Toledo Soars in Tough Week for St. Paul 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: 10-7, third place in International League West Division.
Week Record: 2-4
Batting Average: .2218 (18th in International League)
Team ERA: 4.38 (9th in International League)
St. Paul Saints Week in Review
It was a tough week for the St. Paul Saints, as the Toledo Mud Hens proved to be inhospitable hosts, taking four of the six contests during the week. The team split the first four contests of the series, with Toledo opening with a dominating 11-0 performance last Tuesday. St. Paul mustered just three hits in the contest, striking out 12 times as five pitchers combined for Toledo to toss the shutout. Cole Sands had a rough outing, giving up five runs and 1.2 innings. This proved to be a complete nightmare of a week for Sands, as he returned five days later to start on Sunday and was shelled for five runs on four hits, giving up two homeruns in 1.0 innings.
On Wednesday, the club rebounded to earn a 4-3 victory. It was a four run third that led St. Paul to the win, as a wild pitch brought in the first run for the Saints. Royce Lewis had an RBI single in the frame and Daniel Robertson plated two runs. That would be just enough run support for the club. Mario Sanchez started for St. Paul, giving up one run in four innings while striking out six. Toledo was able to battle back in the contest, getting two runs against reliever Dereck Rodriguez, but Juan Minaya came on in the ninth to close out the contest for his third save of the season. St. Paul struck out 13 Mud Hens players in the contest.
Wednesday was a fantastic pitchers’ tool, as Toledo scored two runs in the bottom of the third to jump out in front. St. Paul scored a run in the top of the fourth, but they were unable to garner anything else against this talented Toledo bullpen who tossed 4.1 innings of shutout relief. Devin Smeltzer pitched a solid game for St. Paul, allowing two runs in five innings while striking out eight. His team could simply not produce runs, dropping the starter’s record to 1-1. Ronny Henriquez was spectacular out of the bullpen, tossing three shutout innings in his debut for St. Paul.
Henriquez came out of the Texas Ranger system, where he had reached AA-Frisco last year. His stuff is excellent, and it is not surprising that the Twins organization not only took a chance on the right-hander, but started him at AAA.
The outing was another spectacular performance for Smeltzer as well. After battling arm injuries over the last two seasons, the left-hander has returned with a vengeance, looking to return to the Major Leagues. Smeltzer has been very good through his first three starts, posting a 1.29 ERA while striking out 13 in 14.0 innings pitched. The two runs he gave up against Toledo were the first runs to score against the left-hander this year, and he has allowed only 10 hits and four walks, posting a 1.00 WHIP.
On Thursday, JC Ramirez was touched for four runs in 3.2 innings before leaving the contest with his team trailing by a run. However, St. Paul rallied for six runs in the top of the eighth to earn a 9-4 victory. That vaunted Mud Hens bullpen was rocked for six runs on four walks in four hits in the inning. Tyler Bashlor earned his second victory of the season, tossing a scoreless inning of relief. A pair of bases-loaded walks helped the Saints to grab the lead, and a fielder’s choice and an error extended the lead to four. Robertson, who scored the first run of the inning, was hit by a pitch to drive home another run.
Mark Contrares hit his fourth homerun of the season in the victory. The outfielder has been a key part of the success of the Saints early on, scoring 12 runs and driving home 13 in 15 ball games. His .528 slugging percentages second on the club, trailing shortstop Lewis who has a .542 slugging percentage. Lewis leads the club with 15 runs scored.
After splitting the first four games of the series, St. Paul dropped the final two contests, losing on Saturday, 5-2, then falling on Sunday, 8-3. Lewis had his second homerun of the season in Saturday’s contest as Toledo erased a one run deficit with three runs in the bottom of the sixth. Chi Chi Gonzalez struggled in the contest, giving up three runs on five hits in three innings.
On Sunday, Sands came out of the bullpen in the third inning and was able to end a Toledo rally. However, in the fourth he was touched for five runs on four hits, including giving up two homeruns before departing the contest. First baseman Curtis Terry had two hits and drove in two in the contest giving him nine RBI through his first 15 games.
The Week Ahead
The St. Paul Saints welcome the Nashville Sounds to begin a six-game series starting on Tuesday. Nashville, the AAA team of the Milwaukee Brewers, holds the top record in the International League with a 13-5 mark, 2.5 games ahead of St. Paul. The club has won their last three contests and are 4-2 on the road this season.
