It was close. Very Close. Auburn came within one 2 run rally of dropping two games (and a series) to a team it desperately needed to keep ahead of in the SEC standings. Before I recap Sunday’s doubleheader, some quick notes on Friday:
- Corey Luckie, while not his sharpest, still went 5.2 with 5k. 0 bb and 4 er. Luckie did a good job of silencing UK’s bats while the Auburn offense pretty much hit its zenith during the Friday night barrage.
- Kevin Patterson is making a case to play everyday, with his HR Friday and Saturday (1st) game, he gives Auburn a huge boost whenever Auburn faces LHP. Now, if he could just hit righties.
- Friday night’s game was essentially how I saw the whole series going. I knew Kentucky would get hits, I just assumed Auburn would easily out hit them. However, Sunday just wasn’t the case.
Now on to Sunday. Saturday (as predicted was stormy) yet Auburn still decided to go ahead and try to get the game in. Once it was started, it would force the resumption to be 9 innings. Cole Nelson (on about 3 days rest) had some control problems and left with the bases loaded, 1 out (yet didn’t allow a hit) before God saw fit to open the skies and end it before it got out of hand.
What started on Sunday was ugly. No way around it. It started pretty (with Slade Smith getting a double play to clean up the mess Nelson left) but that was the lone bright spot in the Auburn pitching. The Tigers used (technically) 6 pitchers on the day, all to varying degrees of ineffectiveness. Still, Auburn had a chance and the lead heading to the 8th inning. Then, in one of the ugliest innings I’ve EVER seen Auburn play defensively, the Tigers went from up 2 to down 1. The official box score broke it down thusly:
Kentucky 8th - G. Glad homered to left field, RBI (0-0). K. Wiley hit by
pitch (2-0 B). L. Maile grounded out to p (3-2 BBBKF); K. Wiley advanced to
second. Hubbard, A. to p for Hendrix, B.. T. Black struck out swinging (2-2
SBFBS). C. Bisson singled to center field, RBI (3-1 BBKB); K. Wiley scored. C.
Bisson stole second. C. Bisson stole third. C. Farris reached on a fielding
error by 1b (3-2 BBBKK); C. Bisson scored, unearned. C. Farris stole second. C.
Wright singled to right field (2-0 BB); C. Farris advanced to third, out at
home rf to c. 3 runs, 3 hits, 1 error, 1 LOB.
I have to admit I missed the Glad homer. Fair enough. At that point Auburn was still up 7-6. Then Hendrix plunks a batter. Who then moves to 2nd on a sac hunt. That brought in Austin Hubbard, who had already pitched 3.1 innings on Friday (and got tagged for 2 earned then). Still, in the postgame interview on Friday, Hubbard said he would be ready to go and was feeling good. Austin comes in and gets a big K. Now there are 2 out. Auburn still up. Just needing 1 out to (honestly) put it away. A dink single tied the game and then the frustration really set in. Lead was gone, but at least AU wasn’t trailing. Bisson then steals BACK TO BACK BASES setting up Farris to score him after a ball ate up Hunter Morris. Farris then stole 2nd and if not for a heads up play by Justin Fradejas in RF and a close play at home. Auburn would have been down by two instead of down by one. Why was it so frustrating? Pretty much because Bisson just stole those two bases with ease, he was never held, he was never checked. The go ahead run pretty much walked around the bases and scored easily.
At the end of the day, Auburn had committed 2 costly errors, walked 10 batters, and plunked 4 more. It was ugly all around. Yes, the game was back and forth, but both teams wasted opportunities.That then set up a 7 inning rubber game. A game, Auburn had in control, until a 3 run HR tied it up and then UK took the lead in the top 7. Honestly, being in the stands it felt like the dejavu from the first game that day. However, credit Auburn, the Tigers battled back and scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh to win both the series and the game. First, a Ryan Jenkins single (and substitution when Creede Simpson came in in to pinch run). Then, a nice executed SAC bunt by Justin Hargett. Fradejas comes up with a clutch RBI single that ties the game. Mummey pops up (now 2 out). Brian Fletcher, despite struggling all weekend, managed to get a single that put runners at the corners. Finally, thankfully, mercifully, whatever-ly, Hunter Morris did his best He-Man impression and with one swing of the bat, sent the Tigers home winners.
