TULSA (KFAQ) - Arkansas Travelers outfielder Randal Grichuk is rated the fifth best prospect in the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim farm system. Pitchers for the Tulsa Drillers would probably argue that first is a more suitable spot for the 2009 first round draft choice.
The right fielder continued his season-long assault on Tulsa pitchers Friday night at ONEOK Field, hitting two home runs, scoring three runs and driving in three more to lead the Travelers to a 7-6 victory over the Drillers.
The loss dropped Tulsa three games behind first-place Arkansas in the Texas League North Division standings. Northwest Arkansas and Springfield are tied for second, one game behind the Travs with ten games now remaining in the regular season.
Grichuk has owned Tulsa pitching this year. With the two homers, the 22-year-old has now hit 11 of his 22 round-trippers this season against the Drillers. He also has added 4 doubles and 6 triples with 21 of his 32 hits against Tulsa going for extra bases.
Grichuk's big night began on the game's fifth pitch as he deposited Tulsa starter Tim Gustafson's offering into the bullpen in right-center field to stake the Travelers to a quick lead.
After Gustafson retired Taylor Lindsey, Cyle Hankerd singled, and one out later, Robbie Widlansky hit the second homer of the inning and his eighth of the season to increase the Travelers lead to 3-0.
The Drillers used a long ball of their own in the home half of the first to reduce their deficit. Leadoff batter Tyler Kuhn was hit by a pitch from Michael Roth, and Tim Smalling reached on an error. Kyle Parker then grounded into a double play, but Kuhn moved to third and Angelys Nina followed by delivering his tenth home run of the year to pull Tulsa to within one.
Grichuk promptly got the run back in the top of the second. Travis Witherspoon drew a walk prior to Grichuk producing his second home run of the night with two outs. The towering fly landed in the terrace section about 15 feet inside the left field foul pole and put Arkansas on top 5-2.
The Travelers added an unearned run in the fifth inning. They loaded the bases on a walk and a pair of errors, and C.J. Cron brought a runner home with a sacrifice fly.
A run-scoring base hit from shortstop Jimmy Swift in the sixth increased Arkansas' lead to 7-2.
Tulsa made things interesting in the late innings. In the sixth, Kuhn started a rally with a leadoff double, and for the second time in the game, Smalling reached on an error. Kuhn scored when Parker lined a double into right field, and Smalling came home on a ground out by Nina.
Tom Murphy capped off the big inning with a double over the head of center fielder Travis Witherspoon that brought Parker home to cut the Drillers deficit to 7-5.
In the bottom of the ninth, pinch-hitter Joey Wong led off with a base hit. After Juan Crousset struck out, Delta Cleary Jr. pulled the Drillers to within a run when he doubled off the right-center field wall. Wong scored on the play to make it 7-6.
Kuhn grounded out sharply to second before Smalling was called out on strikes to end the game.
Gustafson suffered the loss, dropping his record to 6-11. He worked five innings, surrendering four hits and six runs with five being earned.
Roth, who has pitched in 15 games in the majors this season for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, picked up the win to improve his Texas League record to 2-1. He was charged for five runs in 5.1 innings, but only two of those were earned. Roth did not walk a batter and struck out five.
Tulsa first baseman Kiel Roling missed his sixth straight game because of a strained forearm.
The paid attendance for the game was 7,276, bringing the ONEOK Field season attendance total to 379,900. That total is the second highest in the history of professional baseball in the city of Tulsa.
Tulsa will open a three-game series with Springfield Saturday night at ONEOK Field. It will be the final home series of the regular season for the Drillers. The pitching matchup for the opener will feature Daniel Winkler (1-0, 2.87 ERA) for Tulsa against lefthander Jonathan Cornelius (5-6, 5.02 ERA) of the Cardinals. Game time is scheduled for 7:05PM.