The Bruins went into Pullman this weekend having won three straight series and trailing conference leader Arizona St. by one game. Three days later though, the Bruins' series win streak is snapped and they have dropped into a fourth place tie in the Pac 10, three games behind the Sun Devils.
The Bruins lost the opener to Washington St., 7-2, when the Cougars struck for six runs in the seventh inning to turn a one run Bruin lead into a five run deficit. Head coach John Savage may have gone with starting pitcher Gerrit Cole a little too long in that contest and it certainly hurt the blue and gold. Cole is obviously a phenomenal talent and should be a bonafide ace next year, but he's really pitching in a spot above his head having to throw on Fridays. That's no fault of Cole's though, but a result of the team's first two choices for that spot (Gavin Brooks, Rob Rasmussen) not pitching well enough to stay in the rotation. UCLA mustered only five hits in the game, but that wasn't unexpected considering that they were facing Wazzu's Matt Way, who is one of the conference's top pitchers.
While it's tough to fault the UCLA offense for not stringing much together on Friday against Way, their inability to score runs on Saturday was concerning. Washington St. starter, Chad Arnold, is a decent pitcher, but not remotely dominant. He entered the weekend with a 4.34 ERA, but limited the Bruins to only two runs in his six innings. An inability to hit with runners on base plagued the Bruins again as they left two in scoring position in the second, two in the third, one in the fifth, one in the sixth and two in the eighth for a total of eight runners left on base, five of which were in scoring position. UCLA was only able to total three runs in their 4-3 loss and two of their three runs came on two solo homers. UCLA has no problem with putting runners on, but scoring them is another issue. On this day Charles Brewer paid for it as the Bruin starter saw his seven inning, three run (two earned) performance wasted.
The Bruins were able to salvage a game from the weekend when they picked up a 9-5 win on Sunday. Trevor Bauer made his first weekend start and picked up the win after giving up four runs in 6.1 inning of work. Gavin Brooks picked up the 2.1 inning save for UCLA and Cody Decker belted his ninth homer of the year and second in as many days. Niko Gallego capped off his strong weekend with a 3-4 performance that included three RBI and two runs. Gallego was 7-11 on the weekend in Pullman, his first three games after being pulled from the starting lineup for the first time on Wednesday following his poor start to the year.
The Bruins are in serious danger of missing a regional this year, thanks to their 11-17 overall record. Now not only is their overall record poor, but they've dropped in Pac 10 standings. UCLA was play on the road next weekend against the team they are in a fourth place Pac 10 tie with, Stanford. The Bruins will follow up that series with two consecutive home series and then a trip to the first year program Oregon so UCLA needs to go on a run beginning next weekend in Palo Alto.
Before they take on the Cardinal, the Bruins will host a hot UC Irvine team on Tuesday at Jackie Robinson Stadium. The Anteaters are a top 10 team and are coming off a series win at top-ranked Fullerton so a win won't be easy to come by. With their overall record still poor, even the midweek games are of the upmost importance to the Bruins now. Their RPI is currently over 100, but because the formula is so strength of schedule dependant, it should go up this week, especially if the Bruins can pick up a few wins.
Pac 10 Standings
1. Arizona St.............8-1
2. Oregon St.............5-1
3. Washington St......4-2
6. Southern Cal........4-5
9. Arizona................ 2-7