The Arkansas Travelers got big games from centerfielder Travis Witherspoon and pitcher Mike Piazza and defeated the Tulsa Drillers 6-2 Sunday night at ONEOK Field. Witherspoon hit a pair of solo home runs in his first two at-bats and Piazza allowed only two hits in 6 2/3 shutout innings.
Witherspoon wasted little time in putting Arkansas in front. He hit the second pitch of the night from Tulsa starter Tyler Chatwood over the terrace section in left field to give the Travelers a quick 1-0 lead.
The outfielder topped that effort in the third inning. Witherspoon hit a drive that landed on the concrete walkway above the grass berm in left-center field. His second home run put the Travs in front 2-0. Overall, it was just his fourth homer of the season.
Arkansas doubled its lead in a strange fifth inning as Darwin Perez drew a leadoff walk. Perez broke for second on a pitch from Chatwood that was in the dirt and caromed off catcher Lars Davis. He moved all the way to third on the play that was ruled a stolen base and also a wild pitch.
Chatwood retired Witherspoon on strikes but Renny Osuna and Paul McAnulty followed with consecutive singles.
With Roberto Lopez at the plate, Chatwood uncorked two more wild pitches. On the second one, Osuna came home to increase the Arkansas lead to 4-0.
Before the inning was over, the Tulsa right-hander registered another wild pitch, his fourth of the inning. The total matched a Texas League record for most in one inning, tying a mark that had been reached only twice before in the league's long history. Joe Giard of San Antonio threw four wild pitches during one inning in 1930, as did Amarillo's Tom Arruda in 1966.
In the sixth, the Travelers added a fifth run without getting a hit. Reliever Zach Simons issued a one-out walk to Carlos Ramirez, and Perez reached when second baseman Angelys Nina misplayed his grounder. With the runners at first and third, Witherspoon picked up his third RBI with a sacrifice fly.
It was an impressive night for Piazza who was not supposed to start the game. He was forced into the starting role when the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim traded Arkansas starters Ariel Pena and John Hellweg to Milwaukee on Friday as part of the Zack Greinke trade.
Filling in for Pena, Piazza allowed only a third-inning double to Mike Mitchell and a seventh-inning single to Jimmy Cesario. He walked two batters and struck out five in only his sixth start of the year. The win improved his season record to 3-3.
In nine games against Tulsa this season, Piazza has allowed only 13 hits and 3 earned runs in 28.2 innings, for a miniscule ERA of 0.94.
The Drillers attempted to mount a comeback in the bottom of the eighth after back to back doubles by Tim Torres and Mitchell. A lineout by Corey Dickerson advanced Mitchell to third and he then came in to score on an Angelys Nina groundout.
Josh Sullivan came in to pitch the ninth for the Drillers and allowed the Travs to put one last run on the board. Osuna doubled to lead off the frame and later scored on a Lopez RBI single.
It was a tough night for Chatwood, who entered the game with a 1.89 ERA. He worked five innings, surrendering four runs on six hits. In addition to the four wild pitches, he walked three batters while striking out six.
The two teams will close out their four-game series on Monday night. On the mound will be Brandon Hynick (3-1, 1.57 ERA) for the Drillers and Jarrett Grube (0-5, 9.26 ERA at AAA Tacoma) for the Travelers. Grube, a former Drillers pitcher, will be making his first appearance for Arkansas after being signed as a free agent by the Angels. Grube won a total of 11 games while spending the 2007 and 2008 seasons in Tulsa.
First pitch for the Monday's meeting is scheduled for 7:05PM.