Prior to this season, Tulsa pitcher Chad Bettis was ranked as one of the top two pitching prospects in the Colorado Rockies minor league system. That ranking came despite Bettis missing the entire 2012 season because of a shoulder injury. Wednesday night at ONEOK Field, the right-hander showed why so many scouts have him ranked so high.
In the first game of a doubleheader with the Arkansas Travelers, Bettis was dominant. The Texas Tech product struck out 11 batters in only 6.2 innings as the Drillers defeated the Travelers 2-1. His 11 strikeouts were a ONEOK Field record, breaking the mark of 10 set by Juan Nicasio on April 23, 2011 against Springfield.
In the night-cap the Drillers got another strong pitching performance from a trio of relievers to post a 3-2 win over the Travs and complete the doubleheader sweep. All three runs came in the second inning as Tulsa benefited from a pair of Arkansas errors.
The sweep improved the Drillers record to 10-9 and moved them into a first-place tie with Springfield atop the North Division standings.
In the opener, Bettis came within one out of working a complete game in the seven-inning contest. He allowed just the one run while surrendering only four hits and one walk. He lowered his season ERA to 2.91 and evened his record at 1-1 with the victory.
The only run against Bettis came in the top of the third inning, as Andrew Heid led off with a base hit. After Travis Witherspoon struck out, Jett Bandy hit a line drive to centerfield that Delta Cleary Jr. initially came in on before trying to retreat. As he changed direction, Cleary Jr. slipped to the turf and the ball landed behind him, rolling to the wall for a double. With runners at second and third, Rolando Gomez lifted a 1-2 pitch from Bettis into right field for a sacrifice fly that gave the Travs a 1-0 lead.
The Drillers erased the deficit in the bottom of the fourth. With one out, Kent Matthes doubled, but was retired in a rundown on a grounder off the bat of Kyle Parker. Henry Wrigley followed with a double that brought Parker home from first with the tying run. Kiel Roling then put Tulsa in front when he dropped a base hit into center field that plated Wrigley.
Bettis made the slim one-run lead hold up and nearly turned in the Drillers first complete game of the year. After retiring the first two batters in the seventh, he had a 2-2 count on Heid before issuing his only walk to end his night after throwing 89 pitches, 68 for strikes.
Mike Solbach came on, and after a passed ball, induced a ground out to end the game. For Solbach, it was his second save.
Just like they did in game one, the Travelers took an early 1-0 lead in the second game. Robbie Windlansky led off the second with his second home run of the season to open the scoring. Randall Grichuk followed with a triple, but Parker Frazier, making his first start of the year, kept the damage at one run by retiring the next three hitters on a pair of ground outs and a strikeout.
The Drillers took the lead for good with their three-run second. With one out, Wrigley singled and Roling reached on an error. Jayson Langfels singled into right field to score Wrigley, and when cutoff man C.J. Cron's throw to third sailed into left field, Roling trotted home to give Tulsa the lead. A two-out single by Christian Adames brought home Langfels to up the margin to 3-1.
Frazier only surrendered the home run in his outing that lasted 3.2 innings. He gave up three hits and issued one walk while striking four. The performance lowered his season ERA to 2.16.
Cory Riordan came on with two outs in the fourth and worked two relief innings, allowing one run. It came in the fifth inning when Witherspoon tripled and scored on a ground out to cut the Tulsa lead to 3-2.
The Travs would get no closer as Mike Marbry got the final out in the sixth inning before pitching around a one-out walk and stolen base in the final inning to close out the doubleheader sweep. It was the right-hander's first save of the year.
Riordan collected the win to improve his record to 2-0.
The Drillers and Travelers will conclude their four-game series Thursday night at ONEOK Field. Tim Gustafson (0-1, 10.45 ERA) will make his fourth start of the year for Tulsa, while Arkansas will send Lay Batista (0-3, 4.02 ERA) to the mound. Starting time is scheduled for 7:05PM.
Fans can listen to the game live on AM1430, The Buzz in Tulsa. The broadcast is also available at TulsaDrillers.com, or through the I Heart Radio app or website.