FARGO-A second consecutive dramatic walkoff victory pushed the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks to the top of the American Association baseball wild-card standings.
Chris Grayson's sacrifice fly in the 11th inning lifted the RedHawks to a 6-5 victory against the St. Paul Saints on Sunday, Aug. 27, at Newman Outdoor Field before 3,827 fans.
"That's RedHawks baseball," Grayson said. "I keep repeating that because, yeah I got the walkoff hit, but the guys in front of me put me in the best situation possible."
The RedHawks (52-39) have won five consecutive games to move them into first place in the wild card. F-M is a half game ahead of Kansas City (52-40) and Gary SouthShore (52-40) for the wild card, after Gary cruised to a 10-5 victory against Kansas City on Sunday.
The RedHawks have nine games to play in the regular season, including a Monday doubleheader against Central Division-leading Lincoln at Newman. The three division winners and one wild card make the postseason.
"This group of guys, we're playing hard every day," said RedHawks shortstop Yhoxian Medina, who went 4-for-5 Sunday to improve his season batting average to .282. "We've been fighting every inning, every at-bat. All these guys are doing the same thing."
Grayson delivered in the clutch for a second game in a row. His RBI double gave the RedHawks a 7-6 victory in 11 innings Saturday night against the Saints.
"There's been tight spot after tight spot, must-win game after must-win game, so far these guys have really embraced whatever their role is," RedHawks interim manager Michael Schlact said.
Center fielder Devan Ahart started the game-winning rally Sunday with a one-out single into center field in the 11th. Medina followed with a double into left field that moved Ahart to third base. That set the stage for Grayson, who lifted a fly ball into short-to-medium right field. Ahart tagged from third base and scored the winning run as the throw to the plate was off target.
Grayson credited Ahart and Medina for setting the table in the 11th inning.
"I couldn't ask for more," Grayson said. "In that situation, all I knew I had to do was put the ball in play. I knew if i just got it to the outfield, we were going to score a run."
The RedHawks have played 22 innings in the last two days and are scheduled to play at least 14 innings Monday in the doubleheader. F-M starter Jose Almarante pitched eight strong innings against the Saints on Sunday, striking out 11 batters. He allowed four runs (three earned) on five hits. Almarante threw 126 pitches, including 86 strikes.
"I absolutely stretched him out there because we were short (in the bullpen)," Schlact said. "The biggest thing is he was still battling."
The RedHawks took a 5-4 lead in the eighth inning after catcher Joe DeLuca singled to drive in K.D. Kang from second base. Earlier in the eighth, designated hitter Keury De La Cruz crunched a solo home run that tied the game at 4-4.
Saints center fielder Kes Carter countered with a solo home run to lead off the ninth inning off F-M reliever Trey McNutt. That knotted the score at 5-5 and forced extra innings.
The RedHawks completed a three-game sweep of the Saints with Sunday's victory.
"We knew what was at stake," Schlact said. "We knew coming into this St. Paul was a tough team. ... The biggest thing for us is to keep doing what we're doing and play RedHawks baseball."