John Straka Wins 10th in St. Paul Saints 5-2 Victory
Early on this season it seemed like the starting rotation was Mark Hamburger and four other guys. The Saints ace seemed to be the only guy that Manager George Tsamis could depend upon, but that is not the case any longer. Right-hander John Straka continues to heat up, winning his third straight, allowing just one-run in seven outstanding innings as the Saints downed the suddenly struggling Gary Southshore RailCats, 5-2.
The Saints jumped out a quick lead in the top of the first inning. Alonzo Harris singled to start the game off, then moved to second when pitcher Richard Castillo’s pickoff throw was wild. A base hit by Brady Burzynski scored Harris and it was 1-0. Tony Thomas then followed with a single that moved Burzynski to third and Trever Adams singled to score the lead runner to improve the lead to two. Two batters later Willie Argo went the other way, singling to right to score Adams to make it a 3-0 lead.
It looked like the RailCats were going to get those runs right back in the bottom of the first when they loaded the bases with no one out. Cameron Newell walked to start the inning and then Reggie Wilson and Anthony Cheky delivered back-to-back singles. Straka was in the heart of the order, but he struck out Tillman Pugh, then got a fly out and a comebacker to end the inning without any runs scoring.
In the bottom of the third, Gary got on the board. Wilson singled to start the inning, then stole second and moved to third on a groundout. Wilson then scored on a ground out by Pugh to make it 3-1.
Straka (10-3) had given up five-hits through the first three-innings, but then he caught fire. He allowed just two-hits over the next four-innings and gave the RailCats no chance to claw their way back into this contest. He would leave after seven, striking out three but, most importantly, walking just one. That continued a run where he has allowed just one run in his last 17-innings pitched.
While Straka was dominating on the mound, his lineup was adding to his lead. The Saints responded to the run in third by scoring a run in the top of the fourth. Breland Almadova singled with one out and moved to third on a single by Tanner Vavra. A fielder’s choice by Harris scored Almadova to make it 4-1.
In the top of the eighth, they would move their lead to four. Paul Perez took over and walked Bryson Myles to start the inning. Argo moved him to second on a sacrifice and Aaron Gretz and Almadova followed with walks to load the bases with just one out. A sacrifice fly by Vavra scored Myles to make it 5-1.
The RailCats got that run right back in the bottom of the eighth. Cheky doubled with one out against reliever Caleb Thielbar and he then stole third. Cheky scored on a ground out by Pugh to make it 5-2.
That would be all the offense that the Gary Southshore RailCats could generate. In the ninth Ryan Rodebaugh came on and retired the side for his American Association leading 21st save. The All-Star has been absolutely dominant of late, not allowing a run in his last 14 outings.
Adams finished 3-5 with an RBI for the St. Paul Saints. Harris was 2-5 with a run and an RBI. Four different players had two-hits for the Gary Southshore RailCats, including Newell, Wilson, Elbert Devarie and John Holland.
The victory made the St. Paul Saints the first American Association team to win 50-games. Tomorrow they will look for win No. 51. Dan Johnson (2-2, 4.77) gets the start for the St. Paul Saints. The RailCats send Karl Triana (4-4, 3.50) looking to end the team’s five-game losing streak. First pitch is 7:10.
By Robert Pannier