LSU pitching struggles on the road

LSU lost two games by one run this past weekend, and Paul Mainieri wasn't pleased with all the walks against Texas A&M.

The only homefield advantage in baseball is getting to bat last in the ninth inning.

The base paths are all 90 feet long, and every pitcher's mound measures 60 feet, 6 inches from home plate. Few environments can match the hostility of Alex Box Stadium, so what can be the cause of LSU's struggles on the road?

The Tigers have won only one road SEC series this season and are 7-9 away from Baton Rouge after a tough weekend at Texas A&M. You can point to the pitching as an issue, primarily the bullpen. LSU combined to walk 20 batters this past weekend, and in four other road losses against Florida and Vanderbilt, the Tigers walked 25 more.

"Maybe the nerves were a little bit tighter," said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. "But we walked entirely too many batters this past weekend, an unacceptable rate. The one thing we emphasize more than anything is to throw the ball over the plate."

Mainieri's biggest concern from the weekend was with Joe Broussard, who until facing the Aggies had been a force in LSU's closer role. But he walked four batters Friday while blowing his first save opportunity of the season, and on Sunday he surrendered the game-winning home run.

Mainieri noted that Broussard's velocity was down about 4-5 mph, but the reliever had no pain or soreness in his throwing arm. Broussard and the rest of the staff (with the exception of Aaron Nola and Jared Poché) had the last two days off from throwing with hopes that added rest can right the ship.

"We just wanted them to refresh and rejuvenate a little bit," Mainieri said. "Hopefully this weekend when Joe comes in he'll be throwing 92-94 instead of 87-88…I'm not worried about it all. He's been going hard for a long time, and I think a couple days off will do him some good."

Parker Bugg and Hunter Devall are two other pitchers that could certainly afford the rest. Neither one appeared this past weekend while struggling with "slight shoulder strains" in their throwing arms.

Devall, who has a 1.53 ERA in 17 1/3 innings, didn't make the trip to College Station, but Mainieri said he'll be ready to go for this weekend's series against Alabama.

"Hunter Devall's fine," Mainieri said. "I've been gone for the last two days, but the reports I've received are that he's pain free. He threw 120 feet a couple days ago, felt great so there are no issues there at all."

Parker Bugg's expected to return this weekend
Bugg's prognosis still isn't clear, but Mainieri's optimistic he'll be in the same boat as Devall.

"We think Bugg has the same thing, but we've rested him the last couple days so today will be his first day throwing," Mainieri said. "I can't tell you how he's going to feel, but my assumption is he'll feel pretty good and hopefully he'll be available this weekend."


LSU's postseason projections took an understandable hit after losing a series to Texas A&M this past weekend.

The Tigers' RPI currently stands at No. 20, with Baseball America's latest projections leaving LSU outside the bubble for hosting a regional. LSU also sits in fifth place in the overall SEC standings, which would mean no first round bye in the conference tournament.

With only seven games left in the regular season (six in the conference), time's running out to solidify that postseason resume, but Mainieri's optimistic his team's goals are still in front of them.

"Nothing is decided until the 30th game is played," Mainieri said. "I've learned that about this league. That's why you can't get down or ever count your chickens before they've hatched…Even the RPI doesn't matter until the dust is settled."

LSU's opponent this weekend knows firsthand just how quickly things change in the SEC. Alabama spent most of this season atop the conference but have fallen back to the pack these last two weeks.

It started with a road series at South Carolina, where the Tide lost two of three. They were then swept this past weekend at home against Florida. Alabama now ranks fourth in the SEC West, and things won't seem to get any easier for them against LSU.

But Mainieri knows Alabama can still turn it on at any point.

"Are they bad all of a sudden because they had to play at South Carolina, then Florida and now they're coming to LSU?" Mainieri asked. "That's a murderer's row that they have to go through."


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