It has been a difficult stretch for the Tulsa Drillers recently. They entered Sunday afternoon's game with Northwest Arkansas in second-place for the first time this year after losing 16 of their past 24 games. The Drillers were in need of a break, and they got it in the eighth inning of Sunday's game. A two-run error broke a tie game and propelled Tulsa to a 4-2 win over the Naturals at ONEOK Field.
The win, in game one of a four-game series between the two teams, moved the Drillers into a first-place tie with the Naturals. Both teams now have identical 33-28 records with only nine games remaining in the first-half schedule of the Texas League.
The two teams were deadlocked in a pitcher's duel for the game's first six innings. Tulsa starting pitcher Parker Frazier held the Naturals without a hit through the first five innings before surrendering a two-out double to Paulo Orlando in the top of the sixth.
Northwest Arkansas finally opened the game's scoring in the seventh. The first two Natural's hitters were retired, but Rey Navarro produced a two-out double. It was only the second hit allowed by Frazier, but it ended the right-hander's day.
Tulsa called on Cory Riordan from the bullpen, but a walk to Carlo Testa and an infield hit by Sharlon Schoop loaded the bases. Ryan Jenkins then dropped a double down the left field line that brought Navarro and Testa home with the first runs of the day. Riordan escaped further damage as Schoop was thrown out trying to also score on the hit.
Trailing 2-0, the Drillers finally broke through against Northwest Arkansas starter Justin Marks in the bottom of the seventh. With one out, singles by Ben Paulsen and Kiel Roling put runners at first and second before a walk to Kent Matthes loaded the bases. Tim Torres sent a drive to deep, right-center field that Yem Prades was able to race over and catch. Paulsen tagged and scored on the play, but Roling and Matthes were unable to advance. That proved important as Jose Gonzalez followed with a base hit to right field, but Roling was thrown out at the plate attempting to score the tying run.
Reliever Zach Simons worked a scoreless top of the eighth, setting the stage for Tulsa's rally. Patrick Keating took over for Northwest Arkansas starting pitcher Justin Marks and surrendered a leadoff single to Warren Schaeffer.
Keating retired Josh Rutledge on strikes and got a force out grounder from Mike Mitchell, but Nolan Arenado kept the inning alive with a base hit. With runners at first and second, Paulsen lined a base hit into right field that scored Mitchell to tie the game at 2-2, as the runners advanced to second and third on the throw home.
Roling then hit a one-hop smash at Navarro. The shortstop could not get his glove down as the ball skipped between his legs for an error that allowed both Arenado and Paulsen to race home to give the Drillers the lead.
Coty Woods made sure it held, retiring the Naturals in order in the top of the ninth to record his tenth save of the season.
The comeback overshadowed a brilliant outing from Frazier. After carrying his no-hitter through the first five innings, he finished by allowing only 2 hits and 1 run in 6 1/3 innings. He continues to struggle for run support as the Drillers have now scored a total of only 21 runs in his 12 starts this season.
Marks was also impressive. The lefthander surrendered only five hits and one run in seven innings.
Offensively, the Drillers out-hit the Naturals 8-4 with Arenado and Paulsen picking up two each.
The two teams will meet again Monday night in game two of their series. Edwar Cabrera (5-4, 3.55 ERA) will pitch for the Drillers against Elisaul Pimentel (2-3, 5.66 ERA) of the Naturals. Starting time is scheduled for 7:05PM at ONEOK Field.
NOTES: The Colorado Rockies have announced a roster addition for the Drillers. Outfielder Corey Dickerson will join the Tulsa roster prior to Monday's game. Dickerson is hitting .338 with 9 home runs and 43 runs batted in for Class A Modesto this season. The Drillers currently have a roster spot available. . .Sunday's win marked Tulsa's first victory over Northwest Arkansas at ONEOK Field this season. The Naturals swept a four-game series in May. . .The hit by Paulsen off Keating was only the third hit the right-hander had allowed to a left-handed batters in 33 at-bats this season.