Kody Knaus, Saints Bullpen Combine to Blank Sioux Falls Canaries
St. Paul Saints Manager George Tsamis got kind of spoiled last season. He had five outstanding starters who made just about every start they were scheduled to make, meaning he rarely had to turn to anyone other than one of the five to handle a start.
That has not been the case this season. Already the Saints manager has used Alec Crawford and, for the second time this season, he turned to left-hander Kody Knaus to take the hill Sunday night. Tsamis could not have asked for much more out of his hurler.
Knaus (1-1) blanked the Sioux Falls Canaries for 5.2 innings, combining with two other lefties to shutout the Canaries 4-0. The victory gives the Saints an American Association leading 17-8. record.
St. Paul got off to a great start. In the top of the first, Breland Almadova reached on an error by Canaries starter Joe Bircher and then stole second. With two outs, Angelo Songco singled to score Almadova and give the Saints the 1-0 lead. Next up was Tony Thomas, looking to extend his 23-game hitting streak. He did not leave any suspense on this night, taking three quick pitches for balls, then crushing his eighth homerun of the season to make it 3-0.
That is how the score would remain through the first six innings of the game. Both starters pitched extremely well, with Knaus being one inning better. The lefty gave up a single to Sioux Falls to start the game and a sacrifice bunt moved the runner to second with no one out, but he got a ground out a pop out to end the inning.
In the fifth he found himself in a little trouble, but pitched beautifully to get out of it. After retiring the first two hitters of the inning, a walk and a single put runners at the corners with two outs. The tying run was at the plate, but Knaus induced a ground ball to end the inning.
In the sixth, a single and a walk put two on with two outs again. Tsamis turned to Caleb Thielbar to close out the inning, and he struck out Ozney Guillen to end the threat. Knaus had pitched exceptionally well, allowing 5-hits and 2-walks, while striking out 3.
Thielbar was brilliant in relief of the Saints starter. He pitched 2.1 innings, only allowing a lone single, while striking out 2. That kept the shutout intact.
In the top of the seventh, the St. Paul Saints extended their lead. Sam Maus walked to start the inning. That ended Bircher’s day. Jimmer Kennedy took over and made an error on a ball hit by Alonzo Harris to put two on with no one out. Two batters later Nate Hanson singled to score Maus to make it 4-0.
In the ninth, Cody Wheeler came on for the St. Paul looking to close out the shutout. He retired the Canaries in order, striking out two of those hitters to give his team the four-run victory.
Thomas’ homerun extended his hitting streak to 24-games as the team finally heads home. It has been a long 14-day road trip which has included two rainouts and the team’s first four-game losing streak since 2014, however the Saints went 9-5 on that trip and return home with the league’s best record.
They begin a three-game series against the Sioux City Explorers (12-11) Monday night at CHS Field. Right-hander Graham Johnson (3-0, 2.02) goes for Sioux City. The St. Paul Saints’ Mark Hamburger (4-0, 2.52) makes his second attempt at his fifth victory. Game time is 7:05.
By Robert Pannier