Arizona State Preview

With just nine conference games remaining this season, the Stanford Cardinal baseball squad needs to continue its hot play to stay in the hunt for a Pac-10 title. This weekend, Stanford welcomes the Arizona State Sun Devils to Sunken Diamond for a three-game series. Read on for a preview of this critical three-game set.

Arizona State (27-16, 9-6) at Stanford (33-13, 9-6)

Friday - 6:00pm
Saturday - 1:00pm
Sunday - 1:00pm

It's a big weekend at Sunken Diamond as the 7th ranked Stanford Cardinal host the Arizona State Sun Devils in a key three-game series.  The Cardinal and Sun Devils both enter this weekend's contests in a tie for third place in the Pac-10 Conference, two games behind first-place USC and one game in back of second-place Washington with nine conference games remaining.  Stanford has been playing much better of late with four consecutive wins since getting blasted by San Jose State in a mid-week game last week.  The Cardinal swept the visiting California Golden Bears last weekend ending any hopes the Bears had of making the NCAA Tournament.  Then earlier this week, Stanford traveled down to Santa Clara and easily defeated the Broncos by a score of 13-2.

Stanford went through a difficult 3-5 stretch prior to last weekend during which runs were at a premium.  But during this recent four-game winning streak, the Cardinal have scored 42 runs and have put themselves back in the Pac-10 race.  Individually, Sam Fuld has been the hottest hitter in the lineup with seven consecutive multi-hit games which has increased his batting average all the way up to a team-leading .376.  Fuld's also developed quite a power stroke over the past couple weeks with four homers in his last six games.  Ryan Garko has taken over the team-lead in home runs with 11 after hitting two bombs in Stanford's last game at Santa Clara.  The Cardinal team batting average is up to .324 as they are averaging 8.2 runs per game.  After hitting a modest 67 home runs in 68 games last season, Stanford has already clubbed 62 homers in just 46 games this year.  On the pitching side, the starting rotation trio of Jeremy Guthrie, Tim Cunningham, and John Hudgins are now a combined 20-3 with a 3.76 ERA.  Friday night starter Jeremy Guthrie is coming off a complete-game victory in his last start in which he struck out a season-high ten batters.  Sunday starter John Hudgins is now 8-0 this season, including 7-0 in his nine starts.

Probable Starting Lineup :
C - Ryan Garko (.325, 11 HR, 42 RBI)
    * Has walked a team-high 28 times this year and is second on the club in on-base percentage (.441).

1B - Arik VanZandt (.315, 4 HR, 18 RBI)
    * Is getting much more playing time at first base as Coach Marquess appears set on a regular starting lineup.

2B - Chris O'Riordan (.339, 7 HR, 37 RBI)
    * Slumping a little with just three hits in his last 17 at-bats.

3B - Scott Dragicevich (.331, 2 HR, 17 RBI)
    * Has nine hits in his last 20 at-bats (.450) with two homers since moving back into the starting lineup six games ago.

SS - Andy Topham (.331, 4 HR, 27 RBI)
    * Only has four walks in 148 at-bats this season.

LF - Brian Hall (.270, 3 HR, 26 RBI)
    * Only regular hitting below .300, but does the lead the team with ten stolen bases (in ten attempts).

CF - Sam Fuld (.376, 6 HR, 32 RBI)
    * Hitting .542 (32-for-59) in his last 14 games and now is the all-time leader at Stanford in batting average (.366).

RF - Carlos Quentin (.335, 9 HR, 45 RBI)
    * Leads the team in RBI, triples (4), and hit by pitches (13).

DH - Jason Cooper (.374, 10 HR, 43 RBI)
    * Has taken over the team lead in on-base percentage (.450) after drawing numerous walks over the past couple of weeks.

Probable Starting Pitching Rotation :
Friday - Jeremy Guthrie (RHP; 7-1, 2.90 ERA, 96 1/3 IP, 25 BB, 88 SO)
    * Has a career 20-5 record at Stanford.

Saturday - Tim Cunningham (LHP; 5-2, 4.34 ERA, 74 2/3 IP, 29 BB, 46 SO)
    * Has not won since April 6th versus Arizona (four starts without a win).

Sunday - John Hudgins (RHP; 8-0, 4.30 ERA, 73 1/3 IP, 29 BB, 50 SO)
    * Hasn't lost a game yet this season, but has given-up a team-leading 12 homers this season (Guthrie is next but with only six).

Primary Relief Pitchers :
* Ryan McCally (4-2, 3.16 ERA, 6 SV), Dan Rich (1-1, 2.11 ERA, 2 SV), Darin Naatjes (4-0, 1.93 ERA, 2 SV), Drew Ehrlich (0-2, 4.54 ERA, 2 SV).

