The UCLA Bruin baseball team is in Seattle tonight to take on the University of Washington Huskies in game one of a three game series. The Bruins (14-16, 5-7 PAC 12) are looking to make some noise and get back into the thick of the PAC 12 race. UCLA currently sits tied for eighth place, three spots behind fifth place Washington (17-11, 7-5 PAC 12).
After a brutal seven game losing streak, UCLA has won two of their last three, including winning their first midweek game of the season against Loyola Marymount, 6-5, on Tuesday. We are slightly past the halfway point of the season, and UCLA needs to start winnings games and series if it is going to qualify for postseason play. A series win against Washington will point the Bruins in the right direction.
The Huskies are back home after two consecutive PAC 12 road series, against Oregon State and Arizona State, respectively. UW dropped the series to the Beavers and won the series against the Sun Devils. In their most recent game, Washington pounded Seattle, 12-4, at home on Wednesday. UDub has won four of their last five games.
It has been a tale of two halves of the lineup for UCLA this season, with the Bruins getting consistent production from the top of the lineup, but not so much from the bottom of the lineup. Eric Filia (.339, 2 HR, 18 RBI) and Sean Bouchard (.327, 1 HR, 27 RBI) lead the team in hitting, and Kort Peterson and Luke Persico, who hit his first home run of the season on Tuesday, are not far behind.
Things may be looking up from the bottom of the order. Daniel Rosica, one of two UCLA catchers who have seen action this year, had a great game on Tuesday, going 2 for 3 with 2 RBI and a run scored. Rosica has raised his average over .200. While that is not saying much, UCLA's other catcher is hitting .118. Look to see Rosica get the majority of the starts this series based on his hotter bat, as neither catcher has shined behind the plate defensively.
Tonight's starter, Griffin Canning (3-4, 4.08 ERA), has lost his last two starts, although he went the distance in a 4-1 loss last Friday against Stanford. For UCLA to have a chance to win this series, it would be huge if Canning can put in one of his better outings of the season tonight.
UCLA's bullpen continues to be wildly inconsistent. Moises Ceja, who had been a rock all season going into this week, had a very rough outing on Tuesday, facing three batters, hitting one, walking another, and recording only one out. Ceja allowed 2 earned runs in 1/3 inning. In the same game, Brian Gadsby blew a save, giving up four hits in 1 and 1/3 inning, but earned the win. On the other hand, Scott Burke, Tucker Forbes, and Nathan Hadley had nice outings on Tuesday.
I cannot recall a John Savage coached team having this much drama out of the pen. We were all spoiled last season.
The Huskies are hitting a very respectable .286 as a team (compared to .242 for UCLA). Washington has fourteen players who have started more than eight games. Eleven of them are hitting .275 or better. UDub is deep and there are no weak spots in their lineup. Washington also hits for power, with 21 home runs (UCLA has seven HRs) and a .421 slugging percentage (UCLA is slugging a paltry .322).
The major challenge for UCLA in this series, in my opinion, if whether the Bruins can kept the Husky bats in check. If they can, UCLA has a good chance to win a couple games in Seattle.
UDub sports a team ERA of 3.98. Although this is not great, it is almost a run better than UCLA's 4.95 team ERA. Washington's Friday starter, Noah Bremer (4-1, 2.50 ERA), is a the ace of the staff. UCLA will be hard pressed to eek out a win against Bremer. Washington's Saturday starter is freshman, Joe DeMers (2-2, 4.81 ERA), who is inexperienced for a Saturday starter. UCLA might be able to take advantage of him, especially if Grant Dyer puts in a solid outing. UW has not named its Sunday starter. Alex Nesbitt (2-2, 8.10 ERA) and Greg Minier (3-0, 4.08 ERA) have started the last two Sundays for Washington. Whoever starts, expect a committee approach, as that has been the way of things for the Huskies on Sundays.
Washington's closer, Troy Rallings (3-1, 0.74 ERA) is outstanding. He has seven saves in 36.1 innings pitched.
Aside from Bremer and Rallings, no one really has shined on the mound for UW this season. If UCLA can get their bats going and avoid a UW save situation, they could do some damage against the Husky staff.
The following are the dates, times, and anticipated starting pitchers for the series:
Friday, April 15, 7:00 p.m. PT:
UCLA – Griffin Canning, RHP, So. (3-2; 3.43 ERA)
Washington -- Noah Bremer, RHP, So. (4-1, 2.50 ERA)
Saturday, April 16, 1:00 p.m. PT
UCLA – Grant Dyer, RHP, Jr. (1-2; 5.79 ERA)
Washington -- Joe DeMers, RHP, Fr. (2-2, 4.81 ERA)
Sunday, April 317, 1:00 p.m. PT
UCLA—Kyle Molnar RHP, Fr. (2-3, 3.74 ERA)
Washington—Not Yet Announced
Tonight's game is televised on the PAC 12 Networks. Tomorrow night's game is televised on PAC 12 Washington. You can follow the action in all three games with John Ramey and Tim Wilhelm via streaming online audio, including tonight’s game. You can also follow tonight’s game via live statistics, courtesy of the University of Washington.
I don't know why, but I have a funny feeling about this series. UW hits better than UCLA and has better pitching numbers than UCLA. Notwithstanding that, I think that UCLA gets the series win on the road. I am going to stop short of calling a sweep, but I think that the Bruins take two of three, with the one loss a close game with the UCLA starter not getting much run support, and Rallings shutting the door. I think that all three UCLA starters, Canning, Dyer, and Molnar will have solid outings.
I hope I'm right.
This is your UCLA v. Washington baseball game one open thread. Feel free to post your thoughts in the comment section.