Playoff battle heats up for Drillers, 15 games remain

The Texas League playoff battle continues for the Tulsa Drillers after posting five wins out of six contests with South Division foes in the past week. The week began with the Drillers closing out a six-game road swing with a 6-1 win over the Frisco RoughRiders, and ended with a walk off game winning double at home against Frisco.  

The Drillers remain tied for second in the North Division with the Springfield Cardinals just two games behind the first half winning Northwest Arkansas Naturals. Now with just 15 games remaining in the regular season, the Drillers look to continue their recent hot streak in hopes of punching their tickets into the postseason. Tulsa will face Springfield and Northwest Arkansas a combined 10 times in the final 15 games of the season.

Monday will close out their series with Frisco and send the Drillers on their last road series with the Arkansas Travelers. After a four-game series, they return home on Saturday for their final home stand of the regular season. The home stand, which stretches until September 3, will see the Drillers take on the Naturals and Cardinals.

LOOKING BACK

Monday, August 16: Drillers 6, RoughRiders 1 – Tulsa finished a six-game road trip with a much needed win that put them within three games of the North Division leading Northwest Arkansas Naturals with 20 games remaining. The Drillers got off to an early start, taking a 2-0 lead on a two-RBI base hit from Jeff Kindel in the first inning. Tulsa posted three more runs in the second inning, two of which came from a two-run single by Jordan Pacheco with the bases loaded. Greg Reynolds picked up the win after turning in a solid performance, scattering four hits and four strikeouts while allowing no runs through seven innings of work. 

Wednesday, August 18: Drillers 10, RockHounds 4 – Tied 3-3 in the sixth inning, Tulsa strung together seven runs over the next three innings to pull off a big win. Anthony Jackson brought Radames Nazario home for the go-ahead run on a triple before reaching home on a two-out double from Pacheco. Jason Van Kooten slammed his 16th homer in the seventh, as the Drillers added four insurance runs to take a 9-3 lead. Al Alburquerque picked up his second win, as he allowed two hits while striking out two through two innings.

Thursday, August 19: Drillers 4, RockHounds 3 – Nazario and Warren Schaeffer each posted run-scoring base hits in a deciding eighth inning outburst to break a 2-2 deadlock. Midland pulled within one run in the top of the ninth when Josh Horton drove in Alex Valdez on a single. Stu Pomeranz then closed the door on the RockHounds by striking out the last two batters he faced. Bruce Billings got credit for the win as he allowed just one hit while striking out three batters in one inning of work.

Friday, August 20: Drillers 9, RockHounds 6 – A paid crowd of 7,402 saw the Drillers complete the three-game series sweep of the Midland RockHounds on what turned out to be an historic night. The Jannasch family of Broken Arrow walked through the gate just after the game started, breaking the all-time attendance record in Tulsa professional baseball history. The team presented the family a prize package that included four season tickets for the 2011 Drillers season.

On the field the Drillers broke a 6-6 tie in the bottom of the fifth, then held on to win their fourth straight game, remaining two games behind the Naturals in the North Division standings. Charlie Blackmon doubled to bring home Jackson, giving the Drillers a 7-6 lead before Kindel lined a single to drive in Blackmon and Bronson Sardinha. Despite allowing 10 hits and six runs, Cory Riordan earned his seventh win of the year.

Saturday, August 21: RoughRiders 5, Drillers 3 РFrisco jumped out to an early lead, then avoided a late rally to snap Tulsa’s four-game winning streak. Tulsa entered the bottom of the sixth inning down 4-0, but posted two runs in the bottom half and another in the seventh to close the gap to one run. From there, however, Frisco closed the door and added a late insurance run to secure the win.

Sunday, August 22: Drillers 5, RoughRiders 4 – Trailing 4-3 with runners at first and second, Sardinha became the hero when he blasted a one-out double into the left field corner to give Tulsa a 5-4 win. Mike Mitchell and Schaeffer started the ninth-inning rally with consecutive singles before Sardinha entered the game to pinch hit. Down two strikes in the count, Sardinha found a pitch he liked and sent it off the wall down the left field line and past left fielder Marcus Lemon to end the game.

THE WEEK AHEAD

Monday, August 23 vs. Frisco, 7 p.m. (Girls night out, presented by Indigo Spa and  Salon, Belk); Tuesday, August 24 through Friday, August 27 at Arkansas; Saturday, August 28 vs. Northwest Arkansas, 7 p.m. (ONEOK Field replica giveaway, Myron Noodleman appearance); Sunday, August 29 vs. Northwest Arkansas, 6 p.m. (TTCU Family funday Sunday, Trick or treat night, kids eat free, pre-game player autograph session presented by TTCU The credit union, 92.9 BOB FM, Assurant Health).

STANDINGS

Texas League North: Northwest Arkansas (33-22), Springfield (31-24), Tulsa (31-24), Arkansas (25-30).

Texas League South: Midland (28-27), Frisco (25-30), San Antonio (25-30), Corpus Christi (22-33).

BATTING LEADERS 

Average: Charles Blackmon (.304). Hits: Jason Van Kooten (97). Doubles: Jason Van Kooten (27). Triples: Anthony Jackson (6). Homeruns: Wilin Rosario (19). RBI: Jason Van Kooten (54).

PITCHING LEADERS 

Wins: Bruce Billings (9). ERA: Scott Rice (0.96). Saves: Stu Pomeranz (15). Strikeouts: Cory Riordan (118).

Tickets are available for all upcoming Drillers games  are available at the ONEOK Field box office, by calling 744-5901 or online at Tulsadrillers.com