GRAND PRAIRIE, TX (July 12, 2013) – Maybe the tide has turned for the St. Paul Saints pitching staff. Entering play they had the second worst ERA in the American Association, but they managed to do something they hadn’t done since 2007, throw back-to-back shutouts as they defeated the Grand Prairie AirHogs 5-0 at QuickTrip Park on Friday night.
Mike Koons made his second start of the season for the Saints and rolled through the first five innings. In the third he walked the leadoff man Rian Kiniry. With one out Kiniry stole second and third. Ryan Pineda hit a grounder to third, Kiniry broke for the plate and was erased in a rundown. That was the best chance the AirHogs had to score until the sixth.
Koons entered the sixth inning having not given up a hit and he struck out the first two batters of the inning. On a 3-2 pitch to Brian Myrow he lined a clean single into center for the first hit allowed by Koons. Andres Rodriguez then singled Myrow to third. Koons, however, battled and got Kenny Held to line out to right to end the inning. Koons went six shutout innings allowing two hits while walking three and striking out four.
The Saints got all the offense they would need in the fourth when Ole Sheldon led off with a walk. Jose Hernandez singled him to second. With two outs Adam Frost doubled them both home to give the Saints a 2-0 lead. Joey Becker followed with an RBI single to make it 3-0.
Mikey Mehlich came on in relief for the Saints in the seventh and with one out hit Angel Flores and gave up a double to Kiniry. Mehlich, however, would strikeout Yasutsugu Nishimoto and get Ryan Pineda to fly out to end the inning. Mehlich would toss 2.0 shutout innings allowing one hit while striking out three.
In the ninth the Saints padded their lead when Brad Boyer reached on an infield single and Willie Cabrera launched a two-run homer to left, his seventh of the season, to give the Saints a five run cushion.
Matt Meyer came on to finish it off , but put the first two men on with a hit by pitch and a walk. He got Kiniry to pop out and struck out Nishimoto. After walking Pineda to load the bases, Meyer struck out Brandon Pinckney looking to end the game.
Saints catcher Nick Ammirati made his professional debut and caught the shutout and also collected his first professional hit, a double in the sixth.
It is the first time the Saints have thrown back-toi-back shutouts since June 27 & 28, 2007 when they blanked the Pensacola Pelicans 6-0 and 8-0.
The same two teams meet Saturday night at QuickTrip Park for game three of the four game series at 7:05 p.m. The Saints send RHP Anthony Claggett (5-2, 3.80) to the mound against AirHogs RHP Jared Mortensen (3-4, 4.14).