There may not be a team happier that the second half of the 2015 Texas League season has begun than the Tulsa Drillers. After falling behind early, the Drillers roared back for the second straight day and then weathered through multiple Cardinal comeback attempts to secure their fourth straight win, defeating Springfield 6-5 Wednesday afternoon.
The four-game winning streak matches the Drillers' 2015 high. The series sweep of Springfield also marks the first four-game sweep for the Drillers this season. But it didn't come easy.
The Cardinals scored quickly to take an early lead. With runners on first and third, Jonathan Rodriguez cracked a double to left off Tulsa starter Chris Anderson to plate Jeremy Hazelbaker with the first run of the game. Anthony Garcia tried to score from first, but he was cut down at the plate thanks to a solid relay from Drillers shortstop Ronald Torreyes to catcher Ali Solis who tagged out Garcia for the second out of the inning. Anderson was able to end the inning without any more damage and keep the Drillers deficit at one.
Rodriguez was a thorn in Anderson's side again in the third as he hit his second RBI double in as many at-bats to score Garcia from second to give Springfield the 2-0 lead.
Anderson battled from there as he worked around Cardinal baserunners in each of the next three innings to keep the Drillers within striking distance. And his teammates responded.
The Drillers began their comeback in the sixth inning as theybenefited from a Springfield miscue to trim their deficit. With two outs, Kyle Farmer reached base when third baseman Patrick Wisdom mishandled a routine grounder to extend the inning. Lars Anderson took advantage of the mistake as he proceeded to double Farmer home to make the score 2-1 and shift the momentum.
After Springfield was retired in the bottom half of the sixth, Tulsa's bats exploded for a big inning for the second straight game. Facing reliever Chris Thomas, Jeremy Rathjen got the top of the seventh started with his third hit of the day. Nate Samson followed a Jarek Cunningham walk with a sacrifice bunt attempt, but Thomas fired to third to force Rathjen for the first out of the inning. But the Drillers responded as Torreyes, Farmer and Brian Burgamy all came up with RBI knocks to give Tulsa the lead. Springfield brought in a reliever with two outs but Adam Law kept the runs scoring with a double to left that scored Farmer to put Tulsa up 6-2. And that extra run would prove to be very valuable.
Randy Fontanez worked around trouble in the bottom of the seventh but would not be so fortunate in the eighth.
Fontanez began the eighth by getting two quick outs before Springfield began its comeback attempt. Hazelbaker lined a single to center and promptly moved to second on a walk to Nick Martini. Everyone came around to score as Garcia got in the middle of the action again, launching his seventh homer of the year to make the score 6-5. Fontanez then walked Rodriguez on four pitches to bring up the dangerous Mike Ohlman. Tulsa turned to the bullpen for Jacob Rhame who entered the game to try and end the threat. He did so thanks to his catcher Kyle Farmer. Farmer, who had shifted to catcher following a double-switch in the sixth, cut down Rodriguez on an attempted stealwith a strong throw to second to end the inning and keep the Drillers up by one.
Jeremy Horst came on to pitch the bottom of the ninth with the Drillers clinging to the one-run lead and made things interesting. Springfield was able to get the potential tying and winning runs on base as it had men on first and second with two outs. But Horst got pinch-hitter Charlie Tilson to fly out to right, earning his team-leading seventh save of the year while securing the series sweep for Tulsa.
The Drillers will now travel to Springdale as they begin a four-game series against the North Division first-half champion Northwest Arkansas Naturals on Thursday night. First pitch is set for 7:05PM.