The Tulsa Drillers are going back to the Texas League Playoffs. The Drillers clinched their spot in the post-season with an 8-1 victory over Northwest Arkansas Friday night at ONEOK Field. Tulsa sent 11 batters to the plate in a big six-run third inning, and got a strong outing from starting pitcher Ben Holmes to record the clinching victory.
The victory sets up a first-round meeting with Arkansas in a best-of-five series. It will mark the second straight playoff appearance for the Drillers and their fifth in the past seven seasons.
Tulsa's big inning set the stage for the victory and began when Gavin Lux drew a walk and Drew Jackson followed with his 15th home run of the season that gave the Drillers a 2-0 lead. After the homer, Cael Brockmeyer walked and D.J. Peters singled. Keibert Ruiz plated both with a double into the left field corner that doubled the lead.
After Grant Gavin replaced starting pitcher Emilio Ogando, Mike Ahmed greeted the Naturals reliever with a run-scoring double. Gavin then walked three of the next four batters to force home another run that upped Tulsa's lead to 6-0.
Holmes delivered a big-game performance, working 7.1 innings to match the longest outing by a Drillers pitcher this season. He surrendered only five hits and one run while walking two and striking out seven.
The only run against Holmes came in the sixth inning when Xavier Fernandez doubled and scored on a base hit by Samir Duenez.
Tulsa closed out the scoring with single runs in both the sixth and eighth innings on RBI hits from Peters and Ruiz.
It was just the sixth game with the Drillers for Holmes who only signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers in July after being released from the Miami Marlins organization. The lefthander is now a combined 3-2 with a 2.28 ERA at Tulsa and Rancho Cucamonga since coming to the Dodgers.
Layne Somsen closed out the victory by retiring all five batters he faced.
Playoff tickets will go on sale at 10 a.m. Saturday morning, September 1, at TulsaDrillers.com. The Drillers will face Arkansas in the best-of-five North Division playoff series and will host games three and four at ONEOK Field on Friday, September 7 (7:05 p.m.) and Saturday, September 8 (7:05 p.m.). If the series goes the full five games, the Drillers could also host that game on Sunday, September 9 (1:05 p.m.)
WHAT YOU MISSED
*The playoff clinching victory came in Tulsa's final home game of the 2018 regular season. Attendance for the final game was 7,066 and upped season attendance at ONEOK Field to 350,396. Attendance has now topped 350,000 in every year of ONEOK Field.
*The home run by Jackson was one of two hits in the game for the infielder. He finished the night 2-4 with 2 runs scored and 3 runs batted in.
*Ruiz had a 3-hit night and also picked up 3 runs batted in.
*Tulsa will have the opportunity to win its first Texas League Championship since the 1998 season. All-time, the Drillers franchise has won three TL titles while the city of Tulsa has won eight total Texas League crowns, with the first coming in 1936.
*The Drillers roster was shuffled before Friday's game as reliever Andrew Istler was traded by the Dodgers to the Washington Nationals for major league reliever Ryan Madson. Karch Kowalczyk rejoined the Drillers from Triple A to take Istler's spot on the roster.
The Drillers will close out the regular season with a three-game series in Springfield. The series will begin Saturday night with first pitch scheduled for 6:10 PM at Hammons Field. The probable starting pitchers will be:
TUL Dustin May (1-2, 3.86 ERA)
SPR Matt Pearce (0-6, 5.21 ERA)
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.