With the first half of the Texas League season quickly winding down, the Tulsa Drillers have decided to play their best baseball of the season at the perfect time. After trailing 3-0 midway through Monday afternoon's game, the Drillers rallied to score four unanswered runs and win their third straight game as they defeated the Springfield Cardinals 4-3 at ONEOK Field.
It was the third straight one-run victory for the Drillers over the Cardinals and evened their season record at 31-31. The win also moved Tulsa into second place in the Texas League North Division, just a game behind the NW Arkansas Naturals pending their game tonight, with eight games remaining in the first half.
The game began quietly as neither team scored during the first three innings. But that changed quickly in the fourth.
Oscar Mercado began the top of the fourth by reaching on a bunt single, but it appeared that Tulsa starter Andrew Sopko would be able to work around the hit as he retired the next two Springfield batters. Anthony Garcia dashed those hopes though as he launched a two-run homer over the left field fence to put the visitors up 2-0. It was Garcia's sixth homer of the year.
One pitch later, the score was 3-0 as Jacob Wilson went back-to-back with Garcia with his eighth homer of the year.
But the Drillers responded quickly in the bottom of the fourth thanks to a Cardinals miscue.
Edwin Rios led off the home half of the frame with a bouncing grounder to second that was misplayed by Springfield second baseman Casey Turgeon, allowing Rios to reach safely. That would cost the Cardinals as Matt Beaty followed with a double before Quincy Latimore plated Rios with a sacrifice fly to right. Jose Miguel Fernandez then brought Beaty in with an RBI knock into centerfield to bring Tulsa to within 3-2.
Reliever Ralston Cash came on for Sopko in the top of the fifth after the starter was pinch-hit for in the previous inning, and proceeded to shut down the Springfield offense for the next two innings.
Building off that momentum, the Drillers went ahead in the bottom of the sixth. After Latimore singled to begin the inning, Fernandez crushed a pitch from Springfield starter Dakota Hudson onto the right field grass berm to put Tulsa in front for the first time 4-3.
The homer was the sixth of the season for Fernandez and highlighted his hot hitting at the plate of late. Over his last ten games, Fernandez has led the team with a .370 average and three homers including his blast today.
Neither team would seriously threaten from there as both bullpens kept the opposing lineup off the scoreboard after Fernandez' homer.
Corey Copping came on for the ninth and retired the Cardinals in order to cap the victory and earn his fifth save of the year. Cash was credited with the win after his two scoreless innings of relief work, while Hudson took the loss for Springfield.
The Drillers will aim for the 4-game series sweep Tuesday evening. RHP Josh Sborz (1-4, 5.80 ERA) is scheduled to start for Tulsa while Springfield will send out RHP Matt Pearce (5-4, 2.48 ERA) to oppose him. First pitch at ONEOK Field is scheduled for 7:05 PM.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.