For five innings Thursday night, Northwest Arkansas' Justin Marks out-dueled Tulsa's Edwar Cabrera. That changed in the top of the sixth as the Drillers erupted for five runs to turn a two-run deficit into a three-run lead. The Drillers eventually posted a 5-4 victory to end a three-game losing streak.
Cabrera was his usual self, allowing three runs, two earned, on only five hits in seven inning work. He walked one batter and struck out a season high nine while improving his season record to 8-4.
The victory capped a big week for Cabrera. On Friday, he was named to the Texas League All-Star team where he will be the starting pitcher for the North Division. On Saturday, he pitched and picked up the victory in Tulsa's first-half clinching victory. On Monday, he was named the TL's Pitcher of the Week, and today he was chosen to play in the prestigious Futures Game at Kansas City's Kauffman Stadium.
Another Texas League All-Star put Cabrera in an early hole in Thursday's victory as Naturals first baseman Johnny Whittleman hit a two-run homer, his 13th of the year, in the bottom of the first inning. It would be the only damage the Naturals would inflict on the lefthander.
But for five innings, it looked like Whittleman's blast might be enough to win the game. Northwest Arkansas lefthander Justin Marks blanked the Drillers through the first five frames on only three hits. But, Tulsa found an answer for Marks in the top of the sixth as Jose Gonzalez and Warren Schaeffer drew walks to open the inning. Josh Rutledge followed with his team-leading 10th home run of the season to turn a two-run deficit into a 3-2 lead for Tulsa.
The Drillers were not finished in the sixth as Angelys Nina followed with a base hit. After Nolan Arenado struck out, Kiel Roling delivered his 8th home run to make it 5-2.
The Naturals cut into the lead with an unearned run in the bottom of the sixth. Rey Navarro and Brian Fletcher led off with consecutive singles. They were still at second and third with two outs, when an ill-advised pickoff throw from Gonzalez struck Navarro and caromed into left field, allowing the second baseman to come home and trim Tulsa's lead to only two runs.
Josh Sullivan took over for Cabrera to open the eighth and was able to keep the Drillers in front despite the defensive efforts of his teammates. Lorenzo Cain greeted Sullivan with an infield grounder that second baseman Schaeffer booted for an error. After a wild pitch, Navarro doubled to score Cain to make it 5-4.
A passed ball by Gonzalez advanced Navarro to third with no outs. With a fourth straight blown lead seeming inevitable, Sullivan proceeded to strike out Fletcher, Whittleman and Orlando, the Naturals three through five hitters, to end the threat.
Coty Woods worked an uneventful, 1-2-3 ninth to complete the victory and record his 13th save of the year. The victory allowed Tulsa to even its second-half record at 1-1.
Roling enjoyed a big offensive night for the Drillers. In addition to his homer, he added two singles to finish 3-4. Nina was the only other Tulsa player with more than one hit, finishing with two.
Tulsa will now return to ONEOK Field for its first home game of the second half on Friday evening and its final four games before the Texas League All-Star break. The Drillers will host Springfield in a four-game series with Nick Schmidt (5-3, 3.27 ERA) pitching the opener Friday against Seth Maness (3-1, 1.98 ERA) of the Cardinals. First pitch will take place at 7:05PM in downtown Tulsa.