MIDLAND, TX – It was not pretty, but the Tulsa Drillers found a way to keep their postseason hopes alive Wednesday in Midland, Texas. On a night when Tulsa pitchers walked nine batters, the Drillers overcame a disastrous inning thanks in large part to a pair of big hits from
MIDLAND, TX – It was not pretty, but the Tulsa Drillers found a way to keep their postseason hopes alive Wednesday in Midland, Texas. On a night when Tulsa pitchers walked nine batters, the Drillers overcame a disastrous inning thanks in large part to a pair of big hits from catcher Hamlet Marte and one big catch by right fielder Devin Mann. It all added up to a tense 6-4 victory for the Drillers at Momentum Bank Ballpark.
The win was not the only positive result for the Drillers. With five teams still battling for the two Double-A Central playoff berths, other results also favored the Drillers. Amarillo swept a doubleheader from Frisco, while Arkansas and Wichita split two games.
Wichita still occupies first place with its magic number for clinching a postseason berth down to one. The Drillers are now only one game behind second-place Arkansas and just ½ game behind Frisco and Northwest Arkansas, who are tied for third place. Every team now has four games remaining in the regular season.
Tulsa and Midland were scoreless through the first three innings before the Drillers broke through in the top of the fourth. Miguel Vargas led off with a double and scored on a one-out hit from Ryan Noda. Kody Hoese followed with a double to centerfield, but Noda was thrown out at the plate trying to score the second run of the inning.
With two outs, Jacob Amaya drew a walk to put runners at first and third. Catcher Marte hit a soft pop up just behind the pitcher’s mound that the RockHounds allowed to drop for a base hit, letting Hoese come home to make it 2-0.
A disastrous bottom of the fourth erased Tulsa’s lead. Starting pitcher Clayton Beeter walked two of the first three hitters of the inning, ending his night. Zach Willeman came on for Beeter and the control issues continued. Two wild pitches, a walk and a hit batter gave the RockHounds their first run and forced the Drillers to call on reliever Mark Washington. Washington walked in a run before uncorking the third wild pitch of the inning, giving the RockHounds a 3-2 lead.
It remained that way until Tulsa’s seventh inning. Mann drew a leadoff walk and Vargas singled. Justin Yurchak singled into the hole at shortstop, but Mann was thrown out on the hit when he overran third base. With runners at first and second, the Drillers caught a break when Noda hit a ground ball directly to the second base bag that should have been an inning-ending double play, but shortstop Logan Davidson lost control of the ball as he tried to transfer it to his throwing hand. Vargas tried to score from second when the ball rolled away from Davidson, and would have easily been out at the plate, but the ball caromed out of the glove of catcher JJ Schwarz, giving the Drillers the tying run.
With the inning continuing, Hoese drew a walk before Jacob Amaya singled in the go-ahead run. Marte came through again with a lined single to center that brought home two more runs and gave Tulsa a 6-3 lead.
It took a big play from Mann in the bottom of the eighth to preserve the lead. With two outs and runners at the corners, Midland’s Max Schuemann hit a fly ball deep to right field that looked as if it would plate at least two runs. But Mann, who was moving along the warning track and parallel to the right field fence, reached out to make a running, inning-ending catch to keep the lead at three runs.
For the second straight night, the Drillers turned to Justin Hagenman to close out the victory in the ninth. Hagenman pounded the strike zone and gave up one run on two hits, but retired Jake Suddleson on a ground out to wrap up the victory.
*The Drillers won despite not having their hottest hitter available. Michael Busch, who had hit safely in his last ten games, was placed on the Injured List on Wednesday. Infielder Clayton Daniel was removed from the Temporarily Inactive List to fill Busch’s roster spot.
In addition, pitcher Michael Grove was placed on the Injured List, retroactive to September 14.
*Midland’s three-run fourth inning featured four walks, three wild pitches, a hit batter and zero hits.
*Both starting pitchers in the game attended nearby Texas Tech University. Tulsa’s Clayton Beeter was charged with two runs on just one hit in 3.1 innings. He walked three batters and struck out five.
Former Red Raider Ty Damron gave up six hits and two runs in 4.2 innings for Midland. Neither starter was involved in the decision.
*Reliever Zack Plunkett worked 1.2 scoreless innings for the Drillers to pick up the win that improved his record to 2-1.
*Nick Robertson got the game to the ninth inning and to Hagenman with 1.1 scoreless innings.
The Drillers and RockHounds will play the third game of their six-game series at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, September 16 at Momentum Bank Ballpark. Neither team has named a starting pitcher.