After seeing the Springfield Cardinals claim the first two games of their four-game series, the Tulsa Drillers came into Wednesday's game looking to turn the tables on the Redbirds.
The game looked as though it would be a pitcher's duel early on as both teams started former first round picks on the mound. And although both Walker Buehler for Tulsa and Jack Flaherty for Springfield were impressive on the hill, neither would factor in the final decision as the Drillers were forced to survive a late comeback attempt by the Cardinals before hanging on for a 7-4 victory.
Buehler and Flaherty both showed why they are regarded as such promising pitching prospects, but Buehler was especially impressive.
The product of Vanderbilt University was dominant as the right-hander struck out nine Cardinals over 3.2 innings while giving up only three hits. He ended his day with his ninth strikeout before exiting after reaching his pitch count limit with his 68th pitch of the game.Flaherty came into the game for Springfield with a 6-0 record and a 0.99 ERA, but Tulsa catcher Kyle Farmer had his number as he single-handedly drove in almost as many runs as Flaherty had surrendered in total over his first six starts.
Farmer began his big day in the first inning as he lined a two-out, solo home run over the left field fence to give Tulsa a quick 1-0 lead. The blast was his second homer of the season.Two innings later, Farmer delivered again. After Buehler began the third inning with a line drive single to right in his first at-bat since high school, Tim Locastro followed with a base hit of his own. Both runners moved up on a groundout by Jose Miguel Fernandez before Farmer brought Buehler home with a sharp grounder between short and third to extend the Drillers lead to 2-0.
Locastro and Farmer teamed up again in the fifth inning to put the Drillers advantage at 3-0 and bring an end to the day for Flaherty. Locastro doubled to start the frame before Farmer singled him home two batters later to force Flaherty out of the game.
The three runs and nine hits surrendered by Flaherty were the most the right-hander had allowed in any start this season after coming into the day's appearance having given up just five total runs over his first seven starts.
Kevin Herget came into the game for Springfield and was able to bring an end to the fifth thanks to an inning-ending double play. He would then toss another scoreless inning before turning things over to Tyler Bray.
Bray threw a scoreless seventh inning before the Drillers doubled their lead against him in the eighth.
With runners on first and second with two outs, Matt Beaty launched a three-run shot over the left-center field fence to put the Drillers lead at 6-0. Although it didn't appear that way at the time, those runs would prove to be crucial.
After Karch Kowalczyk threw a shutout seventh and recorded two quick outs in the home half of the eighth, he ran into trouble. A two-out single and a walk spelled the end of the day for Kowalcyk and Edward Paredes came on for Tulsa.But the pitching change did not slow down the Cardinals as they scored three runs on three consecutive singles to bring the score to 6-3. The inning finally came to a close when a Springfield baserunner was cut down trying to advance from second to third by Edwin Rios on a high pop-up that fell in for a base hit in the infield due to swirling winds.
The Drillers got one of those runs back in the top of the ninth on an RBI single by Fernandez after Locastro had recorded his second double of the game earlier in the frame. That insurance run would be greatly appreciated as Springfield would not go down easily in their half of the ninth.
A walk and a single to open the inning took Paredes out of the game as Drillers manager Ryan Garko called on Corey Copping to try to escape the jam. Copping walked Alex Mejia to load the bases before Jose Adolis Garcia hit a sinking line drive to centerfield that appeared to be trouble. But Locastro saved the game for Tulsa as he made a diving catch to his left that limited the Cardinals to a single runner coming home on the play, bringing the score to 7-4.
Copping would escape from there as he got Jacob Wilson to line out to third and Anthony Garcia to fly out to Locastro in center to secure the win and earn his second save of the year.
With the victory, the Drillers evened their season record at 19-19. Michael Johnson was credited with the win for Tulsa after tossing two shutout innings in relief of Buehler while Flaherty was saddled with his first loss of the season.
The Tulsa lineup finished with 15 hits on the day, led by Farmer and Locastro, while Springfield left 10 runners on base.
The Drillers and Cardinals will conclude their four-game series Thursday evening. RHP Scott Barlow (2-2, 2.60 ERA) will take the ball for Tulsa to begin the contest while Springfield will counter with RHP Sandy Alcantara (2-3, 7.11 ERA). First pitch from Springfield is scheduled for 7:10 PM.