First, there is no time for panic as regards LSU baseball.
The Tigers did drop their eighth game of the year – Tuesday against Tulane – earlier than normal. But, LSU has a 4-2 record after two Southeastern Conference series. There have been just two years since Paul Mainieri became coach that the Tigers had more than four league victories after two weekends.
AP Photo/Mike Theiler
When Texas A&M comes to The Box for the opener of a three-game series Thursday (6 p.m. Central/SEC Network), LSU is only one game out of first place in the overall SEC standings. Arkansas and Auburn in the Western Division and Kentucky and South Carolina in the Eastern Division are 5-1.
But, there are a couple of issues which must be corrected quickly if the Tigers are going to be in the running for a national seed in the NCAA tournament.
For the second time this season, LSU has lost three times in a four-game span. It’s pretty easy to figure out what has been a major reason for this recent mini-slump. The top four batters in the lineup – Kramer Robertson, Cole Freeman, Antoine Duplantis and Greg Deichmann – were a combined 10-for-61.
Freeman, Duplantis and Deichmann had three hits in the Florida series plus the Tulane game. Robertson was a miserable 1-for-18. In the Tigers’ previous 1-3 stretch, Robertson also struggled at the plate with one hit in 15 at-bats.
So, in those eight games in which LSU went 2-6, Robertson batted .061 (2-for-33). In the other 18 games in which the Tigers went 16-2, Robertson batted .441 (30-for-68). However, don’t pin everything on Robertson. All four players at the top of the lineup must consistently come through at the plate.
“We are going to continue to count on our veteran guys,” Mainieri said. “They have to be the ones to lead us. Against Tulane, we had the right guys up in the eighth inning (Robertson and Freeman). We couldn’t get the runs in.”
The other troubling statistic is LSU’s record in close games. Mainieri always says that the type of season normally depends upon the results in tight games. So far this year, the Tigers have a 2-5 record in one-run games. Recently, LSU lost to Florida 1-0 and Tulane 7-6.
“We have to figure it out, how to win one-run games,” Mainieri said. “It’s not like we have blown big leads in those games. We just have not been able to get over the hump in those close games.”
Mainieri’s LSU teams are usually at their best in one-run games. Prior to this season, the Tigers were 92-55 in one-run games with Mainieri as coach. LSU won 63 percent of those close games. There have been only two years when the Tigers had a losing record in one-run games – 5-8 in 2011 and 5-6 in 2014.
Two weekends ago, LSU swept a series from Georgia at The Box. The Bulldogs are 1-5 in the SEC. Maybe Texas A&M will be the perfect remedy for what ails the Tigers. The Aggies are also 1-5 in conference play – losing three games at home to Kentucky and dropping two of three games at Vanderbilt.
“There’s enough pressure to play at LSU already,” Mainieri said. “The last thing the players need to do is put additional pressure in themselves.”