Cody Bellinger came into Saturday's game struggling a bit at the plate after missing the first month of the season with a hip injury. But those struggles seemed to be a thing of the past as the LA Dodgers number five overall prospect went 3-5, capped by a walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the tenth inning to lead the Drillers to a 6-2 victory over the Arkansas Travelers at ONEOK Field.
The win marked the first four-game sweep for the Drillers since last June when they defeated the Springfield Cardinals in a four-game set on the road. It was also the first four-game sweep at home for the club since June 10-13 back in 2012 when Tulsa swept the Northwest Arkansas Naturals at ONEOK Field.
Following two scoreless innings to begin the game, the Travs pushed across the first run of the day.
After Tulsa starter Scott Barlow retired the first two Arkansas batters in the top of the third inning, Alex Yarbrough reached on a line drive double to right to extend the inning. Andrew Daniel then hit a slow ground ball that shortstop Brandon Trinkwon was forced to get rid of quickly. The hurried throw though was low and scooted away from Bellinger at first base. Yarbrough, who was running on the play with two outs, kept on going after seeing the ball roll away and scored to put Arkansas on top 1-0.
The score would hold there for the next several innings as Barlow and Arkansas starter Victor Alcantara traded zeroes on the mound.
Barlow ended up turning in his best start of the season as the right-hander completed seven innings, allowing just the one unearned run, while striking out six Travs. It was also the fourth straight quality start for Barlow.
Alcantara, the Los Angeles Angels number four overall prospect according to MLB.com, did not strike out any Driller batters, but also did not allow a run over his five innings of work.
Facing Arkansas reliever D.J. Johnson in the seventh, the Tulsa lineup went to work.
Bellinger and Willie Calhoun sparked the inning with back-to-back singles to put runners on the corners with no outs. Devan Ahart plated Bellinger with an RBI groundout before Andrew Toles followed suit two batters later to score Calhoun, putting the Drillers in front 2-1.
It appeared the one run lead would be enough for Tulsa as Jordan Schafer turned in a scoreless eighth inning of work, and Caleb Dirks followed by recording the first two outs in the top of the ninth. But Cal Towey stepped up and launched a two-out, two-strike blast over the right field fence to knot things up at 2-2.
The home run for the Travs was the first they had hit in their last 96 innings of play. It also capped a big day at the plate for Towey who was the only Arkansas batter to have a multi-hit game as he finished the day 3-4.
After the Drillers went down in order in the bottom of the ninth, the game went into extras.
Grant Dayton came on for the Drillers to pitch the top of the tenth and helped turn the momentum in Tulsa's favor by setting down the Travs in order.
Arkansas reliever Danny Reynolds began the home half of the tenth by striking out the first two batters of the inning before suddenly losing his command. Reynolds walked Kyle Farmer before moving him all the way to third thanks to two wild pitches with Alex Verdugo at the plate. At that point, the decision was made to intentionally walk Verdugo and bring Jacob Scavuzzo up to the plate. But that decision would not profit the visitors as Reynolds then hit Scavuzzo with a pitch to load the bases.
That brought Bellinger up to the plate who watched two straight balls go by before launching the next pitch over the billboards in the right field bullpen for a walk-off grand slam. The blast was Bellinger's first career Double-A homer after he hit 30 last season at Single-A Rancho Cucamonga. It was also the first home run allowed by Reynolds this season.
Drillers manager Ryan Garko was not at the game Saturday after taking a personal leave of absence for the day. Coach Leo Garcia ran things for the club in Garko's absence.
Following an off day on Sunday, the Drillers will travel to Missouri to begin an eight-game road trip, beginning with a four-game set against the Springfield Cardinals. Getting the starting nod in the first game Monday night for Tulsa will be RHP Chase De Jong (2-4, 3.75 ERA.) He will be opposed by RHP Mike Mayers (3-2, 2.61 ERA) for Springfield. First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 PM.