All signs pointed to a pitchers’ duel when the Tulsa Drillers faced the Springfield Cardinals on Tuesday at ONEOK Field.
Both starters are enjoying strong seasons. Parker Curry entered the game with a 2.88 ERA for Tulsa and Alex FaGalde had a 2.01 ERA in 21 combined starts for Springfield and Single-A Palm Beach.
But the unexpected happens often in baseball and it did again in Tulsa’s 15-5 victory as neither starter made it past four innings. The Drillers scored their most runs in a game this season, surpassing the 12 they scored against Springfield on April 10.
"Proud of guys for hanging in there and grinding it out on a very tough night," Drillers manager Scott Hennessey said, referring to an early deficit and the sultry weather.
Angelo Mora went 2-for-4 with three RBIs on a pair of doubles to help the second-place Drillers (65-55 overall, 28-23 second half) remain two games behind Arkansas in the Texas League North Division second-half race with 19 remaining. Springfield (58-67, 24-26) fell six games out of the lead.
There were early offensive fireworks as each team’s No. 2 hitter — Springfield’s Irving Lopez and Tulsa’s Connor Wong — homered in the first inning. Yariel Gonzalez also homered in the third for the Cardinals, who jumped to a 4-1 lead. Curry departed after four innings with four runs allowed (three earned).
"I think his stuff was good but they were sitting on his off-speed pitches," Hennessey said. "He made an adjustment in the third and fourth innings, and got us through four innings."
At 4-1, it looked like a potentially daunting deficit for the Drillers after FaGalde retired 10 of the first 11 hitters, including Wong to lead off the bottom of the fourth. But between Wong striking out for the first and second outs of the inning, the Drillers received six walks, had two hits and scored five runs over 30 minutes.
"What I'm happy about was that we were down 4-1 and nobody panicked," Hennessey said. "We kept saying in the dugout, `hold them under 7 and we'll get to 7 somehow.'
"We felt early on we had really good at-bats, our at-bat quality was good all night. Our at-bat quality in the last game at Northwest Arkansas (Sunday) was not that good, and then yesterday it was not very good either. We had a meeting about it and we had better quality at-bats. The way they responded, I couldn't be more proud of them."
After FaGalde (3-3) walked the bases loaded, Mora laced a two-run double double down the right-field line to cut Springfield’s lead to 4-3. A wild pitch then tied the game. FaGalde was pulled after walking Carlos Rincon.
Will Latcham relieved FaGalde and was greeted by catcher Steve Berman’s go-ahead single. Pinch-hitter Jared Walker walked and so did Errol Robinson, who forced in a run that made it 6-4. Wong’s second strikeout of the inning followed before a crazy ending to the fourth.
With Chris Parmelee batting, it looked like the Drillers were going to score another run on a wild pitch, but a strong carom off the backscreen resulted in a wild rundown that ended with Berman being tagged out at the plate and limping after running about 200 feet on the play. He left the game an inning later with a strained groin and will go on the injured list.
Tulsa added three runs in the seventh off reliever Merandy Gonzalez. Just as was the case in the fourth, Parmelee drew a walk to ignite the outburst. Donovan Casey’s double advanced Parmelee to third. Parmelee scored on a wild pitch and Thomas chopped a single that drove in Casey. Thomas scored on Mora’s double into the left-center gap for a 9-4 lead.
The Drillers scored six in the eighth, with the first five off Connor Jones, who issued three walks in a row after Eric Peterson’s leadoff infield hit. Wong drew a bases-loaded walk, Parmelee followed with a sacrifice fly and Thomas lined a RBI single. Mora walked to load the bases. Rincon lined a two-run single and Peterson drove in Mora with another infield hit. The inning finished with an infielder, Lopez, pitching.
Ryan Moseley (4-0) relieved Curry and picked up the win with two shutout innings. Nolan Long followed Moseley with two shutout innings and Jordan Sheffield pitched the ninth, giving up Justin Toerner’s leadoff homer.
"Getting down 4-1 we could've just packed it in, their pitcher (FaGalde) has one of the best ERAs in the league," Hennessey said. "It was a miserable night out there, it was hot and humid, terrible. But overall a good performance by everybody."