Five wins, three losses, a couple wins and a game cancelled because of an electrical malfunction. Amazingly, this doesn't seem too strange for UCLA this season. The up and down season full of twists, turns and whatever else looks set to continue through the rest of the season, which is rather short now. The Bruins have just seven regular season games left and have plenty left to play for. While postseason positioning is the obvious prize, the Bruins are also still alive for the Pac-10 title. They are tied with Arizona St. for second in the conference, just two games behind Oregon St.
That leads UCLA to this weekend's series against Cal. The Bruins are playing their final three home games of the year this weekend and will be looking to duplicate last year's sweep of the Golden Bears in Berkeley. Two seniors, Chris Giovinazzo and Jordan Haver, will play their final games at Jackie Robinson Stadium, while several juniors, Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer included, will likely be playing their final games in Westwood.
As up and down as UCLA's season may be, it can't compare with the huge down and then up of Cal's. The baseball program was slated to be cut and a program that had existed for over 100 years was supposed to be over after the 2011 season. Players were making plans for next season, meaning they were looking for other schools to transfer to so they could continue their baseball careers. Then, boosters stepped up and raised enough money to keep the program alive, leading it to be reinstating and saving one of the universities oldest treasures.
Now UCLA and Cal get ready for an important Pac-10 series in the penultimate week of the season. While UCLA has an outside chance at a conference title, Cal is pretty much out of contention, four games out of first place. Even so, Cal is looking to build momentum heading into the postseason after sputtering a bit lately by losing seven of their last 12. Even more, if Cal can jump UCLA and stay ahead of Stanford in the Pac-10 standings they may have a claim to be placed in a Regional on the West Coast.
UCLA has been getting the job done on Saturdays and Sundays, but surprisingly not on Friday nights (6 pm PDT). That's hard to imagine with Gerrit Cole on the mound, but the junior has struggled. Last week he allowed four runs on seven hits in just the first two innings, although he did pitch well the rest of the way. Cole's ERA is up to 3.42 and he's just 5-6 so the season has gone anything but the way it was expected to, but the fireballer still has all the tools and can get right back in a groove quickly. The Bears might not be the best team to do that against though considering they touched him for five runs a year ago.
Justin Jones is Cal's usual Friday night guy, but he worked in relief during the week so he's been pushed back to Sunday. That leaves Erik Johnson for the Friday start, a junior who is 5-2 with a 2.11 ERA so he's not out of place on Friday. The right-hander had success against the Bruins last year, exiting the game in line for the win after a seven inning, three run performance that the bullpen would go on to lose. He's coming off of a similar start last week too, allowing three runs in seven innings to Oregon St.
Saturday (2 pm PDT) has become the must-see day at Jackie Robinson Stadium because of Trevor Bauer. The junior won Louisville Slugger National Pitcher of the Week honors last week, the sixth time this season he's won the award. That's because Bauer struck out 12 more in his sixth consecutive complete game while allowing just one run to pick up the win. He's 10-2 on the year with a miniscule 1.40 ERA and opponents are hitting just .150 against him. Most impressive is that with two starts left and the postseason still left to play, Bauer has already broken the UCLA single-season strikeout record he set last year with 167 on the year already.
Bauer will be opposed by the live armed left-hander, Dixon Anderson. Anderson has never had a problem with his stuff, whipping pitches in with velocity and incredible sink, but that hasn't led to success for the junior. He's struggled to command pitches and develop consistent offspeed pitchers, which is why he is just 4-2 with a 4.29 ERA this year. Anderson gave up eight runs, five earned, in 7.1 innings against the Bruins a year ago so they've hit him before.
Finishing things up on Sunday (1 pm PDT) for the Bruins is one of the top candidates for National Freshman of the Year. Adam Plutko has been as good as almost anyone in the country this season, experienced or not. The right-hander is 5-3 with a 1.65 ERA and is peaking at the right time. Two weeks ago he was dominant in a two-hit complete game against Oregon and last week he set a career-high with 12 strikeouts in eight innings against Cal St. Bakersfield.
For the first time in Plutko's career, he will be going up against the opposition's ace. It is something he better get used to since he is expected to be the Bruins' Friday night pitcher next year, but this year he has worked exclusively on Sundays, usually against teams' third-best pitcher. Well, Cal has Jones throwing on Sunday to give him extra rest and at 7-4 with a 3.04 ERA, Jones is very good. He has great stuff that he is learning to command in his sophomore season and he'll need to command it better than he did against UCLA a year ago. Last year, everything was out over the plate and the Bruins didn't miss many, pounding Jones for seven runs in just two innings.
This weekend is the final home series of the season so it is imperative that Bruins show up at the ballpark and cheer UCLA on as several players play their final games at Jackie Robinson Stadium. Tickets to a game are $7 for adults, $5 for children and free for Wooden Club cardholders. For those of you looking to follow along this weekend, GameTracker will have it and you can get all the in-game updates, along with links and other information on my UCLA baseball twitter. John Ramey and Tim Wilhelm are also back in the booth this weekend and giving you the play by play online all weekend.