Screenshot captured via americanassociationbaseball.tv

The St. Paul Saints and Gary Southshore Railcats are locked in a tight battle for the American Association North Division title. Tied in the standings entering Saturday’s tilt and playing each other for the final time this season, fans knew it was one of the biggest series of the year for both teams.

The Saints won the first two games of the series, 7-5 and 9-1, before falling 4-2 on Saturday night.

The Railcats opened the scoring at CHS Field in the top of the first inning when Tillman Pugh singled to right field. Randy Santiesteban hit a ground ball to shortstop Joey Wong that should have been an easy double play, but Zach Walters couldn’t cleanly handle the flip, and both runners were ruled safe by third base umpire Darrell Cooper.

The next batter was Collin Willis, who hit a hard ground ball to the right of Walters, who despite diving could only get the tip of his glove on the ball, allowing Pugh to score all the way from second base to put the Railcats in front.

The Saints did respond in the bottom of the inning, thanks to a two-run home run from Kyle Barrett, his fourth of the season that scored Max Murphy, who had led off the inning with a single to left field.

The game became a pitchers’ duel, and neither team was able to push across a run until the top of the sixth inning. Reggie Wilson drew a two-out walk in the sixth, advanced to third on a single to center field from Andy DeJesus and scored on a single from Randy Savage to tie the game.

The Railcats took the lead in the top of the seventh when Pugh greeted Saints reliever Mike Devine with a solo home run to the Home Run Porch in right field. Devine was able to recover and get the next three outs, even recording a strikeout of Ronnie Mitchell.

Evan Mitchell pitched the eighth inning for the Saints after being signed earlier in the afternoon. He pitched a clean inning and recorded one strikeout in his Saints debut.

The Saints had a good chance to tie the game in the bottom of the eighth when Reynolds led off with a walk and stole second base. Railcats reliever Miles Smith was able to bear down and strike out the next three batters to keep the lead intact.

After the Railcats added an insurance run in the top of the ninth, the Saints came up to bat hoping to walk it off, and for a while it looked like they may do so, as they loaded the bases with two outs for Reynolds, who worked the count to 2-2 before fouling off a few pitches.

Finally, Railcats pitcher Adam Quintana reached back and threw a fastball that Reynolds missed for strike three, ending the game and ensuring the Railcats wouldn’t get swept by the Saints.

The two teams will finish the four-game series on Sunday evening at 5:05 p.m. The Saints will send RHP Jake Mathys to the mound, while the Railcats will counter with LHP Alex Gunn. After the game, the Saints will remain at CHS Field to host the Sioux Falls Canaries for a three-game series starting Monday at 7:05 p.m.

NOTES

    • It was announced on Thursday that the Saints have been selected to host the 2019 American Association All-Star Game at CHS Field for the second time. The first was in 2016 when hometown favorite Mark Hamburger got the start for the North and led them to a win over the South. The 2017 game was a joint venture with the Can-Am League and was hosted by the Ottawa Champions. There was no All-Star game this season for the American Association.
    • The Saints are now one game behind the Railcats in the North Division with just Sunday’s game left in the season series. The Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks are lurking just 2.5 games behind the Railcats after losing to the Canaries on Saturday. The Saints have just one series left with the Redhawks, a two-game set on August 17-18 at CHS Field.

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