Columbus Sweeps Saints, St. Paul Travels to Omaha
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: 15-19, Ninth place in International League West Division.
Week Record: 0-6
Batting Average: .237 (15th in International League)
Team ERA: 4.78 (12th in International League)
St. Paul Saints Week in Review
It was a very tough week for the St. Paul Saints as the club was swept in the six-game series with the Columbus Clippers. That extended the team’s losing streak to seven straight games, tying a franchise record. The Saints were not grossly outplayed during the week, suffering three one-run losses and all six games were decided by four runs or fewer.
The Clippers began the week with back-to-back one-run victories. On Tuesday, St. Paul found themselves trailing by two runs entering the ninth inning, but rallied to tie the score, sending the contest to extra frames. Both teams scored in the top of the 10th, but Columbus earned the victory with a walk-off hit in the bottom of the 12th to earn a 7-6 win. Caleb Hamilton had a huge game, hitting his second homerun of the season as part of a four-hit performance. Hamilton scored two runs and drove in three. The bottom of the order was huge for St. Paul, going a combined 8-15 with three runs and four RBI.
On Wednesday, the Saints rallied for three runs in the top of the ninth inning to take a 4-0 lead. Chi Chi Gonzalez started and was brilliant, tossing six no-hit innings while striking out seven. St. Paul held the 4-0 lead heading to the bottom of the ninth, but Columbus rallied against two relievers to force the game into extra innings. Both teams scored in the 10th, but Columbus pulled out another 12th inning victory.
The performance by Gonzalez earned him Pitcher of the Week honors in the International League. Gonzalez had struggled in his last three outings, giving up three runs in each of those starts, allowing nine total runs in 12.2 innings.
On Thursday, St. Paul found themselves trailing 3-0 early, but rallied to tie the score with three runs in the top of the fifth. Elliott Soto had the big hit of the inning, a two-run single the tie the score. However, Columbus scored a run of the bottom of the fifth and added one of the seventh in two in the eighth to earn the victory. The bullpen struggled in the game, giving up four runs on six hits and 4.0 innings.
Friday’s contest was rained out, postponed until Sunday. Columbus looked like they were going to blow out St. Paul in Saturday night’s contest, scoring three runs in the first and four in the second. However, St. Paul responded with seven runs in the top of the third, sending 12 men to the plate. Jake Cave had a three-run triple in the frame, and Kyle Garlick hit his second homerun of the season. However, the Clippers scored two runs in the seventh and eighth innings to earn and 11-7 victory.
On Sunday, the Clippers swept the double-header. In the regularly scheduled contest, the Clippers erased a 1-0 deficit, scoring two in the third and three in the fourth on their way to a 5-3 victory. Jermaine Palacios hit his second homerun of the season. Bailey Ober suffered the loss in his first appearance for St. Paul, giving up four earned runs in 5.0 innings.
In the second game, the Clippers scored three runs in the bottom of the first, but St. Paul responded with two in the second and two in the fifth to take a 4-3 lead. Curtis Terry had the big blast, a two-run shot for his fourth homer of the year. However, the St. Paul bullpen could not hold the lead, as Columbus scored a run in the seventh and delivered the game-winner in the eighth. It was the third walk-off victory of the series for Columbus.
The Week Ahead
The Saints will look to rebound this week, as they travel to Omaha to take on the Storm Chasers. Omaha is 16-19, and are 5-5 in their last 10. Omaha lost five of the six games they had against Iowa last week. The Storm Chasers are 18th in hitting (.227) and 14th in ERA (4.85). Statistically, St. Paul evenly matches up against them.
Vinnie Pasquantino leads the club with eight home runs and 27 RBI. He is hitting only .246, but has walked 22 times to garner a .368 on-base percentage. Only one player on the active roster is hitting above .300. That is second baseman Gabriel Cancel who is hitting .321 in 21 games.
The starting staffer Omaha has really struggled this season, posting a 3-13 record with a 6.11 ERA. The group has a 1.51 WHIP and opponents are hitting .276 against them. The bullpen has been far better, posting a 3.61 ERA, so it is imperative that St. Paul take advantage of their opportunities against the starters.
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Down on the Farm
AA-Wichita Wind Surge
The Wichita Wind Surge went 3-2 against Northwest Arkansas during the week, with Sunday afternoon’s affair being rained out. Wichita dropped the first game of the series, but responded with a 4-3 victory on Wednesday and a 10-4 win on Thursday. They were shut out on Friday, but defeated the Naturals on Saturday, 7-6. That moved Wichita to 6-4 in their last 10 games, and they hold a 0.5 game lead over Tulsa in the Texas League North Division.
