masterfully, yielding just one run in his first seven innings of work.
In the first inning he had to shake off the rust a little, yielding three hits, but no runs. He was aided by a great move of his own, where he picked off Jorge Cortes, trapping the runner in a pickle, before recording the out himself. In the second he breezed through a 1-2-3 inning and showed great command of his pitches.
In the third he got into a little trouble however. After recording the first out of the inning, Felix Sanchez doubled into right field. A wild pitch then moved Sanchez to third. The Saints moved the infield in to try to keep the runner from scoring, but Alonzo Harris singled up the middle to give the Jackals the 1-0 lead.
New Jersey lefty Isaac Pavlik was cruising through the first three innings, retiring all nine batters in order, but in the fourth he got into a little trouble himself. Devin Thaut led off the inning laying down a perfect bunt that he beat out for a single. Even Bigley followed with a single to right-center field that moved Thaut to third. Bigley attempted to go to second on the play and would have been out, but shortstop Steve Nikorak misplayed the ball for an error, allowing Bigley to reach second. Jake Taylor then followed with a ground ball to Nikorak for the out, but Thaut scored on the play. The Saints would do no further damage, but the game was tied.
Both pitchers then settled down and took control of the game. Shields gave up two hits over the next three innings, and Pavlik gave up just a hit.
In the eighth the Saints would get hurt by their No. 1 nemesis –the two-out rally. Shields retired Sanchez and Harris, but then Tony Caldwell lined a single just over the reach of shortstop Joey Becker. Jeremy Barnes then doubled to the left-center field wall, scoring Caldwell. Barnes reached third when the relay from Becker to home was off target. Shields was relieved by Matt Meyer and the first offering from Meyer, Joe Dunnigan hit over the center field wall to make it 4-1. The home run by Dunnigan set a New Jersey franchise record for most home runs by a player.
In the ninth Ben Hughes would take over for St. Paul, with the same results. With two outs, Dwight Childs, who had been acquired by New Jersey from St. Paul earlier in the day, walked. Sanchez then followed with a shot that left fielder Willie Cabrera misplayed and let go over his head for a double that scored Childs. Harris then hit a bloop double that landed on the right field line to score Sanchez, and the Jackals had a five-run lead.
The eight-game losing streak has been a clinic on ways to lose games. Want blowouts? How about a 10-1 loss to Sioux City? What a close game? How about a 4-2 loss to Winnipeg or a 6-4 one? Looking for high scoring games? How about a 9-7 loss to New Jersey? The Saints just find ways to lose games during this streak, but there is one thing that has always seemed to be a significant part of the losing streak – the two-out rally. The Saints pitchers have simply been unable to get the final out in innings and this has continuously resulted in rallies that have plated two or three runs, just like in this loss. The Saints are simply having trouble getting off the field, and this has been a key to the losing streak.
For them to climb back into the pennant race they need to get some timely hitting and to pitch better. With three-games left against Winnipeg they still have a chance, but they need to start putting it together now. In the two games against New Jersey they have not led in any part of either game. A team is not going to win with those kinds of troubles.
By Robert Pannier
Senior Baseball Editor
Member of the IBWAA