It was a season of firsts for the Saints in their first season as a Triple-A affiliate of the Twins, and they added another on Saturday night.
For the first time this season, they are in first place, after beating the Iowa Cubs, 7-4, at CHS Field.
The Saints entered the game half a game behind Toledo in the AAA East Midwest standings.
Toledo’s loss to Indianapolis helped the Saints take the half-game advantage.
After losing on July 1, the Saints were 10 games behind with a 23-27 record. Since that time they have dropped to 30-15.
“We’ve been playing well for a few months,” Saints manager Toby Gardenhire said. “It was a fun race and I hope we can continue. “It doesn’t mean much to be first at this point of the year, but it’s really cool that we’ve come this far. We had a difficult game at the start of the season. You never know what’s going to happen tomorrow, but it’s really fun watching this band right now.
The Saints sent nine batters over in the fifth inning and scored four times to erase a 3-2 deficit. They loaded the goals without an out, and Mark Contreras scored two with a single down the middle to put the Saints ahead.
The next two races take place on the choice of a fielder and on a wild throw.
Contreras’ clutch kick came against Cubs starter Luis Lugo, a left-hander who hit left-hander Contreras his first two times.
Contreras scored an important insurance point in the seventh when he reached on an error, stole the second, rushed to the third on a fly out and scored on a sacrifice fly.
“Mark was one of the guys who turned heads and impressed people,” Gardenhire said. “I thought the ball was bigger than the gap (which he did in the seventh). It’s the little things that great players do.
“I was really impressed with it. These kids are a very good player at the moment.
Jose Miranda joined Contreras as a striking star, going 4-5, including a two-run homer.
Southpaw Bryan Sammons was called up from Double-A Wichita to start for the Saints. He pitched 4.2 innings and came away with the Saints down 3-2.
Winning Jovani Moran came on and pitched 2.1 innings, limiting the Cubs to a hit and a run.
“We’ve seen him from Jovani the whole year he’s come in mid-innings and shut down teams,” Gardenhire said. “We needed a starter tonight and Sammons came in and gave us a competitive start which gave us a chance to win the game.”
Twins rehab center fielder Byron Buxton had a “recovery day” after playing five innings on Friday. Buxton trained before the game and is expected to be in the Saints roster on Sunday.