After a disappointing road trip to start the season, the Tulsa Drillers were hoping for a change of fortune in their first appearance of the season at ONEOK Field. And that is exactly what they got. The Drillers offense set season highs in hits and runs scored and defeated San Antonio 6-2 before over 7,000 fans in their home opener in downtown Tulsa.
The Drillers, who scored nine runs in their opening, six-game road trip, nearly matched that total in their first home game. The victory upped their record to 2-5.
Kent Matthes got the big crowd on its feet early. With two outs
the bases empty in the bottom of the first inning, the Drillers right fielder belted a pitch from Jose De Paula over the centerfield fence. The impressive blast hit halfway up the batter's eye and gave Tulsa a 1-0 lead. It was the second home run of the year for Matthes.
The Missions answered with single runs in both the second and third innings off Tulsa starter Christian Bergman to take the lead. In the second, Tommy Medica led off with his second home run of the season to even the score.
The go-ahead run in the third-inning was unearned. With one out, Reymond Fuentes lofted a ball to deep left-center field. Drillers' centerfielder Rafael Ortega ran back and reached the drive just in front of the warning track, but the ball caromed out of his glove for a two-base error. After Rico Noel struck out, Everett Williams made Tulsa pay for the miscue with a run-scoring single that gave the Missions a 2-1 lead.
Ortega would make up for the error in the fifth. Catcher Jose Gonzalez doubled with one out, and Ortega brought him home with a two-out single that evened the score at 2-2.
One inning later, the Drillers would retake the lead and once again an error would again play a part. After Matthes grounded out to open the sixth, Henry Wrigley grounded a double down the left field line. Kyle Parker followed with a slow grounder up the middle that deflected off the glove of shortstop Jeudy Valdez. The ball rolled into shallow centerfield, allowing Wrigley to race home with the go-ahead run.
Tulsa put the game away with a three-run eighth, its biggest inning of the young season. The rally began with a two-out double from Angelys Nina. Jayson Langfels plated Nina with a base hit, and Gonzalez followed with another single. Kiel Roling was summoned as a pinch-hitter and grounded a double into the leftfield corner that scored both Langfels and Gonzalez to give the Drillers a 6-2 lead.
Bergman, in his second start of the season, turned in his second strong outing. The right-hander worked 5 1/3 innings, allowing seven hits and two runs, but only one was earned. He did not walk a batter and struck out five. The home run from Medica is the only earned run that he has surrendered this season.
Joe Gardner relieved Bergman with two outs in the top of the sixth inning and pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings to pick up the win.
Mike Marbry worked a 1-2-3 eighth, and Isaiah Froneberger worked around a walk and a double to pitch a scoreless ninth and close out the victory.
Matthes, Nina and Gonzalez led Tulsa's offense, collecting two hits each.
Ortega was activated just prior to the game and collected one hit. The outfielder began the year in extended spring training while dealing with a staph infection. He replaced Jaron Shepherd, who was sent to extended spring, on the active roster.
The Drillers will continue their homestand Friday night with game two of their three-game series with the Missions. Texas Tech product Chad Bettis (0-1, 7.20 ERA) will take the mound for Tulsa while Burch Smith (1-0, 0.00 ERA) will pitch for San Antonio. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05PM at ONEOK Field.
Fans that can't make it out to ONEOK Field can listen to the game live on AM1430, The Buzz in Tulsa. The broadcast is also available on TulsaDrillers.com, or through the I Heart Radio app or website.