The Tulsa Drillers opened a four-game series in North Little Rock against the Arkansas Travelers Thursday night and started quickly. They scored four times in the first three innings, but they could not protect the early lead. The Travelers overturned a three-run deficit by scoring six straight runs and posted a 7-5 victory at Dickey-Stephens Park.
The Drillers early 4-1 lead came courtesy of a pair of two-run innings, with the first one coming in the opening frame. After Arkansas starter Matt Oye retired the game's first two hitters, he walked Nolan Arenado, and Ben Paulsen followed with a two-run homer to open the game's scoring.
Tulsa's second two-run inning came in the third. Paulsen drew a leadoff walk, and Corey Dickerson singled. After Kent Matthes moved Paulsen to third with a fly out, Dickerson was thrown out trying to swipe second base. Jimmy Cesario brought Paulsen home with a ground-rule double, then scored himself on a base hit by Mike Mitchell that made it 4-1.
The Travelers first run had scored in the bottom of the first inning when Jean Segura singled off Drillers starting pitcher Josh Outman and before scoring on a base hit by Casey Haerther.
They cut Tulsa's lead to 4-3 in the bottom of the third on a two-run homer by third baseman Brian Hernandez.
The Drillers early three-run lead completely disappeared in the fifth inning. Tyson Auer led off with a single, and Outman issued his first walk of the game to Segura. An error by catcher Lars Davis on a sacrifice bunt attempt loaded the bases as the Tulsa catcher thought he had touched the ball in foul territory.
With the bases full, Outman walked Roberto Lopez to force in the tying run. The walk ended the lefthander's night as Zach Simons was summoned from the Tulsa bullpen and promptly walked Hernandez to bring in another run and give the Travelers a 5-4 lead.
Simons eventually escaped the jam and it remained a one-run game until Arkansas added a couple of runs in the bottom of the eighth. After reliever Mike Marbry retired the inning's first two hitters, Carlos Ramirez singled and Angel Castillo belted a two-run homer to make it 7-4.
The two insurance runs proved to be valuable as Paulsen belted his second homer of the night in the top of the ninth. The first baseman deposited a pitch from Kevin Johnson into the bullpen in right-center field that would have tied the game without the Travelers two runs the previous inning. For Paulsen, it was his ninth home run of the season
It would be as close as Tulsa would get as Johnson recovered to get the next three hitters to end the game.
Outman was charged with the loss, his first decision in five outings with the Drillers. He allowed six hits, two walks and five runs in four-plus innings.
Simons did not allow a hit in three shutout relief innings.
Tulsa lost despite out-hitting Arkansas 9-8, with Dickerson finishing 3-4. Paulsen added two hits and two runs batted in while scoring three runs.
Josh Rutledge was hitless in two at-bats before being removed in the bottom of the fourth. There was no apparent injury to the shortstop and no word on his status following the game.
No Arkansas player had more than one hit in the game as leftfielder Jimmy Swift was the only Travs starter to not register a hit.
The two teams will play game two of their series Friday night. Dan Houston (7-7, 3.57 ERA) will pitch for the Drillers against A.J. Schugel (3-7, 3.23 ERA) of the Travelers. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10PM in North Little Rock.
NOTES: The Drillers announced several roster moves prior to the game. Relief pitchers Coty Woods and Will Harris were not with the club following promotions to Triple A Colorado Springs, while relief pitcher Joe Torres rejoined the Drillers from the Sky Sox. Torres spent most of the 2011 season with Tulsa.