Willie Argo, Alonzo Harris Power St. Paul Saints in 6-4 Victory
It was a slow start to the 2016 American Association season for both Willie Argo and Alonzo Harris, but the two St. Paul Saints outfielders are heating up as the calendar gets further into June. Wednesday night the two each drove in two runs in the Saints 6-4 victory over the Sioux City Explorers, giving their team victories in the first two games of the series.
John Straka started for the St. Paul Saints and his team staked him to a quick lead in the top of the first inning. With one out, Breland Almadova walked, but Cody Forsythe was able to retire the next batter on a strikeout to make it two outs. Then the Saints started a big rally. Angelo Songco walked to continue the frame. Tony Thomas followed with a ground rule double that scored Almadova to make it 1-0 St. Paul. Next up was Argo, who drove his own double to the wall to score both runners and it was a three-run lead. A double by Tony Caldwell, the third given up by Forsythe in the inning, scored Argo to make it 4-0.
In the bottom of the second, the Sioux City Explorers got a run back. Tommy Mendonca started the inning with a single and Jarek Cunningham then hit into a fielder’s choice. A Tim Colwell ground out moved him to third and he scored when Matt Koch singled to make it 4-1.
In the top of the fourth, the Saints extended their lead. Chad Christensen singled with one out, but was caught trying to steal. That made it two outs, but a walk to Maxx Garrett kept the inning alive. Next up was Harris, who turned on a Forsythe pitch and drove it for his ninth homerun of the season. That made the score 6-1 and the game looked well in hand. But these are the Sioux City Explorers, who never feel like they are out of the game.
In the home half of the inning Cunningham singled to get the inning started. Colwell then reached on an error and Cunningham scored when Matt Koch singled him home. Ralph Henriquez singled to score Colwell, and Matt Johnson brought home Koch when he grounded into a double-play. That made it 6-4 and the game suddenly turned into a nail-biter.
Straka (5-1) would continue to pitch into the seventh and he looked solid, but after giving up two hits his night was over. The Saints starter went 6.1, allowing 10-hits and a walk. Only one of the 4-runs was earned. He struck out 3.
Caleb Thielbar came into relieve for Straka and retired all five batters he faced. The left-hander made his eighth consecutive appearance where he did not allow a run, and in his last five appearances he has only allowed one-hit in 6.2 total innings.
Ryan Rodebaugh came on in the ninth to close out the game. He retired all three batters, striking out one for his eighth save of the season.
Argo and Harris both finished 1-4 with a run and 2-RBI. Koch had 3-hits for Sioux City, and drove in 2-runs.
The two teams close out their three-game series tomorrow. Mark Hamburger (5-0, 3.38) goes for win No. 6 for the St. Paul Saints. Game time is 7:05.
By Robert Pannier