Behind Another Scoreless Performance By Dan Johnson, Saints Top Canaries 3-1ST. PAUL, MN August 13, 2016
So far, the Dan Johnson knuckleball experiment is paying large dividends for the St. Paul Saints. The former Major Leaguer turned in another superb outing on Saturday night in front of 9,163 fans at CHS Field. Nate Hanson, in just his third game back since the birth of his first child, continued his hot hitting with his third homer in as many games as the Saints topped the Sioux Falls Canaries 3-1. The Saints are now 54-24, the best record in the American Association, maintained a 7.5 game lead in the North and increased their lead to clinch a playoff berth to 11.5 with 21 games remaining.
The closest the Canaries came to scoring against Johnson came in the fourth. After back-to-back one out singles by Patrick Fiala and Cameron Monger, B.J. Guinn struck out for the second out. During Aaron Owen’s at bat, the runners advanced to second and third on a wild pitch. Johnson then loaded the bases with a walk to Owen, but struck out Mike Falsetti to escape the inning unscathed.
It was the theme of the night as Johnson found ways to work around base runners and keep the Canaries off the board. After a one out walk to Darwin Perez in the first, Blake Schmit singled to center field, but Perez was thrown out at second when he took a wide around the bag. Johnson then struck out J.C. Linares to end the frame.
Following a 1-2-3 second inning, Johnson was able to wriggle out of runners on the corners with two outs in the third, inducing a fly ball to centerfield for the final out.
Johnson used the strikeout to get out of another jam in the fifth. With one gone and a runner on first, he hit Schmit with a pitch, putting two men on base. Linares then flew out to left field and Johnson got Fiala to chase a knuckleball for his sixth and final strikeout of the night.
The only base runner Johnson allowed in the sixth reached on an error and he retired the next three in order. Johnson pitched 6.0 innings giving up just five hits while walking three and striking out six. In his last three outings, Johnson has allowed just one run in 18.2 innings of work.
Still riding the high from back-to-back five RBI nights, Nate Hanson got the scoring started for the Saints in the second. Down in the count, Hanson belted a ball to left field for a solo home run, his eighth of the season, to give the Saints a 1-0 lead. Hanson has now homered in a career high three straight games, finishing the night 2-4 with a home run, an RBI and a run scored. Hanson becomes the second Saints player this season to homer in three straight games, matching Tony Caldwell’s accomplishment from June 18-20. It’s the 20th time in Saints history the feat has been done and Hanson is the 18th different player to homer in three straight. No Saints player has homered in four straight games. Willie Argo followed with a triple to left field and came in to score when Aaron Gretz’ chopper was booted by Fiala at first to make it 2-0.
The Saints added an insurance run in the fifth inning. With one out, Alonzo Harris doubled to left on a fly ball that Monger lost in the lights. Bryson Myles walked before Tony Thomas smacked an opposite field single, driving in Harris to make it 3-0.
Reliever Corey Williams worked the seventh and eighth inning, giving up one run. After a Perez double and a Linares walk in the seventh, Fiala singled up the middle to make it 3-1. With two outs, Williams induced a lineout to left by Monger to end the inning. Williams then worked a perfect eighth inning, retiring the side with a fly out and a pair of groundouts.
After closer Ryan Rodebaugh threw 30 pitches on Friday night, Caleb Thielbar entered the game in the ninth to try and close it out. He struck out Chapman before Perez reached on an infield single. However, Thielbar got Schmit to ground into a 5-4-3 double play that ended the game. Thielbar picked up his fourth save of the season.
The same two teams meet in the series finale on Sunday at 5:05 p.m. The Canaries send RHP Dylan Thompson (2-1, 2.36) to the mound, while the Saints are still TBA. It’s Princesses and Players Night along with the 2016 Saints Team Card Set Giveaway to the first 1,500 fans. The game can be seen on the Saints Broadcast Network, cable access channels in the Twin Cities and heard on Club 1220 KLBB.