Hernandez, Bullpen Lead St. Paul Saints to 9th Straight Win
In what St. Paul Saints manager George Tsamis called his best outing of the year, Pedro Hernandez caged the Sioux Falls Canaries bats Friday night to aid the club’s 3-1 victory. The lefty and three relievers allowed just eight hits while walking one and striking out nine to lead the club to their ninth straight win, while giving them a perfect 5-0 record at home this season.
In the bottom of the first the Saints got on the scoreboard with two runs. Alonzo Harris worked the count full before drawing a walk. Sam Maus sacrificed Harris to second and Willie Argo drove Harris home with a lined shot to center that was just out of the reach of the Canaries second baseman Michel Wing’s reach. Ian Gac was the next batter and he took two quick strikes, then fouled off the next three pitches to stay alive. He was then hit by a Joe Bircher pitch in the shoulder to put runners at first and second. Mike Kvasnicka followed with a hard grounder to third. The third baseman fired the ball to Wing for the second out of the inning, but Gac made a good hard slide, causing the second baseman to throw wildly. The ball went into the stands allowing Argo to score and the Saints led 2-0.
In the bottom of the third St. Paul extended their lead. With one out Argo singled to left field, and Gac followed with a lined double to the wall that moved Argo to third. Kvasnicka hit a hard grounder to Wing, but his only play was to first, allowing Argo to score to make it 3-0.
St. Paul Saints starter Pedro Hernandez had breezed through the first five innings. Through the first five frames he had allowed just three hits, while striking out four.
In the top of the sixth the Sioux Falls Canaries finally broke through against the lefty. Wing singled with two outs, stole second and scored on a base hit by Richard Stock. That brought the Canaries to within two. That would be Hernandez’s (2-1) last inning. He had pitched 6 innings, allowing five hits and a walk while striking out five.
With a two run lead, Tsamis turned to his bullpen, and he got outstanding results. Right-hander Mike Zouzalik allowed a loan hit in 1.2 innings of work, while striking out two. Alex Sogard closed out the eighth by striking out Stock.
In the ninth, the Saints manager turned to Ryan Rodebaugh to close out the game. The big right-hander has become the club’s closer lately as Tsamis has come to rely on him to get key outs. He has delivered on that trust. Rodebaugh retired the first two hitters before giving up back-to-back singles. The Saints pitcher proved why the manager has confidence in him, getting RJ Perucki to hit a dying drive into right field that Kvasnicka made an absolutely incredible diving catch on to end the game. That was Rodebaugh’s fourth save of the season.
The St. Paul Saints got just four hits on the night, but two came off the bat of Argo, who scored two runs and drove in the other. Sioux Falls got two hits from Wing, Jason Repko, and Perucki.
The win moves the Saints record to 13-1 on the season, the quickest the club has reached 13 wins in the team’s 23-year history. Their ninth straight win is one short of the club record for consecutive wins in a single season.
By Robert Pannier