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Stoking the Fire

As persona non grata in the Texas blogosphere right now, I should take last night's classic as a chance to backtrack, give Texas credit, and back down from my "LSU is an unstoppable juggernaut" meme.  But I'd rather throw fuel on the fire.

First and foremost, that was a terrific game.  It was one of the most exciting sporting events I have seen, regardless of sport.  Both teams both threw and received some massive punches.  It was a classic heavyweight fight between two of the top teams in the country. 

But it also showed how ridiculous the idea was that LSU would be unable to play a close game.  Texas does not have magic pixie dust, they have a shutdown closer.  So does LSU.  LSU also has a deeper bench which sort of helps in the late innings.  It also might have been the difference in the game.  The standard line coming out of Texas was that they would be so much better prepared to win a close game was silly from the start, and ignored the fact that LSU had faced adversity anyway.  But a good team is a good team, even if they are down two runs.  Did Texas expect LSU to suddenly pack it in if the game got close? 

Some other observations after the jump. 

AUGIE.  We can thank Augie for the LSU win.  Augie is one of the best coaches in college baseball, but he's sort of the anti-Skip Bertman.  Skip put his players in a position to win and let them achieve gretaness.  Augie not only wants to win, but he likes being the smartest guy on the field.  He likes to make moves which pay off, so that he is the one controlling the outcome.  He trusts his players, but he trusts his ability to manage the game more so.

This isn't a bad way to coach and I'm not saying that it is.  He's won a ton of games and bucket of national titles.  I'm just pointing out that Augie likes to make a lot of moves.  And last night, he made way too many moves for his own good.  In a close game, Augie pulled some of his best hitters for defense.  Once LSU rallied to tie, Texas' biggest guns were left watching the rest of the game from the dugout.  the Longhorns never really threatened after Chad Jones came in the seventh.  It would have been nice had the Longhorns had a few more hitters.

LSU'S BENCH. By contrast, Mainieri also made moves without the ill effect.  When Texas made defensive substitutions, it killed thier offense.  When Mainieiri went to his bench for some more offense, it didn't impact the defense too adversely.  The outfield defense actually improved with Landry out there.  LSU's bench was more flexible, and it paid off in the late innings. 

THE UMP.  Seriously, he was terrible.  The strike zone was all over the place and changed not just from hitter to hitter, but during the same at bat.  I still don't know if that low and outside pitch is a strike or a ball.  Because the ump called it both.  It impacted the game, but it didn't favor either team, I just wanted to point out how lousy he was.

THE PENS.  Texas went all out to win.  Texas, rightly I believe, threw the kitchen sink to win this game.  Texas went to its stud starting pitching to get the critical outs, which could have a negative impact on the next few games.  I believe all those arms are still availble, but I'm not sure how long they can go.  Mainieri's used his pen like a normal game: Jones, Bertuccini, and then Ott.  He trusted his usual bullpen guys to make the outs, and they came through.  Texas' bullpen was supposed to be an advantage, but that's thinking LSU's pen is the same lousy corps we had in March and April, not the shutdown crew we have had in May and June.  Mainieri didn't have to go all "Game 3" and still won.

THE WIN. That's the huge thing.  Apart from the obvious.  Texas hit five home runs.  they opened up their pen and played it like Game 3 of the Series.  They had everything happen they needed to have happen to win... and they lost.  Texas' big advantage was supposed to be their ability to win the close game, well, advantage now goes LSU.