The Tulsa Drillers opened a three-game series in Springfield Monday night, and for seven innings it seemed they would open it with a victory. Thanks to a strong outing from starting pitcher Tim Gustafson, the Drillers carried a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the eighth inning, but things unraveled for the Tulsa bullpen. The Cardinals rallied with a tying run in the eighth, then produced the winning run in the ninth to send the Drillers to a 3-2 defeat.
The loss was the third straight for the Drillers on a seven-game road trip that began with two straight wins.
Gustafson put Tulsa in position to end the streak with six impressive innings. The only damage against the right-hander came in the very first inning. With two outs and the bases empty, big league veteran Ruben Gotay belted his 12th home run of the year to give the Redbirds a 1-0 lead.
The Drillers used a long ball of their own to get the run back in the top of the fourth when Kyle Parker led off with his 17th home run to even the score.
Following the homer, Tulsa loaded the bases with three straight singles from Kiel Roling, Dustin Garneau and Angelys Nina. Tyler Kuhn then made it five straight hits with a lined single into right that scored Roling to make it 2-1.
With the bases loaded and no outs, the Drillers missed a chance to make it an even bigger inning as Jayson Langfels struck out and Gustafson grounded into an inning-ending double play that kept the lead at only one run.
The Drillers stayed in front until the eighth when James Ramsey led off the inning against reliever Joe Gardner with his 12th home run of the season. The opposite-field blast evened the score at 2-2.
After Tulsa failed to score in the top of the ninth, Springfield's Jake Lemmerman led off the bottom half of the inning with a double against Isaiah Froneberger. Vance Albitz sacrificed Lemmerman to third, and Mike O'Neill drew a walk to put runners at the corners.
After O'Neill advanced to second on defensive indifference, Froneberger got the second out of the inning when Ramsey grounded out to Roling at first. Tulsa then elected to intentionally walk Gotay, who is fourth in the Texas League in runs batted in, to load the bases and bring Chris Swauger to the plate. The strategy backfired when Froneberger hit Swauger with a 1-1 pitch to allow Lemmerman to jog home with the game-winning run.
The bullpen struggles kept Gustafson from claiming his sixth win of the season. He was in line for the win after allowing six hits, no walks and one run in six innings of work.
The Drillers out-hit the Redbirds 12-11, but they stranded 10 runners on base and were only 2-12 with runners in scoring position. Five different Tulsa players had two hits each in the game.
The teams will be back in action Tuesday night when they will play the middle game of their three-game series. Christian Bergman (5-6, 3.04 ERA) will make the start for the Drillers against Richard Castillo (6-6, 4.32 ERA) of the Cardinals. Starting time at Hammons Field is again scheduled for 7:09PM.