After finishing off their final homestand with a pair of wins, the Tulsa Drillers engaged in a good ole' fashioned pitcher's duel at Northwest Arkansas Tuesday.
But after seven well-pitched, well-defensed innings, the Drillers gift-wrapped a big eighth inning rally for the Naturals before suffering a 5-1 loss to kickoff their final road trip of the regular season.
Northwest Arkansas failed to get a ball out of the infield in the eighth, but plated four runs thanks to walks and overall sloppy play from Tulsa to break a 1-1 standstill.
Reliever Joe Gardner walked Lane Adams and Matt Fields to begin the fateful inning. Rey Navarro then laid down a bunt to move both runners into scoring position, but when catcher Tom Murphy's throw sailed wide of first, Adams trotted home to score the go-ahead run. A fielder's choice RBI, a squeeze bunt RBI and a run-scoring wild pitch later, the Naturals held a 5-1 going into the ninth.
Northwest Arkansas' Andrew Triggs shut down Tulsa in the ninth to record his first career Double-A victory.
Drillers' starter Eddie Butler's fifth Double-A start Tuesday was his worst one since being promoted, relative to his first four starts being so impressive. The Rockies' #3 prospect (according to MLB.com) surrendered one run on four hits in 4 2/3 innings, upping his Texas League ERA to a still microscopic 0.73.
Butler also walked three and struck out four, as he failed to reach his five-inning limit for the first time this month. He has now given up 11 hits through 24 2/3 innings with Tulsa.
Tulsa just missed a run in the first inning. With one out and Delta Cleary Jr. on third, Angelys Nina lifted a fly ball to left field. Northwest Arkansas outfielder Whit Merrifield made the catch and fired home to cut down Cleary Jr. as he attempted to score to end the inning.
In the second inning, Butler had two atypical moments that allowed the Naturals to draw first blood. First, he issued a two-out walk to Fields. It was just the third free pass he'd allowed since joining the Drillers on August 4. Second, he gave up a run. Navarro followed the walk to Fields with a triple down the right field line to plate just the second run Butler's allowed at the Double-A level.
The Drillers responded by tying the game with a run in the third. Tim Smalling drew a leadoff walk and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Cleary Jr. After Cristhian Adames lined out to center, Kyle Parker ripped an RBI double to right to tie the game at 1-1.
The game remained tied until Northwest Arkansas' onslaught in the eighth.
In his first game back since returning from the disabled list, Tulsa's Adames went 2-4 in the loss to extend his hitting streak to a team-high 12 games, besting the mark he set back in July.
Delta Cleary Jr. also turned in a two-hit performance for the Drillers.
The Drillers and Naturals will hookup for game two of their four-game series Wednesday night at Arvest Ballpark in Springdale. Tim Gustafson (6-11, 5.49 ERA) will head to the mound for Tulsa to take on Aaron Brooks (6-6, 3.87 ERA) of Northwest Arkansas.