The Tulsa Drillers bounced back from Thursday's night 4-0 loss to Springdale with a 3-1 victory over Northwest Arkansas Friday night. Jon Gray picked up his fourth win with yet another solid outing, pitching six innings of one-run ball and striking out four.
The win improved the Drillers record to 22-19, giving them a two-game lead over the Arkansas Travelers for first place in the Texas League North. The game, much to the delight of fans and players, lasted only two hours and twenty-one minutes, as temperatures, which dipped into the forties, and gusting winds made for an unusually chilly night in Springdale.
Gray seems to have found his comfort zone on the mound after a rocky start to the season. After allowing 9 runs in his first 2 starts on a combined 6.2 IP, he has allowed only 5 runs over his last 6 starts on 35.2 IP, good for a 1.26 ERA during that stretch. Friday night's outing dropped Gray's ERA on the season to 2.98, the first time the 2013 MLB third-overall draft choice's ERA has been below 3 this season.
Taylor Featherston, who had been in a 3-36 slump as of late, wasted no time in getting the offense going. Featherston led off the game with a double, moved to third on Delta Cleary Jr.'s sac bunt and scored on a sac fly from Christhian Adames, putting the Drillers on top 1-0 early.
Featherston struck again in the top of the third with a solo home run to put the Drillers up 2-0, his third on the season. The ball cut through a strong wind and just managed to leave the field, ricocheting off of the top of the left field wall on its way out.
In the top of the sixth, Tulsa added another. Following a line drive single by Ryan Casteel, Harold Riggins launched a deep fly ball that hit off of the center field wall, resulting in an RBI triple for Riggins.
The Naturals cut the Drillers lead to two in the bottom half of the sixth. Whit Merrifield led off with a single and promptly stole second. After tagging up to third on Lane Adams' fly out, Merrifield scored on a sac fly from Jorge Bonifacio, who took the Texas League RBI lead on the play at 29. The lone run was the first time Northwest Arkansas has scored in 17 innings against Gray this season.
Cole White came into the game in the top of the seventh in relief of Jon Gray. White held the Tulsa lead with two scoreless innings, allowing only one hit and one walk while striking out two.
Closer Scott Oberg pitched a one-two-three ninth inning to notch his eighth save, second most in the Texas League.
The Drillers and Naturals will play their second game of the short two-game series in Springdale Saturday night before returning to Tulsa to play two more games. 2011 Rockies first-round selection Tyler Anderson (3-1, 2.57 ERA) will take on Northwest Arkansas's J.C. Sulbaran (1-2, 3.71 ERA). First pitch at Arvest Ballpark is scheduled for 6:05 PM.