The Tulsa Drillers closed out a six-game, eight-day homestand with a narrow 4-3 win over Northwest Arkansas Monday afternoon at ONEOK Field. The victory increased first-place Tulsa's lead in the Texas League's North Division to two games, pending results of other games in the league that began later.
The Drillers won all but one game on the homestand, finishing with a 5-1 record.
Monday's finale was attended by several thousand students, resulting in the seventh sellout of the year at ONEOK Field.
The Naturals scored in the first inning but it was a short-lived lead. After Tulsa starter Eddie Butler retired the first two batters, he walked Jorge Bonifacio. Cheslor Cuthbert then beat out an infield chopper, and when Bonifacio headed for third, first baseman Jayson Langfels' throw skipped past Joey Wong, giving the Naturals a 1-0 lead.
Tulsa responded with a two-out rally of its own in the bottom of the first. With the bases empty, Ryan Casteel and Brian Humphries both singled, and Wong dropped a run-scoring hit into shallow left field to tie the game at 1-1.
The Drillers took the lead with a three-run third. Humphries led off with a base hit, and when first baseman Mark Threlkeld threw errantly on Wong's sacrifice bunt, Tulsa had runners at first and second with no outs. Jared Simon followed with a drive into right-center field that bounced into the bullpen for a ground-rule double, allowing Humphries to score the go-ahead run.
Naturals' starter J.C. Sulbaran retired the next two batters before Jose Rivera delivered a big two-out hit with a double that plated both Wong and Simon to give the Drillers a 4-1 lead.
Butler was not at his best, needing 97 pitches (63 strikes) to get through 5 2/3 innings, but was helped by a 21 m.p.h. wind blowing in from centerfield. He surrendered only three hits but issued a season-high four walks in claiming the victory that improved his record to 3-4.
Three of those walks came in the sixth inning, loading the bases with two outs. Reliever Ryan Arrowood came on and retired Threlkeld on a towering fly ball to end the threat.
Arrowood worked around a two-out walk in a scoreless seventh inning, and Nelson Gonzalez pitched a 1-2-3 eighth.
Cole White was summoned for the ninth and worked through a rocky inning to record his first save of the season. The first three Northwest Arkansas batters in the ninth reached safely against the right-hander on a walk, a hit batter and another walk. With the bases loaded and no outs, White then uncorked a wild pitch that cut Tulsa's lead to 4-2.
He retired Micah Gibbs on a strikeout before a run-scoring ground out by Ethan Chapman cut the margin to a single run. With two outs and the potential tying run a third, White ended the game with a called strike three on pinch-hitter Justin Trapp.
The four Tulsa pitchers combined to hold the Naturals without a hit over the final four innings. The last hit for Northwest Arkansas came on a one-out single from Orlando Calixte in the fourth inning.
The Drillers out-hit the Naturals 10-4 in the contest, with eight of Tulsa's ten starters collecting at least one hit.
Casteel's first-inning single extended his hitting streak to eight straight games, while Adames and Rivera extended their streaks to three games.
Tulsa will have a day off on Tuesday before beginning a six-day, six-game road trip Wednesday night in Frisco. The series opener with the RoughRiders will feature a pitching matchup of Dan Winkler (5-2, 1.48 ERA) versus ex-Driller Edwar Cabrera (1-1, 3.82 ERA). Starting time Wednesday evening at Frisco's Dr Pepper Ballpark is scheduled for 7:05PM.