The Tulsa Drillers opened their final home series of the 2013 regular season before a record-setting sellout crowd Saturday night in downtown Tulsa. Unfortunately, Jonathan Cornelius and the Springfield Cardinals put a damper on Tulsa's momentous occasion. The Redbirds gave their starter a nice cushion with three runs in the first and Cornelius made it standup as Springfield defeated the Drillers 4-1 before a capacity crowd of 8,062 at ONEOK Field.
Cornelius was in command from the get-go, permitting just one run on three hits through the first seven innings. The left-hander also struck out a season-high nine batters in the process, while issuing two walks, to record his sixth win since joining the Cards in June.
The Drillers, who entered the game trailing Arkansas by three games in the Texas League North Division standings, fall to 28-33 in the second half and 62-67 overall with the loss.
Tulsa's night got off to a rough start as the Cardinals touched starter Daniel Winkler for three runs in the first. Leadoff man James Ramsey lined a single into center field and Collin Walsh worked a five-pitch walk. Winkler retired the next two hitters before Stephen Piscotty lined a two-run double just over Tyler Kuhn's head in right field. Catcher Cody Stanley followed with an RBI single to center to plate Piscotty and give Springfield a 3-0 lead.
Despite his early struggles, Winkler bounced back to hold Springfield scoreless over the next four innings. He allowed three runs on six hits, while striking out five and walking two as he suffered his first Double-A loss.
After being held without a hit for the first three innings, Tulsa jumped on the board with a run in the fourth. Joey Wong's one-out single to center broke up the no-hitter and Kyle Parker followed with a walk. After Angelys Nina flew out, Dustin Garneau drove in Wong with a single into center field. The Drillers almost tallied another run in the inning on Tyler Kuhn's two-out single, but Parker was thrown out at the plate by left fielder Adam Melker as he tried to score from second.
The Redbirds added another run on James Ramsey's two-out RBI single in the seventh. With one out, Luis Mateo laced a double to left field then advanced to third on a Jonathan Cornelius groundout. Ramsey followed with a soft liner into shallow left-center to plate Mateo and bring the final score to 4-1.
Things got interesting in the ninth inning as Tulsa brought the tying run to the plate against Springfield's closer Lee Stoppelman. But with runners in scoring position and two outs, Stoppelman was able to strike out Jayson Langfels looking to end the ballgame.
The two teams will be back at ONEOK Field Sunday for game two of their three-game series. Tulsa's Christian Bergman (8-7, 3.16 ERA) will make his 26th start of the season against Springfield's Richard Castillo (7-9, 4.40 ERA). First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.