The Tulsa Drillers have struggled offensively through the early portion of the Texas League season, having trouble getting key hits and scoring runs. In the first two games this weekend of a four-game series in Springfield, those troubles have gone away.
After scoring eight times on 13 hits with three home runs the previous night, the Drillers bats were back in action Sunday afternoon. In a near repeat performance they scored seven times, again getting 13 hits and 3 homers in a 7-3 victory over the Cardinals.
The win was the third straight for the Drillers, matching a season high, and moved them into sole possession of first place in the TL's North Division standings.
Sunday's victory came against a rehabbing major league pitcher, but his day came to a disappointingly, early end because of unfortunate hit by pitch.
In front of a sellout crowd that packed Hammons Field to watch him work, St. Louis Cardinals' pitcher Jamie Garcia, was making his first appearance in a professional game in nearly a year. He is recovering from shoulder problems, and faced the minimum three batters in a scoreless first inning, but ran into problems in the second frame.
In the top of the second, he walked Tom Murphy to lead off the inning, and Harold Riggins delivered his third home run of the season to give Tulsa a 2-0 lead.
In the bottom of the second, the Cardinals loaded the bases with one out off Drillers starter Tyler Anderson. Travis Tartamella popped out for the second out of the inning, bringing Garcia to the plate. On a 0-2 pitch, Anderson struck Garcia on the left elbow, forcing in a run and ending the major leaguer's day. An infield single by Mike O'Neill evened the score at 2-2 before Anderson escaped the jam.
Garcia was removed from the game after the hit by pitch and was taken to the locker room. He was scheduled to visit a local hospital for X-rays on his elbow.
Jonathan Cornelius took over on the mound for the Redbirds and kept the Drillers off the board for three innings, before Tulsa broke the tie in the sixth.
With one out, Cristhian Adames singled, and after eight-pitch battle with Cornelius, Murphy produced his fourth homer of the season to make it 4-2.
The Drillers used another long ball in the ninth to increase the margin. Jayson Langfels and Tyler Massey opened the inning with consecutive singles off Logan Billbrough, and for the second consecutive game, Jared Simon hit a home run. The outfielder's third of the season gave Tulsa a 7-2 cushion.
Anderson survived the unnerving second inning and allowed only four hits and the two runs in five innings of work. The victory improved his record to 3-1.
Ryan Arrowood allowed only one hit in two scoreless innings, and lefthander Kraig Sitton got three ground ball outs in a 1-2-3 eighth.
The Cards added a consolation run in the ninth off Nelson Gonzalez as Matt Williams singled and scored.
Another rehabbing major leaguer experience a better fate than Garcia. Jason Motte, who had 42 saves for St. Louis in 2012 before missing all of last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, overpowered the Drillers in the top of the eighth. Motte needed only 13 pitches to strikeout the side and left the mound to a standing ovation.
The 4-8 hitters for Tulsa all finished with 2 hits in the game, while Adames, Anderson and Cleary Jr. added 1 each.
The two-hits for Langfels extended his hitting streak to seven consecutive games.
Prior to the game, the Drillers made a roster move. They placed Tim Smalling on the Disabled List and removed Brian Humphries from the Inactive List. Humphries missed three days to attend a family funeral.
The two teams will be back in action Monday morning in southwest Missouri. First pitch is slated for 11:10AM at Hammons Field with Richard Castillo (1-2, 3.54 ERA) and Kurt Heyer (2-2, 3.22 ERA) squaring off on the mound.