Thanks to a turnaround performance by starting pitcher Chandler Shepherd and a clutch late-inning hit by Sherman Johnson, the Saints turned the tables on the Louisville Bats on Friday night at CHS Field.
One day after losing 1-0 to the Bats, Johnson hit a two-out home run in the bottom of the eighth inning as the Saints beat the Bats, 1-0.
Shepherd, who gave up hits to the first seven batters he faced in his last start, limited the Bats to four hits over six innings to set the stage for Johnson’s heroics.
The Bats replaced right-handed starter Michael Mariot in the top of the eighth inning with left-hander Brandon Finnegan. Saints manager Toby Gardenhire had the team’s hottest hitter, Jimmy Kerrigan, a right-handed batter, available to pinch-hit, but he elected to stay with the left-handed-hitting Johnson.
His line drive over the right-field wall sent the crowd of 8,136 into a frenzy.
“It seems like everyone in their bullpen throws 95 (miles per hour),” Johnson said when asked to go through the at-bat. “That team is tough. I was just trying to get something over the middle — up — and try to put a good swing on it.
“I had two strikes, and I was just trying stay short. Luckily it went out.”
Gardenhire said the managerial wheels were spinning fast in the crucial bottom of the eighth.
“At the start of the inning we said Jimmy was either going to hit for Sherman or he was going to hit for (JT) Riddle,” Gardenhire said. “With two outs and nobody on, I decided to let Johnson hit, because if Jimmy bats there and doesn’t get a hit, then Riddle (a left-handed hitter) leads off the next inning.”
Kerrigan did hit for Riddle after the home run, and he drew a walk against a right-handed reliever. But Gardenhire said that move was done with the idea of Kerrigan staying in the game and playing left field.
Jose Miranda, normally an infielder, was playing left field for the first time in his professional career. He replaced Riddle at second base in the ninth.
Johnson said he knew there was a chance he could have been lifted for Kerrigan, and he said he would have understood the decision.
“It’s probably an easier at-bat for him,” Johnson said. “All the guys in here are pretty cool; we’re not going to get mad if we get pinch-hit for. It’s just the way baseball is, you’re trying to win the game.
“Jimmy could have pinch hit for me, and he could have gone deep.”
As happy as Gardenhire was for Johnson, he was equally excited for Shepherd, who labored through four
innings in a 12-5 loss five days earlier.
“All year long he has had tough outings and really good outings,” Gardenhire said. “The one thing about Shop is he’s always going to give you everything he’s got. You root for a guy out there when he’s giving you everything he’s got.”
• Prior to the game, the Saints retired the No. 5 worn by former coach Wayne Terwilliger, who was with the team from 1995-2002. “Twig,” who also spent time as a coach for the Twins, died in February at the age of 95.