OMAHA—After Texas tied the score at 4-4 in the bottom of the fifth, Louisiana State responded in a big way, exploding for five runs on two hits in the top of the sixth. This rally felt a lot like Texas’ ninth-inning rally against Southern Miss on Sunday, when the Longhorns scored the winning run in the bottom of the ninth without the benefit of a hit (thanks to three walks and a hit batsman), and Arizona State’s eight-run seventh inning Tuesday, when the North Carolina bullpen couldn’t find the strike zone. Texas pitchers issued two walks, hit two batters and made a costly error in the five-run sixth tonight. But the big blow was Sean Ochinko’s two-run single through the left side of the infield, which stretched LSU’s lead to 9-4.
For the second time in three days, I think Augie Garrido has mismanaged his bullpen. Brandon Workman was cruising along, having retired nine straight batters heading into the sixth. He walked Jared Mitchell to lead off the frame, then lost a battle with Mikie Mahtook, who hit a soft two-run double into the right-center gap to drive in Mitchell. But Workman has great stuff, a fresh arm and had thrown just 49 pitches (he’s a starter by trade, so that’s not much). His fastball and curveball are good enough to get swings and misses, and he had the best chance to get out of that jam.
But Garrido pulled him after Mahtook’s double, going to freshman righty Austin Dicharry. Four batters later, Garrido yanked Dicharry for closer Austin Wood, who hit the first two batters he saw then allowed Ochinko’s two-run single. Even if Wood had gotten out of the jam, Garrido had burned through most of his reliable bullpen arms in the sixth inning. And frankly, Wood hasn’t been the same since his 13-inning, 169-pitch effort against Boston College. He has been effective at times, but he has not been dominant, or even close to it. Garrido should have ridden the hotter hand and fresher arm of Workman in order to stretch out his bullpen.
That’s easy for me to say, sitting in the press box with about 1,700 fewer career victories under my belt than Garrido. But I’ll be curious to see if Garrido expresses any regret for his handling of the bullpen in the postgame press conference.
Anthony Ranaudo is finished after getting the first out of the sixth inning, but Paul Mainieri has confidence in some pitchers other than his closer, unlike Garrido, apparently. He went to lefty Chad Jones, who froze Brandon Belt and Russell Moldenhauer on nasty curveballs to finish the 1-2-3 inning.
Ice the champagne, LSU fans.
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