Last year, Dan Winkler was named the Class-A California League's Pitcher of the Year. If the month of April is any indication, Winkler may be in the running for a similar award from the Double-A Texas League this season.
Sunday afternoon at Northwest Arkansas, the right-hander turned in his fifth straight solid start and led the Tulsa Drillers to a 5-1 victory over the Naturals.
Winkler held Northwest Arkansas without a hit through the first three innings Sunday before eventually surrendering six hits and one run in his six innings of work.
His lone blemish came off the bat of Justin Trapp leading off the fifth inning. The second baseman hit his second home run of the season inside the right field foul pole. The homer ended a streak of 15.2 scoreless innings for Winkler.
It is not often that a starting pitcher surrenders only one run and actually has his ERA go up, but that is what happened to Winkler on Sunday. He entered the start with a 0.75 ERA this season and left with a 0.90 mark.
The victory improved his record to 3-1.
Northwest Arkansas starter Tim Melville also pitched effectively, but he was undone by his and his teammate's fielding. The Drillers, who have been struggling offensively, took advantage of a pair of errors from the Naturals to give Winkler the only support he needed.
With the game scoreless, Tyler Massey reached on an error by Trapp to open the top of the third inning. After Jayson Langfels singled, Delta Cleary Jr. laid down a sacrifice bunt, but Melville fielded the roller and threw wildly past first base. Massey scored the game's first run on the error, while Langfels and Cleary Jr. advanced to second and third.
Following an infield ground out from Taylor Featherston that plated Langfels, Joey Wong singled home another run to give Tulsa and Winkler a 3-0 cushion.
After Trapp's homer in the fifth, Brian Humphries put the Drillers four runs in front in the sixth. Wong and Dustin Garneau singled to open the inning, and Humphries brought home both runners with a double into the gap in left-center field. The hit ended a 1-17 slump for the outfielder.
Reliever Ryan Arrowood followed Winkler to the mound and kept the 5-1 lead intact. Arrowood allowed three hits and did not walk a batter in three shutout innings. The outing earned him his first Double-A save.
The Driller won despite being out hit 9-5.
Tulsa will conclude its brief two-game trip to Northwest Arkansas Monday morning. Chandler native and former OU hurler Jon Gray (1-2, 4.91 ERA) will make the start for the Drillers, while Sam Selman (1-1, 2.45 ERA) will take the mound for the Naturals. First pitch at Arvest Ballpark is scheduled for 11:05 a.m.