In the past four games, three of which have resulted in LSU losses, nine players who were either walked or hit by an LSU pitcher scored.
In that span, LSU has put 39 runners aboard without those players putting a ball in play, an odd hiccup for a team that had issued just under four free passes per game before the start of the Kentucky series.
It’s a phase LSU coach Paul Mainieri said his team needs to get over in a hurry.
“We’ve got to get back in a more aggressive mindset on the mound, there’s no question about that,” Mainieri said.
Mainieri said Wednesday before his team boarded a bus for Alabama that the walks were to be expected to some degree in Kentucky, playing in a small park against a lineup that has crushed the baseball all season.
The walks and hit batters weren’t acceptable, especially not in the amount that LSU dished them out — 22 walks and six hit by pitch over the course of the weekend — but Mainieri at least thought he had an explanation for it.
He was miffed to see it continue in Tuesday night’s loss to Tulane, when LSU walked seven and put another four on base by hitting them — including two with the bases loaded late in the game.
“It just seemed like we weren’t pitching with a lot of confidence (against Tulane),” Mainieri said. “It’s always been a characteristic of our pitching under (pitching coach) Alan Dunn, to be very aggressive and attack the hitters. So last night was kind of a stunner for all of us with all the walks and hit batters.”
Walks and hit batters put hitters on base without having to put the ball in play, shrinking the margin for error for the pitcher. That was clearly on display Tuesday night with starting pitcher Matthew Beck, a pitcher whose effectiveness is tied to his command.
“If nothing else, Matthew Beck is a strike-thrower, so I was as shocked as anybody when he walked the first two batters of the game,” Mainieri said.
Beck allowed four base runners to reach for free Tuesday night, and he wound up being charged with three earned runs despite allowing just one hit in 1.2 innings.
It also can have an adverse affect on the LSU lineup, said starting pitcher Alex Lange, who walked eight in his start against Kentucky last week (though two of those were intentional).
The innings that take 20 minutes to unfold as a pitcher is struggling to locate the strike zone take a toll on the players in the field.
“We need to have quicker innings so our offense gets into a better rhythm,” Lange said.
In its past four games, LSU has averaged 4.3 runs on 8.3 hits per game.
First time in new-look Sewell-Thomas
This will be LSU’s first trip to the recently upgraded Sewell-Thomas Stadium. The Tigers played in Hoover Metropolitan Stadium the last time they took a road trip to face the Tide.
The last time LSU played on campus in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, was in 2013, when it took two of three, including a wild 11-8 win in a 16-inning affair.
Alabama invested $42 million into re-building Sewell-Thomas Stadium.
LSU is planning to use its standard weekend rotation of Lange followed by Jared Poché and Eric Walker. It is the same order the team has used all season with exception of last week, when it threw Poché first in a Friday doubleheader.
Alabama will send left-hander Dylan Duarte to the mound Thursday and follow with right-hander Nick Eicholtz on Friday. Alabama’s Saturday starter is to be announced, though it could wind up being junior right-hander Jake Walters if he is not used out of the bullpen.