Drillers Open Big Series with Walk-Off Win
Tulsa and Northwest Arkansas opened an important five-game series Tuesday night at ONEOK Field, and it began with a walk-off win for the Drillers. In a tightly contested battle that resembled a playoff game, the Drillers scored the winning run in the bottom of the ninth on a throwing error, gaining the exciting 6-5 victory.
The series is critical to the playoff hopes for both teams. With the opening victory, the Drillers maintained their first-place lead in the North Division standings, 2.5 games in front of Arkansas and now 4.5 games in front of the Naturals. Tulsa has just seven games remaining in the regular season.
Tied heading into the final inning of the opener, Andrew Istler worked a 1-2-3 top of the ninth to set the stage for the winning rally from the Drillers.
Zach Reks began the bottom of the ninth by beating out an infield single. Cael Brockmeyer followed and was quickly in a 0-2 hole before eventually dropping a base hit into shallow right field on an eight-pitch at-bat.
With runners at first and second, Wes Darvill laid down a bunt on the next pitch. It was a well-placed effort down the third base line that Naturals catcher Xavier Fernandez raced over and fielded. Fernandez spun and threw wildly past first base, allowing Reks to trot home with the winning run in the dramatic victory.
The game began poorly for the Drillers and starting pitcher Yadier Alvarez. Alvarez walked the first two batters of the game, helping the Naturals take a quick 1-0 lead.
The Drillers answered with three runs in the bottom of the first. Gavin Lux led off with a base hit, but Naturals starter Scott Blewett retired the next two batters. D.J. Peters extended the inning by drawing a two-out walk. That set the stage for a two-run double from Jacob Scavuzzo that put the Drillers in front. Reks followed with a run-scoring single to give Tulsa a 3-1 lead.
The second inning began much better for Alvarez as he retired the first two Northwest Arkansas batters, but the Tulsa pitcher failed to get a 1-2-3 inning when he threw wildly past first after fielding a soft grounder off the bat of Fernandez. Following the error, a single by Nick Heath put runners at first and second before a pair of wild pitches allowed Fernandez to come home to make it 3-2.
continued to be his own worst enemy in the top of the third. After Jecksson Flores led off with a bunt single, Alvarez again threw wildly past first base on an attempted pickoff. After a walk, a third wild pitch moved both runners into scoring position. Flores came home on an infield ground out from Kelvin Gutierrez to tie the game at 3-3.
The Drillers went back in front in the fourth inning, and Scavuzzo again played a part. The Tulsa left fielder led off with a double and scored on a one-out single from Brockmeyer.
An unearned run in the fifth increased the lead to 5-3. Lux led off and reached safely when left fielder Alex Liddi misplayed his fly ball. Drew Jackson followed with a double to deep right-center field that scored Lux.
After a scoreless sixth inning, the Naturals tied the game at 5-5 with a pair of runs off reliever Jason Richman in the seventh. A walk to Fernandez and a double by Erick Mejia put runners at second and third with one out. Istler relieved Richman and retired Flores on a fly out, but Fernandez tagged and scored on the sacrifice. Samir Duenez delivered the big two-out hit when he rolled a base hit into left field that scored Mejia and again tied the score.
It remained tied until Tulsa's game-winning rally in the ninth.
WHAT YOU MISSED
*Alvarez lasted 5.2 innings and departed with the lead, but ended up with a no decision. The right-hander was charged with three runs (2 ER) on three hits and three walks. He struck out seven.
*Blewett worked the first eight innings for Northwest Arkansas, throwing a total of 109 pitches. He surrendered the five runs (4 ER) on eight hits and one walk while striking out four.
*Istler worked 2.2 shutout innings to pick up the win that evened his record at 4-4. He has not given up a run in his last seven outings.
*Brockmeyer finished with three hits in the game raising his average over the .300 mark.
*Lux had two hits and now has 8 multi-hit games since joining the Drillers at the first of August.
Drillers and Naturals will continue their big series Wednesday night with a doubleheader at ONEOK Field. The first game will begin at 5:00 p.m. The starting pitchers are scheduled to be:
NWA Foster Griffin (10-12, 5.05 ERA) & Luis Lugo (1-1, 4.91 ERA)
TUL Mitchell White (5-6, 4.39 ERA) & Andrew Sopko (3-1, 4.27 ERA)
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