-- Arizona State Sun Devils --

The Arizona State Sun Devils enter this weekend unranked which is a bit uncommon for this storied program.  ASU was ranked 18th in the preseason and peaked at # 13 very early in the season, but have since fallen completely out of the rankings.  The Sun Devils are currently 27-16 overall this season and just like the Cardinal, are 9-6 in Pac-10 play.  They need a series win this weekend to keep their conference title hopes alive, but it certainly won't be easy considering Stanford hasn't dropped a home series since April of 1999.  Like most teams, ASU has played much better at home with a 20-7 home record compared to a 7-9 road mark and with their final two series' of the year in Mesa, a series win this weekend would benefit them greatly in terms of postseason seeding.  ASU hasn't played a game since April 30th, a 14-2 victory against New Mexico State while they haven't played a conference series since April 19-21 when they lost 2-of-3 games to the visiting Cal Bears.

Nothing really stands out on the ASU stat sheet as they enter this weekend's action with a .303 team batting average and just 28 home runs.  Power is definitely not the forte of the team but they do have good team speed and they draw a lot of walks.  Individually, their top players include first baseman Jeremy West (.342-11-49), DH Steve Garrabrants (.362-2-27), and left fielder Rod Allen (.357-5-38, 11 SB).  The Sun Devils are a bit shorthanded this weekend as second leading hitter Andre Ethier (.362-4-42) is out with a broken thumb and two key players, outfielder Jon Sheaffer (.364-0-19) and third baseman Dennis Wyrick (.315-0-10), are currently suspended for braking team rules.

The strength of this team lies with their starting pitching.  Much like with Cal last weekend, the Sun Devils will throw their top two starting pitchers on Saturday and Sunday.  Saturday starter Mike Esposito is the ace of the staff with a 3.40 ERA and 82 strikeouts in 82 innings.  Robbie McClellan will be on the hill on Sunday and he's put up impressive numbers with a 7-4 record and a 4.48 ERA.  On Friday night, Head Coach Pat Murphy will send out little-used Jered Liebeck (5.88 ERA in only 26 innings pitched).  One Sun Devil pitcher to watch this week is their bullpen ace Ryan Schroyer as he may be the top reliever in the conference.  Schroyer has a 2.34 ERA and four saves, but since moving to the bullpen in early March he's compiled a 0.79 ERA in 22 2/3 innings.  Obviously, you don't want to fall behind late in the games to anyone, but that's especially true with ASU with their All-American candidate closer.

Probable Starting Lineup ;
C - Cesar Castillo (.280, 0 HR, 9 RBI)
    * Hitting .438 (7-for-16) during current five-game hitting streak.

1B - Jeremy West (.342, 11 HR, 49 RBI)
    * Leads the team in doubles, homers, RBI, and slugging percentage.

2B - Sergio Garcia (.317, 0 HR, 8 RBI)
    * Has stolen 12 bases in just 34 games (17 starts).

3B - Jeff Larish (.333, 1 HR, 13 RBI)
    * Seeing a lot more playing time with the suspension of Wyrick ... walks a lot (19 free passes in 20 games).

SS - Dustin Pedroia (.335, 1 HR, 33 RBI)
    * Hitting .391 in Pac-10 play ... has also committed just two errors all season.

LF - Rod Allen (.257, 5 HR, 38 RBI)
    * Preseason All-American is having a difficult season ... will likely hit third in the order.

CF - Ryan McKenna (.258, 1 HR, 13 RBI)
    * Filling-in for the suspended Jon Sheaffer (who was leading the team in hitting).

RF - Nick Cadena (.171, 3 HR, 11 RBI)
    * Filling-in for the injured Either ... has made just four starts this season and has only six hits in 35 at-bats.

DH - Steve Garrabrants (.362, 2 HR, 27 RBI)
    * Leadoff hitter ... Has five triples and 11 stolen bases this season.

Probable Starting Pitching Rotation :
Friday - Jered Liebeck (RHP; 0-1, 5.88 ERA, 26 IP, 8 BB, 22 SO)
    * Made his first Pac-10 start in ASU's last conference series vs. Cal and went only three innings giving up two runs on eight hits.

Saturday - Mike Esposito (RHP; 7-5, 3.40 ERA, 82 IP, 20 BB, 82 SO)
    * Struck out 17 in a start vs. Washington back on March 29th.

Sunday - Robbie McClellan (RHP; 7-4, 4.48 ERA, 76 1/3 IP, 41 BB, 75 SO)
    * Opponents hitting just .245 against him, but has struggled somewhat recently as he's not gotten out of the fifth inning in four out of his last seven starts.

Primary Relief Pitchers :
* Ryan Schroyer (4-1, 2.34 ERA, 4 SV), Mark Sopko (2-1, 5.27 ERA, 1 SV), Bryce Kartler (2-4, 5.79 ERA), Carlos Arguello (1-0, 1.84 ERA)

Stanford - ASU By The Numbers :

                     Stan.    ASU

Overall Record       33-13   27-16
Conference Record     9-6     9-6
National Ranking       7      NR

Batting Average      .324    .303
Runs Per Game         8.2     7.7
Home Runs Per Game    1.4     0.7
Stolen Bases          57      69

Earned Run Average    4.01    4.36
Walks Per 9 Innings   3.5     4.3
Strikeouts Per 9 Inn. 7.3     8.8

Fielding Percentage  .970    .964

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