Springfield, MO - RF Rafael Ortega skied a sacrifice fly just deep enough to right field to score 2B Breyvic Valera in the bottom of the ninth, lifting the Springfield Cardinals to the 9-8 walkoff win against the Tulsa Drillers before 5,507 fans at Hammons Field on Tuesday night. The Cardinals stole a season-high six bases in the win, only one shy of the all-time single-game team record of seven, set on July 11, 2006 against the Corpus Christi Hooks.
In a battle of two All-Star starting pitchers -- Cardinals LHP Kyle Hald and Tulsa RHP Jonathan Gray -- the Cardinals (12-20, 46-56) bats set the tone early. After Hald's quick 1-2-3 top of the first, Springfield rallied for four two-out runs in the bottom of the inning. With C Cody Stanley on at second base and two down, 1B Curt Smith crushed an RBI double to left-center, plating Stanley and getting Springfield on the board. The Cardinals were relentless after that, with three straight RBI singles from 2B Breyvic Valera, RF Rafael Ortega and 3B Matt Williams, opening the lead to 4-0.
Hald continued his early dominance on the mound no-hitting the Drillers (15-17, 53-48) through the first 4.1 innings. A one-out base hit in the top of the fifth from 3B Jayson Langfels broke up the no-hit bid and set the table for Tulsa to get on the board. Langfels took second on a sacrifice bunt from C Chris O'Dowd, before scoring from second base on a grounder that got by 3B Matt Williams, slicing the Cards lead to 4-1.
The Drillers continued the comeback in the top of the sixth. CF Delta Cleary, Jr. and LF Tyler Massey opened the inning in powerful fashion with back-to-back solo home runs, bringing Tulsa within one run, 4-3. Hald battled back with a fly out, but 1B Ryan Casteel reached on an error, followed by a walk from SS Trevor Story that led to RHP Chris Thomas taking over on the mound. Langfels was the first to face Thomas and worked a walk to load the bases. O'Dowd then drove a two-run single up the middle, plating a pair to bump the Drillers in front by one. RF Jared Simon followed suit with an RBI base hit, leading to LHP Ryan Sherriff coming in from the bullpen. Sherriff retired his first batter on a fly out to left, but Cleary, Jr. reached on a throwing error to bring in an unearned run and increase the lead to 7-4.
The Cardinals countered right away in the bottom of the sixth inning against RHP R.J. Seidel. After an inning-opening strikeout, Ortega worked a walk to reach safely. Williams followed with a perfectly-placed bunt single, before a base hit from SS Alex Mejia loaded the bases. 1B Jonathan Rodriguez entered as a pinch hitter and battled out an RBI walk against Seidel, forcing in Ortega from third. Next up with the bases loaded came CF Charlie Tilson, making his Double-A debut after joining the Cards from High-A Palm Beach earlier in the day. Tilson placed an RBI fielder's choice up the middle, beating out the attempted double play to score Williams from third, bringing Springfield back to within one tally, 7-6.
Springfield jumped back in front against Seidel in the bottom of the seventh. With one down, Valera sparked the offense with a single and a quick steal of second base. After Valera raced to third on a fly out, Williams struck with another RBI single, his second RBI and third hit of the day, to tie the game at 7-7. Williams then swiped second base, getting into scoring position for Mejia. Mejia placed an infield single to the left side that was stopped by SS Trevor Story. Story, though, threw the ball past first for an error, enabling Williams to score for the 8-7 lead.
However, Tulsa tied it again in the top of the eighth inning against RHP Mitch Harris (W, 2-0). Harris retired the first two outs quickly, but then Simon unloaded a game-tying solo home run to center field, squaring the score once again, 8-8.
Harris followed the eighth with a scoreless top of the ninth inning that wrapped up with the Cardinals retiring Featherston at third base. Featherston had doubled to right-center and was trying for third, but Ortega's throw in from the outfield was relayed by Valera to third just in time for the final out in the frame, keeping it tied at 8-8.
The Cardinals then dealt the final blow in the bottom of the ninth against RHP Nelson Gonzalez (L, 4-3). Valera again sparked the offense with a one-out walk to get things going. During a lengthy plate appearance being worked by Ortega, Valera opportunistically raced around to third base on an errant pickoff attempt from Gonzalez. Ortega then drove an RBI sacrifice fly just deep enough to right field, with Valera sliding home a split second before the throw from Simon, lifting the Cardinals to the walkoff win, 9-8.
Click here for the complete box score from Tuesday's game.
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Springfield wraps up the homestand with the rubber match against the Drillers on Wednesday, July 23 at 7:10pm. Gates open at 6:10pm.
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