Young Grand Slam Gives Saints American Association Title, Earns MVP
The St. Paul Saints ended a 15 year championship drought, sweeping their series with the Sioux City Explorers thanks to a Chesny Young grand slam that gave the Saints a 6-3 victory. The Saints battled back from two runs down in the sixth, the fifth time in these playoffs that they have trailed or been tied entering the sixth only to win. Young was named the American Association Championship series MVP, finishing the series with seven RBI.
The Sioux City Explorers needed a big start to this game and they got it with one swing off the bat of Jeremy Hazelbaker. In the top of the first, Kyle Wren led off with a walk against Ryan Zimmerman. Wren was picked off first, but Zimmerman then walked Drew Stankiewicz. Nate Samson followed by grounding a ball to short, but Chris Baker misplayed it for an error putting two on with one out. That brought Hazelbaker to the plate, who crushed a 3-2 offering deep over the right field wall for a three run homer to put the Explorers on top, 3-0.
Taylor Jordan started for Sioux City and he shut the Saints down in the first, but got a big break in the second to keep himself out of a potential jam. John Silviano led off with a base hit. Two batters later, Josh Allen laid down a perfect bunt down the third base line. It hugged the line for about 89 feet before finally rolling foul at the very last second. Allen would then strike out before Chesny Young grounded out to end the inning.
In the bottom of the third, Baker made up for his first inning miscue by leading off the inning with a shot over the left field wall for his second homer of the playoffs. Blake Schmit would follow with a double, but Jordan bore down, striking out Dan Motl and Michael Lang before getting Brady Shoemaker to fly out.
Jordan had looked solid for Sioux City through the first five, striking out eight while allowing five hits. however, in the sixth, things would unravel for the right-hander. Shoemaker and Silviano led off with back-to-back singles. Two batters later, Allen drew a four pitch walk and the bases were loaded with just one down.
That would bring a call to the bullpen. Nate Gercken came on looking to quell the rally. The first pitch he threw to Young was drilled just over the wall in left-center for a grand slam to put the St. Paul Saints on top, 5-3. That was the first homerun of the post-season for the Saints third baseman.
In the top of the seventh, the Explorers looked to rally when they put two on with two down. Karch Kowalczyk came on to face Samson looking to end the rally, and would throw a perfect pitch, catching the shortstop looking to end the inning.
In the seventh, St. Paul extended their lead. Michael Lang walked with one down. Two batters later, Silviano doubled just inside the bag at first, bringing Lang all the way around to score. That gave St. Paul a three run lead.
Kowalczyk returned for the eighth, retiring the Explorers in order. The game went to the ninth where Tanner Kiest came on looking to close it out. He walked the leadoff batter before striking out Junior Felix on a wicked curve ball. Sebastian Zawada then fell behind 0-2 before coming all the way back to walk to put two on with one down. Kiest was in a bit of trouble but would make the perfect pitch to induce a double-play to end the game as the St. Paul Saints are the 2019 American Association Champions.
Jordan Jess earned the victory, tossing 1.2 scoreless innings of relief. He also earned the victory in Game 2 when he allowed two unearned runs in three innings of work. John Silviano finished 3-4 with a run and an RBI.
Chesny Young finished the series 4-10 with two runs scored and seven RBI to earn the MVP.
By Robert Pannier