After getting beat in walkoff fashion on Saturday, the Arizona Wildcats will need to rebound in a big way on Sunday against the Arizona State Sun Devils.
ASU will send arguably their best starting pitcher to the mound in Ryan Kellogg (5-1, 3.56). Arizona will counter by starting Xavier Borde (2-0, 1.69) on a weekend for the first time all season.
Time: 5 PM PT
TV: Pac-12 Networks (Roxy Bernstein and former Arizona head coach Jerry Kindall)
Mobile: Pac-12 App in the App Store and Google Play
Radio: 1290 AM in Tucson, 1060 AM in Phoenix
Both starting pitchers are left-handed, which means Arizona will not have Michael Hoard in the lineup as the DH. Hoard has the best on-base percentage of anyone on the team, but Andy Lopez is sticking with his left-on-left gameplan.
"Probably not," Lopez said after Saturday's game of trying Hoard in the lineup against a lefty. "We haven't done that this year. Against right-handed pitchers, I like (his approach) a lot. I don't like it against left-handed pitchers. I see him every day, you don't."
I get that Lopez sees Hoard try to hit left-handed pitching every day and I don't. But it must be like watching a little kid trying to hit against Randy Johnson, because the next-best option isn't anywhere near Hoard right now.
In Saturday's game, Hoard was due up in the eighth with Bobby Dalbec on second base until ASU brought in left-hander Andrew Shaps. Tyler Krause pinch-hit for Hoard in that situation. Krause's on-base percentage is more than 200 points lower than Hoard. Krause struck out anyway against Shaps.
At least give Hoard a shot.
Playing this lefty-on-lefty game isn't exactly working.
It didn't work with the pitching staff in the ninth inning on Saturday either, as Cameron Ming came in to face two lefties. He walked one, and gave up a walkoff hit to the other. Just two innings earlier, right-handed pitcher Nathan Bannister got both of them out with a flyball to center and a grounder to first. The only time Johnny Sewald got on base Saturday was when Ming walked him. Every time he faced a right-handed pitcher, he was put out.
But Lopez is sticking with that too.
"It's easy," coach explained of the pitching change in that situation. "Walk through the dugout, go to the mound, ask for a left-handed pitcher and a left-handed pitcher comes in."
No thought process of 'Bannister's already gotten those two guys out earlier in the game'. Just straight up 'Two lefties are up next in a tie game in the ninth, let's bring in a true freshman just because he throws with his left hand'.
With the left-handed thought process, Arizona will be trying to even up the series Sunday evening without arguably its fourth-best hitter. Hopefully it works out. But sticking with this way of thinking is hurting this team right now.
I'm not saying I know more about baseball than Andy Lopez. Not at all. I'm just sharing observations on a frustrating four-game losing streak when Arizona could have easily won three of those four games with a slight change in game management.