The top two scoring teams in the International League faced off on Tuesday night at Huntington Park. The St. Paul Saints and their 350 runs against the Columbus Clippers and their 349. Alex Kirilloff finished a triple shy of the cycle for the fourth time this season and the Saints built a big lead and held on at the end for an 8-7 victory. The win is the eighth in a row for the Saints and their first in Columbus, where they were swept in a six-game series from May 10-15.
The Saints jumped out to a 6-0 lead over the first two innings. Spencer Steer led off the game with a double to right. Kirilloff followed with an RBI double to right-center scoring Steer making it 1-0. With one out, Jake Cave doubled to left center scoring Kirilloff to increase the lead to 2-0. Cave has now reached base safely in 30 consecutive games.
In the second the Saints loaded the bases with one out on singles by Michael Helman and Curtis Terry, and a walk to Steer. Kirilloff then hit a grand slam the opposite way, over the left-center field wall, his third consecutive game he has homered and the second time he’s done that with the Saints, his 10th of the season and second career grand slam, putting the Saints up 6-0. It was the 18th consecutive game the Saints have homered in, the longest in Minor League or Major League Baseball this season. From their the Saints had to hang on because the Clippers came storming back.
The Clippers got a run back in the third when Tyler Freeman led off with a double. With one out he stole third. With two outs, Bobby Bradley walked. Aaron Sanchez then balked in a run making it 6-1.
Kirilloff was a part of the seventh run for the Saints in the fourth. With two outs he singled to left-center. Tim Beckham then doubled to straightaway center scoring Kirilloff increasing the lead to 7-1. Kirilloff finished 3-4 with a double, home run, five RBI, and a career tying high three runs scored.
The Clippers climbed back into the game in the bottom of the inning. Bryan Lavastida started the inning by being hit by a pitch. David Fry singled him to third. Sanchez departed the game for Austin Schulfer and with one out he walked Will Brennan to load the bases. Freeman unloaded the bases with a double making it 7-4. A groundout moved Freeman to third and a bunt single by Alex Call scored Brennan to cut the Saints lead to two at 7-5.
The teams traded runs in the fifth as the Saints scored theirs when Mark Contreras was hit by a pitch and scored on Caleb Hamilton’s double making it 8-5.
Nolan Jones led off the bottom of the inning with a single to center. With one out David Fry’s infield single and throwing error by Beckham sent Jones to third. A sacrifice fly by Mitch Tolman cut the Saints lead to 8-6.
Mario Sanchez was brilliant out of the bullpen for the Saints tossing 4.0 innings and allowing only the unearned run in the fifth, giving up two hits while walking one and striking out two.
Things got dicey in the ninth as Juan Minaya came on to close it out. He walked the first two hitters of the inning and then struck out then next two. Lavastida dropped a single into right field scoring Trenton Brooks and making it a one run game. Minaya, however, would get Fry to hit into a fielder’s choice to end the game.
The same two teams meet in game two of the six-game series on Wednesday night at 6:05 p.m. (CT) at Huntington Park. The Saints send RHP Ronny Henriquez (0-2, 7.68) to the mound against Major League rehabber RHP Aaron Civale (0-0, 9.00). The game can be seen on MiLB.TV and heard on KFAN Plus, 96.7 FM.
(info courtesy of Saints)