Arenado homer leads Drillers to 2-1 win over Corpus Christi
BY BARRY LEWIS World Sports Writer
Monday, April 16, 2012
4/16/12 at 4:28 AM
Related story: Drillers Update
Much of the baseball talk among fans and media in Denver centers around when Tulsa Drillers third baseman Nolan Arenado will be called up by the Colorado Rockies.
Arenado's performance on Sunday afternoon provided more fuel for that discussion. He went 2-for-3, including a tiebreaking home run, and made two big-time defensive plays to help the Drillers edge the Corpus Christi Hooks 2-1 in the opener of a three-game series before 5,119 fans at ONEOK Field.
"It's almost becoming routine that he's making impossible, difficult things look very easy," Drillers manager Duane Espy said. "You just don't see that very often."
Arenado, who turns 21 on Monday, increased his batting average to .395 - fifth in the Texas League. His first Double-A homer snapped a 1-1 tie with two outs in the eighth inning. Arenado's homer over the left-field wall came on a 2-0 fastball from lefty reliever Kevin Chapman (0-1).
It was the first homer of the season for Arenado, who had 20 at Single-A Modesto last year.
"I had been thinking about it sometimes, not all the time, but you're always looking forward to getting that first home run on the board," Arenado said. "Things are going good right now and I'm trying to keep the line-drive swing."
In the top of the ninth, Arenado made a sensational play on a slow grounder to retire leadoff hitter Brandon Barnes.
"My goodness, on the dead run, barehanding a ball like that, what can you say about that?" Espy said. "He just keeps doing amazing things."
That proved to be a key play as Jose Martinez followed with a single and reached second on center fielder Mike Mitchell's error. However, Josh Sullivan escaped the jam to record his second save as he retired Chris Wallace on a grounder and struck out Andrew Simunic.
It was the second straight day that Arenado made a key defensive play in a Driller win. On Saturday, he made a backhanded stab on a bases-loaded grounder to save at least two runs.
"I've learned through the years that defense is a big thing," Arenado said. "If you want to make it in this game you've got to be able to play defense, too. You can hit all you want, but if you don't have a position then they don't know where they're going to put you, especially in the National League.
"My defense is getting better and I'm definitely going to keep working hard at it, that's for sure."
In the fourth inning Sunday, Arenado's relay throw to the plate retired Jonathan Singleton, who was trying to score from first on Barnes' double.
"That was a huge play," Espy said.
That gave a big lift to Tulsa lefty Nick Schmidt, who had allowed Jake Goebbert's leadoff homer in the fourth. Schmidt then retired the next eight batters to complete his six-inning stint. He walked one, struck out three and threw 60 strikes in 90 pitches. Schmidt bounced back after giving up six runs in 4 1/3 innings in his previous start at Corpus Christi (5-5).
"He was very good," Drillers pitching coach Dave Schuler said. "In his first start, he didn't throw his game and he said he was giving the hitters too much credit. He pitched inside and worked very well with Lars Davis, who was great behind the plate."
Will Harris (1-0), the second of three Tulsa relievers who each tossed a scoreless inning, picked up the win on an afternoon that began with some rain just before game time followed by lightning around the ballpark in the early innings but ended in sunshine.
"Wow - that's a good way of putting it," Espy said, referring to his bullpen's effort but it also describes the start to the season for Arenado and the Drillers (7-3).
"It's absolutely a lot of fun right now," Arenado said. "This is a good group and we can do some pretty big things."
Drillers up next
Vs. Corpus Christi
12:35 p.m. Monday
Radio: KAKC am1300
Original Print Headline: Arenado keys Drillers' win
Barry Lewis 918-581-8393
The Drillers' Nolan Arenado is hit on the leg by a pitch during Sunday's game against Corpus Christi. MIKE SIMONS / Tulsa World
The Drillers' Tim Torres robs Corpus Christi's Jonathan Villar of a hit during Sunday's game. MIKE SIMONS / Tulsa World
Drillers catcher Lars Davis tags out Corpus Christi's Jonathan Singleton at home plate on Sunday. MIKE SIMONS / Tulsa World