Many times during the regular season this year, the Arkansas Travelers were in games like the one Thursday night. Close, low scoring, and not a whole lot cooking offensively.
Many times this season the Travs came out on top -- their Texas League-best 81-57 overall record, which included a first-half north division title, wasn't for nothing. Take Wednesday's 2-1 win over Tulsa in Game 1, for example.
ARKANSAS TRAVELERS AT TULSA DRILLERS
WHEN 7:05 p.m.
WHERE ONEOK Field, Tulsa, Oklahoma
RADIO KARN-AM, 920, in central Arkansas
PITCHERS Travelers: TBA; Drillers: RH Markus Solbach (5-1, 3.77 ERA)
SHORT HOPS Right-handed pitcher Logan Gilbert was put on the 7-day IL on Thursday. Right-handed pitcher Art Warren was activated from the 7-day IL.
THE WEEK AHEAD
TODAY at Tulsa, 7:05 p.m.
SATURDAY at Tulsa, 7:05 p.m.*
SUNDAY at Tulsa, 1:05 p.m.*
But other times, they fell short.
Thursday was the latter, as the Tulsa Drillers grabbed Game 2 of the Texas League North Division playoffs with a 3-1 victory over the Travs at Dickey-Stephens Park in North Little Rock. The best-of-five series is tied 1-1, and the rest of the series will reside in Tulsa.Gallery: Travelers-Drillers Playoffs
Drillers left-handed starting pitcher Leo Crawford and right-handed reliever Luis Vasquez had their way with the Travs' lineup all night and combined on a four-hitter with 12 strikeouts. Crawford, whose funky windup posed issues for Travs hitters, did the bulk of the work, tossing 61/3 innings, allowing all 4 hits and the lone run and striking out 7. Vasquez pitched 22/3 innings of shutout ball, allowing no hits the rest of the way to earn the save.
"They were tough. You don't see a guy like Crawford ... very often who changes speeds and just has a different variety of ways to throw the ball," said Travs catcher Cal Raleigh. "He changes it up all the time. It's just something different. It was hard to catch on to, and I feel like that he did a good job of using that against us."
Travs right-handed starter Justin Dunn, the Texas League's strikeout leader this season, struggled often Thursday. Dunn pitched 42/3 innings, giving up 6 hits, 2 earned runs, 3 walks and striking out 3 on 89 pitches.
"It didn't seem like he had his 'A' stuff," Travs Manager Cesar Nicolas said, "but we always got a lot of confidence in him, and [it] just kind of didn't go his way today."
Tulsa struck first in the top of the second inning thanks to a double steal and a mistake by Raleigh. With runners on the corners with two outs, Drillers right fielder Donovan Casey made an attempt for second base, prompting a throw from Raleigh.
But as Raleigh's throw sailed to second, Drillers catcher Connor Wong made a run toward home from third. Casey was safe at second, and Travs shortstop Donnie Walton threw back home to try and catch Wong. The throw easily beat him, and Raleigh applied the tag as Wong tried sliding past him. But Raleigh dropped the ball after Wong slid by, forcing home plate umpire Luis Hernandez to change his call from out to safe, and the Drillers took a 1-0 lead.
"I trapped it right on the ground and I thought I had it," Raleigh said. "[I've] got to be able to make that play next time."
The Travs tied the game, 1-1, in the bottom of the fourth thanks to an RBI single into left field by second baseman Jordan Cowan, which scored right fielder Jarred Kelenic. But the tie didn't last long.
Tulsa added two runs in the top of the fifth to take a 3-1 lead. Shortstop Jeter Downs produced an RBI single, then he later scored after Wong singled into right. After the next batter, second baseman Omar Estevez, singled, the Drillers had the bases loaded with two outs, which ended Dunn's night on the mound.
Travs right-handed reliever Wyatt Mills came in and reduced the damage by forcing a groundout to end the inning, then proceeded to pitch a scoreless sixth with three strikeouts. Right-hander Joey Gerber and closer Art Warren kept the Travs in it over the final three innings with clutch pitching.
"We know what we're gonna get out of those [relievers]," Nicolas said. "It was great for them to be able to keep us in the game there."
Arkansas' batters never could get anything going, though, over the final five innings, failing to register a hit in that span.
The Travs will have to win two of the next three games in order to take the series and advance to the Texas League Championship. But the club with the league's best overall record this year isn't fazed by that.
"We know what we're capable of doing," Nicolas said. "And yeah, we're going on the road in a situation where we got to win a three-game series."
At a glance
TEXAS LEAGUE PLAYOFFS
Tulsa at Arkansas, (n)
Arkansas leads series 1-0
Midland at Amarillo, (n)
Midland leads series 1-0
All times Central
Amarillo at Midland, 6:30 p.m.
Arkansas at Tulsa, 7:05 p.m.
x-Amarillo at Midland, 7 p.m.
x-Arkansas at Tulsa, 7:05 p.m.
x-Arkansas at Tulsa, 1:05 p.m.
x-Amarillo at Midland, 2 p.m.
Teams TBD, Tuesday-Sept. 15
Tulsa’s Jared Walker slides into second base ahead of a tag by Arkansas’ Jordan Cowan during the Drillers’ 3-1 victory over the Travelers at Dickey-Stephens Park in North Little Rock.
Sports on 09/06/2019
Print Headline: Drillers limit Travs' bats, tie series