Wichita is second in the Texas League in pitching with a 4.33 ERA. Right-hander Tyler Viza moved up to St. Paul during the week, but right-hander Simeon Woods Richardson continues to lead the staff with a 2.20 ERA. After starting out the season tossing 21.2 scoreless innings, Woods Richardson has struggled over his last two outings, allowing four runs in both of those starts, giving him eight runs allowed in his last 11.0 innings. The bullpen continues to be the heart of this team, posting a 4.03 ERA, second best in the league.
The Wind Surge are seventh in hitting with a .250 batting average. Spencer Steer leads the club with six homers and 25 RBI, and has a .300 batting average. Steer hit .267 in the series against Northwest Arkansas, but did club two home runs. Alex Isola leads the club and hitting it .307, and is one of three players with four home runs. Leobaldo Cabrera finished out the series hot, going 3-7 with two home runs in four RBI in the final three games.
The Wind Surge will welcome Springfield the town starting on Tuesday. The Cardinals are in last place in the North Division (14-19). The club is ninth in hitting (.241) and fourth in ERA (5.38). The bullpen is really struggled for this group, posting a 5.95 ERA.
The Cardinals are led by Moises Gomez who is hitting .339 with 15 home runs and 32 RBI. Gomez leads the Texas League in all three categories in his quest for a Triple Crown. The question is whether he will remain in Springfield for much longer. Domingo Robles has been the best starter for this team, posting a 4.02 ERA in six starts.
High-A-Cedar Rapids Kernels
The Cedar Rapids Kernels had an outstanding week, going 5-1 against Peoria. The club won the first three games of the series, allowing single runs in each of those contests as they outscored the Chiefs 30-3 through the first three games. Peoria earned a 5-4 victory on Friday, but the Kernels responded with back-to-back wins, closing the series by outscoring Peoria 47-12.
Christian Encarnacion Strand still leads the team with a .336 batting average, five home runs, and 29 RBI. However, he hit .238 last week and has a .227 batting average over his last 15 games. Despite the struggles of their star, the Kernels are still a formidable offense, fourth in the Midwest League in batting average (.235) and they are sixth in homeruns (32). Cedar Rapids has scored 171 runs, second most in the league.
The Kernels continue to get outstanding pitching, first in the Midwest League with a 2.65 ERA, 0.65 runs fewer than the next lowest ERA. It has been the performance of the starting staff leading the way, as Sean Mooney (1.29), Brent Headrick (1.57), and Sawyer Gipson-Long (1.65) have combined to make 17 starts and all three have ERAs under 2.00. However, it is not just the starting staff. The bullpen has been incredible as well, starting with the performances of Bobby Milacki (0.59) and Bradley Hanner (0.60), who both have sub 1.00 earned run averages.
This week the Kernels will take on the Lake County Captains, who enter the series at 14-18, tied for third in the East Division. The club is 7-7 on the road. The Captains are third in pitching with a 3.40 ERA but have struggled offensively, tied for last with a .209 batting average. Lake County is led by Jhonkensy Noel with nine homers and 20 RBI. Gavin Williams has been outstanding for the starting rotation, allowing just 13 hits in 30.1 innings while posting a 1.48 ERA in six starts.
A- Fort Myers Mighty Mussels
The Fort Myers Mighty Mussels remain in first place in the Florida State West Division at 20-10. The club swept Palm Beach in their six-game series, extending their winning streak to seven straight games.
The Mighty Mussels received outstanding pitching in the series, tossing four shutouts and allowing six total earned runs. That puts Fort Myers first in ERA (2.78) and in shutouts (5). The club allowed 20 total hits in 50 innings pitched last week. Travis Adams tossed five innings of shutout ball, dropping his ERA to 1.44. David Festa has a 1.50 ERA in five starts and Marco Raya is at 1.89 in four starts. The club has 10 pictures with sub 3.00 ERAs who have made at least four appearances.
This week Fort Myers travel to take on Clearwater for eight games. The completion of a suspended contest from May 1 will be picked up on Tuesday with the teams tied at four in the top of the 11th. The clubs will then play a double-header on Wednesday, making up a game postponed because of rain on April 30.
Clearwater is 18-12 and currently on a five-game winning streak. They are 2.0 games behind Fort Myers, so a 6-2 week for either club could be a decisive turn in the division.
By Robert Pannier
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