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Drillers Lose Another Close One To Northwest Arkansas

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TULSA, Oklahoma -

The Tulsa Drillers went blow-for-blow with the Northwest Arkansas Naturals on Tuesday night, answering nearly every opposing run with one of their own. Unfortunately for Tulsa, the keyword in the previous sentence is nearly.

The Drillers came out swinging, led by Tim Smalling and Cristhian Adames at the top of the order, but the bats for Northwest Arkansas were up for the challenge, spoiling Drew Pomeranz' return to Tulsa. The Naturals tagged Pomeranz for 10 hits and seven runs over 5.1 innings on their way to an 8-6 victory over the Drillers at ONEOK Field.

Pomeranz, whose last three starts had been in the majors with the Colorado Rockies, was charged with the loss. The lefthander finished with five strikeouts and one walk.

Smalling finished the game 2-4 with two doubles and four runs scored for Tulsa, reaching base in four of his five at-bats, while Adames had three hits.

With the loss, Tulsa's record falls to 10-15 in the second half and to 44-49 overall on the season.

The Naturals took a 1-0 lead on a solo home run in the first. With one out, Orlando Calixte drove a pitch deep to right field that just cleared the short chain link fence for his sixth long ball of the year.

Tulsa knotted things up in the home half of the first. Smalling reached second base on a throwing error by Naturals' third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert to lead off the inning and advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt. Kyle Parker then drove in Smalling with a groundout to shortstop to even the score at 1-1.

Brian Fletcher socked a two-out, three-run homer in the third, giving Naturals' starter Jason Adam a nice cushion, but it would be short-lived.

Once again, the Drillers responded with two runs in the bottom of the third to cut into Northwest Arkansas' lead. Although Tulsa had already scored a run in the first, Joey Wong recorded the club's first hit to begin the inning. After moving to third on a sacrifice bunt, Smalling delivered Wong with an RBI double that fell just inside the right field foul line.

Adames followed with a line drive single to center to put runners on the corners with one out. Parker then bounced a ball to the right side that Cuthbert couldn't handle, allowing Smalling to trot home to pull Drillers to within one.

Back-to-back extra-base hits from Whit Merrifield and Angel Franco in the fourth extended Northwest Arkansas' lead back out to two, but a two-out RBI single by Wong in the bottom half negated the Naturals' run.

The Drillers pulled even thanks to a wild pitch in the fifth. With runners on the corners, Adam uncorked a pitch to the backstop, allowing Smalling to score his second game-tying run of the night.

The tandem of Merrifield and Franco accounted for two more Northwest Arkansas runs in the sixth. Merrifield doubled with one out in the inning to score Rey Navarro. Franco followed with an RBI single to plate Merrifield to make it 7-5 and chase Pomeranz from the game.

Tulsa scored a run in the seventh to trim its deficit to one, but missed a golden opportunity to tie the game and possibly take the lead. With the bases loaded and no outs, reliever Scott Alexander ended the Drillers hopes of a big inning when he got a double play grounder off the bat of Roling. A run scored on the play, but it would be the only one of the inning as Alexander retired Tyler Kuhn on strikes to end the threat and keep the Naturals in front 7-6.

Matt Fields hammered his league-leading 25th home run of the season in the ninth inning off Mitchell Boggs to give the Northwest Arkansas bullpen some wiggle room with an 8-6 lead. The first baseman has now homered in three consecutive games.

Closer Zach Jackson pitched around a two-out single from Adames in the bottom of the ninth to collect his 10th save of the season.

The Drillers and Naturals return to ONEOK Field Wednesday for the finale of their four-game series. Tulsa will send right-hander Tim Gustafson (5-7, 4.67 ERA) to the mound to try and salvage a series split. Northwest Arkansas has yet to announce a starter. First pitch is set for 7:05PM.

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