The Tulsa Drillers closed out the 2013 regular season Monday afternoon in Springfield in winning fashion. The Drillers overcame an early deficit by scoring in three straight innings to record an 8-4 victory at Hammons Field. The win was the fourth straight for Tulsa.
The Drillers will have an off day on Tuesday before beginning the Texas League Playoffs Wednesday evening at ONEOK Field. Tulsa will host the Arkansas Travelers in Games 1 and 2 of the North Division Playoff Series Wednesday and Thursday nights. Both games will begin at 7:05PM in downtown Tulsa.
Games 3, and if necessary, 4 and 5, will be played in Little Rock Friday through Sunday.
There were two main stories from the Drillers victory on Monday. First, was the Tulsa offense which will enter the playoffs in its best form of the year.
The month of August was the team's best offensive month of the season, and the strong play continued Sunday with 14 hits and the 8 runs. Since August 1, the Drillers have compiled a .270 team batting average and have scored 5.2 runs per games. The previous best months this season were a .243 batting average in July and 4.4 runs per game in May.
The second storyline was starting pitcher Tim Gustafson. After going winless in August with a 0-5 record and a 9.68 ERA, the right-hander picked up the victory Monday with a strong performance. Gustafson allowed only two runs and six hits in seven innings. He issued two walks and recorded two strikeouts, throwing 68 strikes in 104 pitches. The outing is important because Gustafson would be the starting pitcher in a possible Game 5 in the series with the Travelers.
The Drillers jumped on top of the Cards in the regular season finale. In the top of the second, Tyler Kuhn doubled and scored on a base hit by Tim Smalling.
The Redbirds went in front with a pair of runs in the fourth. With one out Xavier Scruggs belted a solo home run. It was the 58th of his Springfield career, making him the franchise's all-time home run leader.
After the blast from Scruggs, Stephen Piscotty and Adam Melker produced back-to-back doubles to give the Cards a 2-1 lead.
Tulsa's Jayson Langfels tied the score with a solo home run in the fifth. The opposite-field drive was the 14th of the season for Langfels.
The Drillers went back in front in the sixth inning. Cristhian Adames led off with a base hit and scored when Kyle Parker followed with a double. A two-out hit from Smalling plated Parker to give Tulsa a 4-2 lead.
A four-run seventh inning put the game away for the Drillers. Joey Wong led off with a hit and moved to third on a double by Langfels. Gustafson helped his own cause with single to center that scored Wong. Langfels later came home on a fielder's choice grounder from Delta Cleary Jr. A two-out hit from Parker loaded the bases, setting the stage for a two-run double from Dustin Garneau that increased the Tulsa lead to 8-2.
Springfield veterans Ruben Gotay and Scruggs capped the scoring in the eighth inning in what possibly could have been their final at-bats at Hammons Field. Gotay led off with a base hit off Mike Marbry, and Scruggs then padded his career homer mark. The first baseman cleared the centerfield fence with his 29th home run of the season and the 59th of his Springfield career to make the final score 8-4.
The win allowed the Drillers to finish with a 34-36 second-half record and a 68-70 season mark.
In Wednesday's playoff opener, the pitching matchup will feature Christian Bergman (8-7, 3.37 ERA) for the Drillers against Michael Roth (6-3, 4.20 ERA) for the Travelers. Roth has also pitched in 15 games in the majors this season with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, logging a 1-1 record and a 7.20 ERA.
First pitch at ONEOK Field is slated for 7:05PM