STANFORD, Calif. -- The last time California freshman lefty Arman Sabouri faced off against Stanford, he allowed 5 earned runs on 5 hits, and got just one out against the Cardinal in an 8-5 loss on the Farm. Tuesday's effort wasn't much better. The South Bay native allowed 4 runs (3 earned) and gave up three bleeding singles, getting just one out in the bottom of the third as Stanford delivered the knockout punch early, scoring 5 runs in the third inning to power a 6-4 win at Sunken Diamond.
"He's a little naked out there, running on a one-pitch mix, and you can't survive on that," head coach David Esquer said of Sabouri, who's now given up 8 earned runs in 0.2 innings against the Cardinal. "He's out there, just chuck-and-duck. That's no way to live."
A one-pitch mix isn't much of a mix; it's more of a shot, and Sabouri took plenty, as his fastball "was the only thing he could depend on," Esquer said.
Before what would become that 5-run third, Cal and Stanford had left a combined total of 5 runners on base, thanks to an efficient first from Joey Matulovich, and freshman Rogelio Reyes working around two one-out singles in the second, thanks to a diving stop by third baseman Denis Karas.
Troubles started for Sabouri right out of the gate, as he allowed an 0-2 inside-out roller to the left side by Matt Winaker that was slow-played by Karas, and then a 1-2 bullet over Preston GrandPre at second by Nico Hoerner.
"He was getting a lot of two-strike counts, but just could not put them away," Esquer said. "Quite frankly, Denis plays that ball into a hit, two strikes off of Winaker, he jams him, and Denis for some reason takes too much time, and he's safe at first. We're a little bit of a victim of that domino effect -- whoever starts the first domino, we don't have the guy who's going to stop it."
Quinn Brodey then stepped up and hit a 1-0 liner to the left side, but left fielder Max Flower, fighting the sun, had to stay back on it, and without him charging, Winaker easily came around to score.
A bunt by Daniel Bakst up the first base line rode the ridge of the grass, and though replay confirmed that a quick throw from Sabouri beat Bakst at the bag, first base umpire Scott Letendre ruled that the throw pulled first baseman Andrew Vaughn off the bag. A sacrifice fly by Mikey Diekroeger made it 2-0, chasing Sabouri with two men aboard still his responsibility.
Junior lefty Zayne Patino (7.00 ERA coming in) came on and promptly surrendered an 0-1 double off the base of the wall in left to Duke Kinamon, and then a line drive to right by center fielder Jack Klein to plate two more, before Klein was caught on a big turn at first, and Patino fanned catcher Maverick Handley to end the frame.
"We're investing [in the future] by sending the same guys out there, over and over, who have been struggling," Esquer said. "You can tell by their numbers who those are. We're really trying to invest. We keep talking about development, trying to get guys better, and that's kind of the stage that we're at. We get bitten by it a little bit sometimes. We believe that when [Sabouri] comes out the other side, he's going to be a quality pitcher for us, but we're forcing it a little bit."
Handley had another chance to break the game wide open in the bottom of the fifth against sidewinding reliever Andrew Buckley. Coming into Tuesday, Buckley had 12 walks in 11.0 innings of work and a 4.91 ERA, and after walking Klein to load the bases -- the first free pass of the day by Bears pitchers -- worked through two fouls by the freshman backstop to get a called strike three on the inside corner at the knees to end the inning, and strand three.
Having not gotten a single base hit since a single by Matt Ruff to lead off the second, the Bears got back-to-back, two-out singles off of reliever Tyler Thorne in the top of the seventh, on a line-drive single to center by pinch hitter Tyrus Greene and a first-pitch bleeder to the right by GrandPre. Thorne then walked pinch hitter Anthony Walters, and put Jeffrey Mitchell aboard on four pitches, bringing up the Pac-12 home run leader in Vaughn. The freshman first baseman lined a 1-1 slider into left to plate two, cutting the lead to 5-3.
The Cardinal added an insurance run on a bizarre play in the bottom of the seventh. With men on first and second, a two-out, two-strike wild curve by Jared Horn -- Cal's Friday-night starter getting work in on a whole-staff day -- kicked off of Greene and back into the field of play. Horn gathered the ball between first base and the mound, and wheeled to second, but fired into center field, allowing Bakst -- aboard with a one-out double -- to score. Horn threw 16 pitches in 1.0 inning, striking out 2, allowing a hit and a run, finishing his normal mid-week throwing session in the bullpen after his frame was over.
"Coach [Thomas] Eager made the determination that some of these guys don't necessarily need empty bullpen work, but maybe 20 pitches on a Tuesday against hitters could continue to help them develop," said Esquer, who sent seven men to the mound. "Joey [Matulovich] worked on his slider, his off speed pitch. Is it enough just to work in a bullpen, or get two or three hitters on a Tuesday to see what progress he's making?"
Matulovich went nine pitches -- all strikes -- against four batters in the second, allowing one hit.
Cal got Horn's run back in the top of the eighth, with a one-out solo shot from Karas, his sixth of the season.
After dropping two of three over the weekend to Utah, the Bears are now 1-4 since riding high on a sweep of Arizona State at Evans Diamond -- all on the road. Cal is now 4-12 on the road on the season.
"The piece that is most evident on my side, is that we've got to learn how to be good on the road," Esquer said. "We have to be able to take our game, and take our best game, in a good game, and play it on the road, and that's a developing piece with our guys. That's the young guys, the guys who are playing in a different surrounding. Playing this level of baseball, home and away, that's a maturity piece. That's a confident player that knows that he can take his game and play it, whether it's at Evans Diamond or Sunken Diamond."
Cal (12-6 at home) returns to Evans Diamond this weekend for a three-game set against USC. The Trojans were 17-16 overall, and 5-7 in the Pac-12 going into play on Tuesday. The Trojans are fifth in the Pac-12 in hitting (.277), and have the fourth-worst ERA in the conference (4.65), right ahead of the Bears' 5.17.