The Tulsa Drillers played their final regular season home game of the year Monday night at ONEOK Field, and fans were treated to a victory. In a back-and-forth contest with the Springfield Cardinals, Tulsa struck the final blows with three runs in the seventh inning and two more in the eighth to post an 8-4 victory.
Tim Smalling and Kyle Parker led a 12-hit attack from the Drillers with three hits each.
A paid crowd of 4,679 watched the action in downtown Tulsa, increasing the regular season home attendance to 393,600. That is the second highest mark in the history of professional baseball in the city of Tulsa, trailing only the Drillers' first season playing at ONEOK Field.
With the home schedule complete, Tulsa will now close the regular season with a seven-game road trip to Northwest Arkansas and Springfield. The trip will include four games with the Naturals and three games with the Cardinals.
The Drillers will return to Tulsa for the first two games of the North Division Playoff Series on Wednesday, September 4 and Thursday, September 5.
In Monday's finale, the Drillers opened the game's scoring in the bottom of the first inning. Delta Cleary Jr. led off with a base hit and advanced to third on a one-out single by Kyle Parker. With runners at the corners, Dustin Garneau hit a high pop up along the right field line that first baseman Xavier Scruggs tracked down in foul territory. Scruggs turned and threw home, but Cleary Jr. slid in safely just ahead of the tag by catcher Cody Stanley.
The Cardinals took their first lead in the fourth with a pair of runs, but it could have been worse for the Drillers. The Redbirds had Stanley at third and Starlin Rodriguez at second with no outs when Matt Williams hit a chopper to the left of Smalling at third. Smalling fielded the ball and threw home to retire Stanley as he tried to score for the first out. The catcher Garneau then threw back to third to complete a unique double play as Rodriguez was tagged out trying to advance.
After the double play, Williams stole second to advance into scoring position. Tulsa starter Tyler Matzek missed a chance to escape the jam when he quickly put Cards' pitcher Seth Blair in a one ball, two strike hole. With Blair squaring to bunt on each pitch, Matzek threw three straight balls to put runners at first and second. James Ramsey made the left-hander pay for the walk, placing a double into the left field corner to score both Williams and Blair and give Springfield a 2-1 lead.
The Redbirds went back in front in the fifth. With two outs and the bases empty, Stephen Piscotty singled and moved to second on a walk to Stanley. Rodriguez followed with a base hit to left field that plated Piscotty and put the Cards back on top 3-2.
They increased the lead to two with another run in the sixth when Ramsey walked and scored on a two-out double by Ruben Gotay.
Tulsa pulled back to within one in the home half of the sixth inning. Smalling led off with a double, moved to third on a ground out and scored on another ground out by Juan Crousset.
The pivotal seventh-inning began when Cleary Jr. drew a leadoff walk, ending Blair's night. Jose Almarante came on in relief and was greeted with consecutive singles from Angelys Nina and Parker, with Cleary Jr. scoring on the second hit to tie the score once again.
After a sacrifice bunt from Garneau put runners at second and third, Tyler Kuhn was intentionally walked to load the bases and set the stage for Smalling. The third baseman delivered with a liner into the gap in right-center field that right fielder Piscotty just missed with a headlong dive. The ball rolled to the warning track as Nina and Parker scored to put the Drillers back in front 6-4.
They added a pair of insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth as Nina singled and Garneau walked in front of a two-run triple from Kuhn that increased the lead to four runs.
Juan Gonzalez worked around a leadoff hit to toss a scoreless ninth inning and close out the win for the Drillers.
Leuris Gomez, who worked the sixth and seventh innings in relief of Matzek, picked up the win to improve his record to 4-1. He allowed one hit and one run with three strikeouts in his two innings.
Tulsa's victory, combined with an Arkansas victory at Northwest Arkansas, gave the Travelers some breathing room atop the North Division standings. The Travs are now two games in front of the Naturals and Cardinals and three ahead of the Drillers.
The Drillers finish the home portion of their 2013 regular season schedule with a 37-33 mark at ONEOK Field.
Tulsa will travel to Springdale, Arkansas, on Tuesday to begin a four-game series with Northwest Arkansas. The Drillers will send Eddie Butler (1-0, 0.45 ERA) to the mound against Sugar Ray Marimon (6-13, 4.52 ERA) of the Naturals. Starting time for the opener at Arvest Ballpark is scheduled for 7:05PM.
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