Triple-A baseball was played in St. Paul for the first time in 50 years when the Saints played host to the Iowa Cubs on Tuesday as the Twins’ top affiliate.
Fans will have to wait at least another day for something to cheer about. Playing their first game at CHS Field after six games on the road, the Saints were trough. At least the fans had a good time for a while; an official 3,592 came through the gates under the new relaxed COVID regulations.
“It was fun,” manager Toby Gardenhire said. “I mean, the players were excited to be at the ballpark, the fans were pumped up. Everything was good except for the baseball.”
Three Saints pitchers combined to surrender 11 runs on 12 hits and eight walks, and Saints batters combined for two hits in 27 at-bats in an 11-1 loss to the Iowa Cubs in front of an announced crowd of 3,592.
The Saints dropped to 2-5 in the first Triple-A game played in St. Paul since the previous iteration of the Saints played at Midway Stadium as one of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ top affiliates in 1960.
Tomas Telis hit a solo home run with two outs in the seventh for the Saints’ first hit, and Danny Columbe pitched two scoreless innings for the St. Paul’s only highlights. Making his second start for St. Paul, right-hander Randy Dobnak (0-1) struggled with his control, giving up five runs on four hits and five walks in 4.1 innings.
His sinker, he said, was diving more than usual.
“Some days it’s going to sink more, some days less. more, some days less,” he said. “It kind of all starts with getting a feel for the strike zone. I wasn’t getting the low strike, and I feel like that’s a pitch I need. I had to raise the sinker up a little bit, and that’s when guys get a better look at it.
“I didn’t really feel like I was getting hit around, it was more walking guys and that’s what frustrated me more than anything. I have walking guys.”
Shortstop JT Riddle singled with one out in the ninth.
Making his second start for St. Paul, right-hander Randy Dobnak (0-1) struggled with his control, giving up five runs on four hits and five walks in 4.1 innings.
Iowa second baseman Taylor Gushue drove in three runs with a pair of singles, and catcher PJ Higgins and left fielder Cameron Maybin each drove in a pair of runs as the Cubs improved to 4-2. Iowa starter Joe Biagini (1-0) threw five hitless innings, his only mistake walking Telis for the Saints’ first base-runner in the fifth.
“He had a good slider going, a good change up — changed speeds, really located well,” Gardenhire said. “When he needed the high fastball, he had the high fastball. He was able to spot his slider down. He was just effective; he had good stuff.”
Still, it was a big night for Minnesota baseball, which hadn’t had an MLB-affiliated team play on this side of the river since the Washington Senators moved to Bloomington and became the Twins for the 1961 season. After that, the Saints disappeared until this iteration planted its flag at Midway as an iconoclastic independent minor league team in 1993.
In December, the Saints were named the Twins’ Class AAA team as part of a major reorganization of minor league baseball under the Major League Baseball umbrella.
Ian Hamilton, whom the Twins claimed off waivers from the Chicago White Sox in February, provided the only juice for St. Paul, throwing a fastball consistently between 96-99 mph in an inning of relief. Still, he struggled, too, charged with two earned runs on two walks and two hits.
Hamilton fanned three before being relieved by Juan Minaya, who gave up five straight hits before striking out the last two batters he faced, Jose Lobaton and Andrew Romine. He gave up back-to-back RBI doubles to Higgins and Gushie, each of which looked as if they might be caught at the wall by right-fielder Brent Rooker, and was charged with four earned runs, raising his earned-run average to 12.27.