The Tulsa Drillers are going to the Texas League Playoffs for the first time since 2007. The Drillers won their seventh game in a row Saturday night with a 3-1 victory over the Arkansas Travelers and clinched the North Division first-half title.
The script for Tulsa's title clinching victory was similar to many of their first-half wins, with strong starting pitching leading the way. Both teams combined for only seven hits in Saturday's contest, but the Drillers produced three runs from their four hits.
As he has been for much of the year, Edwar Cabrera was outstanding in the win. The lefthander matched a season high by working eight innings. He allowed only three hits, one walk and one unearned run while striking out five.
Josh Rutledge gave Cabrera an early lead to work with when he homered on the first pitch of the game from A.J. Schugel. The home run was Rutledge's ninth of the season and gave Tulsa a quick 1-0 lead. It matched the shortstop's feat from opening day, as he also homered in the first at-bat of the season in the victory over San Antonio.
In the third inning, the Drillers upped their lead to 2-0 when Mike Mitchell tripled and scored on a sacrifice fly by Rutledge.
The lead increased to three runs in the fourth as Nolan Arenado singled and scored on a sacrifice fly from Corey Dickerson.
Cabrera carried a shutout into the sixth inning before the Travelers finally pushed a run across. After being hit by a pitch, Renny Osuna advanced to third on a stolen base and throwing error by Cabrera. He eventually scored on a base hit by Jean Segura to trim Tulsa's lead to 3-1.
It would be the only damage against the Tulsa starter. Cabrera set the Travs down in order in the seventh before pitching out of a one-out jam in the eighth inning when Darwin Perez reached on an error by Arenado, and Jimmy Swift singled. Cabrera escaped the trouble by retiring Osuna on a fly out and by striking out Segura.
Coty Woods worked a 1-2-3 ninth to close out the title-clinching win and record his 12th save of the season.
By winning the first-half crown, the Drillers have guaranteed their spot in the Texas League Playoffs that will begin in September. The Drillers will now host the first two games of the North Division Playoff Series that will likely be played on September 5 and 6. If they were to also win the second-half crown, they would also host a possible game five in the series.
Tulsa has three games remaining in the first half before the second-half of the season begins on Wednesday.
The Drillers will conclude their four-game series in Little Rock against the Travelers at 6:00PM Sunday evening. A victory would give them their second straight series sweep. The pitching matchup in the finale will feature Nick Schmidt (4-3, 3.38 ERA) for Tulsa and Johnny Hellweg (2-5, 4.15 ERA) for Arkansas.
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