Ignore the Skid; Signs of Life From the Diamond
The month of May has not been kind to Oregon. In seven games, the Ducks are 3-4 and only marginally better over their last 10 (5-5). After the first-ever losses to Gonzaga earlier this week, Oregon needs to bounce back in a big way this weekend in Corvallis.
Early in the year, questions about the offense plagued head coach George Horton. For much of the season, it was more than questions about the bats that gave the Ducks problems. Thankfully for Oregon fans, the much-maligned offense has played much better lately.
Looking at the last 10 games, there are plenty of positive signs. Despite a .500 record, only one loss has been by more than two runs. In fact, the Ducks have outscored opponents 66-49 in that span, and have a run differential of +22 on the season. The numbers aren’t eye-popping, but at least the offense has finally found its stride.
Austin Grebeck and A.J. Balta got some love from me a couple of weeks ago, and they have only improved in the Pac-12 standings since then. Grebeck sits atop the conference in runs scored while Balta leads in RBIs.
We’ve moaned all year that the pitching is not up to the standard we expected last fall when Horton claimed to have the best staff in the country. I won’t offer up more than a few bytes here to keep that trend going.
Questions about the bullpen persist, and it has even affected stud closer Stephen Nogosek who picked up his second loss of the season last week against Arizona State.
No, the Ducks’ staff and pen are not living up to expectations, but they are doing a few things extremely well. Namely, strikeouts – they have 356 - beating out the second-place Sun Devils by 11. Cole Irvin is the second-best pitcher in the conference in the category, racking up 77 over 83.2 IP compiling a 3.56 ERA and 1.14 WHIP.
The pitchers have not only been efficient bat-missers, but they keep the ball in play, as well. They have allowed 359 hits in 387.1 innings, the fifth-best mark in the conference.
Of the two previous encounters with the Beavers this season, one game has gone Oregon’s way, and a late rally nearly sealed the deal for both. When the Ducks and Beavs take the field on Friday night, Horton will have a chance to earn win No. 1,000 – but the main storyline is the race for a Pac-12 title.
With just three conference series – and a handful of non-conference match-ups – left, time is running out.
Top Photo by Gary Breedlove