Vinny DiFazio Buries Explorers, Gives St. Paul Saints 6-4 Win
Forget “Deflategate.” Maybe it’s time to start investigating the St. Paul Saints for “Inflategate.” That may be the only way to explain the ridiculous way that Vinny DiFazio has been hitting of late. It sure looks like the ball being pitched to the catcher is twice the size of that of anyone else, because there seems to be no plausible explanation for why the 29-year-old is hitting the way he has been of late.
For the second straight night DiFazio broke a tie with a home-run, this one a two-run shot in the bottom of the eighth that led the St. Paul Saints to the 6-4 win. The catcher was 2-3 in the game with 2 runs and 2 RBI. The home run was his eighth of the year, tying him for the American Association lead. He also extended his hitting streak to 12-games, which includes 11 straight multi-hit games. During the span he is 29-54 with 15 runs scored and 23 RBI. He also has 6 home runs during the streak. Hitting a bigger ball? It sounds like he’s hitting a super ball.
The St. Paul Saints jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning. Nikorak walked with one out and moved to a third on a base hit by DiFazio. The catcher dropped a hit down the right field line that landed just fair. Ian Gac followed with an RBI sacrifice fly that scored Nikorak to give the Saints the 1-0 lead.
In the top of the second the Sioux City Explorers tied the score against St. Paul starter Jeff Shields. The inning began much in the way the Saints had in the bottom of the first. Noah Perio walked with one out and moved to third on a single by Ryan Court. Tommy Mendonca tied the score with a single that drove Perio home.
In the bottom of the fourth the home team plated three runs to take the lead. Patrick Johnson had recovered from allowing the first inning run, by pitching brilliantly for the next two innings. The walk hurt him in the bottom of the fourth, however. DiFazio and Gac walked to begin the inning. Angelo Songco drilled a single to right field that brought DiFazio home to put St. Paul back on top. Mike Kvasnicka reached on an error to load the bases and Gac scored on a sharp single to left by Joey Paciorek. Anthony Phillips hit into a double-play, but that scored Songco to make it 4-1.
In the top of the fifth the Explorers got two of those runs back. Shields retired the first two batters of the inning, but then gave up a single to Michael Lang and walked Rene Tosoni to put two on with two outs. That brought Brock Kjeldgaard to the plate who drilled a pitch to the wall for a two-run triple to cut the lead to one.
Shields left after six innings with the club clinging to a one-run lead. He went 6 innings, allowing 5 hits, 3 walks, and 3 runs. He struck out 2 in the 94-pitch performance.
Alex Sogard relieved in the seventh and kept the Explorers off the scoreboard. He has not allowed a run in any of his 13 appearances this season.
In the eighth Mike Zouzalik came in to try to hold the lead. The right-hander struck out Kjeldgaard, but Perio followed with a shot that was just out of the reach of Songco, dropping into right field for a double. Court followed with a single to score Perio and the game was tied.
There was a bit of disappointment in the crowd when the game became tied, but the feeling quickly turned to joy. Mitch Elliot led off the bottom of the eighth by working the count full before drawing a walk. Steve Nikorak attempted to bunt Elliot over, but he popped out, keeping Elliot at first. That brought DiFazio to the plate, who roped a 1-0 pitch over the left field fence to give the St. Paul Saints the lead.
Dylan Chavez came on to close the game out in the ninth. He retired the Explorers in order to earn his second save of the season. Zouzalik earned his first win of the year. Rob Wort, who gave up the home run, took the loss to drop to 3-1.
The win moved the St. Paul Saints to 26-5, easily the best record in the league. The two hit night moved DiFazio’s average to .449, tops in the American Association. The Saints slugger now leads in the Triple Crown categories. His 34 RBI is three above Songco, and his 8 home runs is now tied for first. No word on if the commissioner’s office checked the balls to make sure they were regulation size.
Boxscore Provided by the American Association
By Robert Pannier