NORTH LITTLE ROCK -
After getting shutout Friday and taking a 1-0 loss that gave the Tulsa Drillers the North Division lead, the Arkansas Travelers looked like they weren't going to do much more Saturday night at Dickey-Stephens Park. But facing a 4-0 deficit after just two Travs reached base in the first seven innings, Arkansas exploded in the eighth for six runs on six hits to take a 6-4 lead and steal their second game from the Drillers in the late innings in the last three days.
Mark Trumbo started the eighth inning with an infield single, a drag bunt at the third baseman. After a Wil Ortiz flyout, Jay Caligiuri lined a single to left-center field to chase starter Brandon Durden out of the game. Durden finished with 7.1 innings, four hits and two runs, striking out one without walking a single batter. He faced the minimum amount of hitters through the first 20 Traveler at-bats, giving up one single, which was erased on a double play.
Branden Florence hit a bloop single to center field off reliever Jarrett Grube to load the bases for Hainley Statia with one out, and Statia hit a sharp liner to right, scoring Trumbo. Coby Smith then worked a full-count walk to bring in Caligiuri. With the Tulsa lead cut in half, Adam Bright came in to pitch and his first pitch to Nate Sutton was driven deep to right field, good for a bases-clearing triple to put the Travs on top 5-4. Sutton later scored on a two-out single by Mark Trumbo.
Grube (L, 0-1) was charged with three runs on two hits and a walk, without getting an out, and Bright (BS, 2) pitched 0.2 innings with one run allowed on two hits and a walk. The Drillers (36-31) were 30-1 leading after seven innings before Saturday night.
"We played all nine innings of baseball. You've got to play it out, and we did," Arkansas manager Bobby Magallanes said.
The Travelers (27-40) quadrupled their hit total in the eighth inning, going from two hits to eight. The team finished 4-for-5 with runners in scoring position Saturday, after coming into the game with a .253 average with runners at second or third.
"There was frustration [before that]. Obviously, these guys are trying. When you're trying, and it's not working out, it's frustrating. But they made adjustments. We hit with guys in scoring position, because we stayed low and hit to the middle of the field and ended up with some clutch hits," Magallanes said.
Magallanes said that the Travs were giving away at-bats by swinging at bad pitches in yesterday's game and early on today.
"It's about knowing the strike zone and not getting too antsy, letting the ball come to them and waiting for their pitch," Magallanes said. "I'm proud of those guys for sticking with it"
Arkansas starter Tim Kiely had a rough start too, allowing four runs in the first three innings. Anthony Jackson led off the game with a triple to right-center, and scored on a squeeze bunt by Danny Sandoval. In the second inning, Ryan Harvey smashed a solo home run that left the park after bouncing off a light pole next to the scoreboard in left field. Kiely gave up a double to Rex Rundgren and a single to Jackson to start the third, then run-scoring singles to Jeff Kindel and Cole Garner. But Kiely settled down after that, retiring the next 11 Drillers and giving up just one hit in the next four scoreless innings.
"We talk about 'staying with it,' Kiely settled down and put up four zeroes in his last four innings, which were huge. Four innings in a row - now momentum changes, they're not swinging the bats, and we make a comeback," Magallanes said.
Bryan Rembisz (W, 2-2) pitched a perfect eighth inning, and Bobby Mosebach (S, 4) came on in the ninth and allowed two baserunners before closing the door on Tulsa.
"I like our bullpen. These guys are doing a good job. There have been a couple of games we've given up leads, but I'll take our bullpen over anyone in the league," Magallanes said.
Game three of the series lasted a quick 2:16, with a crowd of 6,901. Arkansas will send Jordan Walden (1-3, 4.06 ERA) to the hill for Sunday's series finale to face the Drillers' Jhoulys Chacin (5-5, 3.07). First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m.