ST. PAUL, Minn. — The bullpen was outstanding, and the middle of the order remained toasty as the Saltdogs (19-27) edged the St. Paul Saints (21-23) 9-8 in front of 3,020 fans at Midway Stadium Thursday night.

David Espinosa hit a two-out, flair single into center field to score pinch runner Brad Payne and give the ‘Dogs the ultimate 9-8 lead in the top of the eighth.

Starter Wade Mackey left with an apparent groin injury in the second inning, and the relievers picked him up in a big way: going a combined 7 2/3 innings while allowing just one earned run and striking out nine.

Travis Parker went 3 2/3 innings, allowing one earned, two total, on three hits. Brandon Cooney (2-2) struck out the side in the seventh to earn the win. P.J. Zocchi fanned the side in a hitless ninth to book his 11th save. Conor Spink and Pete Parise worked hitless frames of middle relief.

The ‘Dogs took an early 6-0 lead but Saints rallied for six runs in the bottom of the second to tie the game.

John Alonso finished 2-for-4 with a home run and four RBI. Espinosa went 3-for-4 with a run, a double and four RBI. Mike Provencher and Asif Shah also added three hits in the winning effort.

The Saltdogs have 53 hits so far through three games of the series.

Chris Odegaard (1-5) allowed a run on two hits in 2 2/3 innings to take the loss.

The teams meet again Friday night at 7:05 p.m. for the finale of the four-game series. Ricardo Estevez (0-1, 7.20) is expected to pitch against Robert Coe (4-3, 4.13). Radio coverage begins at 6:35 p.m. on KFOR 1240.

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