Not much to say here. It's Arizona. Big series for both clubs. All three games will be televised by the Pac-12 Network. Daron Sutton (PxP) and Dean Stotz (Color) will be on the call.
In all of the postseason projections (D1Baseball, Baseball America and Perfect Game) this week, Arizona is just outside of hosting contention. A series win against ASU @ Muni this week and a series win vs. Cal next week at Hi Corbett would be musts if Arizona wants to host a regional (and they'll likely need some help). Arizona isn't in any position to take this series lightly, and they actually have much more pressure on them than ASU does at this point. Not too long ago, Arizona was in the National Seed conversation. They haven't performed terribly well over the last month, the Pac-12 hasn't done them any favors (looking like a 3-4 bid league at this point), either.
ASU has already lost the 30-win streak; at this point they're playing spoiler, playing to try and finish with a winning record (so 2017 doesn't earn yet another dubious distinction), and playing to get some reps in before the summer. The Sun Devils can play loose and have some fun here, and I expect them to do just that.
Ratings entering Game #1:
Arizona - 17/18 in RPI, 14 in ISR, 32 in NPI, 37 in Elo Chess (consensus Top-20 team in the country)
Arizona State - 88 in RPI, 68 in ISR, 178 in NPI, 99 in Elo Chess
Arizona leads the Pac-12 in BA (.311), OBP (.404), SLG% (.452), runs scored (by 120 runs over Utah in 2nd), hits, RBI, doubles, total bases, walks, they've K'd the 2nd fewest times in the Pac (despite leading the Pac in plate appearances and at bats). In addition to this, UA has actually been improved with the "small ball" stuff over the course of the year - 2nd in the Pac in HBP, 2nd in the Pac in successful sac bunts, 2nd in the Pac in sac flies, 3rd in the Pac in stolen bases (and 2nd-best in terms of fewest times CS). Junior 1B JJ Matijevic is 7th in the nation with a .402 batting average and 2nd nationally in doubles with 25. He's a stud, and he's tormented ASU while at UA: In 12 career games against ASU, Matijevic is 18 for 46 (.391), with 10 runs scored, three doubles, three home runs and 17 RBI. Their offense isn't a one-man crew, though. Arizona has three players - JJ Matijevic, Jared Oliva and Cal Stevenson - with 52 runs scored this season. No other individual player in the Pac-12 has more than 43 runs this season. The Wildcats enter this weekend’s series at ASU with three players – JJ Matijevic, Alfonso Rivas and Freshman savage Nick Quintana – with six or more home runs in the same season. That's the first time UA has had three players with 6 or more in over half a decade. Jared Oliva, who was named to Perfect Game's Midseason First-Team All-American squad earlier this season, is hitting .332 on the season with 29 extra-base hits. He has 22 doubles on the year after having just four all of last year. He and JJ Matijevic have the most doubles by any pair of teammates in the country. He has four home runs and is third on the team and the league in RBI with 48. He’s slugging .530 and is getting on base at a .400 clip. He’s also been successful in nine of 11 stolen base attempts. Sophomore Alfonso Rivas enters the weekend as Arizona's second-leading hitter at .381 (which is also the third-best mark in the Pac-12). He has an on-base percentage of .491, which leads the Pac-12 and is the 11th-best mark in the country. Rivas is tied for 2nd on the team and in the league with 53 RBI, and has six home runs, 11 doubles and 48 runs scored to go with a .545 slugging percentage. Owner of the best flow in AZ, Freshman Nick Quintana has started all 50 games for Arizona so far this season. He's batting .311, with 16 doubles, six home runs and 37 RBI. He's slugging .508 and has an on base percentage of .409. Quintana has 13 multi-hit games this year and 10 multi-RBI games. Arizona possesses the Pac-12 individual leader in batting average (JJ Matijevic, .402), slugging percentage (JJ Matijevic, .672), on-base percentage (Alfonso Rivas, .491), runs (Cal Stevenson, Jared Oliva, JJ Matijevic, 52), hits (Matijevic, 82), RBI (Matijevic, 57), doubles (Matijevic, 25) and total bases (Matijevic, 137). At 8 runs per game, Arizona is ninth in the nation in scoring and first among Power 5 Conference schools. At 402 runs scored, Arizona is 13th in the country and third among Power 5 Conference schools. The Wildcats are 16th in the country in on-base percentage at .404, which is the fourth-highest mark among Power Five teams. Arizona also is 10th in doubles per game at 2.26 and is 14th in doubles overall with 113, which is third among Power Five teams.
ASU cannot expect to win boat races with UA despite last week's midweek win (against a couple regulars and some seldom-used Johnny Wholestaff arms from the Wildcats); their offense is too good. UA is 25-2 when leading after 6. ASU falling behind early (like ASU has quite a bit this season) will not be ideal against the Wildcats.
As good as UA's offense has been, their pitching has not been dominant. Arizona is 8-14 when scoring 5 or less runs. Their staff 4.31 team ERA ranks 7th in the Pac-12. Their opposing batting average of .270 ranks 8th in the Pac-12. Their 179 walks allowed ranks 7th in the Pac-12 (they lead the Pac-12 in intentional walks). Other than striking folks out at a pretty good clip, the pitching for UA has been their "weakness." With that being said, should ASU get JC Cloney, Cameron Ming and Cody Deason as the three starters this series... so don't expect ASU bats to go nuts. Arizona has without Cloney against Utah and Ming and Deason both spent plenty of time this year were pitching out of the pen. Kids like Randy Labaut (1-2, 4.55 ERA) and Rio Gomez (5-5, 4.67 ERA) have made a handful of Pac-12 starts this year, but neither started last weekend as Johnson appears to have priortized getting arguably his three best arms in as starters down the stretch.
- Senior (and 2016 JUCO transfer) JC Cloney (7-1, 2.64 ERA) has recently returned for UA after missing the Utah series with injury and is a legit Pac-12 Friday night starter. He's made 12 appearances (12 starts) this year, boasts a 54:14 K:BB ratio and a .226 opponents BA against. He really broke out last season late (throwing up scoreless innings in Omaha). He's very good.
- Junior Cameron Ming (6-1, 2.26 ERA) has been starting of late (since April 21st) after beginning the season as the Wildcats' closer. He's made 18 appearances (5 starts) this year, with a 50:14 K:BB ratio and .249 BA against. In his four starts since joining the rotation, Ming has gone at least six innings in all four starts and put together a quality start each time out. He's also very good.
- Sophomore Cody Deason (4-2, 3.15 ERA) has been rounding out the weekend rotation lately. He's another that has pitched quite a bit as a reliever this year. He's made 18 appearances (7 starts) with a 36:15 K:BB ratio and .260 opponents BA. He's another that is good.
If this is the trio ASU will face (and I suspect it will be based on last week's usage), all three are significantly better than UA's season pitching stats (and last week's midweek game) would suggest.
Huge series at Muni this week. It would be great for the boys to beat UA in the season series (like they've done each of the last three years, BTW) to finish out their home schedule. Go Devils. Play spoiler, have some fun, beat Cats and keep hope/potential alive for a winning season in 2017.