Several streaks were snapped Thursday night at ONEOK Field, and none favored the Tulsa Drillers. Tulsa's pitchers streak of 20 straight scoreless innings came to an end under an 11-hit, 10-run assault from Northwest Arkansas. The big offensive night also helped the Naturals snap a 10-game losing streak as they outscored the Drillers 10-6 in downtown Tulsa. The loss ended the Drillers first two-game winning streak of the season.
The defeat came despite Tulsa jumping on top early. For the third game in a row, the Drillers took a quick lead by scoring in the first inning. Taylor Featherston led off the bottom of the first with a double and moved to third on a ground out from Joey Wong. Featherston scored the game's first run on another ground out from designated hitter Tom Murphy, who was playing in his first game in a week. Murphy had missed the previous six games with shoulder soreness.
The 1-0 lead disappeared when the Naturals erupted for three runs in the top of the second against starter Tyler Anderson, ending the streak of 20 consecutive scoreless innings for Tulsa pitchers. With one out, Jared Schlehuber doubled and Edinson Rincon drew a walk. Whit Merrifield followed with his first home run of the season. Merrifield's opposite field drive just cleared the short fence in front of the bullpens in right field and gave the Naturals a 3-1 lead.
Tulsa got one of the runs back in the bottom half of the inning as Tyler Massey singled, stole second and scored on a base hit by Tim Smalling.
Northwest Arkansas restored its two-run lead in the fourth. After Merrifield doubled to lead off the inning, the Naturals used the bunt to perfection to plate him. Juan Graterol moved him to third with a sacrifice, and Angel Franco brought him home with a perfectly executed safety-squeeze bunt to make it 4-2.
A bunt again played a role in the Naturals expanding their lead to five runs in the sixth. Facing Drillers reliever Carlos Hernandez, Rincon singled and Merrifield walked. Graterol attempted to advance the runners with a bunt, but went Hernandez fielded the roller, his throw was missed by third baseman Joey Wong, allowing both Rincon and Merrifield to race home. Graterol eventually scored himself on a sacrifice fly from Lane Adams that increased Tulsa's deficit to 7-2.
The Drillers got back in the game with a four-run seventh inning. Walks to Massey and Smalling sandwiched around a base hit by Harold Riggins loaded the bases with one out. Another walk to Jared Simon forced home one run, while a bases-clearing double by Delta Cleary Jr. plated three more to cut the deficit to 7-6.
The Naturals again responded, scoring two times in the eighth off Nelson Gonzalez. Ethan Chapman singled and Adams walked in front of a two-run triple by Jorge Bonifacio.
Schlehuber, who played collegiately in Tulsa at Oral Roberts University, capped the scoring with a home run off Ken Roberts in the ninth inning. It was the first baseman's second homer of the year.
Anderson worked the first four innings for the Drillers, surrendering four runs on five hits. He issued two walks and picked up three strikeouts. The defeat evened his record at 1-1.
Featherston finished 2-3 and extended his hitting streak to nine straight games, while the seventh-inning single from Riggins extended his streak to eight games.
Merrifield finished 2-4 with three runs scored and three runs batted in to lead Northwest Arkansas.
The two teams will continue their series Friday night at ONEOK Field. Richard Castillo (1-0, 2.25 ERA) will take the mound for the Drillers against J.C. Sulbaran (0-1, 7.11 ERA) of the Naturals. The game will begin at 7:05PM with a huge Fireworks Show scheduled afterward.