Tennessee is a bad team. To beat a team like LSU, Tennessee needs everything to go their way. Last night, everything did.
To start, Tennessee was throwing a lefty at us. We are vulnerable to left-handed pitching. Jared Mitchell went 0-for-4 with 3 strikeouts and a weak grounder to 1st base against Nick Hernandez. Mitchell's last performance against a left-handed starter was 0-for-4 with 4 strikeouts. With one of our best hitters and our most dangerous baserunner not putting any pressure on the defense (and indeed, only putting the ball in play one time until a sacrifice bunt in the late innings), our offense sputtered.
Well, we got tons of hits, actually. We just didn't translate them into very many runs. Other than Jared Mitchell, every starter got a base hit. Blake Dean (one lefthander who seems to have little trouble hitting lefties) was 3 for 5 with a double.
Second, the LSU defense stunk it up. Generally a good defensive team, LSU committed 5 errors and allowed 4 unearned runs. Schimpf had two errors at second. Mike Mahtook dropped a fly ball to right. Lemahieu threw a wild throw from shortstop. Louis Coleman misplayed a ball at the pitcher spot. With LSU winning 4-3 after 5innings, Tennessee scored 3 unearned runs in the next 3 innings before hitting a solo home run in the 9th.
Third, for the I-don't-know-how-manyth-consecutive-time, an LSU runner was put out on the bases when Leon Landry hit a liner to the second baseman and Mikie Mahtook was doubled up. As I did not watch the game, I do not know if this was just one of those unlucky things or if Mahtook should have been playing it more safely.
As a team, we really need to get better about baserunning. It seems that every game we get an out or two by getting picked off or by getting caught trying to take an extra base on a hit or something silly like that. In a high run environment, this is always bad.
Lastly, I really think Mitchell needs to sit when there's a left handed starting pitcher on the mound. Mitchell's an outstanding baseball player, but he's proven time and again to my satisfaction that he is not the same hitter when going against a lefty. Not even close. There are other hitters on the bench, and while we know there would be a cost defensively to taking Mitchell out of the lineup, the fact is that the man is 0-for-8 with 7 strikeouts against lefthanded pitching in the SEC in the last 9 days. That's hard to ignore.
We go again, trying to win the series at 1:00pm today. Hopefully events won't conspire to let Tennessee beat us.