It was easy to see during Tuesday night’s season opener why Tulsa Drillers manager Scott Hennessey has expressed excitement about the “power arms” on his team’s pitching staff.
Five Drillers pitchers combined for 17 strikeouts, but a botched rundown play proved to be Tulsa’s undoing as the Amarillo Sod Poodles prevailed 4-3 before a capacity crowd of 5,004 at ONEOK Field.
It was the first pro baseball game in Tulsa since the Sod Poodles’ comeback win over the Drillers in the 2019 Texas League Championship Series finale.
Amarillo snapped a 3-3 tie in the seventh. Alek Thomas led off with a double against reliever Guillermo Zuniga. Felix Perdomo then reached on a fielder’s choice as Thomas advanced to third on second baseman Michael Busch’s error during a rundown. With runners at the corners, Jake McCarthy lined a go-ahead single.
Sod Poodles pitchers Humberto Mejia, Luis Castillo, Chester Pimentel and Junior Garcia also were impressive as they combined on a five-hitter with 14 strikeouts.
Both starting pitchers — Tulsa’s Gerardo Carrillo and Mejia — had moments when they showed why they are on a major league 40-man roster. Carrillo, who had not pitched above Single-A previously, struck out four of the first six batters. He left in the fourth inning after reaching his pitch limit at 54.
Mejia, who pitched in three major league games for the Miami Marlins last season before being traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks with two others for all-star outfielder Starling Marte, allowed three runs in five innings before reaching his pitch limit at 79. He gave up only four hits — two homers, an infield single and a pop-fly triple that was lost in the twilight.
Each team scored a run in the second. Amarillo took a 1-0 lead on Jancarlos Cintron’s two-out single that deflected off third base and into left field, driving in Dominic Miroglio, who doubled with one out.
Tulsa tied the game on Ryan Noda’s opposite-field homer over the left-field wall.
Amarillo regained the lead in the fourth when Miroglio greeted reliever Aaron Ochsenbein with a two-run homer after Carrillo gave up Ryder Jones’ leadoff single. Ochsenbeing then gave up a walk, before erasing that with a double-play grounder and then striking out four in a row.
Tulsa tied the game at 3-3 in the fifth on Jacob Amaya’s homer.
After Tulsa pitcher Darien Nunez struck out the side as he pitched around two hits in the top of the sixth, the Drillers had a chance to take the lead in the bottom of the inning as they loaded the bases with one out, but Castillo struck out Carlos Rincon and Steve Berman to end the threat.
Zach Willeman, who was Tulsa’s fifth pitcher, may have been the Drillers’ most effective as he retired all four batters he faced with two strikeouts to give Tulsa a chance to come back. But after the Drillers failed to convert the bases-loaded opportunity in the sixth, they were retired in order over the final three innings.
SOD POODLES 4, DRILLERS 3
Amarillo 010 200 100 — 4 11 0
Tulsa 010 110 000 — 3 5 1
Mejia, Castillo (6), Pimentel (7), Garcia (9) and Herrera; Carrillo, Ochsenbein (4), Nunez (6), Zuniga (7), Willeman (8) and Berman. W — Castillo (1-0); L — Zuniga (0-1). Save — Garcia (1). HR — Amarillo: Miroglio (1); Tulsa; Noda (1), Amaya (1). RBIs — Amarillo: Miroglio 2 (2), Cintron 1 (1), McCarthy 1 (1); Tulsa: Noda 1 (1), Kendall 1 (1), Amaya 1 (1). T — 2:58. A — 5,004.