Springfield entered Monday's series opener with the Tulsa Drillers at ONEOK Field as the hottest team in the Texas League. The Cardinals came into the opener by winning nine of their past ten games, including six in a row. Their hot streak continued with a 4-3 victory that dropped the Drillers second-half record to 10-13, 6 ½ games behind the first-place Cards.
The Redbirds benefited from a strong outing from starting pitcher Scott McGregor. The right-hander entered the game with a 10.64 ERA, but he limited the Drillers to only six hits and two runs in seven innings. The victory for McGregor improved his Double A record to 2-1.
Tulsa starter Parker Frazier also pitched well in his 6 1/3 innings. Frazier, who has suffered from a lack of run support through much of the season, surrendered nine hits and three runs while walking two batters and striking out four.
One of the runs against the Tulsa native came in the top of the first inning as the Cardinals put together three hits, though none was hit sharply, to take a 1-0 lead. With one out, Greg Garcia hit a slow chopper just inside the third base bag for a double. Oscar Taveras followed with a chopper to the left side of the infield that Warren Schaeffer fielded, but the shortstop could not throw to first in time to get the out. With runners at first and third, Jamie Romak dropped a soft liner into right field that plated Garcia with the game's first run.
Springfield held its lead until the Drillers finally struck in the bottom of the fifth inning. Catcher Jose Gonzalez doubled to left field with one out. After Gonzalez moved to third on a ground out by Schaeffer, Frazier helped himself with slow roller up the third base line that turned into an infield hit as Gonzalez came home to tie the game at 1-1.
The Cards wasted little time in going back in front. Romak led off the top of the sixth with a double and came home on a one-out double by Xavier Scruggs. Audry Perez hit a soft chopper up the third base line that Nolan Arenado was unable to backhand. The error allowed Scruggs to score to give the Redbirds a 3-1 lead. Tim Sexton took over for Frazier and threw only one pitch to prevent any further damage as he got a double play grounder from Romak. It was one of four double plays turned in the game by the Drillers.
Tulsa got one of the runs back in the bottom of the seventh and threatened to score more. Corey Dickerson and Tim Torres opened the inning with back-to-back singles, and Gonzalez advanced both runners into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt. Schaeffer hit a bouncer up the middle that shortstop Garcia ranged far to his left to gather and throw to first for the out, as Dickerson scored to cut the Springfield lead to 3-2. Pinch-hitter Angelys Nina kept the inning alive by drawing a two-out walk, but the threat ended when first baseman Scruggs made a diving stop of Mike Mitchell's grounder for the third out.
Adam Melker restored the Cards two-run lead when he led off the top of the ninth with a long home run to right field off reliever Mike Marbry. Melker's fifth homer of the season landed on the walkway above the Springfield bullpen.
The Drillers made a bid to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth off Cards closer Keith Butler, who leads the Texas League with 17 saves. Torres led off with his second hit of the night, bringing pinch-hitter Lars Davis to the plate. Davis belted a long fly ball down the right field line. The drive easily left the ballpark but was foul.
Butler eventually retired Davis on a fly out, but Schaeffer followed with a lined single to left field that put the tying runs on base. Another pinch-hitter, Kent Matthes, pulled the Drillers to within one run by dropping a soft fly ball into right field for a hit that scored Torres.
With the lead down to a single run, Butler recovered to retire Mitchell and Jimmy Cesario on a pair of fly outs to end the threat and the game.
Springfield out-hit Tulsa 11-10. The Drillers, who entered the game as the Texas League's top defensive team, committed four errors.
The two teams will meet again Tuesday night at ONEOK Field. Josh Outman (0-1, 4.97 ERA), who has spent time in the majors this season with the Colorado Rockies, will pitch for the Drillers against Scott Gorgen (3-5, 4.18 ERA) of the Cardinals. It will be a 2 News Works For You $2 Tuesday with first pitch scheduled for 7:05PM.
Notes: Reliever Mike Solbach joined the Drillers during the game. Solbach was signed as a free agent from the Atlantic League where the former Yankees farmhand was 1-2 with a 2.48 ERA for Somerset.