Clutch hitting can elongate one's career in the game of baseball. Kansas City Royals No. 7 prospect Hunter Dozier is on the right track as he belted a three-run home run off Springfield closer LHP Justin Wright (2-1, 1.10) to lift Northwest Arkansas (35-55/10-10) over the Cardinals (42-48/8-12) on Thursday night at Hammons Field.
The Naturals third baseman came to the plate after reliever LHP Lee Stoppleman was lifted for the more consistent Wright. But the new left-hander threw a 0-1 pitch that Dozier didn't miss and he blasted it over the left-field wall to plate Jorge Bonifacio and Cheslor Cuthbert giving Northwest Arkansas a 5-4 lead.
Royals outfielder and current rehabber with the Naturals Nori Aoki began the frame by being hit by a Stoppleman pitch. Two batters later, Bonifacio drew a walk setting up the Cuthbert single to left to score Aoki from second in which made the game 4-2. That sequence chases Stoppleman.
Aoki ended the night 1-for-3 with a single and run scored. He is 1-for-10 in three rehab games.
Northwest Arkansas plated one run in the top of the third inning to tie the game at a tally a piece when Parker Morin hit his first Double-A home run off Springfield starter RHP Kurt Heyer over the right-field wall.
RHP J.C. Sulbaran (6-6, 3.10) pitched six innings in relief of starter RHP Christian Binford who went the allotted two innings of work. Sulbaran allowes three runs on four hits while striking out six to earn his sixth win of the year.
Binford is slated to throw in Sunday afternoon's Futures Game at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minn.
RHP Malcom Culver notched his sixth save of the season tossing a scoreless ninth inning to shut the door on Springfield.
Dozier finished the night 1-for-4 with three RBI while Morin ended his night 2-for4.
The Naturals and the Cardinals will play game three of the four-game series on Friday, July 11 with RHP Jason Adam (3-8, 3.86) taking the hill for the Naturals against LHP Kyle Hald (7-2, 3.47) for the Cardinals.
You can catch all live play-by-play action for the game with the Voice of the Naturals Benjamin Kelly on your home for the Naturals 92.1 the Ticket for a 6:55p.m. Indigo Sky Casino Pregame Show leading up to the 7:10p.m. first pitch from Hammons Field.
The Northwest Arkansas Naturals are the Double-A Texas League Affiliate of the Kansas City Royals. The Naturals play at state-of-the-art Arvest Ballpark in Springdale, Ark. For more information including statistics, ticket options, and more, please visit NWANaturals.com, and follow us on Twitter @NWANaturals and Facebook.com/Naturals.