Pitching was the story in Friday night's doubleheader between the Tulsa Drillers and the Arkansas Travelers.
In game one, it was another dominant performance from Dan Winkler that gave the Drillers a 4-0 victory, but in the nightcap, it was the Travelers that rode pitching to a win. Former Tulsa Union hurler Drew Rucinski threw six scoreless innings as the Travs blanked Tulsa 3-0 to salvage a split of the doubleheader.
The storyline from the first game was a familiar one - Winkler silencing the Travelers' bats. Making his third start against Arkansas this season, the right-hander allowed only one hit and two walks in five shutout innings. He had five strikeouts in the victory that improved his record to 5-1 and lowered his ERA to 1.07.
In three starts against the Travs this year, Winkler is now a perfect 3-0 and has surrendered only two runs in 19 innings. In addition, he has issued only four walks while collecting 23 strikeouts.
Winkler, who was the California League's Pitcher of the Year in 2013, now leads the Texas League in wins, ERA and strikeouts.
In Friday's victory, he owned a lead when he took the mound for the first time, thanks to a two-run top of the first from his teammates. The game's first hitter, Taylor Featherston, drew a walk and promptly moved to third on a base hit by Delta Cleary Jr. Featherston scored the game's first run on an infield grounder from Cristhian Adames that shortstop Vance Albitz fielded and threw wildly to first.
After Tom Murphy walked to load the bases, Ryan Casteel hit a soft liner that left fielder Zach Borenstein appeared to initially catch, but the ball came out of his glove. When two runners ended up at second base on the play, Murphy was called out, but Cleary Jr. scored on the play to give Tulsa and Winkler a 2-0 lead.
The Drillers struck again in the second inning when Jayson Langfels singled, stole second and scored on a base hit by Tyler Massey.
The lead swelled to 4-0 in the sixth when Brian Humphries walked and eventually scored on a sacrifice fly from Cleary Jr.
Kraig Sitton and Cole White followed Winkler to the mound, and each worked a scoreless inning to complete the Tulsa shutout victory.
In the second game, it was Broken Arrow native Rucinski who stole the pitching spotlight. The right-hander, who pitched collegiately at Ohio State University, surrendered only three hits and one walk while striking out seven in his six innings.
Carlos Hernandez, making a spot start for the Drillers instead of filling his normal bullpen role, pitched effectively but was tagged for the loss.
After a scoreless first inning, the Travs' Brian Hernandez led off the second with a double. One out later, he scored the game's first run when Anderson De La Rosa singled off the glove of first baseman Harold Riggins.
The Arkansas tandem struck again in the fourth inning. Zach Borenstein led off with a single, and Brian Hernandez followed with his second hit. Following a double steal, De La Rosa plated both runners with a double that gave the Travs a 3-0 lead.
The Drillers threatened in the seventh and final inning, putting runners at first and second with one out on a pair of walks from Cam Bedrosian. The hard-throwing Bedrosian recovered to strike out Riggins and Joey Wong to end the game.
Carlos Hernandez pitched 3 2/3 innings, his longest outing of the season. He also collected a season high seven strikeouts, but the loss dropped his record to 0-2.
Ryan Arrowood and Nelson Gonzalez combined to work 2 1/3 shutout innings in relief of the Tulsa starter.
The two teams combined for 19 strikeouts in the second game. The three hits from the Drillers matched a season low.
The two teams will play the third game of their four-game series Saturday night at Dickey Stephens Park. Jon Gray (2-2, 3.64 ERA) will take the mound for the Drillers, while Yeiper Castillo (3-2, 5.52 ERA) will pitch for the Travelers. Starting time is scheduled for 7:10PM in North Little Rock.