Tulsa pitcher Tim Gustafson spent the 2012 season pitching for the Louisville Bats, the Triple A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds. After signing a free agent contract with the Colorado Rockies during the winter, this season did not start as the veteran had hoped or expected. But Friday night, Gustafson turned in his third straight impressive performance, leading the Drillers to a 5-2 win over the Northwest Arkansas Naturals before a sellout crowd of 8,189 at ONEOK Field.
Tim Gustafson pitched the Tulsa Drillers to their second straight win Friday before a sellout crowd at ONEOK Field. (Photo by Rich Crimi)
In the victory, the 28-year-old matched the longest outing of the year for a Tulsa pitcher, working seven innings. He allowed only five hits and zero earned runs while striking out four and walking three. In his last three starts, Gustafson has pitched a total of 19 innings and has surrendered only 2 earned runs (0.95 ERA). In comparison, the right-hander's ERA was 9.74 after his first five starts of the year.
Gustafson improved to 2-3 on the season with Friday's victory.
Kent Matthes, who entered the game 3-30 on the homestand, staked Gustafson and the Drillers to an early lead with his 5th home run of the season. The solo blast led off the second inning and put Tulsa in front 1-0.
The red-hot Angelys Nina doubled Tulsa's lead in the fourth. With one out, he singled and stole second to move into scoring position. Nina then advanced to third when a pickoff throw from pitcher Noel Arguelles skipped into centerfield. Catcher Dustin Garneau brought him home with a sacrifice fly that made it 2-0.
The Drillers plated two more runs in the fifth and another in the sixth. In the fifth, Kiel Roling took advantage of the short fence in right field to hit his 8th home run of the year. The two-out, opposite-field liner just cleared the fence inside the right field foul pole and scored Rafael Ortega who had walked earlier in the inning.
In the sixth, Matthes led off with a bunt base hit and later scored on a two-out base hit from Jayson Langfels that put the Drillers on top 5-0.
A pair of miscues in the seventh inning ended Gustafson's shutout bid as the Naturals scored a pair. Yem Prades worked a leadoff walk and moved to second on a one-out hit from Matt Fields. Ramon Hernandez followed with what looked to be a potential double play grounder, but the ball skipped under the glove of shortstop Cristhian Adames for an error. Prades scored on the play to put Northwest Arkansas on the scoreboard.
Another error allowed the Naturals to plate a second run. Alex McClure hit a fly ball that centerfielder Ortega moved to his left to catch, but the ball bounced out of his glove, allowing Fields to score to make it 5-2.
Nina kept the damage to a minimum in the seventh, however, when he backhanded a sharp one hopper off the bat of Brett Eibner and started a 4-6-3 double play that ended the inning.
Gustafson turned the game over to Mike Marbry in the eighth. He pitched around a leadoff single by Angel Franco to work a scoreless inning.
Steven Hensley, who was activated from the disabled list late Friday afternoon, came on for the ninth and showed no signs of rust. He quickly retired the Naturals in order to close out the victory and record his second save of the season.
Nina capped a big homestand with two hits in the game. The second baseman concluded the nine-game homestand with 18 hits in 36 at-bats, raising his batting average 62 points from .240 to .302.
Roling, Matthes and Langfels also finished with two hits apiece in the game.
The two teams now move to Springdale where they will continue their four-game series. Game two at Arvest Ballpark Saturday night will start at 7:00PM. The pitching matchup will feature lefthander Tyler Matzek (1-3, 4.41 ERA) for the Drillers against Brooks Pounders (0-1, 2.60 ERA) of the Naturals.