Straka Stellar As Saints Head Into All-Star Break With 8-3 Win, Best Record In American Association At 47-22ST. PAUL, MN July 31, 2016
For the first time in franchise history the St. Paul Saints won a four game series at Haymarket Park. Behind a great performance from starting pitcher John Straka the Saints won 8-3 on Sunday afternoon against the Lincoln Saltdogs and head into the All-Star break with the best record in the American Association at 47-22. The Saints maintained an 8.0 game lead in the North Division with 31 games remaining after the break.
Straka pitched perhaps his finest performance giving up just one hit through his first 6.0 innings of work. He allowed just two base runners through the first five, Ryan Wiggins reaching on an error by third baseman Trever Adams in the second and a leadoff single by Tyler Urps in the third. After giving up the single, Straka got Dainer Moreira to ground into a double play, one of two Straka got on the afternoon.
In the sixth Straka walked Urps to lead off the inning, but got Moreira to hit into a 6-4 fielder’s choice. After a walk to Robby Kuzdale put runners at first and second, Straka got a fielder’s choice and a fly out to end the inning.
In the seventh Straka gave up a leadoff single to Rene Leveret, but struck out Curt Smith and got Wiggins to ground into an inning ending double play. Straka went 7.0 shutout innings allowing two hits while walking two and striking out seven.
The Saints offense got him enough run support against the fourth best pitcher in the American Association, Matt Larkins, who came in with a 2.74 ERA. In the third, with a man on, Tony Thomas hit an opposite field two-run homer, his 11th of the season, to give the Saints a 2-0 lead. It was just the second home run allowed by Larkins this season.
In the fourth the Saints took advantage of sloppy Saltdogs defense. With two outs Tanner Vavra reached on a fielding error by third baseman Luis Alen. Alonzo Harris then hit a fly ball to left that carried to the warning track and left fielder Brandon Jacobs had the ball go off his glove for a two base error that scored Vavra to make it 3-0. Brady Burzynski made it 4-0 with an RBI single.
In the sixth the Saints chased Larkins as Breland Almadova extended his hitting streak to nine games with a single to left. He went to third on a single by Vavra. A wild pitch scored Almadova to make it 5-0. Alonzo Harris singled to left to put runners at the corners and a sacrifice fly by Burzynksi made it 6-0. Harris stole second and scored on Thomas’ infield single off the glove of shortstop Moreira, to make it 7-0. Harris finished the game 3-5 with a stolen base and two runs scored while Thomas was 3-5 with a home run, three RBI and a run scored.
The Saints tacked on their final run in the ninth on a solo homer from Tony Caldwell, his 10th of the season, to make it 8-0.
The Saints looked like they would cruise to victory, but in the ninth Gene Escat walked the first two hitters and then on a comebacker threw the ball into center allowing a run to score making it 8-1. Rene Leveret singled to load the bases and Curt Smith made it 8-2 with an RBI single. Escat departed for Benji Wait who walked Wiggins to force in a run and make it 8-3. Caleb Thielbar finished it off, however, by striking out the first two he faced and getting Moreira to ground out to end the game and earning his third save of the season..
In four other four game series at Haymarket Park the Saints were swept and split three.
The All-Star break begins Monday and the Saints return to action on Thursday at CHS Field against the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks a t 7:05 p.m. The Saints host All-Star Monday on Monday night with the iHeart Radio Celebrity Softball Game, Select Heartland Chevy Dealers Home Run Derby and two musical acts, the Chris Hawkey Band and Soul Asylum. Gates open at 5:30 p.m. with the softball game going from 6:30-7:30 p.m., Chris Hawkey playing from 7:30-8:00 p.m., the Home Run Derby from 8:00-9:00 p.m. and Soul Asylum playing from 9:00-10:00 p.m. Fans can purchase tickets at the box office beginning at 9:00 a.m. or calling 651-644-6659 or visiting saintsbaseball.com. Fans can watch the celebrity softball game and home run derby on the Saints Cable Network, cable access channels in the Twin Cities area, or on line at americanassociationbaseball.tv.