Saints Take Series Against Indians, Head for Iowa
The Saints Story is a weekly publication that is focused on the St. Paul Saints, the AAA-affiliate of the Minnesota Twins. The Saints Story will discuss the past week’s games, take a look at what lay ahead, and discuss who’s hot and who’s not, plus much more. Also, news from throughout the Minnesota Twins minor league system will be provided, including from the Wichita Wind Surge (AA), the Cedar Rapids Kernels (High-A) and the Fort Myers Mighty Mussels (Low-A).
Record: 20-27, (Ninth place in International League West Division)
Week Record: 4-3
Batting Average: .241 (14th in International League)
Team ERA: 5.41 (19th in International League)
St. Paul Saints Week in Review
The St. Paul Saints returned to St. Paul after struggling on the road and found the home cooking to their liking, dropping the first two games of their series against the Indianapolis Indians, but then rebounding to win four of the final five games.
The Indians earned the victory in the first two games of the series. On Tuesday, St. Paul jumped out to a 4-0 lead, scoring three runs in the second and one in the third. However, Indianapolis battled back to tie the score at five, then scored three runs in the top of the 11th to earn an 8-5 victory. Roy Morales had a double and three RBI in the game. Cole Sands started the contest, tossing three scoreless innings before his evening was over.
On Wednesday, the teams played a double-header, completing a makeup game from April 14. In the opener, the Indians blew this game open with eight runs in the fourth inning and added five more in the seventh in a 16-10 win. Mason Martin homered and drove in five runs and Bligh Mardis hit his second homerun of the season and drove in three. Cole Sturgeon drove home three runs for St. Paul and Jermaine Palacios had two hits and drove in four for the Saints. The Saints pitching staff allowed 15 hits, including two homeruns, and walked seven.
In the second game, St. Paul was trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the fourth inning, but scored one in the fourth and the fifth innings and added three more in the sixth to earn a 5-3 victory. Royce Lewis had three hits in the game, including hitting his first homerun since returning to St. Paul. David Bañuelos added a two-run blast, his third of the year. The Saints got a solid performance out of starter Chi Chi Gonzalez, who allowed two earn runs in 5.1 innings, striking out seven.
On Thursday, St. Paul found themselves trailing 1-0 after Indianapolis scored in the top of the first-inning, but the Saints responded with two runs in the fourth, five in the fifth, and one in both the sixth and seventh innings. Lewis had another big game, going 2-5 with an RBI and two runs scored. Alex Kirilloff blasted his second homerun of the season as part of a three-hit, three RBI day. Mario Sanchez gave up the run in the first inning, then tossed five straight scoreless innings to earn the victory, his third of the year. The bullpen tossed 3.0 innings of scoreless relief.
On Friday, the Indians jumped out to what appeared to be a decisive lead with six runs in the top of the third, but St. Paul battled back, scoring two in the third, two in the sixth, and three more in the eighth to make it 8-7 Indianapolis. Caleb Hamilton helped lead the comeback, hitting a three-run homer in the eighth and Mark Contreras tied the score the bottom of the ninth with his sixth homerun of the season. That sent the game to extra innings where Palacios lined a single up the middle to score Jake Cave with the game-winning run. The victory was the third in a row for St. Paul, ironically, the first time the team had won three straight game since defeating the Indians three straight times in St. Paul April 15-17.
On Saturday, Indianapolis snapped the winning streak, erasing a 3-2 deficit with four runs in the top of the fifth. St. Paul found themselves trailing 2-0 after one inning, but scored three in the bottom of the third thanks to an RBI single by Kirilloff and a two run homer by Spencer Steer. However, Indianapolis scored four runs in the top of the fifth, capped off by a two-run homer off the bat of Ji-hwan Bae. Cave added his third homerun of the year in the bottom of the sixth, but the team could get no closer, falling 7-4. Ronny Henriquez allowed five runs in 4.2 innings, striking out eight, including six in a row.
St. Paul responded with an 8-7 victory on Sunday. Once again, Indianapolis jumped out to a 3-0 lead, but St. Paul scored two runs in the second, three in the third, and two in the fourth to take a 7-5 lead. Indianapolis scored two in the ninth to tie the game, but Cave sent the crowd home happy, lining a single to right for a walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth.
Cave had an impressive week, hitting .318 with two homers and eight RBI in five games. He also scored six runs while posting a .682 slugging percentage. Lewis continues to swing a hot bath since returning from Minnesota, hitting .318 in 10 games with two homeruns and nine runs scored.
The Saints will head down I-35 to take on the Iowa Comes for six-game starting on Tuesday. Iowa is 3.0 games ahead of St. Paul in the International Leagues west standings, coming in at 23-24. The club has been solid at home, going 14-9. The Cubs are getting outstanding pitching, second in the league with a 3.77 ERA while the hitting is 12th overall with a .245 batting average.
Iowa went 1-5 last week against Memphis. Robel Garcia leads the club with 12 home runs and 29 RBI. He is also the team leader in runs scored (24), and is hitting .300 in 39 contests. Starter Caleb Kilian is 2-0 with a 2.06 ERA in nine starts. He has been fantastic for this club, posting a 1.27 WHIP, striking out 41 in 39.1 innings pitched.
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Down on the Farm
AA-Wichita Wind Surge
The Wichita Wind Surge split their six-game series with Corpus Christi last week. Wichita earned victories in the first and last game of the series, then beat Corpus Christi 8-6 on Friday. The pitching struggled in the series, as they allowed 42 runs in the six games.
