So I roll out of bed this morning, I’ve got my coffee, I’m reading reaction to last night’s U.S. soccer friendly (blecch) and Lakers-Suns game (substantially less blecch), and I remember to check on exactly when the Auburn baseball game starts, since I was away from the computer all day yesterday and didn’t recall the exact start time.
Aaaaaaand it starts at …. now?!?!? Holy crap!
So, screw it, I’m not getting anything else done while the game’s on, so we’re liveblogging this thing. We’re starting in the top of the 3rd. Refresh to see new commentary:
Not much has happened so far–Tide got two runners on against Corey Luckie in the second but Luckie struck out Tide Player X to strand runners on second and third. And even less happened in the top 3–three up, three down on, like, four pitches. The most exciting thing that’s happened so far is the SEC Network crew telling us Auburn’s .354 team average is the highest in the SEC since Georgia’s .360 mark in 19-freaking-80. Whoa.
Dan Gamache … deep, deep, deep to straightaway center … off the top of the wall! Easy double, but that’s a home run in every park in the SEC. Perfect sac bunt gets him to third, Auburn in business.
Announcers discussing the pitch clock/inning-change clock with SEC official Larry Something-or-other. Sorry, too early to catch all these names. I’m still on my first cup of coffee, you know.
SQUEEZE SQUEEZE SQUEEZE Fradejas’s bunt is absolutely perfect and it’s 1-0 Auburn as Gamache scores with Gamache … I mean, panache. Perfect execution. I’m going to see how many times I can say “perfect” this half-inning.
Watch: the Tide outfielder’s handling of Trent Mummey’s searing double down the line was less than perfect. Mummey’s on third, two outs. But Brian Fletcher K’s on four pitches. Still, that’s two hammer shots off of Jimmy Nelson, the Tide pitcher. Good sign, I think.
Up-and-down inning in the field so far for Auburn: McElroy giveth with a nice play to his left for out No. 1, Hargett taketh away trying for a glove-flip on a potential double play. E-4, runners first-and-second one out.
But Morris makes a nice play in foul territory for the second out, backing up over the warm-up mounds. Luckie loses the next batter, though, walking the bases loaded. Now a 2-0 count on Andrew Miller; uh-oh. 2-1 pitch, single, two runs in. 2-1 Alabama. Sigh. Luckie K’s the next batter, and the Tide still haven’t exactly been hitting him hard … but two walks and an error go a long way.
We’re told it’s the largest crowd for the opening session in SEC tourney history. Gee, I wonder if it being Auburn vs. Alabama has anything to do with it. The stands finally look to be filling up–a tweet from Andrew Gribble indicated traffic had backed up onto 459 and kept tons of fans from seeing the opening innings. Oops.
4-5-6 hitters up for Auburn. Morris lines one up the first-base line–but the Tide 1B is hugging the line like a national championship decided by computer rankings 50 years after the fact (FRESH TIDE HUMOR ZING!) and snags it. Patterson drills it to deep, deep left, but it’s just a long out. Again, Tigers getting their licks in on Nelson, not getting much in the way of dividends. McElroy grounds to short, 1-2-3 inning.
Tide leads off the inning with a bunt single. Well done–positively Otis Nixon-like. (At least, regular season Otis Nixon-like.) Big couple of batters here for Luckie–Auburn’s got a few runs in them, I’m thinking, but falling behind by three or four runs would be bad news.
6-3 double-plays, however, are excellent news. Hard-hit ball to left … diving catch by Fletcher! Outstanding. Glove work redeems itself after the crucial fourth-inning error.
We’re getting in-dugout interviews with Pawlowski and Tide manager Mitch Gaspard. Nothing to report outside of the usual coachspeak, unfortunately.
I should probably take a moment to thank DirecTV for the unbridled awesomeness of their sports package. It’s not entirely fair that I can watch the game–in HD!–from Chinle, Arizona, and that tons of Auburn fans in the Southeast can’t, and my heart goes out to those of you who can’t … but, personally speaking, is it awesome that I can watch at all? Yes, yes it is awesome.
Nelson breezes through the bottom of the order–weak ground-out to short, strike-out, lazy fly ball to left. Guess I should give him some credit–that’s three hits through five innings for one of the best lineups in the game.
Another diving catch for Auburn, this one from Fradejas! Franomenal. That’s all the excitement from this 1-2-3 inning .. well, that and the third Tide batter swinging at a pitch three feet out of the strike zone for the final K of the inning.
Aren’t SEC baseball games supposed to take forever? We’re in the bottom of the sixth, and the first pitch now was only around 75-80 minutes ago.
Fradejas falls behind 0-2, grounds out weakly to short. Second strike was a nasty breaking ball. Nelson’s got it working now. (Jinx? Please?)
Tide SS Rutledge makes a leaping snag of a Mummey liner. Error on Tide third baseman Jake Smith keeps the inning alive; nasty hop. Morris sends one to the warning track, but it’s just out No. 3. Larger park doing Auburn no favors.
Only three innings remaining. Argh.
