The Tulsa Drillers offense showed signs of life Tuesday night in the opening game of a six-game homestand at ONEOK Field. After struggling to score runs on their just-completed road trip, the Drillers generated five runs on nine hits, including three homers, in the opener against Midland. Still, it was not enough to produce a victory. Josh Whitaker broke a 5-5 deadlock with his fifth home run of the season to send the RockHounds to a 6-5 victory.
Despite the defeat, the five runs for Tulsa were a positive sign. The Drillers had scored a total of only 15 runs during a six-game trip to Midland and Frisco to complete an extended road trip.
The offense began early as Peter Lavin put the Drillers in front in the bottom of the first inning with his second home run of the season. The drive came with the bases empty and landed on the grass berm beyond the bullpens in right field.
Yadir Drake and Jarek Cunningham combined to up Tulsa's lead to 2-0 in the second inning. Drake led off with a lined base hit, and Cunningham brought him home when he doubled into the gap in right-centerfield.
Chris Anderson opened with three scoreless frames before the RockHounds produced a run in the top of the fourth. With one out, back-to-back doubles from Whitaker and Matt Olson pulled the Hounds to within 2-1.
Cunningham got the run back in the bottom half of the fourth when he drove a pitch from Midland starter Chris Jensen down the right field line for his third home run of the season. The homer just cleared the fence to the left of the 307 foot sign before caroming back into the field of play.
Midland erased the Tulsa lead with a four-run fifth inning in which the first seven batters reached safely off Anderson. Ryon Healy opened the rally with his fourth home run of the season. A double, a bunt single and a walk loaded the bases for Colin Walsh who singled home a run to tie the score at 3-3. A base hit from Whitaker brought home the third run before a passed ball by catcher Ali Solis allowed another runner to score, giving the RockHounds a 5-3 lead.
Drillers' first baseman Lars Anderson cut the deficit to one run with his fifth homer of the year in the bottom of the sixth.
Tulsa tied the game at 5-5 in the eighth, and would have taken the lead if not for an outstanding defensive play from the Hounds. A bases loaded walk to Adam Law tied the score and kept the bases full for pinch-hitter Shawn Zarraga. Zarraga lined a sharp grounder up the middle that shortstop Chad Pinder grabbed on a dive, starting an inning-ending, 6-4-3 double play.
It did not take the RockHounds long to go back in front. In the top of the ninth, Whitaker capped his big night by leading off against reliever Jacob Rhame with his homer to put the Hounds back in front 6-5. The towering drive just cleared the wall in deep, left-center field.
Closer Ryan Dull held the lead by working around a one-out single from Lavin in the bottom of the ninth to close out the game.
Whitaker finished 3-5 and just a triple short of the cycle.
Tulsa's nine-hit night included two hits each from Lavin, Lar Anderson, Drake and Cunningham.
The two teams will be right back in action Wednesday afternoon at ONEOK Field. Starting time is scheduled for 12:05PM with the pitching matchup featuring Jeremy Kehrt (3-4, 3.51 ERA) for the Drillers and Nate Long (3-3, 2.81 ERA) for the RockHounds.