Oregon’s pitching has not been great. The highly touted rotation has pitched well, but has failed to reach the levels we expected back in February. The bullpen is questionable, as well. As mentioned last week, the back-end is set, but as evidenced by the madness of the Oregon State game Monday night, the long-relievers/spot starters are anything but a sure thing.
But this is FishDuck.com, and we live to find the silver lining. Playoff hopes are still alive and well thanks to a 5-2 record in the last seven games – the incomplete Portland game excluded.
Those seven games have provided meaningful match-ups. Series wins over Cal and USC vaulted the Ducks into fifth place in the Pac-12. While the loss to Oregon State was painful, Oregon proved that they are capable of playing with the best in the country – if they don’t shoot themselves in the foot first.
A look at the performance of the pitching staff in these games is helpful to illustrate why they are far from dead in the water.
California’s Brett Cumberland is the best hitter in the conference. He has crushed opposing pitchers all year. He got off to a hot start in the 12-2 walloping the Golden Bears laid on Oregon in Game 1, going 3-4 with three runs and an RBI. The rest of the weekend however, was not nearly as successful for Cumberland. The pitching staff didn’t allow another hit to the slugger, holding him to a .292 average for the series, a far cry from his .400 average for the season.
The going wasn’t any easier when USC came to town. The Trojans have been scuffling on the mound but have four of the top 15 batters in the conference gracing their lineup. The standout of the group is David Oppenheim (.371/.486/.500) who settles in as the fourth-best hitter in the Pac-12. Oregon quieted his bat in the sweep as he notched a single hit, struck out three times and scored just one run.
The bullpen struggled to keep Oregon State’s top performers in check but kept the Ducks in it with a fighting chance to the end. The Beavers were held scoreless for four frames as Cole Stringer bounced back with three strong innings, giving up two hits and striking out two.
Oregon’s staff ranks as the fifth best in the conference and have a chance to pad their numbers when they travel to UCLA this weekend. The Bruins have fallen off from their 2015 dominance, ranking in the bottom half of the Pac-12 in batting (No. 10) and pitching (No. 8).
Maybe I need to take off the green-and-yellow-tinged glasses, but Oregon looks perfectly positioned to take flight, facing off against the bottom half of the conference to finish the season.
Top Photo by Gary Breedlove