Alan Dunn sat behind his desk, papers and charts of Alex Lange’s 5.2-inning start against Fordham shuffled about, while the ace waited in the lobby of the LSU baseball offices in preparation for a meeting with his pitching coach.
Dunn does this for all of his players, meticulously charting each pitch, how it correlated to the game situation and whether it can classify as a quality pitch.
“(Lange) made pitches on Saturday that he’s made in games that he’s gone out and thrown seven shutout innings,” Dunn said. “It comes down to when are you making your mistakes.”
And Lange does, in fact, make mistakes, as LSU coach Paul Mainieri made reporters aware Monday.
The reigning National Freshman of the Year is off two straight starts where he didn’t make it out of the sixth inning, combining to issue six walks and eight earned runs in games where the still-undefeated sophomore didn’t factor into the decision.
Those atypical outings came after a season-opening start featuring 6.2 innings of one-hit ball against Cincinnati.
“Listen, he wasn’t perfect last year and obviously he’s not perfect this year,” Mainieri said. “He’s missed on some pitches and his command with his fastball when he needed to. … You look at him last year, and he’d throw that curveball in the dirt and they’d swing a lot. They probably know what’s coming, and they’ve laid off of it. He probably needs to raise his sights a little bit and throw it for strikes.
“I think the difference between last year and what he’s doing so far this year is really not that big. It’s a very slight difference, and he and (Dunn) are right on it. It’s not a case at all where a kid had great success last year and is resting on his laurels. This kid is working harder now than he ever has.”
Saturday’s start, a 10-7 comeback win in the second game of a doubleheader, was Lange’s 20th of his LSU career. It was just his seventh that didn’t categorize as a “quality start” — when the pitcher lasts six innings while allowing no more than three earned runs.
He allowed eight singles — all after the second inning — and four came when Lange was behind in the count. Two others came on the first pitch of the at-bat.
“It’s about getting himself in not those situations that we got in and fine-tuning the command at certain times,” Dunn said. “Other than that, continuing to do what he’s done since he’s been here.”
Lange needed just 19 pitches to escape the first two innings, striking out the side on 11 pitches in the first before forcing three groundouts in the second on eight pitches. He exited his outing after 92 pitches four innings later.
“Tempo is so important, getting the ball and going. You get in that rhythm,” Dunn said. “Like it was for those first six hitters: Get the ball back, boom, get the ball back, boom. … Inevitably, pitchers all across America fight that one thing: they want to get the ball to the plate too quick when things start going bad or negative. That’s what we call rushing or fighting or whatever terms you want to use. Number one thing pitchers fight. Always, always has been.”
Lange surmised as much after his outing Saturday night, saying he “got ahead of” himself after the second inning and was unable to pitch from behind. His velocity was normal — topping out at 94 mph with his fastball while his breaking ball clocked at 83 — but command eluded him after the second.
Cause for concern?
“Everyone has the tendency to panic,” Mainieri said. “But I’m not concerned about Alex Lange one iota.
Added Dunn: “Absolutely not. Zero. Zero. Zero concern.”