Friday night, the Tigers begin a 3-game set against the Alabama Crimson Tide, weather permitting. The Tigers sit at 8-4 while the Tide sits at 6-6 in the conference and 21-10 overall. Bama is, however, among the hotter teams in the conference, having swept Tennessee last weekend.
LSU, on the other hand, is coming off 4 consecutive series wins to start the conference season, albeit all in 2-1 splits.
LSU will have injury problems in this one. Sean Ochinko and Jared Mitchell are both questionable, Ochinko particularly so. Sean Ochinko has been our best hitter so far this season.
The good news is that this is the weekend that Chad Jones was supposed to return to the team, which would be excellent news especially if Mitchell can't go.
The pitching matchup should be fireballer Anthony Renaudo against righty Austin Hyatt. Renaudo has been one of the best pitchers in the conference, but Hyatt's not far behind. Opponents are hitting only .210 against him, while opponents are hitting sub-.200 against Renaudo. The key of course is to get about 7 innings out of Renaudo so we don't have to use our bullpen too much.
Right now, when you think Bama baseball, you have to think hitting. They lead the conference in batting average at .346, and they're second in the league in home runs with 66. They lead in slugging percentage as well at .607. They lead or are near the top of the conference in almost every offensive category. They're mid-pack in triples, but other than that their hitting has been statistically outstanding.
They have two hitters having outstanding years. Taylor Dugas leads the conference in batting average at .439. Kent Mathes leads the conference in home runs with 19, and he has a batting average above .400 as well. Those two guys are going to be trouble for anyone right now.
Bama rarely runs, but when they run, they are more efficient at it than we are (31 stolen bases in 41 attempts, versus our 70 stolen bases in 92 attempts).
LSU is mid-pack in most offensive categories, which is pretty good considering how awful our offense was for several weeks there. If that's finally turning the corner, we should be in good shape with them.
One real advantage we have is in pitching. Alabama is only mid-pack in pitching, while we are near the top of the league, when you factor in all starts. Of course, our pitching is top heavy and we will have our best going in this series.
Opponents are hitting .260 against Bama. They are hitting only .250 against us, but it seems to translate into real run production, as Bama's team ERA is almost half a run higher than LSU's.
Probably the biggest advantage LSU has in this game is on the basepaths if everyone is healthy. Alabama catchers have thrown out only 13 base stealers in 55 attempts. As long as we avoid unintelligent decisions to steal, we should be able to put a lot of pressure on them by running. Of course, Jared Mitchell is our best base stealer, and he may not be able to go, or may be slowed down if he is able to go.