The Wind Surge are in second place in the Texas League North, 0.5 games behind Tulsa entering the week. They are 5-5 in their last 10 and are heading home to welcome Frisco this week. Wichita is 11-9 at home.
The Wind Surge are seventh in hitting with a .255 batting average and are fourth with 54 homers. That included hitting 10 in the six games against Frisco last week. Chris Williams continues to swing a hot bat for the Wind Surge, hitting .328 with three homers and 13 RBI in 19 games. Steer has moved up to St. Paul, so the club will be leaning on Williams and Alex Isola (.297, 4 HR, 24 RBI) to provide production.
Wichita is second in team ERA at 4.70, but were last in the league in ERA last week, posting an 8.08 earned run average. Simeon Woods Richardson continues to struggle in May, posting a 6.30 ERA in four starts. This after he did not allow an earned run through his first 21.2 innings in April. Louie Varland has a 3.61 ERA in nine appearances, going 4-1. Austin Schulfer had been spectacular out of the bullpen (0.39 ERA, 30 K, 23.0 IP), earning the call up to St. Paul.
The Wind Surge will take on Frisco this week. The RoughRiders are 25-20, first in the Texas League South. Frisco has been impressive on the road, going 12-6. The RoughRiders are fifth in batting average (.267) and fifth in ERA (5.16).
Frisco is led by J.P. Martinez and Blaine Crim, who are each having spectacular seasons. Martinez is hitting .311 with eight homers and 17 RBI in 32 games. He is tied for the club lead with 32 runs scored. Crim has also scored 32 runs, and leads the team with 10 home runs and 34 RBI. Ezequiel Duran is hitting .311 with 21 doubles and 32 runs scored. He has driven in 30.
High-A-Cedar Rapids Kernels
The Cedar Rapids Kernels split their six-game series with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers last week. Cedar Rapids won the odd numbered games of the series, including a 13-2 victory in the opener and a 9-0 victory on Thursday. Sawyer Gipson-Long was spectacular in the shutout, allowing two hits in 6.0 innings while striking out seven.
The Kernels remain in first in the Midwest League West Division (29-16), 1.0 games ahead of Wisconsin. The Kernels will head to the road this week, where they are 12-6, the best road record in the division.
Cedar Rapids continues to win with pitching, tops in the Midwest League with a 2.93 ERA. Brent Headrick and Gipson-Long continue to shine in the rotation. Headrick has a 1.70 ERA in eight starts, striking out 47 batters and 37.0 innings. He has allowed 28 total baserunners, posting a 0.76 WHIP. Gipson-Long has been nearly as impressive, posting a 2.15 ERA in eight starts, striking out 43 and 37.2 innings. He has a 0.98 WHIP.
The Kernels are fourth in hitting (.235) and third in homeruns (47). Despite falling back to earth, Christian Encarnacion Strand is still hitting .304 with eight homers and 39 RBI. First baseman Aaron Sabato has been swinging a hot bat, hitting .300 with two home runs and six RBI over his last five games.
Cedar Rapids heads to the road to take on Lansing starting on Tuesday. The Lugnuts are last in the East Division (17-28), going 2-8 in their last 10 games. The club is 9-12 at home. Lansing has a solid lineup, third in batting average (.236), but the pitching staff has struggled, dead last in the league with a 5.24 ERA.
Brett Harris has been the primary catalyst for this team, hitting .304 with seven homers and 18 RBI in 29 games. Tyler Soderstrom leads the club with nine home runs and 28 RBI, but is only hitting .219 in 41 games.
A- Fort Myers Mighty Mussels
The Fort Myers Mighty Mussels took five of six games against Bradenton last week, earning victories in the first five contests before falling on Sunday. The pitching staff was spectacular, allowing 15 total runs in the six games. That helped to lower the Fort Myers ERA to 2.74, tops in the Florida State League. The team is second in batting average (.240), but have the top OPS at .737. The Mighty Mussels lead the Florida State League West Division at 30-14 and are 12-5 at home.
Pitching is a story in Fort Myers. The starting staff has a 15-6 record with a 2.68 ERA, striking out 233 batters in 188.1 innings pitched, while posting a 0.98 WHIP. Those are easily the best numbers in the league. John Stankiewicz and David Festa have both moved up to Cedar Rapids, but the Mighty Mussels continue to find outstanding starters. Steve Hajjar is 2-1 with a 2.17 ERA in seven starts and Travis Adams is 3-1 with a 2.31 ERA in seven outings. Marco Raya has a 2.48 ERA. The bullpen has been spectacular as well, thanks in large part to the performance of Matthew Swain who has yet to allow an earned run in 13 outings, allowing four hits and four walks in 19.0 innings pitched.
This week, Fort Myers welcomes Tampa. The Tarpons are in last place in the West Division (20-25), going 6-4 in their last 10, but have lost their last four games. The Tarpons are 7-17 on the road. Tampa has the sixth best ERA at 3.77 and the eighth best team batting average of .217.
The Tarpons have a solid bullpen led by four great arms. Enrique Santana (0.90 ERA), Carlos Gomez (1.42 ERA, 1.00 WHIP), Trevor Holloway (1.64 ERA) and Danny Watson (3.00 ERA, 1.08 WHIP). Gomez has struck out 30 in just 19.0 innings, and the quartet have struck out 80 batters in 64.0 innings pitched.
By Robert Pannier