This is probably the hardest Stanford baseball has been hit by the injury bug in a long, long time. And it really showed over the weekend in Tempe, Arizona, as Stanford (10-14, 0-6 Pac-12) took an ugly sweep at the hands of No. 6 Arizona State (18-7, 7-2) and remains winless in conference play.
Stanford missed its regular starting pitchers. A lot.
And that’s not really something that the Cardinal can do much about at the moment, as Cal Quantrill is officially done for the season with an injury requiring Tommy John surgery, and John Hochstatter and Marc Brakeman have also succumbed to undisclosed injuries that have kept them out for extended periods of time.
In their absence, Stanford has been trying to stop the gap with many options. None of them really worked this weekend.
Brett Hanewich, Gabe Cramer and Logan James all had forgettable starts and netted Arizona State early leads in all three games. Trailing the No. 6 team in the country early in a game really isn’t an ideal recipe to win.
While the hitting did get back on track over the weekend after getting silenced a week ago by Arizona, the bullpen simply imploded on Friday and Sunday, while Stanford left 10 runners on base and couldn’t get a timely hit on Saturday.
Things looked promising on Friday, as Hanewich was rocked in the first three innings, but Stanford mounted a four-run rally in the fifth capped by a two-run, game-tying single from Austin Barr and a go-ahead RBI triple from Matt Winaker to take a lead. When the Cardinal added an insurance run in the sixth, things were definitely looking up for the squad.
Barr has really heated up at the plate after the finals break, as the Cardinal designated hitter went 5-for-10 over the weekend with 4 RBIs. He was also the only Cardinal hitter that solved Arizona’s pitching last weekend. His .313 batting average now places him third among Stanford’s hitters.
However, it all unraveled in the ninth, as freshman Colton Hock was twice within one strike of closing out the victory before allowing a two-run, pinch-hit single to Christopher Beall that plated two and gave ASU the 7-6 walk-off win.
The injuries to the starting pitching staff have forced less experienced pitchers into more frequent action, putting much more stress on the bullpen and forcing Stanford to use less sure pieces of that bullpen much more often as well.
It was all downhill from there.
Cramer, making his first career start, allowed three runs in two innings on Saturday and freshman Keith Weisenberg also allowed three runs in two innings of relief as the Sun Devils cruised to a 6-3 victory, highlighted by a three-run fifth that was punctuated by an RBI triple, an RBI double and a run-scoring wild pitch.
Stanford’s hitters notched nine base hits on the evening but just couldn’t come through with the breakthrough hit, stranding 10 runners. A prime example of this was in the seventh, when Stanford loaded the bases with nobody out but couldn’t capitalize when Alex Dunlap grounded into a double play to plate just one run.
The loss overshadowed a stellar relief outing from sophomore Joey Starling, who stymied the Sun Devils over 3.1 hitless innings of relief to keep the game close to the end.
It also put a damper on a triumphant return from injury for junior shortstop Drew Jackson, who had missed 16 games with a hand injury but didn’t miss a beat at the plate, reaching base six times in the latter two games of the series.
Sunday’s game was just too much for an already-taxed Stanford bullpen, which imploded in the late innings to let Arizona State pull away.
It looked like a blowout at the start, as ASU lefty Brett Lilek held the Cardinal hitless through the first six innings. Meanwhile, James lasted only 2.2 innings and gave up 4 runs in his first start of the season, no thanks to a whopping 5 walks that extended innings and gifted the Sun Devils rallies.
The Cardinal, however, didn’t go away and tagged Lilek for a run in the seventh to make it a 5-1 ballgame and break up the no-hitter. But just when it looked like Stanford had a fighting chance, Hock allowed two home runs in the bottom of the seventh to make it a 8-1 game.
Although Stanford plated four more in the eighth to again make it a close contest, the quartet of Andrew Summerville, Chris Castellanos, John Henry Styles and David Schmidt allowed ASU to put up a 6-spot in the bottom of the eighth to put the game away for good.
Barr was the offensive highlight with a 3-for-4 day on Sunday and Jesse Kuet also made a surprise return from injury as a pinch-hitter in the eighth, showing that the Cardinal are, indeed, on the mend.
But with no quick solution to the pitching depth’s woes in sight, this could turn out to be a long season for the Cardinal.
Stanford will have the opportunity to bounce back against San Francisco on Tuesday before getting back into Pac-12 play when it hosts Washington for a three-game series next weekend.
Contact Do-Hyoung Park at dpark027 ‘at’ stanford.edu.