The seventh-ranked Texas A&M baseball team went into the weekend series against Nebraska with the Big 12's ERA leader in their bullpen. But after Sunday's double-header there are many questions surrounding the Aggies' pen. Even Kyle Thebeau looked much more hittable this weekend against Nebraska, which doesn't bode well for A&M head coach Rob Childress.
Theabeau, who entered the weekend with a 1.61 ERA (No. 6 in the nation, No. 1 in the Big 12) hadn't given up a run in his last 11 innings over the course of six outings. But he was shelled by the Cornhuskers this weekend, giving up two runs on Friday night, including the tying run in the ninth that sent the game into extra innings, and another five runs in the ninth inning on Sunday in game one of the double header.
To be fair, he probably would have gotten out of the inning unscathed and helped the Aggies capture their first Big 12 regular season title in nearly 10 years if not for defensive miscues on the infield that allowed the inning to continue and three unearned runs to score.
Thebeau pitched 6.1 innings in two appearances this weekend and gave up seven runs (three unearned) on four hits while striking out six and walking four—easily his worst weekend of the season.
Travis Starling, who usually comes in as Childress' closer pitched a brilliant eight innings on Friday night, which left him in the dugout for the double-header on Sunday after throwing 105 pitches on Friday night.
Starling, who gave up six runs in the ninth inning on Tuesday night against Sam Houston State, said the outing was huge for his confidence.
But after Thebeau showed he was human at times, and Starling proved to be superhuman for a night, Childress and the Aggies may have learned on Sunday that beyond Thebeau and Starling, they don't have many other go-to options in the bullpen with the game on the line.
Carson Middleton has given up at least one earned run in five of his seven appearances in relief, and averages at least one hit per inning on the mound.
Scott Migl pitched .2 innings on Sunday afternoon and gave up three runs (two earned) on one hit. It was only his second appearance in relief this season, but neither have turned out well for him. He's given up five runs off of eight hits in five innings of relief.
Kirkland Rivers was up next for the Aggies, but he lasted just .1 inning and gave up another earned run. He has been effective at times this year, but has also had several disastrous outings that have pinned him with an ERA of 10.19.
Shane Minks was the last arm used by Childress in the second blown lead of the day, giving up three unearned runs off of four hits in 1.2 innings of work. He has allowed six runs off of 12 hits in his seven innings of relief this year as well.
But who else could Childress have gone to after using up Thebeau and Starling in games one and two of the series?
Hank Robertson has been extremely effective in his last four outings, allowing just one run off of three hits in 6.2 innings of work, with seven strikeouts and just three walks. He hasn't given up a hit or a run in three of those outings as well. But Robertson strained his shoulder in the bullpen during game one of Sunday's double-header and was unavailable. His availability for this weekend's series against Texas is also unknown, possibly leaving Childress without another arm in the pen.
Michael Heard has been effective in relief this year, but has only pitched 4.1 innings for the season, so there isn't enough data to support putting him into a key situation down the stretch.
Kevin Cravey looked like a dependable arm out of the pen early in the season, allowing just two hits and zero runs in his first four outings of the season. But over the last two months, Cravey has allowed at least one run in four of his last five outings, including seven runs against Texas State in just one-third inning of work. Thankfully for his ERA, all seven runs were unearned.
With a mid-week game against UTA and a three-game finale against Texas looming this weekend, there's no doubt that the Aggies' bullpen, will have opportunities to answer the questions that came up this weekend in Nebraska. However, if they're unable to step up now, it will put even more pressure on the backs of Thebeau and Starling.
Questions abound for Aggie bullpen
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