Lincoln Saltdogs Hand Mark Hamburger First Loss of Year, 3-2
They say all good things must come to an end, and that is what happened Saturday night when the St. Paul Saints Mark Hamburger finally saw his 11-game winning streak to start the 2016 American Association season come to an end. Hamburger set two franchise records on the night, throwing his sixth complete game of the season and his 11th career complete game in a Saints uniform, but Ryan O’Sullivan and two Lincoln relievers were able to shut down the Saints offense in the 3-2 victory.
It got off to a good start for St. Paul in the top of the first. Alonzo Harris led off with a single and Brady Burzynski followed with a single of his own to put two on with no one out. Tony Thomas then laid down a perfect bunt that moved both runners into scoring position. A wild pitch brought Harris home and the Saints led 1-0.
Hamburger looked quite impressive throughout the contest. He retired the first nine hitters of the game, but in the fourth his defense let him down. Robby Kuzdale led off the fourth with a single. Luis Alen followed with a grounder to short that should have been a double-play, but Thomas dropped the ball transitioning it from his glove. Next up was Brandon Jacobs who grounded to short again. Thomas made a perfect through to Sam Maus at second, but his throw to first on the relay was wild and Kuzdale scored. That tied the game at one.
In the fifth, the Saltdogs took their first lead. Jon Smith singled to start the inning and moved over on a sacrifice by Ryan Wiggins. Two batters later Danier Moreira singled to left field to score Smith and Lincoln was up 2-1.
Following the run in the first, O’Sullivan was just dominant. He allowed just two hits over the next six innings and the Saints seemingly had no real answer for him.
In the eighth they would finally get a rally going. Harris led off the inning with a walk and moved to second when Burzynski followed with a single. That would be it for the Saltdogs starter. He had allowed 7-hits in 7+ innings of work, walking 2 and striking out 5. More importantly he left with his team leading.
Stephen Shackelford took over and Thomas laid down a bunt again. This time he beat it out for a single to load the bases with no one out. This had the makings of a huge inning, but Shackelford induced Dan Johnson to hit into a double-play. That scored Harris to tie the game, but there were now two outs. The Lincoln reliever then struck out Trever Adams to end the inning with the score tied at two.
Hamburger had new life in keeping his unbeaten streak intact, but a one-out hit by pitch of Alen opened the door in the bottom half of the eighth. Jacobs followed with a walk and Rene Leveret singled to load the bases with just one out. Next up was Curt Smith, who hit a fly ball to Alonzo Harris. Harris made a strong throw to the plate but it was up the line and Alen scored to give the Lincoln Saltdogs back the lead.
In the ninth, Evan Reed came on. He retired the Saints in order, striking out Breland Almadova to end the contest. That gave Reed his 16th save of the season. Shackelford earned the win to move to 4-2.
Hamburger (11-1) took the loss but he pitched a gem. The right-hander allowed 6-hits, a walk and 2-earned runs. He struck out 4.
These same two teams will battle tomorrow afternoon, the final contest before the All-Star break. John Straka (8-3, 5.21) will go on short rest for the St. Paul Saints. He will be opposed by Matt Larkins (6-3, 2.74). Game time is 2:05.
By Robert Pannier