Kramer Sneed Dominates to Win 14th for St. Paul Saints
With the team reeling of late, the St. Paul Saints needed someone to step up and take the team of his back while leading them to victory. Friday night that is exactly what Kramer Sneed did, as the lefty gave up five hits in six innings of work to lead his club to a 2-1 victory over the Kansas City T-Bones.
Sneed was opposed by left-hander Kris Regas, who pitched a gem of his own. Both pitchers had control of the game through the first three innings, with neither club being able to score early on. Sneed allowed just a double and a single through the first three frames, and one of those runners was erased on a double-play ball. Regas gave up a walk and a single in the first, but then retired the next seven batters he faced. This was clearly shaping up to be a real pitchers’ duel.
In the fourth both teams had their opportunity to score. In the top of the fourth Vinny DiFazio turned on a 2-1 pitch from the T-Bones starter and drilled it for a solo home run to begin the frame. That was DiFazio’s 16th home run of the season, putting him three behind league leader Josh Mazzola.
It was a big moment for the team that quickly soured as Angelo Songco, the next batter, fouled a pitch off his leg and had to leave the game. No word on the extent of the injury.
In the bottom of the fourth Kansas City looked like they would get it right back, but a great defensive play thwarted the rally. Nate Tenbrink walked to lead off the inning and Jake Blackwood followed with a double into the gap in right-center field. Alonzo Harris retrieved the ball and fired it to shortstop Anthony Phillips whose throw to DiFazio was absolutely perfect. That nailed Tenbrink at the plate to keep it a one-run Saints lead. Sneed then got a groundout and a strikeout to end the inning. It was a masterful performance by both the lefty and his defense.
In the top of the fifth the club extended their lead. Regas got the first two batters of the inning out, but Dan Kaczrowski delivered a huge hit, crushing the first pitch he saw for his third home run of the season. That made it 2-0, and was a critical run in the game.
In the bottom of the fifth Kansas City mounted a rally again, and this time it would pay off. Vladamir Frias led off with a walk and moved to third on a single by Brian Erie. Sneed then struck out Robby Kuzdale, but hit Sergio Leon to load the bases. Former Wichita Wingnut Starlin Rodriguez followed with a sacrifice fly to make it 2-1, but Sneed limited the damage by getting Tenbrink to fly out to end the inning.
Both pitchers got in a little trouble in the sixth, allowing runners to reach third base with just one out, but were able to keep their opponent off the scoreboard. Then the rains came. An hour long delay ended the night for the Saints starter. Sneed (14-3) went 6 innings, allowing 5 hits, 2 walks, a run, while striking out 3. His victory put him into a tie with Patrick Johnson for the American Association lead. He is also one win away from tying the record for most wins in league history.
From there it was up to the bullpens, and they pitched absolutely masterful. Aaron Baker came on in the seventh when the Saints had a runner on second with two outs. He retired Harris and then gave up just a single walk over the final two innings of the game.
Alex Sogard pitched the seventh and the eighth for the St. Paul Saints. He gave up a lone walk, but induced a double-play grounder from Blackwood to end the eighth. Sogard faced the minimum number of batters, six, in his two innings of work.
In the ninth the Saints turned to closer Ryan Rodebaugh. He retired the T-Bones in order for his league leading 24th save. It is also his 13th straight save conversion.
DiFazio had the big bat for the St. Paul Saints on the night. He was 2-2, with a run scored and an RBI, plus he walked twice. That moved his average to .358, tops in the league.
The club continues its feast or famine numbers this season. The Saints have been living by the long ball, as over fifty percent of their runs in the last two weeks have come via the home run. Both came that way Friday night.
The same two teams meet in game three of the four game series on Saturday night at 7:05 p.m. at CommunityBank Ballpark. The Saints send RHP Jeff Shields (12-2, 3.10) to the mound against T-Bones RHP Drew Gay (2-3, 4.96). Fans can hear the game told in dulcet tones by Sean Aronson, by going to SaintsBaseball.com.
By Robert Pannier