Game just flying along, for reasons I don’t think have anything to do with the pitch/inning-change clock; Luckie gets the first two Tide batters on three or four pitches.
Here’s the downside to those diving catches: Fletcher tries for another one and misses, handing the Tide a double that should have been a single. (And it could have been a triple, if not for Mummey hustling over from center.) Next batter … uh-oh. Deep, deep, deep … over Fradejas’s head in right. Stand-up triple, 3-1 Alabama and a runner on third. Luckie’s day is over, just like that. Bradley Hendrix in.
Announcer Larry Connelly lavishes some extensive praise for the Tide base-runner on second for running on contact … even though there’s two outs.
Hendrix forces a pop-up to get out of the inning. Just thinking out loud here: should Pawlowski have gone with the sacrifice-squeeze approach in the second? Was it worth trading two outs to get that one run? I think you have to say it was, given how much trouble Auburn’s had hitting Nelson, but if Auburn had been able to turn that into even a two-run inning that would be huge right now.
Auburn desperately needs some base-runners. But Kevin Patterson can’t oblige; it’s a pop-up to shallow left. 0-2 count on McElroy; takes three straight balls to get to 3-2; single through the left side! Huge. One of Auburn’s problems today is that they haven’t made Nelson work–his pitch count isn’t even up over 80 yet, I don’t think.
Hit-and-run’s on, Jenkins (at the plate) misses the pitch badly, McElroy out by a mile at second. That hurts. Jenkins takes strike three and Nelson is whoopin’ and hollerin’ as he leaves the mound. Dammit to hell.
Hendrix leads off with a K, next batter crushes one to the base of the wall. That’s the Tide’s second or third ball that would have gotten out of the park in SEC fields, so no more complaints there. Runner on second, one out. Loud foul ball laced down the right-field line two pitches later; get it together, Hendrix.
After a couple of scary pitches in the dirt, he does–breaking ball leads to swinging K for out No. 2. Only for one batter, though–3B Smith bangs one off the left-field wall, double, 4-1 Alabama. Pitching change.
Sean Ray on. Strike-out, a huge one. But it’s the Tide with the three-run lead, and you can’t say it’s not deserved. They’ve got 8 hits to Auburn’s 4 and have hit Auburn’s pitchers far more consistently than Auburn’s hit Nelson.
C’mon, Auburn. Up this inning: Gamache, Hargett, Fradejas. Gamache leads off with a come-backer straight at Nelson, out no. 1. Hargett singles solidly to left; will Pawlowski try the hit-and-run again? Prolly not down three, I’m thinking.
No, he’ll sacrifice him over. The hell? It’s the bottom of the eighth, you’re down 3. Maybe it was a single attempt from Fradejas? Please tell me it was. Line drive rocketed towards first from Mummey–snagged by the first baseman. Again. Auburn can’t buy a break. Two pitches, two outs. And just like that, the inning is over. Looking very dark for Auburn, though with this lineup, it’s not over just yet.
OK, the inning-change clock probably is having an effect on game time. As soon as theg ame goes to commercial, it comes back–take it from someone who’s trying to use that time to furiously type away thoughts more incisive than “THIS SUCKS LIKE A 10-YEAR-OLD GIVEN A GIANT BOX OF BLOW POPS.”
One-out single off of Ray, pitch in the dirt moves the runner to second, walk on five pitches, two on now. Another run would feel like it would put the game out of reach. Pitching change.
Zach Blatt on. Feels like he ought to be starring in a Nickelodeon cartoon about a kid superhero–“The True Adventures of Zach Blatt!” or something. Forces a fly-out to center. One more, Zach. Falls behind 2-0 … hits the batter. Bases loaded. Oh heavens. At bat is Clay Jones, the Tide cleanup hitter. 2-0 count, again. Third pitch is an obvious strike, called a ball for reasons I cannot fathom. Strike, 3-1. Big pitch here: walked him. 5-1 Alabama. Bases still loaded. Every one of the Tide’s runs have come with two outs.
Single to left on 1-2 count, two RBIs, 7-1 Alabama. Game over. In response to commenter Mitch: now we are out behind the woodshed. Ground ball to third ends the inning, mercifully.
Inning starts with Fletcher having the ball bounce off the tail-end of the bat–into fair play–as he tries to avoid getting hit. That kind of day, says every Auburn fan everywhere.
Pop-up for out No. 2, called third strike for out No. 3. Your final score: 7-1, Tide.
Big-picture, I can’t see this as that big a deal. It’s baseball: sometimes a pitcher has a terrific day, sometimes after you’ve won five straight SEC games you have an off-day, and when it happens at the same time you lose 7-1. So it goes. And Auburn’s not done at Hoover yet: unlike most teams here, our No. 2 and No. 3 guys are every bit as good (and occasionally even better) than our No. 1 guy.There’s plenty of time and opportunity to wash the taste of this game out of our collective mouths.
But it does taste pretty foul, huh? Because: did it really have to be ‘Bama? Sigh.
Photo by Van Emst.