It was only appropriate that the St. Paul Saints, known for their zany between-innings entertainment and out-of-the-box approach to having fun at the old ballpark, would end the home portion of their season with a laugher.
Thanks in part to a gift from the visiting Iowa Cubs in the form of 13 walks, the Saints celebrated with an 11-1 victory, putting a bow on their first season as the home of the Twins’ Triple-A team.
“It’s been fun for me, personally,” Saints manager Toby Gardenhire said. “I have a bunch of family in the area. My wife (also from the Twin Cities) gave out 22 tickets today; they’re all sitting up in a suite, which is pretty cool.
“In the past I haven’t really had that, where family and friends can come to the game, unless someone comes to town for a visit. And growing up here, it’s been pretty special that I’ve been able to manage here.”
The Saints finish the season with a 37-28 record at home. They are 28-32 on the road. Their road record took a major hit at the end of August when they lost all six games of a six-game series at Toledo and 10 of 12 on the trip.
It was that trip that also knocked the Saints out of contention in the division.
“That’s pretty good,” Gardenhire said of the home record. “I try not to set any goal numbers-wise. We just play. You never know what is going to happen in Triple-A throughout the season, You lose players, you gain players. But it is nice to know we were able to win a bunch of games at home.”
The Saints improved their record in the Final Stretch to 4-1, keeping them in the hunt for the cash prize that goes to the Triple-A team that has the best record in the 10-game postseason tournament.
Earning that cash prize, believed to be $75,000, won’t be easy for the Saints, as they close the season with five games at division leader Toledo.
On Sunday, the Saints took advantage of five walks and a wild pitch in the third inning to take a 3-0 lead. Jose Miranda had the only hit in the inning, a two-run single to center.
Two more walks led to two more Saints run in the third. Catcher David Banuelos picked up a pair of RBIs with a double off the right-field wall. The Saints added a run in the fourth, four more in the seventh and one more in the eighth.
Left-hander Andrew Albers allowed only one run in five innings to pick up the win and improve his record to 7-4. The 35-year-old Albers pitched at least five innings in 15 of his 17 starts this season, including the last 15 in a row. He allowed three runs or less in nine of those starts.
“He’s a pro,” Gardenhire said. “Today is a good example of what he’s able to do. He’s been doing it for a while, and he’s good at it.”