Division Champs, Saints Win 1-0 To Claim Back-To-Back North TitlesST. PAUL, MN September 3, 2016
Just like they did on Thursday night to clinch a playoff berth, the St. Paul Saints needed just a single run to win the North Division. Behind a superb outing from Concordia-St. Paul graduate Kody Knaus, the Saints scored a run in the eighth and took down the Lincoln Saltdogs to win the North Division title in front of 7,953 at CHS Field by a final of 1-0. They improved to 60-38 and 1.0 game behind the Wichita Wingnuts for best record in the American Association.
Knaus was making just his sixth start of the season and 12th appearance in 2016, but it was arguably his best as a professional. Entering play 2-2 with a 5.35 ERA, Knaus was in charge from the beginning.
Knaus retired the side in order in the first before getting out of a jam in the second. With one out Austin Gallagher singled to left. Jon Smith then hit a comebacker, but no one covered second and the Saltdogs had first and second with one out. Knaus, however, showed the composure of a veteran and got two straight fielder’s choices to end the inning.
In the fourth Knaus walked the tightrope again, but managed to get to the other side unscathed. With one out Gallagher singled and Jon Smith doubled him to third. Knaus would get Cesar Valera to pop out to second and then strike out Tyler Urps to end the inning. The last two outs started a stretch of 10 in a row retired by Knaus until a two out walk to Urps in the seventh. Knaus went 7.0 scoreless innings allowing four hits while walking one and striking out one.
With the game scoreless in the eighth former Major Leaguer Shairon Martis, a starter for the Saltdogs, came out in relief. Alonzo Harris led off with a single to center. Ryan Cavan sacrificed him to second and Tony Thomas was intentionally walked. David Bergin was then hit by a pitch to load the bases. That brought up Nate Hanson. On a 2-2 pitch Hanson hit a slow looper on one hop to second. Valera fielded it and shoveled the ball to second to get the lead out, but Urps had a little trouble getting the ball out of his glove and the throw to first was just late as Hanson was safe and Harris scored the lone run of the game.
Closer Ryan Rodebaugh, who tossed a perfect inning of relief in the eighth, worked the ninth. He got Luis Alen to foul out to first on the first pitch of the inning. Austin Gallagher then grounded out to second which brought up Jon Smith. Smith had hit a pinch-hit walkoff home run against Rodebaugh on Sunday in Lincoln. On this night, however, Rodebaugh would get Smith to fly out to center to end the game and send the Saints to their second celebration in three days.
With the win the Saints won their 60th game of the season, the first time in franchise history they’ve had back-to-back 60 win seasons. It’s also the first time the Saints have won back-to-back division titles since 2004 and 2005, when they won the second half North title and won the first and second half titles in the Southern Division.
The same two teams meet in game three of the four game series on Sunday evening at 5:05 p.m. Both teams are TBA. It is Fan Appreciation night with a Post-Game Food Truck Rally followed by a Post-Game Fireworks Super Show. The game can be seen on the Saints Cable Network, cable access channels in the Twin Cities area, and heard on Club 1220 KLBB.