By DAN GLICKMAN
ROCHESTER, N.Y. — A hit was hard to find at Innovative Field on Friday, at least during the early innings. For the visiting St. Paul Saints, it was hard enough even making contact, as right-hander Cory Abbott struck out 12 in 5.1 innings of one-hit work as Rochester picked up a 2-1 victory.
“He was in command of the game from pitch one,” said Red Wings manager Matt LeCroy. “You can’t say enough about what Abbott did.”
Abbott’s 12 were the most strikeouts for a Red Wing since Lewis Thorpe also struck out 12 on April 23, 2019. It also fell just short of Abbott’s career high, also against St. Paul, when he was playing in the Cubs organization in 2021.
“I was really throwing my slider in the zone more competitively, and I was able to throw my curveball in any count [tonight.],” said Abbott. “Those were the keys to success, and everything felt good today.”
The issue for the Red Wings? St. Paul’s Simeon Woods-Richardson, the eighth-ranked prospect in the Minnesota Twins system according to MLB.com, matched Abbott for most of the game. Both pitchers were perfect until Abbott walked rehabbing Twin Alex Kiriloff in the second, and neither pitcher allowed a knock until both teams hit safely in the sixth.
Both Red Wings runs scored in the bottom of the sixth, as Darren Baker laid down a safety squeeze with Derek Hill on third. Hill beat the throw to home to get the Red Wings their first run. After rehabbing third baseman Ildemaro Vargas walked, the Red Wings got their second run on a wild pitch by Richardson that brought Kevin Plawecki home to extend the lead to 2-0.
The Saints would threaten in the ninth, scoring a run on a Mark Contreras double before getting runners on second and third with one out. Red Wings reliever Andres Machado then struck out the last two batters of the game for the 2-1 victory. The game-ending strikeout was Rochester pitching’s 18th of the game, the most for a single game by Rochester this season. The Saints only had two hits all night.
The game was the first played at Innovative Field with the automated ball-strike challenge system. While games during the week will be entirely played with the so-called “robo-ump” calling balls and strikes, the human umpires will call the balls and strikes on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Each team will be allowed three unsuccessful challenges per game; only the hitter, pitcher, or catcher can initiate a challenge. LeCroy said the team is still getting used to the system, but he has told the team to try and keep them in their pocket until big at-bats later in the game.
The first such challenge came not from a Red Wing, though, but from a Saint. In the fourth inning, St. Paul right fielder Kyle Garlick challenged a called strike-three on a 2-2 pitch from Abbott. The game was briefly paused as a graphic appeared on the scoreboard, showing the previous pitch as it was tracked to the plate, ending up just outside for a ball. The strikeout was overturned.
Regardless, Abbott struck out Garlick again the very next pitch, this time swinging.
“Felt a little better (after that)!” said Abbott.
The Red Wings continue their series with St. Paul on Saturday, with first pitch scheduled for 1:05 P.M. Right-hander Pablo Espino is scheduled to start for the Red Wings.