Mark Hamburger Provides Grade-A Performance in Saints 4-3 Win
For those who were thinking it had been a month since the St. Paul Saints starter Mark Hamburger had won his last game, your recollection is correct. The right-hander had not earned a victory since July 25th, struggling through some his roughest outings of the season. However, Friday night, when his team needed it the most, Hamburger returned to the form that made him 11-0 earlier this season, downing the Lincoln Saltdogs 4-3, despite a late rally from the Saltdogs.
Hamburger was opposed by Ryan O’Sullivan, and both starters breezed through 1-2-3 first innings to keep the game scoreless. However, in the second, the St. Paul Saints jumped out to a 1-0 lead. Newly acquired David Bergin led off the inning, and took a 1-0 pitch and drilled it for his 17th homer of the season, and second since joining the team.
From there this was an incredible pitchers’ duel. With both teams fighting for a post-season berth, the game took on a playoff atmosphere. Following the run in the top of the second, the Saltdogs put two runners on in the bottom half of the inning when Cesar Valera and Austin Gallagher delivered back-to-back singles with one out. However, Hamburger induced Juan Martinez to hit into a double-play to end the threat.
In the bottom of the third, Jon Smith started out with a base hit, but two batters later Robby Kuzdale hit into a double-play to end that inning. Hamburger gave up a two-out single in the fourth but that runner would be left stranded. That last out of the fourth started a run of seven straight batters retired by the Saints starter.
Meanwhile, O’Sullivan was pitching nearly as well. Following the homerun, the Lincoln starter would not give up another hit until the top of the fifth. In the sixth he gave up a single and a walk to start the inning, but a double-play ended the threat. A leadoff single in the seventh was erased by a double-play as well to keep the score 1-0.
O’Sullivan was pitching incredibly well, but in the eighth the Saints finally were able to get back on the board. Tanner Vavra led off the inning with a single and moved to second on a sacrifice. Next up was Alonzo Harris, who promptly lined a single to left that scored Vavra to make it 2-0. Harris then stole second base and scored when Ryan Cavan grounded back to the mound but O’Sullivan threw the ball away allowing Harris to score to make it 3-0.
In the top of the ninth, St. Paul would add another run and that proved to be pivotal. Brad Orosey relieved to start the inning and was greeted by Nate Hanson’s 12th homerun of the year to make it 4-0.
By the way that Hamburger was pitching this game looked like it was over, but the Lincoln Saltdogs mounted a rally in the ninth. Hamburger retired the first batter of the inning, but Luis Alen ended the shutout with his seventh homer of the year. He then gave up a single to Brandon Jacobs and his night was over.
Hamburger (12-4) went 8.1-innings, allowing 7-hits, 2-earned runs, and no walks. He struck out 8, including the side in the eighth.
Ryan Rodebaugh came on looking to close it out, but he was greeted by a homerun from Curt Smith that made it a one-run game; his 17th of the season. Suddenly, a game dominated by the Saints was a nail-biter. Rodebaugh remained calm however, striking out the next two batters to record his American Association leading 23rd save of the season.
Harris and Hanson both finished 2-4 with a run and an RBI for the Saints. Curt Smith and Jacobs were both 2-4 with a run for Lincoln. Smith had 2-RBI.
Game 2 of this three-game set is tomorrow night. Game time is 6:35.
By Robert Pannier