Earlier this week, the Tulsa Drillers completed a four-game sweep of Springfield, now they are in danger of being on the other side of a sweep. Friday night at ONEOK Field, the Northwest Arkansas Naturals beat the Drillers for the fourth straight game, recording a 4-0 victory. The Naturals have won the first four games of the series and will look to complete the five-game sweep with a win in Saturday's finale.
The slump has come at the worst possible time for Tulsa. Friday's loss eliminated the Drillers from the first-half title race in the Texas League's North Division. They began the series in a first-place tie with the Naturals who have taken control of the race with the four wins.
The Naturals got the only run they needed on Friday from the second batter of the game. After Tulsa starter Scott Barlow retired the game's leadoff hitter, Corey Toups blasted a drive over the Busch Terrace Section in left field for his second homer of the season to give Northwest Arkansas a quick 1-0 lead.
They added an unearned run in the fifth before a pair of miscues led to two more runs in the sixth. After Humberto Arteaga drew a walk, Donald Dewees hit a fly ball to centerfield that Tim Locastro mis-judged. Instead of a fly out, it turned into a triple, and when shortstop Erick Mejia's throw back into the infield was wild, Dewees came home to make it 4-0.
Barlow entered the start with a 2.09 ERA, third best in the Texas League, but he was undone by a lack of offensive and defensive support from his teammates. He was charged with four runs on five hits, but only two of the runs were earned. Barlow walked four batters and struck out nine.
The Tulsa offense was limited to only four hits in the defeat, all singles. Two of those came from hot-hitting Jose Fernandez who raised his average to .335 with the 2-4 night. He has now hit safely in six straight games.
The Drillers will look for a victory on Saturday to avoid an unenviable place in the Tulsa baseball history books. Tulsa has never been swept in a five-game series at ONEOK Field. The last time the Drillers were swept at home in a five-game set occurred over ten years ago in 2006 season when they lost all five games to Springfield at Drillers Stadium.
The pitching matchup for the finale will feature Andrew Sopko (1-4, 4.50 ERA) for the Drillers against Emilio Ogando (3-4, 4.43 ERA) of the Naturals. Starting time is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. at ONEOK Field. The Naturals would clinch the first-half title with a victory.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.