Matthes boosts Drillers
BY BARRY LEWIS World Sports Writer
Sunday, April 29, 2012
4/29/12 at 5:49 AM
Related story: Drillers Update.
Drillers right fielder Kent Matthes' parents arrived in Tulsa from Orlando at a very opportune time to watch him for the first time this season.
Matthes broke out of a slump with two homers and drove in three runs to power the Drillers past the Springfield Cardinals 3-2 on Saturday night at ONEOK Field.
"I've been struggling a little lately, but it's a long season and I try to stay even keel, not get too high or too low," Matthes said. "I'm always a slow starter. It's one of those things where you can't lose confidence. I had some good swings tonight, and hopefully I break out of a little funk."
A second consecutive sellout crowd of 7,922 watched Tulsa lefty Edwar Cabrera (3-1) pitch seven shutout innings as he took advantage of Matthes' homers.
The Drillers (16-6) maintained their five-game lead over second-place Northwest Arkansas in the Texas League's North Division.
Matthes entered the game with two homers and a .182 batting average. He only had three hits in his previous 29 at-bats and had gone 10 games without a RBI.
"It kind of happened a little bit like this last year, too," Matthes said. "I was struggling at Modesto and then my parents came in town and I went on a 15-game hitting streak."
Matthes overcame a slow start in 2011 and earned California League most valuable player honors as he batted .334 with 23 homers and 95 RBIs in 93 games.
"My mom kept sending me texts this week when I was having some rough games," Matthes said. "She was saying remember how you started last year and you ended up playing well."
Matthes' parents intend to watch him play for the next week as they will follow the team to Arkansas, as his mother's brother lives in Little Rock.
Drillers hitting coach Kevin Riggs was Modesto's hitting coach last year.
"Everyone wants to start a little better than he has, but he's been in this hole before," Riggs said. "He's had less than 100 at-bats and he has about 400 more to go this year. I think he's going to be fine. He's not worried about it, and I'm not worried at all about him. With him, it's a matter of getting set and getting in a good position to deliver a good swing."
Matthes was the difference in an attractive pitching matchup between the TL's top two lefties in ERA. Cabrera finished the night at 1.64 and Springfield's John Gast (3-2) finished at 2.30.
Tulsa's Kiel Roling led off the second inning with a single and then Matthes lined a homer over the left-field wall for a 2-0 lead. In the fourth, Matthes socked a towering homer over the left-field wall after narrowly missing a homer on a foul down the right-field line. That was the Drillers' last baserunner, except for a two-out error in the eighth.
"One of the remarkable things about our team is that every night it can be someone else who gets the big hit," Drillers manager Duane Espy said. "Here is Matthes, hitting under .200, and he does all the damage with a bullet and a bomb."
Cabrera allowed two hits and struck out seven as he did not issue a walk.
"He was terrific again although he didn't have his best stuff tonight," Espy said. "I didn't think his curveball was really any kind of good pitch for him, so basically he was a fastball-change guy."
Cabrera only allowed two baserunners through six innings before working around a hit-by-pitch and single to open the seventh as he retired the next three hitters, including two on strikeouts.
"He gets in a jam, then goes 2-0 and then probably pitches the best he did all night to those last three hitters," Espy said. "That's the kind of stuff that to me is impressive. That's where some guys fold, but that's when he pulled his best stuff up. His best fastball location and best changeup were all in that sequence."
Springfield (8-14) scored twice on four hits off reliever Mike Marbry in the eighth, but Coty Woods pitched around Niko Vasquez's two-out single in the ninth to pick up his fourth save as Tulsa improved to 10-2 at home.
Barry Lewis 918-581-8393
Tulsa right fielder Kent Matthes hits a two-run home run in the second inning during Saturday's game against Springfield at ONEOK Field. JOEY JOHNSON/ For the Tulsa World