SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Randy Arozarena’s return to Springfield was a grand one. And propelled the Cardinals past Tulsa to the top of the Texas League North.
Arozarena crushed a fourth-inning grand slam and finished with five RBIs, Victor Roache and Edmundo Sosa went back-to-back in the fifth, and Springfield pummeled Tulsa 15-5 in front of 5,016 fans under the Hammons Field lights on Cinco de Mayo.
The win put the Cardinals a half game ahead of the Drillers in the division.
After rallying from a 3-0 deficit with four runs in a third inning capped by an Arozarena RBI single, the Cardinals busted free in the fourth with six more runs before adding an additional five in the fifth.
Tulsa pitchers didn’t help themselves in the fourth by issuing four consecutive walks, two of which resulted in bases-loaded free passes for Roache and Sosa.
Then, Arozarena came out for an encore to his fourth-inning single, connecting on a grand slam that took advantage of Drillers pitchers simply trying to find the zone but catching too much of it. The granny brought in John Nogowski, Roache and Sosa and put Springfield up 10-3.
Cardinals starter Ryan Helsley (2-1) eased to a win behind that run support, allowing four runs on four hits and two walks in 5.2 innings while striking out a season-high 10. Helsley opened the game with 2.1 no-hit innings.
Yadier Alvarez (0-2) was saddled with the loss for Tulsa.
Luke Raley put an end to Helsley’s zeros with a solo shot in the third. Two batters later, the Drillers made it 3-0 when Connor Joe went deep over the scoreboard in left.
Springfield’s three-inning onslaught started in the bottom of the third when Tommy Edman doubled and Ramon Urias and Lane Thomas walked. Loaded without one out, Andrew Knizner doubled into the gap in right for a pair of RBIs.
The Cardinals tied it 3-3 two batters later when Roache grounded out, scoring Thomas.
After Arozarena’s big fourth inning, Tulsa made it 10-4 on a Joe single in the top of the fifth that brought in Michael Johnson.
In the bottom half, Knizner connected again, driving in Urias for an 11-4 Cardinals lead.
That lead ballooned to 14-4 two batters later on Roache’s ninth homer of the season. Sosa then made it back-to-back jacks with a homer to center, continuing the rush and making it 15-4 Cardinals.
Tulsa added a fifth run when Keibert Ruiz scored on a Landon Beck wild pitch in the eighth.
Roache’s home run was his ninth of the season, putting him atop the Texas League. The first-year Cardinal has 16 extra-base hits and is now third in the league with 62 total bases.
The Cardinals had six extra-base hits in the game, including a pair of doubles by Edman and one by Nogowski.
The Cardinals tied an organization record with 11 team walks, but free passes weren’t the only prominent statistic tonight. Springfield’s lineup struck out 15 times to match its 15 runs.
Not to be outdone, Springfield pitchers finished with 15 strikeouts. Beck struck out three in 2.1 innings and Jacob Evans added two in the ninth.
Springfield and Tulsa play the second game of a four-game series Sunday at 2:10 p.m. at Hammons Field. Sunday is a Hiland Dairy Ice Cream Sunday, where kids receive free ice cream sandwiches before the game, courtesy of Hiland Dairy. After the game is Kids Run the Bases.
St. Louis announced today that Adam Wainwright is expected to make a rehab start in Springfield for Monday’s 11:10 a.m. game against Tulsa.