In 24 season’s of St. Paul Saints baseball no team had ever won 10 straight home games. Not the four championship teams, not the 74-26 team last season. The 2016 version became the first team in franchise history to win 10 games in a row at home as they drew 11 walks in the first 2.1 innings, and 12 overall, to defeat the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks 3-2 on Saturday night at CHS Field in front of 9,268.
Former St. Paul Saints pitcher Cody Scarpetta got the start for the RedHawks. He entered play second in the league with 37 walks in 48.0 innings pitched and finished the night setting an American Association record for most walks by a pitcher in a game. He walked four in the first inning, but the Saints couldn’t score. He walked leadoff batter Brady Burzynski, who was erased on a fielder’s choice by Tanner Vavra. Vavra was then thrown out trying to steal second. Scarpetta walked the next three hitters to load the bases before striking out Nate Hanson to end the inning.
In the second, Willie Argo led off with a walk and stole second. With two outs he would advance to third on a wild pitch on ball four to Burzynski. Vavra drew a walk to load the bases, but Scarpetta struck out Angelo Songco to end the inning. The Saints walked seven times in the first two innings, but were held scoreless.
In the third, with one out, Scarpetta walked four straight hitters to force home a run and the Saints trailed 2-1. Scarpetta would depart after throwing 85 pitches, just 32 for strikes. Reliever Jose Almarante came out of the bullpen and would throw a wild pitch allowing Nate Hanson to score, tying the game at two. The Saints finally collected their first hit when Breland Almadova hit a dribbler up along first that was fielded by first baseman Dustin Geiger, but Almadova avoided the tag as Argo scored to make it 3-2. Scarpetta’s final line was 2.1 innings allowing three runs on no hits while walking an American Association record 11 and striking out three. The previous record had been eight by several pitchers.
Saints starter, knuckleballer Dan Johnson, picked up his first professional win after settling down following a two run first inning. K.D. Kang led off with a pop up single behind short, just out of the reach of Vavra. Ryan Pineda walked to put runners at first and second. Johnson would get Keury De La Cruz to fly out and struck out Josh Mazzola, but back-to-back RBI singles from Brian Humphries and Geiger gave the RedHawks a 2-0 lead. Johnson got a groundout by Kes Carter to end the inning.
Johnson would not allow another hit the rest of his outing walking three and another hitter reaching on an error. In the second Luke Bailey reached on an error, was sacrificed to second and Kang walked. Johnson got Ryan Pineda to line out to second and De La Cruz to pop out to second to end the inning.
In the fifth Johnson walked the leadoff hitter Josh Mazzola and got Brian Humphries to fly out to center. Mazzola would steal second, but stayed there on a groundout by Geiger. Johnson departed for reliever Caleb Thielbar who got Carter to strike out to end the game. Johnson went 5.2 innings allowing two runs on three hits while walking four and striking out two and picking up his first professional victory.
Thielbar was superb in his 2.1 innings of relief allowing just one hit while striking out three.
Ryan Rodebaugh earned his league leading 14th save in 15 opportunities pitching a scoreless ninth while striking out two.
The Saints surpassed the 1994 and 1995 teams for consecutive home wins, who won nine in a row from July 17-30, and last season’s team who won nine in a row from July 26-August 19.
The same two teams meet in the finale of the three game series on Sunday evening at 5:05 p.m. at CHS Field.