Here’s what I saw after sitting through the double header:
- The jury is still out on Cole Nelson. Hopefully, Pawlowski won’t use him in the midweek game against Samford. The designated start is fine and all for confidence, but starting 3 games in less then a week’s span in borderline crazy.
- Luckie and Dayton should still be safe for another weekend.
- The Bullpen, however, will need some work. Over the past few weeks the ‘pen had done well (probably because they didn’t need to be used in high pressure situations) but on Sunday NO ONE was effective in relief.
- Austin Hubbard needs some rest. The kid pitched all three games and managed to get a win, a save, a blown save (maybe 2 blown saves, I need to check the box scores) and a loss. Hubbard might be our best pitcher in relief, but working him like that is ridiculous.
- I think Kentucky will get a firm spot on my “teams I hate” list. On Sunday (the first game) their dugout was like a softball team. Constantly whooping and reacting to every ball and strike. I’m all about having fun at the game, but have a little decorum.
- If you think Auburn hitting 4 UK batters is bad (and they hit a few others in the 2nd game). It should be expected when playing Kentucky. The lead the SEC in getting HBP. At first, I thought it was inflated due to an early season game against Monmouth (when UK got plunked a ridiculous number of time). However, after watching the Wildcats at the plate, I can see why the lead the league. UK doesn’t move. At all. There’s no avoiding a pitch (and I’m not accusing them of leaning in, but, you know) and there’s no getting out of the way. They just stand there and get hit. Bully to them, but c’mon, play baseball with a little more respect.
- If the Auburn fan sitting a few rows up from me is reading this. Please, don’t come to a game again. It was hella fun listening to you bitch and moan and saying that “you’d see better baseball on Monday” because “you were going to a little league game”. Yes, Auburn was sucking it up. However, c’mon man, support the Tigers a little better.
HITTER OF THE WEEK: Hunter Morris. The man is on an absolute tear right now. Friday: 1 for 3 with 2 RBI and Triple. Saturday (DH 1) 1 for 2 with an RBI and Sunday hits the game winner.
JOBUS: Jobu very happy. A sweep would have been good, but a series win is a series win and that’s worth 4 Jobus
Again, I know many fans will feel like we should have swept, and we should have. However, we didn’t. That’s how it goes. I bet you can tell from the photo below that the Auburn players WEREN’T thinking, “Man we could have had the sweep”. They were just happy to win a crucial SEC series:
How crucial? Here are the up to date SEC standings:
So Auburn will finish the weekend in 6th place. Not good? Meh. It’s ok. I would say at this point it’s a comfortable sixth place. Remember Auburn still have series against the 10th and 11th place teams (at home) and I still call an upset of Ole Miss to end the season. It really was a weird weekend of baseball in the SEC. Ole Miss swept LSU. Arkansas fell to Florida. Plus. if Auburn was curious and wanted to know what would have happened if it had dropped the series to UK, look no farther than Vanderbilt, who got swept in a Sunday double header to drop the series to the Vols. With the series loss is put Vandy in a bit of a pinch. Precariously perched at 7th place, with all that’s standing between them and 8th place is a loss (and a Bama win). I hope at this point, Auburn never loses focus of the goal: Hoover. To get to Hoover? Just be better than 4 teams. We’ve got four SEC series left. That’s 12 games. A ton can happen in those standings over 12 games, but for now, the Tigers are 4 games (and a head to head tie breaker) ahead of the 9th place team. That’s a cushion Auburn needs to keep. Hopefully this serves as a wake up call to never take any SEC opponent lightly. Arkansas is next weekend, but a trip to Fayette-nam won’t come with the high expectations this one did. Just don’t get swept by the Hogs and we’re still in good shape.