In winning two of three games in their season-opening series in San Antonio, the Tulsa Drillers relied on strong pitching.
On Sunday afternoon in the first game of a three-game series in Corpus Christi, the Drillers showed they can also win a game with their bats. Involved in their first high-scoring game of the season, and trailing 7-4 entering the sixth inning, the Drillers got the biggest hit of the game from Kiel Roling as the first baseman belted a grand slam to help send Tulsa to a 9-7 victory.
The come-from-behind win improved the Drillers record to 3-1, and it also assured them of nothing worse than a .500 record in the initial road trip of the 2012 season.
The key sixth inning began with consecutive singles from ORU product Tim Torres and Josh Rutledge. After Mike Mitchell grounded into a force out, Hooks reliever Chris Hicks hit the red-hot Nolan Arenado with a pitch to load the bases and set the stage for Roling. On a 1-0 count, the first baseman lined a pitch down the left field line. The drive just stayed fair and cleared the left field fence for the Drillers first grand slam of the young season. The bases-clearing blast put the Drillers in front 8-7.
Mitchell added an insurance run in the top of the eight with his first homer of the season. The solo shot gave Tulsa a 9-7 lead, and the Drillers bullpen made sure it held by setting the Hooks down in order in three consecutive innings.
Cory Riordan worked a 1-2-3 frame in the bottom of the sixth, and Mike Marbry retired all six batters he faced in the seventh and eighth innings.
Coty Woods retired the first two batters in the bottom of the ninth before the potential game-tying runners reached base. Pinch-hitter Jonathan Singleton got a base hit and Austin Wates walked. Woods escaped the jam by inducing T.J. Steele into a game ending grounder. For Woods, it was his first save of the season.
Tulsa had jumped to an early lead in the game by scoring single runs in both the first and second innings. In the first, Mitchell singled and stole second base. He scored the game's first run when centerfielder Brandon Barnes misplayed Arenado's base hit.
An error also played a role in the second inning run. Mike Zuanich reached to start the frame on third baseman Andrew Simunic's miscue. Zuanich moved to third on Angelys Nina's base hit before scoring on a single by Jose Gonzalez.
The lead disappeared in the bottom of the second as Corpus Christi scored four times off starting pitcher Nick Schmidt to take a 4-2 lead. The big inning included a leadoff walk and four doubles from the Hooks.
Mitchell singled and scored on a double by Arenado in the third to cut the margin to one run.
The Drillers evened the score in the fourth when Gonzalez walked and scored on Rutledge's double to right.
The Hooks broke the 4-4 tie with a three-run fifth inning. After Wates drew a leadoff walk from Schmidt, the lefthander retired T.J. Steele on strikes, but Kody Hinze singled into left field. The hit ended Schmidt's day as manager Duane Espy called on Riordan from the Tulsa bullpen. The right-hander retired Barnes on a fly out, but Jose Martinez followed with his first home run of the season, giving the Hooks a 7-4 lead and setting the stage for Roling's grand slam a half inning later.
The Drillers matched a season high with 12 hits in the game, and most of the damage came from the top of the lineup as the first four hitters accounted for 11 of the hits. Rutledge, Arenado and Roling had two hits apiece, while Mitchell finished 3-5.
Arenado has now hit safely in all four games this season. He is 8-15 (.533) with three doubles and four runs batted in.
Despite surrendering the home run to Martinez, Riordan picked up the win, his first decision of the season.
The Drillers and Hooks will play game two of their three-game series Monday night at Whataburger Field. The pitching matchup will feature Joe Gardner for Tulsa against Jake Buchanan of Corpus Christi. Starting time is scheduled for 7:05PM.
NOTES: The Colorado Rockies announced Sunday morning that Drew Pomeranz would be the starting pitcher for Tulsa in Tuesday night's finale in Corpus Christi. Officially, Pomeranz is the fifth starter for the major league Rockies, but his first turn in the rotation is not scheduled until April 15, so he is making a start for the Drillers. The lefthander was acquired last summer in the trade that sent Ubaldo Jimenez to the Cleveland Indians. He did not allow a run in 10 innings over two starts for the Drillers last season. . .The appearance by Pomeranz means that Edwar Cabrera will now likely start the home opener for the Drillers Thursday night at ONEOK Field. . .Sunday's 12-hit game increased Tulsa's team batting average to .245. . .Defensively, it was the third straight errorless game for the Drillers. . .The Tulsa bullpen has surrendered only 3 runs in 12.1 innings pitched this season.