There are just 20 games left in the regular season for the St. Paul Saints, and entering the final stretch they are tied for the lead in the American Association North Division with the Gary SouthShore RailCats after beating the RailCats 9-5 on Sunday evening at CHS Field.
The Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks are lurking just 1.5 games back after beating the Sioux Falls Canaries on Sunday afternoon.
The Saints jumped on RailCats starting pitcher Alex Gunn, scoring two runs in the first inning on four hits, including RBI singles from Zach Walters and Dante Bichette Jr. They added a third run in the second thanks to a leadoff double from Justin O’Conner and a two-out double from Kyle Barrett.
Gunn exited the game in the middle of a fourth inning where he gave up two runs on two hits. He was replaced by Lars Liguori, who pitched the remainder of the game.
Already leading 5-0, the Saints busted the game open in the fifth inning, when O’Conner hit a two-out double. After Joey Wong drew a walk, Max Murphy singled to center field to score O’Conner and move Wong to third. Murphy took second on the throw to the plate.
He wouldn’t be waiting long, as the next batter Barrett doubled to left field to clear the bases and make it 8-0.
Things almost fell apart for the Saints in the sixth inning when they gave up four runs on three hits, but Andrew Thome was able to come on in relief of Jake Mathys and get out of the inning with minimal damage.
Beck Wheeler pitched the seventh for the Saints, and retired the first two batters fairly easily before giving up a solo home run to Garrett Copeland to bring the RailCats to within three, but that was as close as they were able to get, as a litany of relief pitchers for the Saints were able to shut the door and give the Saints the series win, taking three out of four games from the RailCats.
The Saints now open a big week. Starting Monday they will host the Canaries for a four-game series before hosting the Redhawks for a two-game series. Every game the rest of the season for the Saints will be against division opponents, making this the most intense closing weeks of a season in recent memory.
- The Saints improved their record within the division to 20-23, which they will need to improve on over the final weeks of the season if they want to make the playoffs. Under the new format, there are only two divisions, with two teams coming out of each division. In the North, it appears that the Saints are in a three-way race with the RailCats and Redhawks, as the next closest team is 11 games back.
- If the Saints made the playoffs, it would be the first time since 2016, as they missed last season’s edition by 14 games. The Saints had previously reached the playoffs in two straight seasons, though it has been seven seasons since they reached the league championship series, with their last appearance being 2011 when they lost to Grand Prairie 3-2.
- After being signed on Aug. 6, Joey Wong has hit .429 in seven games for the Saints. He went 1-for-2 on Sunday with two walks and two runs scored.
- On Monday the Saints will send right-handed pitcher Matt Solter (3-4, 4.54 ERA) to the mound to open the series with the Canaries. His opponent is to be determined. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.