Tide Baseball Hopes Home Means Wins

Almost everyone believes that Alabama returned from its three-game series at fifth-ranked Louisville last week a better baseball team. Unfortunately, the Crimson Tide returned with a much worse record after losing three games to the Cardinals.

Alabama is now 8-7 after having started the season 6-0. The Tide is on a four-game losing streak. Fortunately, Bama has a five-game homestand to try to get back on the winning path. That begins with a pair of midweek games, tonight and Wednesday against Memphis. Both games at Sewell-Thomas Stadium begin at 6:05 p.m. CDT.

Memphis is 9-5 this year, 8-2 in their last 10 games. The Tigers are 4-0 against Southeastern Conference competition, 3-0 against Missouri and a 4-3 winner over eighth-ranked Ole Miss.

Alabama will start sophomore left-handed pitcher Taylor Guilbeau (1-0 with a 2.30 earned run average) Tuesday night. The Tide has not announced a Wednesday starter. Memphis plans to go with junior left0hander Alex Gunn (0-1, 0.69 ERA) Tuesday and senior left-hander Michael Wills (0-0, 2.89) Wednesday.

One positive for Bama this year has been Alabama pitchers getting strikeouts. The Alabama pitching staff has a 3.40 ERA with 130 strikeouts, which is sixth in the SEC. Of the 130 strikeouts, 46 have been "looking," which ranks fourth in the conference. The Tide is averaging 8.7 strikeouts per game.

Alabama has also been good on the basepaths insofar as stolen bases with 22-26 on the year. That ranks seventh in the league. Bama opened the year successfully stealing in its first 13 attempts.

The Tide's 8-7, 10-inning loss at Louisville Sunday was disappointing, but a positive milestone for Coach Mitch Gaspard. It was his 200th game as Alabama head coach.

Brett Booth continues to lead the Tide in average (.298), runs (16), slugging percentage (.447), walks (14) and on-base percentage (.460), is tied for the team lead in home runs (2) with Ben Moore, and is second on the club with 10 RBI. Booth, who had 10 walks in 55 games last season, leads the team with 14 this year to rank fifth in the SEC. Defensively, Booth has thrown out nine would-be base stealers, which is second most in the conference.

When Alabama and Memphis play on Tuesday and Wednesday, it will make games 17 and 18 all-time between the two schools. Alabama holds an 11-5 record against the Tigers and is 8-1 all-time at home against Memphis. Tuesday's game will be the first between the two schools since 2006, when the Tigers defeated the Tide 2-0 in Tuscaloosa on Feb. 21.

In the 14-inning game to open the series at No. 5 Louisville (March 8), Austen Smith recorded 21 putouts, to set an Alabama single-game record. Smith topped Clay Jones' single-game record when the first baseman recorded 18 putouts against LSU on April 18, 2010, also a 14-inning game. In three seasons with the Tide, Smith has 789 career putouts, and will need 16 more to tie Matt Frick (1997-98) and Frank Velleggia (1982-84) for 10th all-time on the career records list.

Following the two-game set against Memphis, Alabama will open Southeastern Conference play against Tennessee this weekend. Alabama will host the Vols for three games, beginning on Friday night with first pitch slated for 6:35 p.m. CDT, at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. Game two is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. CDT on Saturday and Sunday's game will start at 1:05 p.m. CDT.

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