Saturday, March 6, 2010

Recap: Fletch Lives

Leave it to Auburn to keep things interesting. Despite the chilly night at the ballpark the Auburn bats were red hot, connecting on a season high 22 hits and scoring 14 runs. Things looked a little dicey heading into the later frames, but you have to give the Auburn players credit: they responded in a big way, capped off by a ridiculous 8 running 7th inning.



HITTING- There really wasn't anything that Auburn did wrong on Friday night; Every Auburn player with a plate appearance registered a hit. Justin Hargett, Creede Simpson, Brian Fletcher, Tony Caldwell and Wes Gilmer all had multi hit games. Simpson and Fletcher were especially on fire. Creede went 5 for 6 with 3 rbi/2r/1k. Fletcher was even better 4 for 5/4 rbi/1bb with 1 HR, a double, and a stolen base. The guy was on absolute fire and kicked off the 7th inning bonanza with a Homer to deep right:



Down 9-5 going to the bottom of the seventh after leading 4-1 after four, Auburn's highest-scoring inning of the season started with Fletcher's fifth home run of the season and 32nd of his career, a solo blast to the back of the visitor's bullpen to get Auburn to within three runs. Casey McElroy (1-for-5, 2B, BB, R) followed with a double and the rally was on as pinch hitter Dan Gamache singled home McElroy and Justin Bryant (1-for-3, HBP, SAC, 2 R), Simpson smoked a one-out, two-run double past the first baseman and Fletcher doubled in a pair with his second hit of the inning, a liner down the left field line. Tony Caldwell (3-for-5, 2B, 3R, 2 RBI) capped the scoring with a two-out double that put Auburn up 13-9.

"We try to build some momentum, get some guys on base and drive some runs in," Fletcher said. "At the beginning of the season I figured I would be seeing a lot more off-speed stuff and during practice and before games I have been trying to work on my approach. I am just trying to do the little things like move guys over to help the team."

Through nine games, Fletcher is hitting .447, has driven in a SEC-best 23 runs and has a .947 slugging percentage with four doubles and five home runs.



That's just a nasty stat line. The Simpson hit, if you were able to see it person, was the epitome of how the ball just wasn't bouncing Miami's way last night. The ball was lasered down the line and the 1B got a solid glove on it, but it just bounced away from him and rolled into right field.



Throughout the night, Auburn did a great job of moving guys over, clean bunts, attempted squeeze plays, etc. Still, I do have a bit of a concern down the road. With this new philosophy and plate approach, Auburn is more than capable than putting up 1 or 2 runs an inning. However, innings like that 8 run 7th are just an aberration. Simply put, we can easily come back from 1 or 2 runs in the late innings, or even a 5+ lead in the early going, but a late inning big lead to overcome? Probably not. Normally that wouldn't be a concern, but with the struggles of our pitching staff. Speaking of which:



PITCHING- Jon Luke Jacobs. Part of me is starting to feel sorry for the guy. His stuff just isn't working right now and it shows. Even though last night, he showed a bit of old form. Easily mowing down the first 9 he faced. Then a bit of a hiccup in the 4th. He did manage to get through it, just allowing a solo HR from Adam Eaton. Then, per usual, the fifth inning struggles came up and JLJ just imploded: allowing 4 more runs in the 5th inning. Final line: 5ip/7h/5er/0bb/4k. On the plus side, he didn't give any free passes, but overall he just struggled only throwing 48 of 72 pitches for strikes (60%). Add to that, Bradley Hendrix ineffectiveness (1ip/4h/3er). The lone bright spot was Michael Hurst. He had a rough 7th inning (allowing an ER). But after Auburn exploded offensively, Hurst stepped up and worked a clean 8th and 9th to preserve the win. The 8th inning pitching was especially needed and kept the momentum in the Auburn dugout.



JOBUs- Still stuck at 3 out of 5. The offense was nice, but the struggles of pitching and letting a team like Miami score 9 runs just isn't that pretty. Still, no errors and no walks on the night, so maybe the Tigers have turned a corner:



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