Kiel Roling is now the Tulsa Drillers' all-time home run leader. In the ninth inning of Tulsa's Monday night contest with the Northwest Arkansas Naturals, Roling blasted the 45th long ball of his career with the Drillers to break Mike Rubel's 27-year-old record. Unfortunately, the first baseman's historic blast was not enough to power his team to a fourth straight victory as the Drillers fell to the Naturals 3-2 at ONEOK Field.
Roling, who is now in his third season with Tulsa, has put together his best season yet. To this point, the first baseman already has 20 home runs and 60 RBI, both of which are higher than the Drillers' 2012 leaders in each category. For his performance this season, Roling was named to last month's Texas League All-Star Game as a starter.
Roling's power surge this year has not come as much of a surprise. In 2010, he hit 12 homers in 93 games and followed that up with 13 bombs in 2012 in just 84 games.
Although Roling's home run will be remembered as the most significant, three players from Northwest Arkansas also hit solo shots in the game, which ultimately ended Roling and the Drillers' night on a sour note.
Drillers' starter Sean Gallagher surrendered just three hits to the Naturals on Monday, but all three were of the long ball variety, which ended up being the difference in the game. Despite striking out a season-high nine batters and recording his ninth quality start of the year, the right-hander was tagged with his fourth loss in his last five starts.
Northwest Arkansas' Andy Ferguson, who has now made six appearances against Tulsa this season, finally had some success against the Drillers on Monday night. In seven innings of work, he allowed just one run on five hits, striking out five and walking one, to record his second victory of the season.
The Drillers scored a run in the home half of the first to take an early lead. With one out in the inning, designated hitter Tim Smalling lined a two-base hit into the gap in right-center. Kyle Parker then singled home Smalling from second to record his seventh RBI in his last four games.
In the second, the Naturals' Rey Navarro answered by sneaking a one-out solo home run over the wall in right field to square things up at one. The long ball was Navarro's seventh of the year.
The game remained tied until Brett Eibner took Gallagher deep in the sixth. The center fielder's solo shot into the Naturals' bullpen in right was his 13th of the season and seventh against the Drillers.
Matt Fields gave his pitcher a little insurance with his solo home run in the seventh to make it 3-1 Naturals. With the blast, Fields upped his Texas League-leading home run total to 24.
The hard-throwing Kelvin Herrera came on in relief of Ferguson in the eighth and struck out the side after giving up a leadoff double to Joey Wong. Herrera has spent most of the 2013 season in the big leagues with Kansas City, where he has struck out 35 in 27.2 innings of work. He was transferred from Triple A Omaha on Monday to get in some extra work.
Roling's record-breaking homer in the ninth off Naturals reliever Zach Jackson was the first long ball the left-hander has allowed this season. However, the sidearm-slinging lefty recovered to notch his ninth save of the year.
With the loss, Tulsa's record falls to 10-14 on the second half and 44-48 overall.
The two teams return to ONEOK Field Tuesday for game three of their four-game series. Drew Pomeranz (8-1, 4.20 ERA at Triple A), who has pitched at the major league level this season, will make his first start of the season for Tulsa. Northwest Arkansas will counter with highly touted prospect Jason Adam (3-9, 5.61 ERA). First pitch is scheduled for7:05PM.