The Tulsa Drillers experienced highs and lows in the past week of Texas League action. The Drillers were swept by the Northwest Arkansas Naturals in a four game series in Springdale, Arkansas that included two shutouts. Tulsa then returned home for a short four-game homestand with the Springfield Cardinals and have won the first three games of the series with the last game scheduled for Monday before the team boards the bus for Midland, Texas.
Monday: The Drillers entered their series with the Naturals fresh off a 3-1 mark against the Arkansas Travelers that started their eight-game road trip. Tulsa would be humbled in Springdale, as Mario Santiago pitched seven scoreless innings to propel Northwest Arkansas to a 4-0 win. Mike Moustakas, the 2007 first round pick of the Kansas City Royals, was 2 for 4 and had three RBI’s including a two-run homer for the Naturals.
Down 3-0 in the top of the sixth, Tulsa managed to load the bases with two outs, but Santiago got Scott Beerer to ground into a force out to end the inning. The Drillers had one last chance to make some noise in the ninth inning, but reliever Blaine Hardy struck out the final three batters as Tulsa stranded runners on first and second.
Tuesday: The Drillers jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning, but the Naturals roared back with 17 hits to beat Tulsa for the fifth time in six games this season. The bats came to life for the Naturals in the bottom of the second inning, as they scored three runs to tie the game. Northwest Arkansas jumped out to a two-run lead in the bottom of the fourth when Ernesto Mejia and Paulo Orlando provided run-scoring doubles against Drillers starter Greg Reynolds.
The bottom of the fifth sealed the game for the Naturals as they added four more runs to hand the Drillers a 9-3 loss. Reynolds, on rehab assignment from the Colorado Rockies, gave up 9 runs on 13 hits while making only his third regular season appearance in the last 15 months.
Wednesday: The positive for Tulsa was that they held Northwest Arkansas to six hits and one run a day after giving up 17 hits. The negative was that the one run from the Naturals would be enough to hand the Drillers their fourth straight loss. Starter Cory Riordan was solid for Tulsa, pitching five scoreless innings and allowing only two hits before a rain delay of one hour and 11 minutes chased him from the game.
A bunt by Chris McConnell down the first base line brought in Manuel Pina to score the lone run of the game in the seventh inning. Tulsa’s best chance to get on the scoreboard came in the sixth inning when Matt Repec was tagged out at home after a bunt by Anthony Jackson. The Drillers stranded three runners to end the inning when Beerer fouled out.
Thursday: Moustakas stole the show during the last game of the series, as he blasted two two-run homeruns to help the Naturals to a 5-2 win over the Drillers. Down by one in the sixth inning, Tulsa battled back to tie the game when Bronson Sardinha scored on a sacrifice fly by Willin Rosario. Orlando plated the game winner in the seventh on a sacrifice fly by Anthony Seratelli before Moustakas added his second homer in the bottom of the eighth to provide a little more breathing room.
Friday: The promotion for Friday’s home game was “fireworks Friday” but by the end of the night the sellout crowd of 8,263 would have been happy to call it “Bruce Billings Night.” Tulsa’s starting pitcher threw six scoreless innings, striking out three and allowing five hits to extend his scoreless streak to 19 and one-third innings. Billings (3-3) even chipped in from the batter’s box, adding some run support.
With one out in the bottom of the fifth inning Billings knocked a line drive down the right field line that cleared the fence near the 307 marker. His solo shot put Tulsa on top 3-0 after the Drillers had scored one run each in the first and second innings. Jeff Kindel’s pinch-hit sixth inning sacrifice scored Daniel Mayora to increase the Driller lead to 4-0.
The only Cardinals runs of the night came in the eighth inning when Curt Smith cranked a two-run homer over the left field fence off of reliever Stu Pomeranz. Alberto Alburquerque went on to pitch a scoreless ninth inning to record the save for Tulsa.
Saturday: Keith Weiser, perhaps motivated by Billings’ big game the night before, proved to be the key to Tulsa’s 6-3 win over Springfield. Weiser became the first Drillers pitcher this season to work past seven innings, as he pitched eight innings allowing six hits and striking out two. Weiser also added two base hits and an RBI as he led the Drillers to their second straight win.
Mayora drove in Eider Torres in the top of the first to give Tulsa an early 1-0 lead. Owasso native Pete Kozma tied the game in the top of the second when he belted his sixth homerun of the season. Springfield briefly took the lead when Steven Hill scored on a base hit by Smith.
The Drillers quickly responded, tying the game 2-2 in the bottom half of the inning when Weiser drove in Rosario on his second hit of the night. From there, it would be all Drillers. Tulsa posted four runs in the bottom of the fifth, including a three-run homer from Mayora that put the game out of reach.
Sunday: The Drillers got on the board early and never looked back as they cruised to a 9-4 win over the Cardinals. Ryan Harvey provided a pair of two-run hits in the first two innings as Tulsa jumped out to an 8-0 lead after two innings. Mayora added two hits and three RBI’s as he improved hit batting average against the Cardinals to .345.
Ching-Lung Lo picked up his first win of the season, as he surrendered two earned runs on four hits while striking out three through five innings of work. Lo (1-1) now holds a 2.01 ERA in 27.1 innings this season. Andy Graham and Scott Rice came on in relief to hold Springfield without a hit through the final three innings.
THE WEEK AHEAD
The Drillers close out their four-game series with Springfield at 12:05 p.m. today before hitting the road for an six-game road trip. They open a three-game set at Midland on Wednesday before closing out the month of May with three games at Frisco. Tulsa returns home for a six-game homestand on June 2.
Texas League North: Northwest Arkansas (27-15), Springfield (23-20), Tulsa (18-24), Arkansas (16-25).
Texas League South: Frisco (24-19), Corpus Christi (21-22), San Antonio (21-22), Midland (20-23).
BATTING LEADERS (Minimum of 20 at bats)
Average: Eider Torres (.318) Hits: Scott Beerer (36) Doubles: Daniel Mayora (11) Triples: Homeruns: Three tied with two RBI: Ryan Harvey (22).
PITCHING LEADERS (Minimum of 20 innings pitched, excluding saves)
Wins: Bruce Billings, Keith Weiser (3) ERA: Scott Rice (0.98) Saves: Craig Baker (5) Strikeouts: Cory Riordan (29).
Tickets are available for all upcoming Drillers games are available at the ONEOK Field box office, by calling 744-5901 or online at Tulsa drillers.com.