Joe Gardner continued the streak of quality outings for Tulsa starting pitchers Sunday night, and the result was another victory for the Drillers. Gardner extended Tulsa's stretch of quality starts to 12 straight games by allowing only one run in seven dominant innings. The outing helped the Drillers to a 6-3 win over Northwest Arkansas.
Paid attendance for the victory at ONEOK Field was 4,548, bringing the season total to 367,401. It is the second highest mark in the 100-plus years of professional baseball in the city of Tulsa, only topped by the total in the inaugural season of ONEOK Field.
The crowd was treated to an impressive performance from Gardner. He was outstanding from the start and began the night by retiring the first 11 Naturals' hitters in order. The perfect stretch came on the heels of Tulsa pitcher's retiring the final 16 batters in Saturday's victory, running the streak of consecutive batters retired to 27.
The nine-innings of perfection finally ended when Brian Fletcher singled with two outs in the top of the fourth inning.
Gardner, who was acquired last season by the Colorado Rockies in the trade that sent Ubaldo Jimenez to the Cleveland Indians, blanked the Naturals through the first six innings. He retired the first two batters in the seventh before his shutout bid ended with a solo home run from right fielder Carlo Testa.
It was the only damage in the game against Gardner, as he allowed just the one run on three hits and one walk. He recorded seven strikeouts in his seven innings of work.
Since returning to the starting rotation on August 4, he has not allowed more than two earned runs in any of his five outings. Gardner has combined to pitch 29.2 innings in those five games, logging a 2.43 ERA.
Right fielder Tim Torres gave Gardner an early lead to work with.
In the bottom of the second inning, Torres followed a single by Kiel Roling with his third home run of the season. The opposite-field drive gave the Drillers a 2-0 lead.
Miscues from the Naturals helped Tulsa double the lead in the third inning. Chris Pettit and Mike Mitchell led off with consecutive singles. With one out, Troy Tulowitzki hit a slow roller that shortstop Alex McClure fielded and threw over the head of first baseman Mario Lisson. Pettit came home with Tulsa's third run on the miscue.
Roling followed the error with another soft grounder to the left side of the infield that looked likely to be a double play, but third baseman Yowill Espinal's throw sailed wide of the second base bag and into right field. The second error of the inning allowed Mitchell to jog home and give the Drillers a 4-0 cushion.
In the sixth, Jimmy Cesario doubled and scored on a sacrifice fly from Pettit.
Pettit plated Tulsa's final run in the bottom of the eighth with a base hit that scored Torres.
The Drillers appeared on their way to an easy victory before things got interesting in the ninth. Closer Josh Sullivan came on and loaded the bases by walking the inning's first three batters. He struck out Julio Rodriguez before a fielder's choice ground out by Alex McClure brought home a run.
Sullivan struck out pinch-hitter Manny Pina, but the ball in the dirt bounced off the glove of catcher Lars Davis and rolled to the backstop. Pina reached first safely on the wild pitch as another run came home.
With the potential game-tying run at the plate, manager Duane Espy called on Joe Torres from the bullpen. The lefthander needed only two pitches to retire Yem Prades on a groundball that ended the contest.
Pettit, Mitchell and Roling led the Drillers offensively, each finishing with two hits. Pettit added two runs batted in, while Torres scored three runs.
The victory was the 41st at ONEOK Field this season for Tulsa. The total is the highest in the three-year history of the downtown stadium and the highest for the Drillers at home since the 2005 squad won 43 games.
Tulsa will play its final home game of the 2012 regular season Monday night at ONEOK Field. Brandon Hynick (5-3, 2.25 ERA) will pitch the finale for the Drillers against Mike Montgomery (2-4, 5.87 ERA) of the Naturals. Starting time is downtown Tulsa is scheduled for 7:05PM.