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Weekend Preview: Auburn @ #3 LSU

Auburn comes to Baton Rouge to take a shower.

Crystal Logiudice-USA TODAY Sports
Auburn Tigers - 20-13 Overall, 4-8 SEC
CPI Composite Rank - N/A
RPI - 26th
ISR - 37th

Baseball returns to the Box this weekend as LSU is set to take on Auburn in a three game series.  We hope at any rate because Mother Nature might have a word about that (Baton Rouge Forecast):

auburn weather

Yeah, it might get wet this weekend.  But, let's preview the opposition anyway.

The other Tigers from Auburn come into the series with a pretty good overall record and a very strong RPI.  Most of that high RPI is due to the competition they've already faced in the SEC.  Auburn played Texas A&M to open SEC play, and were swept by the Aggies.  Then they got the pleasure of going to Nashville to face Vanderbilt, where they lost the series but managed to avoid a sweep.  They've played well over the last two weeks, taking two of three in Starkville and losing a very competitive series at home to Arkansas.  Auburn is a deceptively good team, but their schedule is absolutely killing them (after LSU, they still have series to play against South Carolina and Florida).

The Bats

Anfernee Grier - 393/474/511 (SEC: 353/411/392)
Damon Haecker - 291/436/350 (SEC: 217/348/283)
Kyler Deese - 264/375/379 (SEC: 345/472/448)

Auburn is batting 0.281 as a team, good for 8th overall in the conference.  They are definitely not a power team, but I don't know if I'd call them a small ball team either.  Auburn is dead last in the conference in home runs with 12, so don't expect them to crush too many balls into the outfield bleachers.  They are good at finding space in the outfield with 60 doubles (5th in the SEC).  The rank 4th in SAC bunts, but they only have 20 on the season (LSU has 17).

Grier is the real standout for Auburn at the plate.  He leads the team in batting average, runs scored (28), slugging %, and doubles (14).

Grier and Damon Haecker have scored the most runs for Auburn this season with 54 combined.  That's 32% of the total runs Auburn has scored.  Keep those guys off the bases, and it'll be a long weekend for Auburn.

The Arms

Starters
Fri - RHP Cole Lipscomb - 4-0, 2.65 ERA, 37.1 IP, 0.217 OBA, 44/11 K/BB
Sat - RHP Keegan Thompson - 6-2, 3.15 ERA, 54.1 IP, .241 OBA, 52/12 K/BB
Sun - RHP Rocky McCord - 2-2, 3.55 ERA, 45.2 IP, 0.257 OBA, 34/24 K/BB
Bullpen
RHP Justin Camp - 2.53 ERA, 21.1 IP, 0.259 OBA, 28/15 K/BB
RHP Robby Clements - 3.13 ERA, 23.0 IP, 0.275 OBA, 6/5 K/BB
RHP Dalton Rentz - 3.67 ERA, 27.0 IP, 0.279 OBA, 29/15 K/BB

Number's wise, this is a pretty good pitching staff and the starters are the heart of the staff.  Keegan Thompson is especially important for Auburn.  He's logged 30.2 innings in SEC play already, which is insane given that he's had to pitch against Vanderbilt and A&M and split those games.  Thompson will not walk guys often and isn't afraid to throw strikes.

Auburn also has a pretty seasoned bullpen at this point too.  They aren't an overwhelming bullpen, but they do appear solid on paper.

The one thing that strikes me as odd is the extreme dearth of any left handed pitchers.  Auburn has only one left handed pitcher that has logged more than ten innings of work, and only four lefties on the staff.  Nearly half of the LSU lineup bats from the left side, so this could be a big advantage for LSU this weekend.  Auburn won't be playing the Lefty-Righty match ups a ton like Kentucky did two weeks ago.

Keys to the Weekend

Weather:  The weather is going to play hell with this series.  Hopefully we get all three games played, but we might see at least one wash out.  If that happens, it's imperative that LSU win both the games that are played.  Being down a game in the SEC really sucks, so win both games and minimize the damage as much as you can.

The Right Approach:  Calling for patience with LSU at the plate is a losing battle.  The guys like to swing, so I'm going to stop saying it.  Against Thompson, the Tigers need to maintain their composure and put the ball in play.  At least make the Auburn defense get you out.

Horrible Prediction

It'd be highly unusual for LSU to drop back to back home series.  The good Tigers take two of three from the false Tigers if we get to play three games.  If we only play two games, LSU needs to sweep.