Through eight innings Tuesday night, the Tulsa Drillers looked to be on their way to a win over the Arkansas Travelers in the opening game of the final regular season homestand. Then Randal Grichuk struck, again.
Tulsa's arch nemesis hit a towering home run to lead off the ninth inning, ending Christian Bergman's shutout bid and tying the game at 1-1. One inning later, Kaleb Cowart delivered the game-winning hit to drive home Rolando Gomez and give the Travelers a 2-1victory in 10 innings at ONEOK Field.
Grichuk has been a thorn in Tulsa's side all season. The right fielder now has nine home runs and 20 RBI against the Drillers, the most by any opponent. His game-tying homer Tuesday marred an otherwise outstanding performance by Bergman.
The right-hander permitted just two hits prior to the blast, and stood just three outs away from throwing his second complete-game shutout in the month of August. He finished the game allowing the one run on three hits, while striking out four and walking none over 8 1/3 innings.
In the tenth, Cole White was unable to keep the game knotted at one. Robbie Widlansky singled to begin the inning, and exited in favor of pinch runner Rolando Gomez. After Carlos Ramirez sacrificed Gomez to second with a bunt, Cowart lined an RBI single into right-center field.
Mike Morin retired the Drillers in order in the bottom of the tenth to end the game.
Tom Murphy accounted for Tulsa's run in the fifth inning, hitting his first Double A home run to give Tulsa a 1-0 advantage. The catcher's opposite field blast stayed just inside the right field foul pole. Murphy, the #6 prospect in the Colorado Rockies organization according to MLB.com, hit 19 homers at Class-A Asheville before being promoted to Tulsa in early August.
Tulsa missed a golden opportunity to add insurance runs in the seventh, but was unable to capitalize. Angelys Nina dropped a base hit into right field to begin the inning, and after fly out, moved himself into scoring position by stealing second base. Murphy then walked and Jayson Langfels reached on an infield single to load the bases with only one out, prompting Arkansas' manager Tim Bogar to make a pitching change. Left-hander Nick Maronde came on to face Delta Cleary Jr., whom he struck out before getting Tyler Kuhn on a groundout to first base, ending the threat.
The game remained 1-0 until Grichuk's game-tying home run in the ninth inning.
The Drillers fell to 27-30 in the second half with the loss, but remain two games behind the division-leading Springfield Cardinals, who suffered a big loss to Northwest Arkansas.
The Drillers and Travelers return to action Wednesday for game two of their four-game series. Tyler Matzek (8-8, 3.53 ERA) will take the mound for Tulsa against Mike Piazza (4-2, 3.31 ERA) of Arkansas. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. at ONEOK Field.