Nothing has been able to stop #11 UCLA this year. At 17-0, they've won day games and they've won night games. They've won on weekends and they've won midweek. They beat lefties and they beat righties. They came away winners when they played exceptionally, but also when they haven't played their best. Maybe it's a quirky schedule that finally gets to the Bruins? Instead of the regular Friday, Saturday and Sunday weekend schedule, the Bruins will play Cal Poly on Thursday, Friday and Saturday this weekend at Jackie Robinson Stadium in their final non-conference weekend series.
At 17-0, the Bruins have not just their best start to a season in school history, but their longest win streak in school history and they've done it against a schedule that was 125-82 on the year as of Monday. With a pitching staff considered the best or second best in the entire country, head coach John Savage has plenty of options on the mound. He also has an offense that is hitting .363 as a team with 22 homers, the most in the Pac-10.
Meanwhile, Cal Poly is off to their 19 game start in over a decade at just 7-12 despite entering the season as a trendy darkhorse pick in the Big West a year after winning 37 games and qualifying for postseason play. The Mustangs have dropped six of their last seven and their statistics are even uglier than their record. They have a 6.72 team ERA, which is 4.78 runs higher than the Bruins' 1.94 that leads the country. All of that has come against opponents with a combined record of 50-63. Struggles indeed for the Mustangs.
What Cal Poly has to throw as their ace pretty much sums up the state of their pitching staff. On Thursday (6 pm PST), it will be Kyle Anderson taking to the hill for the Mustangs and he will bring with him not just a 7.43 ERA, but a .351 batting average against. The sophomore left-hander will be charged with besting UCLA's ace Gerrit Cole, who enters with a 2.20 ERA, 1.49 batting average against and 13.5 strikeouts per nine innings on the year. Cole struck out eight and allowed two runs in seven innings last week to earn the win and become the first UCLA pitcher to win his first five starts of a season since Casey Janssen in 2004.
If Cole is the UCLA ace, Trevor Bauer is UCLA ace 1b. Cole's 13.5 strikeouts per nine innings is tremendous, but only third in the Pac-10 because Bauer is leading the conference with 13.79 and lucky Cal Poly will have to find a way to hit that on Friday (6 pm PST). Bauer is 4-0 in his four starts this season and holds a 2.05 ERA to go along with a .170 batting average against after allowing just one run in eight innings last weekend. Bauer will be opposed by Cal Poly's Matt Leonard, a left-hander who has yet to pick up a win this season. The junior is 0-4 with a 6.59 ERA this season and not even five strikeouts per nine innings this season.
Saturday's series finale (2 pm PST) will match up UCLA's Rob Rasmussen and Cal Poly's DJ Mauldin. Rasmussen is coming off of his best start of the season, striking out eight and allowing just one run on two hits in 5.2 innings of work versus Oral Roberts. That outing improved his record on the year to 2-0 and caused his ERA to dip to 2.52. He also continues to strike batters out at a high rate with 13.68 per nine innings, second in the Pac-10. The Mustangs' Mauldin is actually 2-0 this season, the only Cal Poly pitcher with at least one win and no losses. Mauldin has done it with a 9.45 ERA though and .353 batting average against, which does not exactly light the world on fire.
The Cal Poly offense is far better than their pitching staff, although it's far from spectacular. The Mustangs have just a .296 batting average with a modest 14 home runs. Mitch Haniger leads the way with a .352 batting average and Luke Yoder has four homers, three triples and five home runs to go along with a .333 batting average. Bobby Crocker has a team-high 20 RBI and is also 9-9 on stole base attempts, giving the Mustangs a threat on the base paths.
Blair Dunlap comes into the weekend with hits in 12 straight games and will look to extend that hit streak versus the Mustangs, just as Tyler Rahmatulla will be looking to add to his team-best 11 multi-hit games this season. As a team, UCLA has three batters hitting over .400 and another seven hitting over .300, making it so every player to start at least seven games is hitting over .300 and all those players also have an on-base percentage over .400. That is in addition to eight Bruins with double-digit RBI and nine batters with at least one home run.
The series gets underway Thursday at 6 pm PST and continues on Friday at 6 pm PST with it all wrapping up on Saturday at 2 pm PST. All three games are at Jackie Robinson Stadium and tickets are $7 for adults, $5 for youth and free for Wooden Club card holders. If you can't make it out to the games, you can listen to it or follow it on GameTracker via the official site. You can also stay up to date on all things UCLA baseball from game updates to news to analysis to links on my UCLA baseball twitter.