Saints heading back to St. Paul, Canaries still in contention

Canaries infielder Alay Lago attempts to tag Saints outfielder Justin Byrd out during the season opener on Friday, July 3, 2020 in Sioux Falls, S.D.

The St. Paul Saints are moving out and back into their own place.

After a month of playing their home games at Sioux Falls Stadium due to COVID-19 restrictions, the American Association defending champions have been given the all-clear to return home and play at CHS Field for the remainder of the year. The Saints did not exactly find the place to their liking, as they’ll take a 10-13 record back to their glorious ballpark.

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The Saints will return home on Aug. 4, where CHS Field will be limited to a maximum of 1,500 fans per game with no more than 25 percent capacity in each seating area and masks required in the stadium (though allowed to be removed when seated). They’ll have 18 home games the rest of the year.

The Canaries, meanwhile, have been consistently strong since the season began, but find themselves looking up at the red-hot Winnipeg Goldeyes, who had won six in a row heading into Thursday night’s games. Winnipeg is in first place at 15-8 while the Canaries are 1.5 games back at 13-9. The top two finishers in the 60-game season square off for the title, and the Birds are two games up on third-place Milwaukee.

The Birds have been raking with the bats all month long, and enter Thursday’s games batting .297 as a team, averaging 6.5 runs per game (for some perspective, that would translate to 1,053 runs over 162 games, and only one major league team has scored 1,000 runs in a season since 1950).

Grant Kay, on loan from the Tampa Bay Rays minor league system, is hitting .458 with two homers since joining the team a week ago, while last year’s league batting champ, Alay Lago, is second in the league this year, hitting .396.

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Jabari Henry is tied for the league lead in homers (6) to go with a .305 average, while Damek Tomscha leads the league in RBI (24) and ranks seventh in average (.337). He’s tied with Sioux Falls product Logan Landon for sixth in the league in homers, with four, while Landon has a .307 average to go with it.

Andrew Ely, Clint Coulter and Mike Hart have also had their moments at the plate for the Birds, who have a team OPS of .817.

The Birds’ pitching has struggled to the tune of a 5.25 team ERA, but they got a boost this week with the addition of former major leaguer Madison Younginer. The 29-year-old right-hander appeared in eight games with Atlanta in 2016 and threw a scoreless inning of relief in his Canaries debut.

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Younginer joins a bullpen that’s been solid thanks to Keaton Steele (3.21 ERA, nine saves), Ryan Fritze (2.38, 1 save) and D.J. Sharabi (1-2, 3.95). Jake Zokan is 2-1 with a 3.73 ERA in four starts, and former ace Grady Wood has shown signs of finding his old self, but they’ll need more arms to work deeper into games to keep pace with Winnipeg.

Lawhorn honored Friday

Former Canaries (and Pheasants!) infielder Trevor Lawhorn will be honored with a bobblehead giveaway for Friday’s game against Chicago. A limited number will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. Gates open at 6 p.m. for the 7:05 start. There will also be post-game fireworks.

Lawhorn played parts of five seasons with Sioux Falls as a valuable bat and glove during the Canaries’ glory years. He played 392 career games for the Canaries/Pheasants, was an American Association all-star and had 43 career home runs and 209 RBI. His bobblehead depicts Lawhorn in a Pheasants uniform.

On Saturday night, kids get in free if they wear a costume as part of pirates and princesses night.

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