The Tulsa Drillers, who are currently tied for second in the Texas League in home runs, have been a big proponent of the big fly all season. But on Wednesday night in Little Rock, Tulsa used small ball, rather than the long ball, to defeat the Arkansas Travelers 3-2 at Dickey-Stephens Park and reclaim first place in the North Division standings.
With the scored tied 2-2 in the top of the eighth inning, Tulsa's Rafael Ortega drew a leadoff walk and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Cristhian Adames. After Kiel Roling flew out, Dustin Garneau delivered a two-out RBI single to drive in Ortega with the eventual game winner.
The Drillers reassumed first place in the division for the first time since May 3 with the victory, which was Tulsa's ninth in their last eleven games. They now lead both Arkansas and Springfield by a 1/2 game with six games remaining in the first half of the season.
With the league's split season format, the first-half division winners will secure a spot in the Texas League Playoffs, which will be played in September.
Though he received a no decision, Tulsa's Sean Gallagher had another outstanding performance on the mound Wednesday night. He allowed just two runs through six innings, while striking out six and walking two. Gallagher has recorded a quality start in each of his first six outings with the Drillers.
Arkansas' starter Michael Roth also pitched well in the game, allowing two runs on four hits in 5.2 innings of work. The South Carolina product, who led the Gamecocks to the College World Series Finals in 2012, struck out two and walked four in the game.
The Travelers struck first in the fourth inning. With two away, designated hitter Robbie Widlansky turned around a 2-1 offering from Gallagher, driving his fourth home run of the season over the wall in right field for the game's first run.
Arkansas added another run to its lead in the fifth with three consecutive two-out hits. After Gallagher disposed of the first two Travs' hitters, Jimmy Swift and Taylor Lindsey both singled to right field to setup an RBI single by Randal Grichuk.
Tulsa answered with two runs in the top of the sixth to square things up at two. Delta Cleary Jr. walked to open the inning and stole second base. Ortega followed with a hit through the left side to put runners on the corners for Adames. Before throwing a pitch to Tulsa's shortstop, however, the left-handed Roth picked the speedy Ortega off first base for the Drillers first out. Adames went on to plate Cleary Jr. with an RBI groundout to cut the Travelers' lead in half.
With two outs, Roling drew a walk to keep Tulsa's inning alive and chase Arkansas' starter Roth from the game. Reliever Michael Cisco entered from the bullpen and promptly issued a walk to Garneau to put runners on first and second for Kent Matthes.
Swinging on the first pitch, Matthes bounced a ground ball to the left side that shortstop Jimmy Swift was able to track down deep in the hole. But the shortstop's throw to first base skipped past C.J. Cron, allowing Roling to trot home from third and tie the ballgame.
Tulsa would go on to break the 2-2 tie in the eighth.
Leuris Gomez battled through a rough, but scoreless eighth inning to record his first win since joining the Drillers at the first of the month. The right-hander allowed no hits in two innings of relief, while striking one and walking two.
Cole White worked a perfect 1-2-3 ninth to record his fourth save in as many chances.
The Drillers return to Dickey-Stephens Park Thursday for two crucial games with the Travelers. Tulsa's Tim Gustafson (4-4, 5.25 ERA) will go up against Arkansas' Manny Correa (3-6, 4.93 ERA) in game one of the double-header, while Dan Houston (1-4, 4.42 ERA) will start game two for the Drillers against Lay Batista (3-5, 4.10 ERA). First pitch for game one is scheduled for 6:10PM.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.