The St. Paul Saints are on the verge of clinching their third playoff berth in four seasons after sweeping the Sioux Falls Canaries, including a 13-8 win on Wednesday night. The Saints now lead the Gary SouthShore RailCats by 1 1/2 games in the race for the division title, while being four games up on the Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks for the Wild Card spot.

SAINTS USE LONG BALL TO OPEN SERIES WITH A BANG

On Monday night, the Saints brought out the big bats early, taking a 6-0 lead into the fourth inning before finishing the job for a 9-5 victory. It was all done using the long ball, as the Saints hit five home runs during the game, with Max Murphy, Brady Shoemaker, Justin O’Conner and Dante Bichette Jr., who blasted two home runs.

On the mound Eddie Medina picked up his fourth win of the season, pitching seven innings, giving up five hits and two runs while recording eight strikeouts. Mike Devine pitched the eighth inning, allowing one run, a fielder’s choice groundout off the bat of Patrick Fiala that scored Jabari Henry, who had hit a one-out double.

Andrew Thome entered in the ninth to close the deal, and while he succeeded, he nearly allowed a Canaries comeback, as he allowed two runs on two hits.

BULLPEN CARRIES SAINTS TO 6-4 WIN

On Tuesday night, veteran pitcher Ryan Zimmerman had one of his roughest outings of the season, lasting just three innings while giving up four earned runs on six hits.

That forced Saints manager George Tsamis to rely heavily on his bullpen, which turned out to be a good idea, as Evan Mitchell, Beck Wheeler and Zack Jones combined for six shutout innings with eight strikeouts combined. Mitchell was the workhorse, pitching three innings allowing just one hit to earn his first win of the season.

The Saints were trailing in the top of the third after the Canaries put up three runs in the second, but Bichette took care of that, as he extended his hitting streak to 20 games with a single to left-center field to plate one run. The Saints were able to put together some hits in the fifth inning to tie the game, thanks to another clutch home run from Zach Walters, this one a two-run shot to left field.

The Saints scored the final blow in the sixth inning when Kyle Barrett hit a two-run double to left-center field to extend his hitting streak to 18 games. He finished the night 3-for-5 with two doubles and two runs batted in.

SAINTS JUMP ON ROOKIE PITCHER TO COMPLETE SWEEP

On Wednesday night, the Canaries sent out Minnesota native Alex Ogren to make his professional debut. It was one to forget, as the rookie lasted four innings, but allowed six runs and recorded just one strikeout to put his ERA at 13.50.

The Saints got the scoring started in the top of the first when Shoemaker drilled a two-run home run to left field to mark the eighth straight game where the Saints have gone deep.

From there the Saints just kept piling on, including two hits from Bichette to extend his hitting streak to a career-high 21 games — the fifth-longest in franchise history.

On the mound it was Jake Matthys toeing the rubber for seven strong innings, allowing three runs and striking out four batters. After a very clean inning from Devine, Thome came in and again nearly allowed the Canaries to rally, allowing five runs in the ninth, but eventually shutting the door.

The Saints now get on their bus and make the trip to Rosemount, Ill. for the start of a three-game series against the Chicago Dogs. Game one of the series is set for Thursday at 7:05 p.m. when the Saints send Trevor Foss to the mound. The Dogs have not yet announced who they will pitch.

REDHAWKS RELEASE DE LA CRUZ AFTER ARREST

The Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks and Sioux City Explorers have had some testy games this season, but on Tuesday night things boiled over, as there was a benches-clearing incident involving Keury De La Cruz for the second consecutive night.

Things reached the tipping point after the game when De La Cruz allegedly sat outside the Redhawks locker room to confront Explorers pitcher Jason Garcia.

According to court documents obtained by the Fargo Forum, Garcia was walking through a stadium hallway, which runs next to the RedHawks’ locker room, on the way to the Sioux City team bus after Tuesday’s game. De La Cruz was sitting on a cooler outside the locker room. Garcia walked past De La Cruz, who punched Garcia in the face one time.

De La Cruz was arrested and on Wednesday was charged with Class B misdemeanor simple assault. He was released by the team on Wednesday afternoon, with manager Michael Schlact telling the Forum, “It’s an unfortunate incident, and it’s not anything that we stand for in this community and especially not in this organization. We released him immediately. … There’s consequences for actions.”

Releasing De La Cruz will definitely be a blow to the Redhawks postseason hopes, but it’s good to see a professional sports team doing the right thing even though it may mean costing themselves a playoff spot.


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