The Saints continue to beat the Omaha Storm Chasers, and they continue to beat them at their own game.
At 33-19, the Storm Chasers are comfortably in first place in the Triple-A East, mainly on the strength of leading all of Minor League Baseball in home runs. But with Saturday night’s 4-2 win over Omaha at CHS Field, the Saints have taken four of five in the six-game series — on the strength of the long ball.
This season, the Saints (25-27) have been known more for their strikeouts (they have the most in Triple-A) than their power, but if hitting is contagious, belting home runs must be, too. Two homers on Saturday gave the Saints 12 in the five games.
A season-best crowd of 8,609 watched Brent Rooker and Drew Maggi provide the power to back seven strong innings from starting pitcher Charlie Barnes (4-2).
Maggi hit a solo homer in the third to give the Saints a 3-1 lead, and it earned him the distinction of being the first Saints player in the Triple-A era to hit home runs in three straight games.
“It’s a cool feeling,” Maggi said. “I’ve kind of been locked in the last few days. I went back to a book I have and I was reminded of something I was doing with my hands. So I started doing it and it felt good.
“It’s something simple, but it has kind of locked in my timing. It’s kind of slotted me, and I’ve been able to lift the ball.”
The 32-year-old Maggi considers himself a streaky hitter and said July is usually a time when he heats up. He told his teammates as much as the calendar turned. He hit two homers the first two months of the season.
He heard a lot of calls of “July!” in the dugout after his homer on Saturday.
“You don’t stay around the game as long as he has if you don’t have some talent,” Saints manager Toby Gardenhire said. “He’s a great infielder, he knows how to run the bases and he’s got a little pop in his bat.”
The home runs—and the win—pushed to the background the fact that the Saints struck out 14 times.
“We’re kind of selling out,” Maggi said. “It would be nice to hold down the punchouts, but as long as we’re winning and getting some quality at-bats …”
The Saints jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning. Jose Miranda drew a leadoff walk, and one out later, Rooker launched a home run to center field that was measured at 426 feet. It was Rooker’s team-leading 14th home run of the season.
The Twins have four outfielders on the injured list, and the buzz around CHS Field is that Rooker could be close to being called up. The 26-year-old Rooker is ranked the No. 10 prospect in the Twins system by MLB.com.
“I don’t know,” Gardenhire said on if a move is imminent. “He’s been swinging the bat very well for us, but it all depends on the need up there.”