|Updated: 7/30 11:14 pm
||Published: 7/30 11:11 pm
The Tulsa Drillers knew going into Tuesday's game that their bullpen was going to have to come up big after Chad Bettis was scratched from his scheduled start due to an expected promotion to the Colorado Rockies. The pen did more than answer the call. Solid performances from four Tulsa relievers combined with timely hits from Jaron Shepherd and Delta Cleary Jr. led the Drillers to a 4-2 victory over the Springfield Cardinals at ONEOK Field.
Making the spot start in place of Bettis, Tulsa's Josh Mueller performed admirably. The right-hander tossed four innings allowing just three hits and two runs to keep the Drillers within striking distance.
Jaron Shepherd continued to provide a spark for the Drillers from the leadoff position. After legging out his first triple of the season on the first pitch in the bottom of the first inning, he came around to score on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Kyle Parker to give Tulsa a quick 1-0 lead. In his last seven games atop the Drillers' lineup, Shepherd has compiled a .323 average.
Springfield's lead off man James Ramsey responded in the top of the third inning with an opposite field two-run shot to give the Cardinals a 2-1 advantage. It was the 14th homer of the year for the St. Louis Cardinals' #13 prospect.
After both teams took turns leaving runners stranded in scoring position, the Drillers tied it in the fifth thanks to a defensive miscue from the Cardinals.
With Delta Cleary Jr. on second and Joey Wong at third with one out, Shepherd dropped a bunt in front of the mound. Wong found himself caught in a rundown between third and home, but Cardinals' third baseman Ruben Gotay airmailed the throw back to the catcher, allowing Wong to score easily to tie the ballgame at 2-2.
Cleary Jr. got involved in the action the very next inning, keeping pace with his fellow outfielder Shepherd to give the Drillers the lead for good in the sixth.
After putting runners on first and second with no outs, Springfield starter Seth Blair looked as if he was going to work his way out of the jam, striking out Angelys Nina and getting Wong to line out to right. But Cleary Jr. delivered with a clutch two-out, two-run triple to put the Drillers in front 4-2.
It was the second triple of the night for Tulsa, and the second three-bagger of the year for Cleary Jr.
Leuris Gomez followed Mueller in relief and was very effective. Gomez earned his second win of the year as he struck out six while hurling three shutout innings to lower his ERA to 1.52.
The Cardinals attempted a comeback in the eighth against reliever Juan Gonzalez as they loaded the bases with no outs on a hit and a pair of walks, prompting Drillers manager Kevin Riggs to go to the bullpen again. And again his pen would come through.
Joe Gardner came in and quickly extinguished the fire, getting Stephen Piscotty to hit a ground ball to Wong at third. Wong stepped on the bag at third to record a force out before firing home where Dustin Garneau tagged out Colin Walsh for a rally-killing double play. Gardner proceeded to strike out Cody Stanley for the third out, preserving Tulsa's two-run lead.
Gardner finished the game in the ninth with a 1-2-3 inning to earn his first save of the year.
Tulsa will conclude its three-game series with Springfield Wednesday night as it sends right-hander Dan Houston (2-6, 3.81 ERA) to the hill. Springfield will counter with Venezuelan native Richard Castillo (7-6, 4.24 ERA). First pitch at ONEOK Field is set for 7:05 pm.