COLUMBIA, Mo. — The weather made a difference. So did playing without two starters. And as offensive inconsistency showed up again, LSU lost to Missouri 4-1 on Saturday.
Less than 24 hours after scoring a dozen runs to win the first game of the series, LSU left six runners in scoring position and mustered four hits. Stiff wind blew in from left field hard enough that freshman pitcher Cole Henry said he couldn’t grip his curveball the way he wanted.
Henry gave LSU (24-12, 9-5 Southeastern Conference) a quality start, but Missouri (23-12-1, 6-7-1) evened the series at Taylor Stadium.
Who's starting, how to watch and what to watch for when LSU baseball finishes a series at Missouri.
As Zach Watson sat on the bench because he strained a muscle in his groin during Friday night’s game, LSU played without its most productive right-handed hitter against Missouri left-hander TJ Sikkema, whose 1.27 ERA was the second-lowest in the conference before the weekend.
Coming into the series, LSU needed Watson’s reliable bat as it prepared for at least two left-handed starters. In Watson’s place, freshman Giovanni DiGiacomo started in center field and Brandt Broussard hit second.
LSU struck out 10 times against Sikkema, who gave up three hits over seven innings. Instead of hitting line drives, LSU sent lazy fly balls into the air, creating easy outs.
"He was like, effectively wild," left fielder Daniel Cabrera said. "He was all over the place, but he'd sneak one by you, then he would throw one not even close. He threw really well."
LSU center fielder Zach Watson left Friday night's game early.
In the bullpen before the game, Henry felt himself lose control of his curveball, one of his best pitches. He tried licking his fingers. The saliva didn’t help.
“Cold weather, man,” Henry said.
Henry avoided his curveball, relying instead on his other pitches. He did not throw as precisely as he did in previous outings — he walked home a run — but he pitched into the seventh inning and gave up just three runs.
Compounding Watson’s absence, third baseman Chris Reid left after striking out to end the third inning with a runner in scoring position.
LSU beat Missouri 12-11 in extra innings.
Reid, who's batting .302 with 24 RBIs, pulled his hamstring when he ran out a ground ball in the first inning, coach Paul Mainieri said. In his place, LSU moved Hal Hughes to third base and inserted Drew Bianco at second base.
"I'm sure he won't play tomorrow," Mainieri said of Reid. "I don't know how long it'll keep him out."
Still, LSU had chances. The six runners who reached scoring position all arrived with less than two outs. But LSU did not score until the seventh inning, when Hughes ran home on a slow ground ball.
Over LSU’s past four games, it has scored nine, two, 12 and one runs, continuing a turbulent offensive pattern that concerned Mainieri before the series.
LSU's starting third baseman and cleanup hitter left in the third inning on Saturday.
"There are some days I think we're not having competitive at-bats and giving away easy outs, myself included," Broussard said. "We have to have more competitive at-bats all the way around."
LSU’s offense has relied so much on the top of the order, Mainieri said Thursday, that when the first few batters don’t hit well, the Tigers don’t score runs.
Now, LSU likely won’t have Watson and Reid, two of its most productive hitters, for Sunday’s series finale — and maybe longer.
“You got to do the best you can with the guys you have,” Mainieri said. “You have no choice.”