Auburn, Ala.--Looking to get back in the race in the SEC's Western Division, the Auburn Tigers (21-11, 1-8) hit the road to face LSU (17-13-1, 3-5-1) in a key series for both teams. Auburn enters on a modest two-game winning streak overall but has struggled in SEC play to score enough runs to win. Coach Tommy Slater says that the key this weekend of his team is to come up with the timely hits that have been missing in recent weeks.
"We've got to start scoring more runs, bottom line," Slater says. "We're pretty good on the mound. We send guys to the mound that are capable of winning in the SEC every time out, the same with our bullpen. We've caught it well with the exception of one game this year. That was not a good day but we've caught it well. We've been consistent on defense minus that one day. We've got to score more runs.
"We're doing some things offensively that I like," he adds. "We're stealing bases, we're moving runners over, we're getting them into scoring position, but we've got to start doing a better job of driving them in. If there's one thing we've got to do a better job of, it's scoring runs."
That may continue to be a problem this weekend as the Tigers could be without two key offensive performers as sophomores Luke Greinke and Mike Bianucci are both considered day-to-day says Slater after they were injured in the last week. Suffering from a strained hip flexor, Greinke didn't play Tuesday night and hasn't practiced all week. Spraining the AC in his left shoulder late against South Alabama when he hit the wall trying to make a defensive play, Bianucci is also listed as day-to-day for this weekend's series. Slater says both will make the trip to Baton Rouge but he's unsure if they'll be able to play.
"They are both getting on the bus," Slater says. "The only day Mike would have practiced would have been yesterday and that was our off day. Greinke has not practiced but each day he feels better. The doctors and Greinke both feel that by Saturday he should be able to help us and we're taking him. Mike is a day-to-day thing as well. We'll see tonight if he can swing it and if he can, he can. Maybe it gets better as the weekend goes along."
Without one or both, the Tigers will likely use a lineup featuring Ben Jones in left field for Bianucci with Joseph Sanders at first base where Greinke saw some action last week. Freshman Dustin Spruill will be the designated hitter for the Tigers with Ryan Jenkins behind the plate.
Joseph Sanders is hitting .323 this season and is 8-22 with three doubles and five RBI in his last six games started.
Auburn will also have a change in the starting rotation this weekend as sophomore Justin Bristow moves into the role of the Sunday starter for the Tigers joining fellow sophomore Paul Burnside and true freshman Taylor Thompson. After a very good outing Tuesday night when he dominated South Alabama for four innings, Bristow will get his shot on Sunday and Slater says it's strictly because of performance.
"He just threw the ball so well Tuesday," Slater says. "I think if there's one thing that I think has been consistent with us is that when guys perform you give them another opportunity. He performed Tuesday. That was really good stuff Tuesday night. Taylor dominated in the mid-week and we gave him a weekend opportunity. Justin's got the hot hand right now and he dominated that game Tuesday night so we're moving him in that role."
Game times for the weekend series are 7 p.m. on Friday night, 3 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday.