In what could have been called a must-win game Wednesday night for the Tulsa Drillers in Game 2 of the Texas League Championship Series, everything started promisingly as the Drillers jumped to an early three-run lead in support of Texas League Pitcher of the Year Tyler Anderson. But, things changed dramatically when Anderson was removed after only three innings of work. Enter Richard Castillo. Castillo relieved and turned in arguably the most important pitching performance of the season by throwing three scoreless relief innings to keep the lead in place. A trio of Tulsa relievers combined to do the same over the final three innings, leading the Drillers to a 5-2 victory over the Midland RockHounds.
The win evened the best-of-five championship series at one game apiece. The teams will now have a travel day on Thursday as the series switches to Midland for Game 3 on Friday night at Security Bank Ballpark.
After the game, it was announced that Anderson departed for precautionary reasons in what was scheduled to be his final appearance of the season. He will be evaluated further on Thursday.
His departure opened the door for Castillo to make his first relief appearance of the year. The right-hander, who had a 3-12 record during the regular season surrendered only one hit in his three shutout innings and helped the Drillers maintain their lead through the middle innings.
Anderson had opened the game by breezing through a 1-2-3 top of the first. His counterpart with the RockHounds, Chris Jensen, quickly retired the first two hitters in the bottom half of the inning before Taylor Featherston singled sharply to left field. With Ryan Casteel at the plate, Featherston broke for second, and when the pitch from Jensen skipped to the backstop, he raced to third on the stolen base/wild pitch. Casteel finally ended a nine-pitch at-bat with a grounded single to left field that plated Featherston with the game's first run.
The lead was erased in the RockHounds next at-bat when Max Muncy deposited a one-out offering from Anderson onto the right field berm to tie the game at 1-1.
The Drillers went back in front with three more runs in the bottom of the second. The rally began with consecutive walks to Trevor Story and Tyler Massey. Will Swanner laid down a perfect bunt between the pitcher's mound and the third base line that turned a sacrifice into a hit that loaded the bases. Chris O'Dowd brought two runs home with a broken-bat single that dropped in front of right fielder Jeremy Barfield. Adames followed with another hit that scored Swanner, but O'Dowd was thrown out by Kent Matthes while also attempting to score, keeping the Drillers lead at 4-1.
Another solo homer for Midland in the top of the third from Daniel Robertson cut the margin to two runs, but Tulsa got it back with a run in the bottom of the fourth. Massey reached safely to open the inning when Matthes misplayed his liner into a double. After Swanner was retired, O'Dowd struck again with another run-scoring hit to right that made it 5-2.
Castillo pitched around a pair of walks in the fourth, his first inning. He allowed only one hit over the next two innings to hold the lead at three runs.
Ken Roberts set the Hounds down in order in the seventh, and Nelson Gonzalez did the same in the eighth.
Kraig Sitton came on for the ninth and retired the first two batters before Dusty Coleman doubled to keep the game going. Pinch-hitter D'Arby Myers reached on an infield single to bring the potential tying run to the plate. With the ONEOK Field crowd on its feet, Sitton struck out Matt Chapman to end the game and even the series.
O'Dowd paced a seven-hit Tulsa offensive attack with two hits and three runs batted in. Massey finished with one hit and scored two of the Drillers five runs.
Attendance for the final game at ONEOK Field this year was 2,473, bringing the season total to 415,403. The total makes the 2014 season the most attended in the history of professional baseball in Tulsa, dating back over 100 years.
In Friday's third game of the series, former RockHounds' hurler Carlos Hernandez (5-7, 2.68 ERA) will make the start for Tulsa, while Midland will counter with Shawn Haviland (7-7, 3.87 ERA). Hernandez is coming off a nine-inning complete game shutout of Arkansas in the North Division Playoff Series.
Starting time at Midland's Security Bank Ballpark on Friday is scheduled for 7:00PM. The radio broadcast can be heard live in the Tulsa area on AM 1300 or worldwide on the Internet through the I Heart Radio app. The video broadcast will be available through a subscription to the MiLB.TV package.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.