Saints Walk-Off Into Playoffs, Defeat Winnipeg 1-0 to Clinch Playoff BerthST. PAUL, MN September 1, 2016
It felt like a playoff game on Thursday night at CHS Field and the St. Paul Saints came through with a dramatic finish to punch their ticket to the postseason. A walk-off sacrifice fly by Tony Caldwell in the ninth inning was the difference in an incredibly well pitched game as the Saints defeated the Winnipeg Goldeyes 1-0 in front of 7,961 fans to secure a spot in the 2016 American Association Playoffs. It is the first time since 2006-07 that the Saints have made the playoffs in back-to-back seasons. The Saints are now 59-37 and their magic number to clinch the North Division Title is down to one.
With the game scoreless in the bottom of the ninth inning, Tony Thomas walked to start the frame. Aaron Gretz then laid down a sacrifice bunt with two strikes to advance Thomas into scoring position and Breland Almadova reached on an infield single to put runners on the corners. The Goldeyes elected to intentionally walk Alonzo Harris and kept the left-hander Eric Eadington in to face Caldwell, who pinch-hit for Brady Burzynski. On the third pitch of his at bat, Caldwell launched a ball into deep centerfield, allowing Thomas to tag and easily trot in from third to score the winning run.
The Saints only other scoring opportunity came in the bottom of the fourth inning. With one out, Angelo Songco walked and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Thomas singled into shallow centerfield, and former Major Leaguer Reggie Abercrombie gunned an accurate throw to the plate that had Songco out by several feet. The Saints first baseman plowed into Carlton Tanabe to try and break up the play, but the Goldeyes catcher held onto the ball and recorded the out. Gretz then struck out to end the inning.
Even though he did not receive a decision, Robert Coe was outstanding for the Saints. The franchise leader in wins and strikeouts took a no-hitter into the fifth inning, giving up a two-out single to Tanabe for the first hit of the game. Coe only allowed just one runner to advance into scoring position when David Rohm was sacrificed to second in the seventh inning after a leadoff single. Coe then induced a pair of fly balls to close out his night. The right-hander tossed 7.0 shutout innings, giving up just three hits while walking three and striking out one.
Reliever Caleb Thielbar earned the win after working 2.0 scoreless innings.
In the eighth, Adam Heisler reached on a bunt single, but was picked off at first by Thielbar. Following a strikeout of Maikol Gonzalez and a walk to Willie Cabrera, Thielbar got some help from his defense as Almadova made a diving catch in shallow right field to record the final out of the inning.
The Saints begin a four game series with the Lincoln Saltdogs on Friday night at 7:05 p.m. The Saints send LHP Kramer Sneed (0-0, 2.38) to the mound while the Saltdogs are TBA. It is an Xcel Energy Friday Night Fireworks featuring the music of the Grunge Era and a celebration of the end of summer with BUSH’S® Beans. The game can be seen on the Saints Cable Network, cable access channels in the Twin Cities and heard on Club 1220 KLBB.