Facing the second best pitching staff in the American Association on Thursday night, the St. Paul Saints returned from the All-Star break with a versatile offensive attack against the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks. Using timely hitting and stellar pitching from their bullpen, the Saints held on for a 7-6 win over the RedHawks in front of 8,995 fans at CHS Field. The Saints improve to 48-22, the best record in the American Association, good for an 8.0 game lead in the North Division.
Trailing from the start of the game, the Saints were able to rally on two different occasions. Tied at three in the bottom of the fourth inning, Breland Almadova reached on a leadoff walk and was sacrificed to second by Tanner Vavra. Alonzo Harris then singled, putting runners on the corners. With Brady Burzynski up to bat, Harris took off for second base, drawing the throw from catcher Charlie Valerio. While Harris was caught in a run down, Almadova raced in to score, giving the Saints a 4-3 lead.
Josh Mazzola needed just two pitches to tie the game again in the top of the fifth, launching a leadoff home run, his 17th of the season, against Saints starter Eric Veglahn.
The heart of the order came through in the bottom of the fifth for the Saints. With two runners on with no one out, Trever Adams roped a ball to the gap that turned into a two-run triple, giving the Saints a 6-4 lead. Making his return from the disabled list, Willie Argo knocked in Adams with a single to right to make it 7-3. Argo finished the night 2-4 with a double, RBI and a run scored.
In the seventh, the RedHawks got back into the game with another long ball. With a man on and two outs, Valerio pulled a home run to right, his seventh of the season, to make it 7-6.
As they’ve done so many times this season, Caleb Thielbar and Ryan Rodebaugh eliminated any chance for a comeback. Thielbar worked 1.1 innings of scoreless relief, walking one batter and striking out one, maintaining the Saints one run lead.
Rodebaugh faced the heart of the RedHawks line up in the ninth, and handled them with ease. Working against All-Star’s Keury De La Cruz and Mazzola, Rodebaugh struck out all three batters he faced in the ninth, needing just 12 pitches to record his league leading 19th save.
The RedHawks got to Veglahn right out of the gate. With runners on second and third and two outs, Brian Humphries hit a ball right back up the middle, plating both runners for a 2-0 lead. Veglahn went 4.2 innings, giving up four runs off 10 hits while walking one and striking out four.
The Saints got a run back in the second when RedHawks first baseman Dustin Geiger committed two errors on one play, allowing Argo to score from second to make it 2-1.
De La Cruz started the third inning with a home run, his 12th of the season, pushing it back to a two run RedHawks lead.
In the bottom of the third, Harris led off with a single, extending his hitting streak to nine games. After stealing second, he came in to score on a single up the middle by Burzynski, to make it 3-2. With one out, Dan Johnson singled to left field, and Adams scalded a ball off the glove of Mazzola to plate Burzynski and tie the game at 3-3. Adams finished the night 2-4 with a triple, three RBI and a run scored.
The same two teams meet again on Friday night at 7:05 p.m. at CHS Field. The Saints send RHP Mark Hamburger (11-1, 2.49) to the mound against RedHawks RHP Jose Almarante (1-1, 3.03).