Arizona overcame a six-run deficit to take down ASU on Tuesday in the first of five meetings this year. It was either a huge Wildcat comeback, or an epic collapse by the Sun Devils depending on your point of view.
I saw the game as a microcosm of the Cats' performance in PAC-12 play so far. A slow start, not even competitive, and then all of the sudden, the fire was lit, and dominated the second half of the game. There were some really encouraging signs as Arizona moves into the second half of PAC-12 play this week against Stanford, but also some things to worry about.
There was almost nothing good defensively from either team. A total of 8 errors, 5 by ASU and 3 by UA. Neither catcher was having a particularly successful time behind the plate. A lot of mental errors, especially by the Sun Devils, which led to runs that should not have been scored. Poor execution on bunt plays by both sides as well gave away some free bases, which turned out to be enormous for the Cats. A sac bunt from Zach Gibbons put Brandon Dixon on second in the 8th inning, who went on to steal third, and then of course tie the game on a throwing error by ASU catcher RJ Ybarra. It was just an atrocious game in the field. There were two good plays. One came from SS Kevin Newman who made a great play in the hole in the second inning to hold ASU to two runs. The other came from Brandon Dixon to end the 7th inning on a line drive down the third base line. Dixon made a great leaping catch, preventing another Sun Devil run to cross the plate.
Arizona Bullpen: A
The bullpen has been phenomenal all year, and Tuesday was no exception. Four Arizona relievers (Cody Moffett, Tyger Talley, Augey Bill and Mathew Troupe) held the Sun Devils to just three runs and six hits over the final seven innings. Augey Bill is THE man in the bullpen right now. The junior left-hander threw two scoreless innings, gave up no hits and walked one. Bill's now 4-0, with a 0.83 ERA in 21 2/3 innings pitched this year. Unbelievable.
Nick Cunningham: D
On the flip side of the bullpen was Nick Cunningham, the Arizona starter. He lasted just 2+ innings, getting charged with six runs, four of them earned. The only reason this isn't an F is because of the Brandon Dixon throwing error in the third, which sort of sparked the Sun Devils' 4-run inning. He may very well have pitched himself out of the pitching rotation for the remainder of the year though.
Johnny Field: A
Arizona's center fielder went 2-for-3, scored Arizona's only two runs in the first half of the game, and drew two walks in the second half of the game. He also ran down some balls in the outfield which he was not making it to earlier in the year.
Brandon Dixon: C
He went 2-for-4 at the plate, drove in Johnny Field in the first inning, and scored the game-tying run on a steal of third that he called himself, and made a nice play in the field. But the rest of his fielding is not good. He's up to 13 errors on the year now, including a big throwing error in the third inning Tuesday. It's his first year at third base, but it's still an adventure out there for him.
Scott Kingery: A
Kingery didn't even start this game. He pinch-hit for Ryan Koziol in the sixth, where he walked, and went on to score. In the 7th, he was hit by a pitch, and scored Arizona's eighth run of the game. In the 8th, he had the biggest hit of his Wildcat career with a double over the left fielder's head to drive in Riley Moore from first to take the lead. Andy Lopez: "I need to play him more".
"They're slowly getting better and starting to get into the flow of the game. A lot of them are starting to get into the improvement stage and not the survival stage."
It may have just been one game, but it was against ASU, and now the Wildcats have won nine of their last ten. The Wildcats and Sun Devils face each other again April 30th in Tucson for round two. The Wildcats have now won three of the last four meetings with ASU in their last at-bat, so some drama is almost guaranteed when they play again.