Drillers Face Elimination After Dropping Game Three In Springfield
The start of Game 3 of the Texas League's North Division Playoff Series was delayed nearly two hours by a pair of thunderstorms that struck the Springfield, Missouri area Friday evening. The delay seemed to have little effect on the Cardinals as they scored three runs in the first two innings, then held on for a 4-2 victory over the Tulsa Drillers. The loss leaves the Drillers one defeat from elimination in the best-of-five series.
Tulsa will now need to win game four Saturday evening and game five Sunday afternoon to win the series and advance to the Texas League Championship Series for the first time since the 2002 season. The Redbirds will need only one win in the final two games to advance to the final series. The eventual winner will face Frisco in the Championship Series. The RoughRiders completed a three-game sweep of Corpus Christi Friday evening in the South Division Series.
In the first two games of the North Series, the Drillers took early leads by scoring in the first inning, but it was the Cardinals who struck first in Friday's game. After the Drillers were set down in order in the top of the first inning, the Redbirds opened the bottom of the first with three straight singles off Tulsa starter Joe Gardner. The last of the three hits was a bad-hop single off the bat of Oscar Taveras that looked to be a possible double play grounder, but the ball took a high hop over shortstop Warren Schaeffer, allowing Kolten Wong, who had started the inning with a base hit, to score the game's first run.
Tulsa tied the score at 1-1 with a run in the top of the second off Springfield starting pitcher Kevin Siegrist. Chris Pettit drew a one-out walk and swiped second base before scoring on a two-out base hit by catcher Jose Gonzalez. The Drillers nearly took the lead as Schaeffer followed with another hit, but Gonzalez was thrown out at the plate by left fielder Chris Swauger.
Springfield quickly broke the tie in the bottom of the second. With one out, Xavier Scruggs doubled and scored when Audry Perez followed with another two-base hit. With two outs, Tulsa third baseman Nolan Arenado was unable to field a possible inning-ending bouncer off the bat of Wong. The error allowed Perez to score and give the Redbirds a 3-1 lead.
Kiel Roling got one of the runs back in the top of the fourth. The Tulsa first baseman led off with an opposite field, solo home run that pulled the Drillers to within 3-2.
The score remained the same until the Cards added an insurance run off reliever Josh Sullivan in the bottom of the eighth inning. With one out, Taveras doubled and advanced a base on a passed ball by Gonzalez. Jamie Romak then broke his bat in two pieces on an inside pitch from Sullivan, but he was still able to drop a base hit just over second base that scored Taveras to make it 4-2.
The Drillers did not go quietly in the ninth. Arenado led off with an infield single against Springfield closer Keith Butler, but Roling grounded into a double play. Tulsa was again able to get the tying run to the plate as Pettit drew a two-out walk from Butler, who blew only one save during regular season. Representing the potential tying run, pinch-hitter Ben Paulsen fell into a 0-2 hole before working a full count. But, Butler promptly ended the game on a called strike three from a curveball that appeared to be off the plate. The call put an end to a long and frustrating night for the Drillers that concluded with Paulsen voicing his displeasure with home plate umpire Gabe Morales.
The victory leaves the Redbirds needing only one win over the final two games to advance to the Championship Series.
Gardner was tagged for the loss despite pitching effectively. After the three early runs, the right-hander settled down to work four scoreless frames. Overall, he allowed seven hits and three runs, two earned, in six innings. He did not walk a batter and struck out five.
Siegrist collected the win. He pitched the first five innings, surrendering the two runs on four hits and three walks.
Mike Marbry worked a scoreless relief inning for Tulsa, while Mike Wacha, Eric Fornataro and Butler each worked a shutout frame for Springfield.
Game four of the series, a must win for the Drillers, will be played Saturday night at Springfield's Hammons Field. Brandon Hynick (7-3, 2.11 ERA) will pitch for Tulsa against Scott Gorgen (5-7, 4.09 ERA) of the Cardinals. Starting time is scheduled for 6:08PM.
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