The Tulsa Drillers fast start to the 2012 season continued Monday afternoon at ONEOK Field with a 7-1 victory over the Corpus Christi Hooks. Not only was the win the fourth straight for the Drillers, it also allowed them to match their best start to a season in 11 years.
The victory over the Hooks improved Tulsa's season record to 8-3, equaling the start by the Drillers in the 2001 season. The 1996 squad had the best start to a season for a Drillers team in the last 25 years, opening with a 10-3 mark.
The Drillers have put together their record by scoring first in 8 of their first 10 games this season, and the trend continued on Monday. Josh Rutledge led off the bottom of the first inning with a lined single into left field, and Mike Mitchell bunted for a hit. After Hooks starting pitcher Henry Villar walked Nolan Arenado to load the bases, Ben Paulsen cleared them with a triple into the right field corner that put Tulsa in front 3-0.
The Hooks missed a chance to cut into the lead in the top of the second when they loaded the bases with only one out, but Joe Gardner got a strikeout and a ground out to end the threat.
They had another opportunity in the fourth when they put two runners on with one out. Cory Riordan relieved Gardner and surrendered a base hit to J.C. Thompson that loaded the bases, but Riordan escaped the jam when Austin Wates grounded into a 5-4-3, inning-ending double play.
The Drillers added another run in the bottom of the fifth on Nolan Arenado's run-scoring hit, but the Hooks got it back in the top of the sixth when Jose Martinez ended Tulsa's shutout bid with a solo homer off Riordan.
Angelys Nina gave Tulsa a 6-1 lead with a two-run homer into the terrace section in left field in the bottom of the sixth. It was Nina's first Double A home run.
The Drillers closed the scoring in the eighth when Kent Matthes doubled and scored.
Riordan picked up the win with the longest outing of the year by a Drillers reliever. He allowed 4 hits and 1 run in 3.2 innings of work. He did not walk a batter and struck out four.
The bullpen role seems to be a good fit for the right-hander as the win is already his second of the season, topping the one win he had all of last season when he was a starting pitcher for the Drillers.
"Relieving is more of a pitch to your strength role," said Riordan. "You come in and go after the hitters knowing that you are probably only going to have one time through the lineup, while as a starter it is more of a pace thing. It is more thinking as a starter, while relieving is more of what you have to do to get the job done."