The Tulsa Drillers are starting to gain some momentum as they head into this week's Texas League Playoffs. After seven scoreless innings in Springfield Sunday night, the Drillers broke a scoreless tie with two runs in the eighth before thwarting a Cardinals' comeback bid in the ninth to secure a 2-1 victory on the road at Hammons Field.
The first-half division champion Drillers, who have now won their last three games, have just one regular season game remaining before beginning their North Division Playoff Series. Tulsa will face off with the second-half champion Arkansas Travelers in a best-of-five series that will begin at ONEOK Field on Wednesday, September 4. Game two will be played Thursday in downtown Tulsa.
With the score tied 0-0 Sunday, Tyler Kuhn doubled off Springfield starter Tim Cooney to lead off the eighth inning. Tim Smalling followed by hitting a sharp groundball back up the middle that glanced off shortstop Luis Mateo's glove and into center field for an RBI single. Smalling, who moved to second on Springfield center field Starlin Rodriguez' throw home, tagged and advanced to third on a fly out by pitcher Joe Gardner.
With the infield playing in on the grass due to Smalling's presence on third with less than two outs, Delta Cleary Jr. hit a Texas Leaguer into shallow right field to put the Driller ahead 2-0. Cardinals' second baseman Matt Williams seemed to have a beat on the ball as he retreated backwards, but was unable to reel in the catch as the ball fell in for what was ruled a base hit.
Cooney, who had given up 25 hits to the Drillers in three previous starts, surrendered just six hits over eight innings in this one. The left-hander also struck out six eight and walked none, but was saddled with his 10th loss of the year.
Tulsa starter Eddie Butler pitched three scoreless innings before giving way to Leuris Gomez prior to the fourth. The highly touted prospect permitted two hits, while striking out three and walking one to lower his ERA to 0.65 in 27 2/3 Double-A innings.
Butler's abbreviated outing will serve as a tune up for the upcoming playoffs.
Gomez combined with Joe Gardner to pitch five scoreless innings in relief of Butler, striking out six and walking none.
Closer Cole White came on in the ninth and was able to nail down his 19th save of the season despite hitting two batters and walking another. Springfield's Stephen Piscotty's sacrifice fly with one out in the inning plated Ruben Gotay to breakup Tulsa's shutout, but with runners on second and third, White induced a game-ending groundout by Matt Williams.
The two teams will conclude the 2013 regular season with a Labor Day matinee Monday at Hammons Field. Tulsa will send Tim Gustafson (6-12, 5.56 ERA) to the mound for the season finale, while the Redbirds will counter with Zach Petrick (3-3, 4.04 ERA). First pitch is scheduled for 12:09 p.m. in Springfield.