Bullpen Frustrates RedHawks in St. Paul Saints 7-3 Victory
Early in this season, the St. Paul Saints were struggling to get their bullpen in order, but Manager George Tsamis made some shrewd moves to improve his team’s primary weakness, and that has produced a great deal of fruit over the last three weeks. This was clearly on display Sunday night, as newcomers Mike Strong and Benji Waite shut down the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks to preserve the Saints 7-3 victory. That gave the team three wins in the four-games series, extending the Saints lead to 10 games over Fargo-Moorhead in the North Division of the American Association.
Using a slightly modified lineup, the Saints grabbed a 2-0 lead in the top of the second. Alonzo Harris, batting cleanup for just the second time in his career, led off the inning with a single and moved to second on a stolen base. He then moved to third on a wild pitch. RedHawks starter Richie Mirowski retired the next two hitters, but Breland Almadova kept the inning alive when he drew a walk. Almadova then stole second and catcher Aaron Gretz followed with a single that scored both runners to put the Saints up by two-runs.
Fargo-Moorhead responded with a run in the bottom of the second against St. Paul starter Alec Crawford. Josh Mazzola was the first hitter of the inning and clubbed his 13th homerun of the season to make it a one-run game.
St. Paul responded right away in the top of the third. It started with the second batter of the inning, Angelo Songco. He was given the green light on a 3-0 count and drilled a towering homerun over the right field fence for his 10th homer of the year. Next up was Harris, who doubled to left and Nate Hanson followed with a single to left that moved Harris to third. Harris alertly moved to second when the throw to the plate was not cut off., putting runners at second and third with just one out. The Saints were able to plate two runs without having to generate any of the runs on their own. A wild pitch scored Harris and a passed ball brought Hanson home to make it 5-1.
Crawford had pitched well through the first three innings, but he would find himself in some trouble in the fourth. Ryan Pineda doubled to start the inning and scored when Keury De La Cruz singled to make the score 5-2. Mazzola followed with a single, and Brian Humphries moved both runners into scoring position with a ground out. Next up was Dustin Geiger, who singled to score both runners. That made it a two-run game and the tying run was now at the plate. This inning looked like it could get out of control, but the right-hander retired the final two batters of the inning to preserve the two-run lead.
Crawford was done after five and his bullpen took over for him. Mike Strong, who was signed by the Saints late last week, pitched three outstanding innings, allowing just one-hit, and that batter was erased from the base paths on a double-play.
Waite would pitch the final inning for the Saints, retiring all three batters he faced. For the game, the St. Paul Saints pitching staff allowed 7-hits, 2-walks, and 3-earned runs. They struck out 5.
The final two runs for the Saints came in the top of the seventh. Gretz started the rally with a single and moved to second on a sacrifice. Two batters later Tanner Vavra tripled to the wall to make it 6-3. A single by Songco scored Vavra with the final run of the game.
Harris finished 2-3 with 2-runs scored. Gretz was 2-4 with a run and 2-RBI. Hanson had 2-hits and scored a run. Mazzola was 2-4 with a run and an RBI for the RedHawks.
The Saints are off tomorrow, before welcoming back the Sioux Falls Canaries for a three-game series starting on Tuesday. John Straka (6-2, 5.81) will go for St. Paul looking for his second straight outstanding start. Kris Regan (3-2, 5.66) will go for the Canaries. First pitch is 7:05.
By Robert Pannier