When I first looked at run differentials for SEC baseball last week, where Auburn ranked second in the conference through nine games with a healthy margin over LSU, I was tempted to boldly predict that the Tigers (our Tigers) would take two out of three from the defending national champions. The two previous weekends Auburn had taken on good competition and had won one, lost one, and then lost a second by slim margins. It seemed likely enough that this time, Auburn would win one, lose one, and this time catch just enough breaks to pull out the decisive close. I wimped out on the prediction, though, since LSU was the No. 3 team in the country and all.
Silly me: the above scenario was exactly what played out, as Auburn split the first two games 14-10 (loss) and 11-7 (win), then squeezed out* a huge 6-5 win on Sunday. Kevin at PPL recaps the details for you with his usual aplomb, but I disagree with his assessment that Auburn’s a series away from being able to “relax” about Hoover. The Tigers have played upper-tier SEC-quality baseball in all four series thus far despite a rash of injuries, and still have series against three of the league’s four worst teams remaining, all at home. Barring a total collapse, Auburn’s going to snap their tourney drought, and they’re going to do it in style. John Pawlowski: we salute you.
And now, your weekly update on SEC baseball run differential:
WEEK 4 RESULTS
Auburn vs. LSU: 10-14, 11-7, 6-5. South Carolina vs. Vanderbilt: 3-2, 2-9, 2-0. Kentucky vs. Alabama: 7-6, 8-2, 9-11. Arkansas vs. Miss. St.: 8-3, 8-5, 13-3. Ole Miss vs. Georgia: 4-1, 4-3, 3-6. Florida vs. Tennessee: 4-2, 4-12, 9-1.
1. Auburn (7-5), +31 (+34 vs. UGA, -4 vs. SC, 0 vs. UA, +1 vs. LSU)
2. Arkansas (9-3), +29 (-2 vs. LSU, +7 vs. UA, +6 vs. UK, +18 vs. MSU)
3. South Carolina (9-3), +28 (+9 vs. UT, +4 vs. AU, +19 vs. MSU, -4 vs. Vandy)
4. LSU (8-4), +16 (+2 vs. Ark, +10 vs. UT, +5 vs. UGA, -1 vs. AU)
5. Florida (8-4), +8 (+9 vs. MSU, -1 vs. Miss, -2 vs. Vandy, +2 vs. UT)
6. Vandy (6-6), +4 (-11 vs. UA, +9 vs. UK, +2 vs. UF, +4 vs. SC)
7. Alabama (5-7), -1 (+11 vs. Vandy, -7 vs. Ark, 0 vs. AU, -5 vs. UK)
8. Ole Miss (7-5), 0 (+1 vs. UK, +1 vs. UF, -3 vs. UT, +1 vs. UGA)
9. Kentucky (4-8), -11 (-1 vs. Miss, -9 vs. Vandy, -6 vs. Ark, +5 vs. UA)
10. Tennessee (3-9), -18 (-9 vs. SC, -10 vs. LSU, +3 vs. Miss, -2 vs. UF)
11. Georgia (3-9), -39 (-34 vs. AU, +1 vs. MSU, -5 vs. LSU, -1 vs. Miss)
12. Miss. St. (3-9), -47 (-9 vs. UF, -1 vs. UGA, -19 vs. SC, -18 vs. Ark)
— As I said last week: that Georgia series is still so much of an outlier that it’s not nearly time to go around trumpeting Auburn as the best team in the SEC just yet. However, no one else has even swept the Dawgs, much less run them off the field like that, and since then Auburn’s played just about even (and gone 3-3 record-wise) against two of the best teams in the league. If they can take 2 of 3 from Vanderbilt and avoid getting swept up in Fayetteville, I don’t think a challenge for the division title is at all out of the question.
— Unfortunately, getting two W’s in Nashville won’t be easy. The ‘Dores look a bit like a team that could be better than their record, having lost three games by 2 or fewer runs the last two weekends. That opening-week showing against ‘Bama remains a bizarre result for both teams, but given what Vandy’s done since then I’d say they could very well be a better team than Florida.
— Explaining further on the Gators: they’ve had the benefit of playing Miss. St. already; they took two of three from Vandy despite being outscored for the series; they outscored by 2 the same Tennessee team that true powers Carolina and LSU outscored by 9 and 10 runs, respectively. We’ll see, but that 8-4 mark from here looks like more of a product of scheduling and luck than quality.
— Mississippi St. takes over bottom spot this week with a vengeance after absorbing the horrific sweep they should have suffered the week before against Carolina. Right now the Bulldogs are in a class by themselves in terms of awfulness.
— Staying in-state, Ole Miss didn’t do much to shed the “overrated” tag I hung on them last week, eking out a series win against Georgia by winning Saturday’s game by a run in13 innings. In games started by someone other than Drew Pomeranz, the Rebels are 3-5 and have been outscored by 17 runs.
— Is Kentucky warming up? The ‘Cats still have a fairly lousy margin even after surprising Alabama, but they did beat top-10 Louisville midweek and were on the verge of sweeping the Tide before giving up 11 unanswered runs on Sunday. They may be closer to the Alabama/Ole Miss level than the Tennessee/Georgia level.
–Same time next week.
*Pun very much intended.