Ruiz walks off Drillers in TL Finals opener

No. 2 Dodgers prospect drives home game-winning run in 10th

Keibert Ruiz batted .284 in 47 games after the All-Star break after only hitting .255 in the previous 54. (Tim Campbell/MiLB.com)

By Tyler Maun / MiLB.com | September 12, 2018 12:55 AM

Double-A Tulsa manager Scott Hennessey admits his squad may have escaped ONEOK Field with an unexpected victory Tuesday night. Needing just two more to win the Texas League championship, the Drillers aren't apologizing.

Held to just two hits through nine innings, Tulsa broke through with three in the 10th including a walk-off knock by second-ranked Dodgers prospect Keibert Ruiz to sink San Antonio, 3-2, in Game 1 of the best-of-5 league Finals.

Video: Tulsa's Ruiz strokes walk-off single

"It always feels good to get Game 1, obviously," Hennessey said. "I thought the guys just grinded out the win. Their pitching was dominant. I think we had two hits going into the last inning. We just found a way to get it done."

Drillers hitters were flummoxed against Missions starting pitcher Michel Baez. Baseball's No. 60 overall prospect diced through Tulsa's lineup, allowing just one hit and striking out seven to counter four walks. The Drillers did, however, take advantage of a couple of mistakes by Baez to plate two runs against the righty. The seventh-ranked Padres prospect threw a two-out wild pitch to plate Los Angeles' No. 19 prospect Drew Jackson in the first and hit Eric Peterson with a pitch with the bases loaded in the fourth to force in Ruiz.


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"Baez, I thought his fastball was electric," Hennessey said. "It had late life. We have a fastball-hitting team and he threw the ball by us a lot of times. His breaking ball wasn't as sharp at times, but when he got it over with that fastball, it was just unhittable. Credit to him, he did a good job and abused some of our hitters. I was glad to see him get out of the game, to be honest with you."

San Antonio collected five hits in six innings against starter Tony Gonsolin, but never opened the floodgates. Gonsolin gave up two runs -- one earned -- with three strikeouts and two walks, and relievers Michael Johnson, Shea Spitzbarth and Layne Somsen held the Missions at bay the rest of the night.

"That's the story of the game tonight -- the pitchers," Hennessey said. "Gonsolin didn't have his best stuff, but he navigated his way through the lineup and just made big pitches when he had to. Johnson, Spitzbarth and Somsen were outstanding keeping us in the game and just giving us a chance to win probably a game we shouldn't have won. They did a good job and the pitchers gave us momentum."


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With that momentum, Tulsa broke through in the 10th. After pinch-hitter Logan Landon beat out an infield single to short and was forced out on Gavin Lux's bunt attempt to third, the No. 6 Dodgers prospect went to second on a single to center by Jackson and raced home on the walk-off knock through the left side of the infield by the switch-hitting Ruiz, baseball's No. 37 overall prospect.

"We pinch-hit with Landon because they brought the left-hander [Travis Radke] in," Hennessey explained. "We thought it would give us a little bit better opportunity to get on base or maybe even drive a ball out of the ballpark. He did the job, pretty good at-bat and an infield single. 'Luxey', first time we've ever asked him to bunt, I thought he just bunted the ball a little bit too hard and was forced out. The key at-bat was Drew Jackson hitting that sharp single up the middle. We got [Lux] to second base and then Ruiz comes up. Not his strong side, but he's gotten huge hits all year from the right side and put a pretty good swing on an 0-2 breaking ball and found a hole."

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Lux, Jackson and Ruiz, the Drillers' No. 1-3 hitters, tallied three of their team's five hits and all three of its runs.

"I think that's going to be the key to the series, those guys at the top of the lineup," Hennessey said. "They've done it for the last month, month-and-a-half of the season and that first round of the playoff series. That's who got the job done and had really good at-bats, and we're going to have to continue that if we're going to win the series."

Game 2 is set for 8:05 p.m. ET on Wednesday in Tulsa.

"It's back to business tomorrow," the skipper said. "I think we probably stole a game from them today, but that's what playoff baseball is. It's going to come down to one or two pitches. Fortunately tonight we got the big hit, and we'll just have to get back tomorrow and try to get Game 2 and get after them again."

Tyler Maun is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @TylerMaun. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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