After failing to hold a six-run lead and dropping Game 1 of the Texas League's North Division Playoff Series, the Tulsa Drillers knew that Thursday's Game 2 was practically a must-win situation. Starting pitcher Josh Outman made sure that happened.
Less than one week after missing a no-hitter against Springfield by one strike, Outman turned in another outstanding effort against the Cardinals. The lefthander allowed only two hits in seven shutout innings to help the Drillers to a 3-0 victory at ONEOK Field.
The shutout victory evened the best-of-five series at one game apiece. Games three, four and if necessary, five will now be played at Springfield's Hammons Field.
Despite the circumstances, Outman said he tried to approach the game just like any other. "I was not going to put more pressure on myself than there needs to be," he said. "Obviously, everyone here wants to win. We want to win every time out, but you can't get ahead of yourself and get down if you throw a bad pitch.
"For me and the team, we said that we would go out and play our game again. Tonight, we hit the ball when we needed to, made pitches when we needed to, and we had some great plays defensively. We did what we had to do to get a win."
As they did in game one, the Drillers jumped to an early lead. After Outman pitched around a pair of walks in the top of the first, leftfielder Corey Dickerson led off the bottom of the first with a home run to give the Drillers a quick 1-0 lead.
Rehabbing Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki helped double Tulsa's lead in the fourth. Tulowitzki lined a double into the left field corner, then scored to make it 2-0 when Ben Paulsen followed with a single into center.
The lead increased to three runs in the fifth. Mike Mitchell singled with one out, and Outman moved him into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt. Following a walk to Dickerson, Nolan Arenado lined a single over the head of shortstop Greg Garcia, plating Mitchell with Tulsa's third run.
Outman held the Cards without a hit through the first three innings before surrendering a two-out double to Xavier Scruggs in the fourth. He escaped the trouble by retiring Garcia on a ground out.
The only other hit against the Tulsa starter came on a leadoff single by Jermaine Curtis in the sixth inning. The hit was followed with a walk to Texas League MVP Oscar Taveras. Outman struck out Jamie Romak and retired last night's hero, Chris Swauger, on a ground out in which Tulowitzki charged and fired a throw to first. With runners at second and third, the inning ended when Scruggs lined out to Tulowitzki.
Outman worked a 1-2-3 seventh inning before turning things over to the bullpen. Mike Solbach allowed a pair of one-out singles in the eighth before getting a soft grounder off the bat of Romak. Third baseman Arenado charged and made a barehanded grab and fired to first to just get Romak for the second out of the inning.
With runners at second and third, lefthander Joe Torres was summoned from the bullpen to face Swauger, who had three home runs in game one. Torres struck out the lefthander to end the threat and the keep Tulsa's three-run lead in place.
Zach Simons kept the suspense to a minimum in the top of the ninth, setting the Cards down in order to record his first save of the season.
In his last two outings, both against Springfield, Outman has combined to work 15.2 innings, surrendering one run. In the two games, he has allowed only 3 hits while striking out 12.
The result marked Tulsa's first-ever playoff win at ONEOK Field. It was their first post-season win anywhere in nearly six years. The last win came on September 6, 2006 in Wichita in Game 3 of the North Division Series.
Tulsa and Springfield have now played 33 times this season with the Drillers holding a slim 17-16 lead.
The playoff series now shifts to Springfield for games three, four and, if necessary, game five. Game three will be played Friday evening at Hammons Field with Joe Gardner (8-8, 3.97 ERA) taking the mound for the Drillers. The Cardinals counter with lefthander Kevin Siegrist (1-2, 3.62 ERA). First pitch in southwest Missouri is slated for 7:08PM.