Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Flat Bats Shut Down By Bruins

NOTE: this is cross-posted from the all-new out the "dot net" later this afternoon for all-new fresh podcasts!

A cold and windy night at Tony Gwynn Stadium saw the Aztecs hit two solo homers but not much more in a come-from-ahead 7-3 loss to UCLA.  The 15th ranked Aztecs gave up five runs in the 8th inning, a frame keyed by an error and two big hits, two-run doubles from UCLA's Eddie Murray and Blair Dunlap. But while a casual observer might pin the loss on some shaky relief, or Ryan O'Sullivan's late error, head coach Tony Gwynn pinned responsibility on a lineup which has struggled to string together hits for three consecutive games.

"I kind of thought we were flat tonight," said Gwynn after the game, "and when you're playing a team like UCLA, you've got to put runs on the board, it's that simple.  We let them hang around, hang around, hang around, and the error set up the big inning, but you've got to give them credit."

UCLA junior right-hander Garrett Claypool was touched up for a wind-aided solo homerun by Mitch Blackburn in the 1st inning.  Cory Vaughn's blast to deep center field in the 2nd, his 7th longball of the season, gave the Aztecs a 2-1 lead.  But from there Claypool was outstanding, allowing just three hits over the next four-plus innings, while striking out a career-high eight.  Claypool allowed 5 hits in 5 1/3 innings, walking none.   

The Bruins tied the game at 2 in the 4th on Tyler Rahmatulla's RBI single off reliever Andrew Leary.  Nate Solow started the game for SDSU but went only three innings, a precautionary move set up by the shoulder troubles of senior starter Jon Berger.  With Berger questionable for his Saturday start in New Mexico this weekend, Gwynn decided to hedge his bet by limiting Solow's work on Tuesday night, leaving him potentially available for another start against New Mexico this weekend.

In the 6th, the Aztecs broke through to take a 3-2 lead.  Brandon Meredith ended a 1-for-12 mini-slump with a double to right, chasing Claypool from the game.  Lefty reliever Matt Grace was greeted by an RBI single off the bat of Erik Castro, putting SDSU in front.  But a Cory Vaughn double-play ball ended the inning, and put a cap on the Aztecs' offense for the remainder of the night.  Grace wouldn't allow a hit over the next two innings. 

Senior reliever James McLaughlin stranded three runners in two innings of relief, but tired in the 8th, when the Bruins mounted their fateful rally.  Chris Amezquita led off with a clean single to left, and with one out, Rahmatulla hit a chopper to the to the hole at shortstop.  Ryan O'Sullivan, who dazzled with a pair of outstanding plays early in the game, fielded the ball, but as he spun to throw to 2nd the ball popped out of his glove for an error.  Justin Uribe followed with a bounding ball gloved by a diving Mitch Blackburn at 2nd base for an infield hit, loading the bases.  

Eddie Murray then timed a McLaughlin slider and lined it over Josh Chasse's head in left field for a two-run double, putting the Bruins on top 4-3.  Kegan Sharp relieved McLaughlin and got Niko Gallego (son of long-time A's infielder Mike Gallego) to ground into a fielder's choice, with Uribe run down between 3rd and home.  But the chance to end the inning down only one evaporated when Dunlap took an outside fastball to right-field for another two-run double, chasing home Murray and Gallego to make it 6-3.  A surprise two-out bunt single by Gino Aielli capped the five-run uprising for UCLA.

From there, Grace and former Rancho Buena Vista left-hander Gavin Brooks sent the Aztecs home empty-handed, and left Tony Gwynn with an empty feeling when thinking about his team's offensive output.

"The truth of the matter is, offensively we have to take responsiblity for that game.  You have to generate more than three runs, or the possibility of what happened tonight can happen."

Gwynn was concerned coming into the night about the Aztecs feeling fat and sassy about their top-15 ranking in the country, but his pregame and practice warnings to the team about keeping their edge apparently went unheeded.

"All of a sudden you're ranked, all of a sudden you win a couple of games in a row, all of a sudden offensively it's not that difficult to put runs on the board, you start to get comfortable, and then bang!  You get it shoved down your throat.  If you ask any one of those guys, we talked yesterday about getting a little complacent, a little happy with what you've accomplished already, instead of putting the pedal to the medal and grinding.  This was a game as a staff where we felt we didn't grind enough, so hopefully it's a lesson learned.  Now we go into the weekend in New Mexico, an offensive park, where we'll have to put runs on the board, so hopefully this is a lesson learned."

The Aztecs are now 25-13 on the season, heading to Alberquerque this weekend for a three-game series that will determine first place in the Mountain West Conference.  The Lobos and Aztecs are tied atop the MWC at 8-4, with TCU a game behind.  I will have the play-by-play on, starting Friday at 5pm with Stephen Strasburg on the mound.  

hat tip to for the Tony Gwynn quotes, you can see his entirepostgame interview here.

NOTES: The Aztecs received a mixed bag of injury news prior to Tuesday night's game.  Right-fielder Cory Vaughn returned to the field, after being held to DH duties for the past three weeks with a sore right elbow.  Freshman first baseman Jomel Torres also returned to the lineup and went 0-2 at DH, after missing two weeks with a foot injury.  However, Jon Berger's shoulder continues to leave a question mark hovering over the weekend rotation.  Berger will be re-evaluated today after throwing on the side yesterday.  Either he will make his regularly sheduled Saturday start, or Tyler Lavigne will be moved up into the Saturday slot, with Nate Solow coming back on Sunday.  Also, DH Blake Silguero was hoping to mark his return to the lineup on Tuesday after missing a month with a broken hamate bone in his left hand.  However, Silguero aggravated the injury during batting practice and was unable to play...Pat Colwell had reached in 33 of the first 35 games for SDSU, but has gone 0 for his last 10...Erik Castro extended his hitting streak to 6 games with a 2-for-4 evening...O'Sullivan continued some dazzling defensive work with a pair of highlight plays at shortstop, making a running over-the-shoulder catch of a Dunlap popup in the 3rd, and robbing Gallego of an infield hit with a charging grab and sidearm throw in the 5th.  

1 comment:

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