There just isn’t any wiggle room.
The 2013 Texas Longhorns have to be nearly perfect to win ballgames, and since the offense has struggled for large parts of the season, what we’re left with is a team that will miss the postseason for a second straight year if things don’t change.
The sad part about that is the starting pitching – which was thought to be a question mark at the beginning of the season – has performed very well. But the reality is that one little slip could mean a loss because the bats, outside of Mark Payton, Erich Weiss and C.J Hinojosa, have been largely silent.
That’s why a team can give up only six runs over a three-game series and still lose two of those games.
Want a prime example?
The Horns led No. 13 Oklahoma by one run entering the eighth inning with Corey Knebel, one of the best closers around, on the mound. But this was the rare occasion on which Knebel didn’t bring in an extinguisher. This time it was a gas can. Three Oklahoma runs later, the Horns were left to contemplate yet another Big 12 series loss.
Oklahoma 4, Texas 2.
As great as he is, Knebel has earned the right to have a bad day here and there, but the Horns aren’t equipped offensively to bail out their pitchers on a consistent basis. Sunday’s series finale was terrific disappointment for several reasons:
- Starter Nathan Thornhill pitched seven innings of four-hit ball and gave up one unearned run.
- The offense continued to disappoint with only four hits. Texas went hitless in six of the nine innings.
- The Horns went 1 for 13 with runners in scoring position.
- UT blew a lead after six innings for the first time in 15 games.
I know it’s April but there are five series remaining – at Kansas, West Virginia, at Baylor, Kansas State and at TCU — and a series win over any of those teams wouldn’t impress the NCAA selection committee nearly as much as two wins over the league-leading Sooners would have. Entering Sunday’s game, the Horns were a solid 40th in RPI, according to baseball website Boydsworld.com. With the remaining schedule, Texas will have to catch fire against teams that all had a worse RPI than the Horns as of Sunday.
Coach Augie Garrido was so distraught after the game that he said he forgot that media members were waiting to interview him after he finished addressing the team. Makes sense because the offense hasn’t bothered to show up either.
One day after Dillon Peters flirted with a no-hitter in a 1-0 win, the Horns doubled their run output but were sent home with another loss. The 17-13 record is way below this program’s standards, of course, but most important at this point is the 3-6 Big 12 mark that puts Texas in a tie for last place with TCU.
The last two games of the series “were the best games we have played all year as a team,” Garrido told me by phone. “It’s devastating and painful to lose, but it’s pain we will have to overcome to get tougher and to get better.”
Numbers don’t tell the full tale in baseball, but some numbers give an indication of what’s going on.
For the first time since the school began playing baseball 106 years ago, the Longhorns have dropped six straight conference series, and even though the skid dates back to losing the last three series of the 2012 season, the problems are similar.
Runs aren’t being scored at Disch-Falk Field, and for those who want to chalk it up to this being the dead-bat era of college baseball, be reminded that the Horns’ bats are deader than most. TCU is the second-worst scoring team in the Big 12 with 145 runs in 32 games, but the Frogs have still outscored the Longhorns, who scored four runs this weekend, by 36.
Before Saturday’s game, Payton posted a sign in every Longhorn’s locker. It read, “Hate to lose more than you love to win.”
This isn’t a question of a team’s desire to win but of its ability to produce runs at a time when runs aren’t there in abundance. Twenty of Texas’ 30 games have been decided by two runs or fewer and Texas is 10-10 in those games. There are few options on the bench, and unlike the major leagues, where you can bring a kid up from Double-A, Garrido has to get more production from some guys who haven’t produced.
“We all want to win,” said Weiss, whose two-run triple gave Texas the lead in the third inning. “We just have to learn from our losses. It’s very frustrating because we’ve all been putting our best effort on the field. It’s just not working out that way.”