LITTLE ROCK - The Arkansas Travelers ran a winning streak to five games by sweeping a doubleheader over the Springfield Cardinals on Tuesday night at Dickey-Stephens Park. Drew Rucinski pitched a seven-inning complete game while Alex Yarbrough homered (5) to lead a 6-2 win in the opener. Then four pitchers combined on a four-hitter in a 3-0 victory in the nightcap.
The club's five-game winning streak comes on the heels of an eight-game losing streak, which was preceded by a five-game winning streak. Currently with a 13-12 second-half record the Travs overtook Northwest Arkansas for first place after the Naturals lost to Tulsa on Tuesday night.
Rucinski (8-4) tied for the Texas League lead in victories and took over the lead with his second complete game. On 92 pitches, Rucinski allowed two runs on seven hits and three strikeouts without issuing any walks.
The Travs jumped on Jonathan Cornelius (8-7) in the second inning with five runs on three base hits and two hit batters. Michael Bianucci grounded a double through an infield shift to left-center to begin the frame then advanced to third base when Kaleb Cowart hit a high chopper for an infield single. Michael Snyder lined out to deep center for a sacrifice that scored Bianucci. Then Cornelius hit consecutive batters to load the bases. Maikol Gonzalez hit the second sacrifice fly of the inning to knock home Cowart. Yarbrough followed with a drive past the left-field wall for a three-run homer and a 5-0 lead.
Brian Hernandez began the third inning with a double to the left-field gap and took third base on a deep fly out by Bianucci. With the Cardinals playing the infield up, Cowart punched a single through the left side to drive Hernandez home for a 6-0 lead.
Rucinski retired the first nine Springfield batters, but allowed a leadoff double to Mike O'Neill to begin the fourth. Cody Stanley lined a single to right field to send O'Neill to third base. Then Starlin Rodriguez drove a ball to the left-field gap knocking in O'Neill. Matt Long fielded the ball on the fence and threw to Eric Stamets, who fired to third base to nail Stanley for the first out. Rodriguez took second base on the throw to third and scored when Curt Smith doubled. With the lead cut to 6-2, Rucinski retired the next two batters on fly balls.
The only other inning Rucinski found some trouble came in the sixth when Stanley and Rodriguez singled with no outs. But after retiring Rodriguez on a fielder's choice hit by Smith, Rucinski got Jonathan Rodriguez to bounce to Eric Stamets at shortstop to start a 6-4-3 double play.
Rucinski fired a perfect seventh inning to close the game.
The Cardinals managed to put just 12 pitches into play while four Travs pitchers struck out 12 batters. Buddy Boshers struck out four batters in a three-inning spot start. He left the bases-loaded in the second inning when Travis Tartamella grounded out to third base. Michael Brady (1-3) earned the win with two scoreless innings with two strikeouts. Jairo Diaz and Cam Bedrosian struck out the side with Bedrosian earning the save (12) with a three strikeout ninth inning.
Drew Heid finished 2-for-2 with a triple and an odd intentional walk in the nightcap. He bunted for a single in the first inning before being forced at second as part of a double play. Heid came to the plate in the third inning with two outs and two runners on base. Adam Melker had hit a one-out single and Maikol Gonzalez reached with a two-out single. Heid drove a ball over the head of O'Neill to the left-field fence scoring both runners. As he slid into third base with a triple, the throw from Springfield shortstop Matt Williams rolled wildly past third base to the backstop allowing Heid to score for a 3-0 lead.
Heid was also intentionally walked to begin the sixth inning after the Cardinals brought Justin Wilson out of the bullpen very late to begin the inning. Wilson exited after the intentional walk, and Mitch Harris retired the next three batters.
Now the Travs go for the series sweep of the Cardinals on Wednesday night with Michael Roth (7-5, 2.44) on the mound against Springfield's Kurt Heyer (3-6, 4.67). Game time is set for 7:10 p.m.