Nashville is seventh in the league in hitting at .250, hitting 14 homeruns while scoring 90 runs. Where this club is thriving is in pitching, as they are first in the IL in team ERA at 2.48. The starting staff has been outstanding, posting a 9-3 record with a 2.83 ERA. They have allowed just five homers in 82.2 innings pitched. The bullpen has a 2.21 ERA, posting an impressive .188 opponent batting average and a 1.13 WHIP.
Ethan Small has been outstanding the season, posting a 2-0 record in 4.0 innings of work. Small has allowed just six hits but has walked 12 in 18.1 innings pitched. He has struck out 24.
Down on the Farm
AA-Wichita Wind Surge
The Wichita Wind Surge are 8-2 in their last 10 games, moving them to 8-7 this season, tied for second in the Texas League North Division. The club went 4-2 in their six-game series with the Midland RockHounds last week, winning the first three contests, then dropping the next to before winning on Sunday. The three victories to open the series gave the club seven straight wins, a franchise record.
The run production for the Wind Surge has been spectacular, as the team scored 52 runs in the six-game series with Midland. The team is only hitting .259, seventh in the Texas League, and they are tied for seventh in homeruns as well. However, the pitching staff has been spectacular, second in the league with a 4.37 ERA. This is a league where runs have not been an issue for teams, as the lowest ERA in the league is Arkansas at 3.94.
Third baseman Spencer Steer and first baseman Dennis Ortega have been the big bats for the club early on. Steer is hitting .322 with 12 runs and 12 RBI in 15 games. Ortega has scored four runs and driven 11, but has posted a .346 batting average. Michael Helman leads the team with three homers and has scored 17 runs, also tops on the club.
The pitching staff has had some great performances early on, starting with right-hander Simeon Woods Richardson who is 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA in three starts. Woods Richardson has allowed just five hits and four walks in 16.2 innings. Tyler Viza has worked exclusively out of the bullpen for the team and has been brilliant, allowing one run in 10.1 innings pitched. He has struck out 19, averaging nearly 2 strikeouts per inning. The bullpen combination of Austin Schuffer and Evan Sisk have combined to appear in 10 games, allowing no runs in 15.1 innings while striking out 15.
Wichita takes on Arkansas this week, who enters the series tied with Wichita for second place in the division. The Travelers are 6-4 in their last 10 games, dropping the final two contests of their last series.
A-Cedar Rapids Kernels
The Cedar Rapids Kernels have dominated the Midwest League West Division, going 12-3 through their first 15 games. The team is 7-3 in their last 10 after taking five of the six games against Peoria last week. The team got stellar pitching performances, allowing 15 total runs in their five victories.
Pitching has clearly been leading the way for the team, as they are second in the league with a 3.33 ERA. The bullpen is 6-1 with a 3.58 ERA, but the starting staff has been the key to the success for the Kernels, posting a 3.11 ERA, striking out 86 in 66.2 innings pitched. They have a 1.05 WHIP and a .209 opponent batting average.
Christian Encarnacion Strand has cooled off a little, but he is still batting .426 with five homers and 23 RBI in 14 games. Anthony Prato has been the beneficiary of his teammate’s early success, hitting .345 would 19 runs scored and he has walked 11 times, giving him a .441 on base percentage. The team is looking for more productivity from the rest of this lineup, as three regulars are hitting .200 or lower.
Cedar Rapids will take on Beloit for six games. The Sky Carp are in last place in the West Division at 4-11. Beloit is 2-4 at home the season. Beloit has a 4.69 ERA in 15 games. They are struggling offensively, last in the Midwest League with a .189 batting average, and have seven home runs and just 48 runs scored. The 48 runs produced is 14 fewer than the next lowest team.
A- Fort Myers Mighty Mussels
The Fort Myers Mighty Mussels lead the West Division of the Florida State League at 10-5. The club went 4-2 against Dunedin last week and will now welcome Clearwater to town for six-game starting on Tuesday.
Fort Myers has been a power hitting team so far, second in the league with 15 home runs and they have a .365 on base percentage, tops in the Florida State League. Emmanuel Rodriguez is off to a quick start, clubbing five home runs and driving in eight in 14 games. He has a .267 batting average, but has walked 16 times to give him a .469 OBP. It may not be long before Rodriguez is finding himself in Cedar Rapids.
The Mighty Mussels welcome Clearwater this week. The Threshers are 7-8, 3.0 games behind Fort Myers in the West Division. However, they have won six straight contests thanks to a rejuvenated pitching staff that gave up just six runs in the six games against Tampa last week. That included tossing two shutouts and they allowed one or zero runs in five of those games. Clearly the Mighty Mussels bats have their work cut out for them this week.
By Robert Pannier