The Tulsa Drillers honored Oklahoma native Mickey Mantle and the Mantle family Saturday night at ONEOK Field, giving away special number 7 jerseys. Tulsa could have used some of the New York Yankees legend's offensive firepower in the game. The Drillers fell one run short of Springfield and dropped a 4-3 decision to the Cardinals before a crowd of 6,748.
The loss was costly for the Drillers. The defeat and Northwest Arkansas' win over Arkansas dropped the Drillers into second place for the first time this year, one game behind the Naturals. Tulsa has been in first place in the North Division of the Texas League every day this season since winning in San Antonio on opening night.
Tulsa and Northwest Arkansas will now begin an important four-game series at ONEOK Field Sunday afternoon. It will mark the first of six meetings between the rivals during the final ten games of the first-half season.
In Saturday's Tulsa defeat, the two teams traded runs in the first two innings. The Cardinals opened the scoring in the top of the first when Oscar Taveras doubled with two outs and scored on a base hit by Audry Perez.
The Drillers answered in the second as Kent Matthes singled and scored on a base hit by Mike Mitchell. They nearly took the lead on the play as Tim Torres followed Matthes home and avoided the initial tag from catcher Perez with home plate umpire Gabriel Morales signaling safe. But Torres, realizing that he had not touched the plate, scrambled back towards home and was called out after finally being tagged.
With the score tied at 1-1, Tulsa nemesis Greg Gacia put Springfield in front in the fourth. The shortstop hit his second home run in as many nights to lead off the inning. It was Garcia's fifth homer of the season and four have come at the expense of the Drillers.
The Redbirds added another run later in the fourth and it was aided by a miscue. Xavier Scruggs followed the Garcia homer with a double. Scruggs eventually scored when first baseman Ben Paulsen misplayed Kolten Wong's grounder.
Springfield used another homer in the fifth to increase its lead to 4-1. Chris Swauger's one-out long ball was his third of the season.
The Drillers trimmed the deficit to one run with single runs in both the fifth and sixth innings. In the fifth, Josh Rutledge doubled and scored on a base hit from Angelys Nina.
Singles from Torres and Lars Davis in the sixth put runners at first and third with one out. Torres came home on a sacrifice fly from Mitchell to make it 4-3.
It would be the final run of the game. After going down in order in the seventh, the Drillers put a runner on base in both the eighth and ninth innings but could not produce a tying run.
Springfield Richard Castillo improved his record to a perfect 4-0 with the win, while Tulsa starter Dan Houston suffered the loss to fall to 6-5.
Mitchell enjoyed a strong offensive night, going 2-3 with 2 runs batted in. Rutledge and Davis also recorded two hits.
Game one of the important series with Northwest Arkansas will be played Sunday afternoon at ONEOK Field. Tulsa native Parker Frazier (2-7, 4.50 ERA) will pitch the opener for the Drillers, while the Naturals will send Justin Marks (3-2, 3.64 ERA) to the mound. First pitch is scheduled for 2:05PM in downtown Tulsa.