For the first times in nearly a month LSU dropped a conference series. There isn’t any shame to losing to the top team in the nations, and on the road at that. I found it comical that watching the Kentucky broadcast (thanks Directv for false advertising), they felt the need to dub LSU as the top team, when both were ranked first in a couple of polls. After this weekend it is clear that in Lexington, Kentucky is the best team in college.
On Friday night, Kevin Gausman and the rest of the pitching staff used the -strike everyone out and they can’t score many runs- approach. The staff combined to strike out 15 Wildcats (Gausman 12 alone) and limited them to only four runs. The LSU offense used craft base running to score their first two runs, they Tyler Moore hit a bomb over the right field wall and LSU went on the win 5-4. Saturday, LSU bats could not come through when they needed too and Ryan Eades struggled to confuse the Kentucky batters. The Wildcats rolled 8-1 setting up a winner take all Sunday matchup.
The third game was one not to miss. Four times the lead changed hands and Raph Rhymes put up a performance for the ages. On the day he tallied a perfect four of four from the plate with a homer and a double with scoring twice and driving in three runs. The perfect day helped increase his SEC batting average to .508. The rest of the Tigers scratched out six hits, but three of those were rendered useless as they resulted in a double play.
Aaron Nola struck out seven in five innings of work, but also allowed seven hits and four runs. What has plagued Nola all year is that his pitches would become flat and very hittable. Nola left the game with the Tiger’s trailing 4-3. The bullpen would struggle right out of the gate and it cost LSU the series. Kentucky scored three runs in the bottom of the sixth thanks to four doubles, LSU would add two more runs later but it wouldn’t be enough and LSU lost 7-6.
The series loss drops LSU to 32-9 overall and 12-6 in conference play. The Tigers now trail Kentucky by two games for the overall SEC lead, but are still up a few games on the SEC West.
Now with the recap over with, lets go into the lineup’s production over the weekend.
I already touched on Rhymes in the article so I will make some room for a few other positives. Tyler Hanover had a nice weekend from the plate and was rewarded by the coaches by moving him to number two in the lineup. Only Rhymes reached base more this weekend than Hanover and it is good to see the senior have a nice weekend from the plate. Also a welcome back needs to go out to Mason Katz. Katz has struggled on the road so far in conference play and in big games, only batted .166 against Florida. Last weekend he put the ball in play and even though he did hit for power, he got on base for Rhymes to drive him in.
For every good, there should be a bad right? In this case no. Over the weekend there was only on player that struggled from start to finish. Jacoby Jones just looked uncomfortable all weekend long. He looked as comfortable as the Alabama player’s father who broke the crystal football at a Paul Finebaum fan meeting. I cant put my figure on the problem, they only thing I can think of is plate discipline, but we drew two walks (only walked once in SEC play before this weekend). So what is the problem? I am going to cop-out and say “that’s baseball”.
With Jones struggling, it might be time for LSU to shift its lineup. It is obvious that Jones isn’t a true lead-off hitter, but until two weeks ago no one wanted to step up. With the recent success of Arby Fields, it might be time to give him a few weekends from the one-hole. Against Kentucky Fields only batted .250, but scored three runs. Even though the average is weak, he shows that he can motor around the bases and make a contribution when he isn’t see the ball well.
This weekend wasn’t their best work of the season. Even Gausman allowed more hits than he is accustomed to, but lets face it Kentucky can rip the ball. Eades and Nola learned that you can not put pitched over the middle of the plate or you will pay. All three limited the amount of walks issued which helped limit the run production, but what killed LSU was their lack of limiting Kentucky to one-run innings. Kentucky scored in 10 innings last weekend and eight of those resulted with two or more runs scoring. Because of the big innings the starters finished the weekend with a team ERA of 8.29.
If there is some good news to take from the weekend it is that LSU will not face a offense this good the rest of the season. Lets now check out the bullpen.
Just glancing at the numbers and one could determine the pen pitched well and for 80-percent of their innings recorded they did. On Friday night Chris Cotton and Nick Goody shut the door on Kentucky in a one run game by not allowing a runner on base, and striking out four of the six batters. Goody recorded his sixth save on the season.
The Pen performed well on Saturday, but they entered the game already leading by five. Brent Bonvillain and Cotton combined to throw 3.2 innings allowing four hits and two runs, but the LSU offense could not make up any ground.
On Sunday the pen had a chance to help give LSU the series win, but right out of the gate they blew it. Joey Bourgeois entered the game in the sixth and allowed three runs on four hits (all doubles) and Kentucky pull just far enough ahead to win the series. Bourgeois had been a nice addition to the season for LSU, but like Skip Bertman said “a good pitcher will pitch well in four out of five game”
The series loss is nothing for the Tigers to hand their heads on. The matchup had the feel that if the games were played in Baton Rouge, LSU would have won. The way the two are playing, I get the feeling that the next time they meet might be in the SEC tournament championship game.