Every baseball season, there's going to be one series that just defies all standards of common sense and what we expect from the sport. Baseball is a game of predictable rhythms, but the frustrating part is that once you feel you know these rhythms, everything gets shot all to hell. Sometimes, weird stuff just happens.
That was the Kentucky series in a nutshell. It didn't make a lick of sense, and now that it is over, it's best we never talk about it again. There are no lessons to be learned other than, "every so often, sports are weird." We shouldn't read too much into it, so of course, that's what I'm gonna do for the rest of the column.
Drop a series to Kentucky, and you don't get to stay #1. Those are the rules. Texas A&M moves into the top spot and... I just don't want to talk about it, okay?
I can't even talk about Friday night. It's just too infuriating, even with a few days to settle down. Every coach has his weaknesses and blind spots, and one of Mainieri's biggest ones is his slow hook. He feels like every time a starter gets into a late jam, he's going to magically work his way out of it. He feels comfortable with his starters, and there's a reason those guys start, and he doesn't like to go to the pen until he has to. That's not an inherently wrong way to manage a game, but man... it was just brutal on Friday.
Poche' was cruising through six innings, allowing zero runs on one hit. He looked strong and had no signs of slowing down. Then, all of a sudden, the wheels came off in the seventh. After an opening fly out, Kentucky batters went double, single, line out, single, single, single. Even the out was a sharply hit ball, as Poche' turned into a pumpkin pretty quickly. As Poche' allowed five hits in six batters in a late inning, including three hits in a row, Mainieri did not go to his pen until the lead was already blown.
Then, to mix in some praise in the middle of the criticism, Maineiri made the right call by going to his closer in the 9th of a tie game. The save situation would never arise and besides, I hate how coaches manage for the statistic. So good on Mainieri for going to his relief ace... but did you have to leave him in for FOUR innings? Actually, Stalling did get the first two outs of the 13th, but there was only one way that movie was going to end. On top of that, the long outing assured that Stallings was burnt for the rest of the weekend.
Sure would have been nice to have the team's best reliever available on Sunday as the pen allowed six runs in three innings, protecting a two-run lead in the 7th. But Mainieri's mismanagement of the pen on Friday had consequences on Sunday. He threw good money after bad, trying to buy his way out of a terrible decision in the 7th on Friday.
LSU desperately needed a good outing, or at least some innings eaten, from Jake Godfrey on Sunday. He didn't make it out of the second inning. Then the team was in full on scramble mode, with its best reliever out of commission and no established long reliever. Kyle Bouman wasn't getting into this game on a bet. After being guilty of a slow hook, Mainieri might have pulled Hunter Newman too early. Newman threw 33 pitches over 2.1 innings, allowing two hits and zero runs. So, to start off the fifth, Austin Bain came into the game. It was like casting about looking for the pitcher who didn't have his stuff that day. Bain, Strall, and Person then all melted down to various degrees.
Alden Cartwright came into the disastrous 8th and somehow worked out of the jam on 6 pitches. The bats rallied in the bottom of the inning to re-take the lead, so after finally finding a second pitcher who was capable of getting outs on the day... Maineri went to the pen again and Parker Bugg promptly blew the lead. OK, the inside the park home run was the kind of flukish play that can't really be pinned on the pitcher, but it as the just result of repeating the same bullpen management error over and over. The baseball gods hate those who tempt fate.
What Lil Poseur Demanded We Watch Instead
I had basketball up on the TV and baseball going on the laptop, leading to one of the all-time great Lil Poseur meltdowns. Usually I can placate her with my alternate device, but I was using both of them. We know how this ends right? Yup, busting out my old computer with all sorts of memory issues so she could watch Team Umizoomi.
Team Umizoomi is what Stockholm Syndrome feels like. Sure, it's got way too chipper heroes and it does that "wait for the kid to respond" thing that Dora foisted upon us. There's no 30 year old stoner watching these episodes ironically (unlike, say, Gravity Falls). But let me tell you, my kid loves this show. And a lot of parenting is just going along with the thing your kid likes just so you can watch an LSU baseball game without having her scream at you.
Now, I do think it is unfair Geo can build anything from his super shapes and Bot has pretty much unlimited robot powers, while Milli can't really do much of anything except create patterns and measure stuff. I mean, that essentially means she is as powerful as your average seamstress. Come on, Team Umizoomi. Up your game. Give Milli something cooler than measuring tape sticking out of her hoodie.
It's hard to complain about a weekend in which the Tigers scored 21 runs. But, here we are.
There's a commonly misunderstood sabermetric precept that there is no such thing as clutch hitting. This is not true. OF COURSE, there is clutch hitting. Kentucky hit an inside the park home run with two outs in the ninth inning down by a run. That is the very definition of a clutch hit. The better way to say it is that clutch hitting is not a repeatable skill. Guys get hits in the clutch because, well, they are good hitters. Players don't tend to play better or worse in clutch situations, they play to their ability level all the time, and we just see the random fluctuations as clutchiness.
Boy, this weekend really tested the faith of the true believers, huh?
On Friday, LSU tied the game in the 7th which seems pretty clutch, but they also left the bases loaded to end the inning. And from that point on, the bats went silent. LSU failed to score a run over what turned out to be the next five innings. The 11th inning was a tour de force of non-clutch, as LSU managed 3 hits, 2 walks, and 0 runs. Hale even had what appeared to be the game-winning hit, only to have it hit Alex Bregman in the basebath. Bregman had that sort of series.
OK, the team had the big rally on Saturday, but Sunday was the kind of game that drives you to drink. After taking a 10-9 lead in the 8th, LSU bats seemed to pack up and go home. After scoring 8 runs in 4 innings, the offense managed 0 runs over the last 3 innings. Heck, the team only managed one hit from that point on, ending the game on two straight dismal 1-2-3 innings.
Kentucky made big hits late. LSU didn't. And that's how a team loses two out of three at home in a series in which LSU was tied or held a lead in the 9th inning of each game. I can't even talk about this anymore. This sucked.
Drinking. Then the Wally Pontiff Classic against UL-Lafayette on Tuesday and then a weekend series at the Met against Bama. Then, probably, more drinking.