Basically, the Arkansas Travelers have their destiny in their own hands.
With a two-game lead over the Springfield Cardinals and Northwest Arkansas Naturals, the Travs finish the last seven games of the regular season at Dickey-Stephens Park. They began the final stretch this past Tuesday with four games against Springfield and then three opposite the Naturals.
“I feel good about our chances,” Travs Manager Tim Bogar said. “We are playing well, our pitching has been good and offensively, we have been decent. I like our chances.”
Arkansas (66-66 overall before Tuesday) was 33-30 for the second half going into Tuesday’s game. A 5-2 record on the Travs’ final road trip at Tulsa and Northwest Arkansas helped their endeavor to win the second half of the Texas League North division. They went 3-1 at Tulsa and 2-1 at Northwest Arkansas.
“It was a great road trip,” Bogar said. “We won two series. We have to keep doing what we are doing because we are fighting every game.”
The Travs embarked on the road trip after going 2-4 at home against San Antonio and Corpus Christi. They took one game each from those two teams and also endured two extra-inning losses to Corpus Christi. By the time they arrived in Tulsa last Tuesday, they were one game behind Springfield after either leading or being tied with the Cardinals. The Travelers won the first two games at Tulsa, and the second victory gave them a one-game lead over Springfield. With Springfield and Northwest Arkansas both two games behind Arkansas, the last seven games are very important particularly the series with Springfield.
“They are all important, but the next series we’ll pretty much show us where we are at,” Bogar said. “We hope for at least a split but want to do better than that.”
Bogar hopes the Travs just take care of business and do what they are supposed to do. In the first half with two consecutive losses, the Travelers finished a game and a half behind Tulsa and in third place. Victories could have changed things as Tulsa won the first half even though a doubleheader against Springfield on the last day was never played because of a wet field. Springfield was second and a game behind.
“We are trying not to have that in the back of our minds,” Bogar said. “We talked at the end of the first half about our opportunities to get into the playoffs. We are playing better, and when it comes to the end of August, we need to do exactly what we need to do.”
Several players are sparking the offense, but one guy who has come on lately is right-fielder Randal Grichuk. Against Tulsa, hit three home runs and tallied four RBIs which included his third time hitting more than one home run in a game. In Friday’s 7-6 victory, he hit a solo shot in the first frame and a two-run homer in the second inning.
“He is doing well and is starting to figure which pitches to lay off of,” Bogar said. “He needs to work sitting back on the breaking back and figuring out which ones he can do damage.”