First the bad news: if you pull a random LSU baseball player from a hat, you’re statistically likely to pull the name of a player that is currently injured. This week the big blow was the staff’s inarguable ace freshman Cole Henry being benched due to elbow tenderness just as Mainieri was planning to move him to the Friday night role.
The good news: if LSU is going to have a week to be as depleted as they currently are, this is the perfect week. Alabama is without a doubt the easiest weekend the Tigers will have from here on out, to say more about the schedule than the Tide.
Game Times and Pitching Matchups
Game 1: Friday, 6:00 p.m., SEC Network +, 98.1 FM
LSU: Zach Hess, JR RHP (4.11 ERA, 46 IP, 1.96 K/BB [47/24])
Alabama: Sam Finnerty, SR RHP (4.12 ERA, 59 IP, 5.50 K/BB [44/8])
Game 2: Saturday, 2:00, SECN+, 98.1
LSU: SO RHP Eric Walker (5.44 ERA, 43 IP, 2.36 K/BB [33/14])
Alabama: Brock Love, JR RHP (4.69 ERA, 40.1 IP, 3.00 K/BB [51/17])
Game 3: Sunday, 1:00, SECN+, 98.1
At A Glance
RPI 50: 3-13
RPI 25: 2-8
Things have been rough for Alabama since conference play began. After rolling to a 16-2 start the Crimson Tide hit a wall against Ole Miss, Arkansas, and Florida, going 2-7 against the three including a sweep in Gainesville.
They broke the spell by swiping a series against South Carolina, but since have gotten swept by Mississippi State and Vanderbilt.
Gone are the heady days of Mitch Gaspard.
At The Plate
Kolby Robinson: .326/.372/.428, 42 H, 4 2B, 1 3B, 20 RBI, 10 SO, 18 BB
Drew Williamson: .302/.405/.440, 38 H, 5 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 16 RBI, 34 SO, 30 BB
TJ Reeves: .276/.516/.410, 25 H. 4 2B, 6 HR, 20 RBI, 24 SO, 19 BB
Morgan McCollough: .297/.446/.418, 44 H, 12 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 24 RBI, 10 SO, 10 BB
Alabama has a fairly pedestrian lineup with your average mix of power and contact hitters. Junior College product Kolby Richardson is the big bat for the Tide, and he usually puts the ball in play. TJ Reeves is the power guy along with Tyler Gentry (.287, 8 HR).
Given LSU’s injuries in the bullpen I think the Tigers’ best bet is to play to that and either allow him to earn his way on base or let LSU’s solid defense do the heavy lifting. Zack Hess and Eric Walker are going to have to eat more innings than usual and as long as they can prevent Reeves and Gentry from making solid contact too often, then I think the starters could stretch themselves out this weekend.
On The Mound
Garret Rukes: 1.19 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 22.2 IP, 5.00 K/BB (15/3), .247 BAA
Jeremy Randolph: 1.86 ERA, .86 WHIP, 29 IP. 3.90 K/BB (39/10), .155 BAA, 7 SV
Davis Vainer: 2.61 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 20.2 IP, 2.90 K/BB (32/11), .153 BAA
Chase Lee: 2.74 ERA, .96 WHIP, 23 IP, 7.00 K/BB (21/3), .221 BAA
It’s not like Alabama has an abysmal pitching staff because they honestly don’t, but they don’t really stand out either. When paired with the middle of the road lineup, it’s easy to see how Bama hit the wall in conference play.
Rukes is a stud, but he’s been used more as a long reliever, pitching two or more innings in six of his 13 appearances, including three innings against UAB, Florida, and Samford. I guess what role we’ll see him in depends on how Friday night shakes out. Interestingly enough, despite only giving up four runs (three earned), he has a BAA of .247. Is he a pitching Houdini?
Jeremy Randolph is the closer or at least their high-leverage guy. If we don’t see him Friday he’ll probably see action Saturday, regardless of the score, because Bama will want to conserve arms for Sunday’s finale
Calling for a sweep is too bold a move to make with LSU’s injuries, but if the Tigers were at full health just know that I absolutely would. But as it stands I’ll play it safe and go 2-1 LSU.