SPRINGDALE, Ark - After allowing two early runs, right-hander Ofreidy Gomez settled in to guide the Northwest Arkansas Naturals (17-23) to a 9-3 win over the Springfield Cardinals (18-23) in front of a crowd of 5,855 at Arvest Ballpark on Friday night. The win evens this 4-game series at a game apiece heading into the final two games of this 7-game homestand.
Gomez (W, 2-3) earned his third win by holding Springfield scoreless over his final 5.2 innings of work after the visitors had scored two runs in the top of the first. Dylan Carlson hit a solo home run and Conner Capel drove home Justin Williams with a run-scoring single. After that, the Naturals' right-hander settled into the game as he only gave up one hit while not allowing a run the rest of the way. On the night, the 23 year-old struck out five while only allowing the two runs through 6.2 innings.
Trailing 2-0 in the third, Northwest Arkansas would use their speed to even the game. Nick Heath worked a one-out walk and immediately stole second. Khalil Lee was then hit by a pitch to put runners at first and second. The two speedsters then combined for a double steal, which resulted in a run as the Springfield catcher made an errant throw to third before Gabriel Cancel would hit a sacrifice fly to tie the game at 2-2. On the season, Heath and Lee are 1-2 in the Texas League in steals with a combined 37 stolen bases. Heath's total of 22 not only leads the league but matches the Cardinals output as a team this year.
With a new game on their hands, the Naturals would put it out of reach with a seven-run fourth. Meibrys Viloria and Travis Jones collected back-to-back singles before a Kort Peterson hit by pitch loaded the bases with one out. The duo of Heath and Lee were at it again as they both hit two-run doubles to give Northwest Arkansas a 7-2 lead. Cancel would drive in Lee with a single before Cancel and Emmanuel Rivera scored on an Anderson Miller hit to stretch it out to a commanding 9-2 advantage.
Northwest Arkansas would not score again but the offense was no longer needed as Springfield could only muster a late run in the eighth as left-handed reliever Emilio Ogando tossed 2.1 innings of one-run ball to seal the Game 2 win at Arvest Ballpark.
The Naturals outhit the Cardinals by a 12-to-7 margin with the top of the order producing most of the offensive fireworks. In the contest, the 1-2-3 hitters in the order (Heath, Lee, and Cancel) went a combined 5-for-11 with five runs and six RBIs. Meanwhile, Northwest Arkansas got production throughout their lineup as Rivera, Miller and Viloria all had multi-hit games.
Northwest Arkansas will continue their 7-game homestand with Game 3 of this 4-game set against the Springfield Cardinals (Double-A St. Louis) tomorrow night - Saturday, May 18 - with first pitch scheduled for 6:05 p.m. Saturday night's game features a "Ser" Whit Merrifield Bobblehead Giveaway presented by Unify Financial Credit Union as well as our Bullpen Craft Beer Bar Happy Hour from 4:30 p.m. until 5:30 p.m. Northwest Arkansas will give the baseball to right-hander Conner Greene (3-2, 3.80 ERA) while the Cardinals send righty Angel Rondon to the hill in his Double-A debut. Catch the live play-by-play action with the Voice of the Naturals Benjamin Kelly on AM 1590 - The Ticket 2 at 5:45 p.m. for the Indigo Sky Casino Pregame Show.
The Northwest Arkansas Naturals are the Double-A Texas League Affiliate of the Kansas City Royals. The Naturals play at state-of-the-art Arvest Ballpark in Springdale, Ark. For more information, including statistics, ticket options, and more, please visit NWANaturals.com, and follow us on Twitter @NWANaturals and Facebook.com/Naturals.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.