SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Trailing by two in the ninth, the rally started. But the rally stalled.
A quick single by Lane Thomas and a five-pitch walk drawn by Evan Mendoza got Hammons Field buzzing late Sunday night. But the Cardinals couldn’t finish the job despite loading the bases with just one out, falling 5-3 to the Drillers in front of a crowd of 3,383.
As tough as the loss was, the overarching result is tougher. The Cardinals dropped to two games behind Arkansas in the Texas League North with eight games remaining in the 1st-Half race.
Northwest Arkansas is tied with Springfield in the division race with the Drillers now just a game back of the second-place duo after taking the first two games of this four-game series.
The good news is the Cardinals could still control much of their own destiny with a four-game home series beginning against Arkansas on Wednesday.
It all happened in the third inning for the Drillers. And all with two outs. After D.J. Peters worked his way to second, Errol Robinson’s single to center put the visitors up 1-0. Luke Raley’s two-run homer then made it 3-0. Two batters later another two-run homer, this time from Will Smith, extended the score to 5-0.
Outside of that frame, Cardinals starter Jake Woodford performed well. Woodford (3-7) tossed six innings, allowing five runs on five hits and a walk while striking out five. He allowed just two total hits outside of the third.
Raley’s bomb was his fourth against the Cardinals this year and 11th overall.
All the damage for the Cardinals also came in the third. Stefan Trosclair immediately responded with a leadoff home run, bringing Springfield within 5-1.
Two batters later, a single by Tommy Edman happened, and then Edmundo Sosa reached on an error. Both were then driven home by Lane Thomas off a sharp double that danced down the line in left and brought the Cardinals within 5-3.
Jacob Evans and Colton Thomson combined for three scoreless relief innings for the Cardinals.
Tulsa starter Devin Smeltzer went seven innings for the first time all season, striking out five and allowing just four total hits.
The Cardinals host the Drillers for the third game of a four-game series Monday morning at 11:10 am.