Texas Loses Another Series; Tuesday Open Thread

Dillon Peters was brilliant on Saturday. - Photo courtesy Tim Irby

For the second straight weekend, Texas had a chance to win a Big 12 series and get the season on track. For the second straight weekend, the Longhorns' inability to put together complete performances cost them dearly.

The last time Oklahoma took a baseball series from Texas, Bill Clinton was President of the United States. If you had a 56k modem to connect to your AOL account, you were on the cutting edge of Internet society. The Unabomber pled guilty, and the Good Friday Agreement brought Ireland and the UK closer to lasting peace. Hugo Chavez was elected president of Venezuela for the first time. Titanic took home 11 Oscars including Best Picture, and the two of us who write as "40AS" were in eighth grade.

Sorry, scratch that. The last time Oklahoma took a baseball series from Texas was two days ago. The 14-year run of dominance over our biggest rivals was fun, and it had to end sometime. But the fact that it ended in 2013 means Texas is now in serious danger of missing the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year. Having lost all three of their conference series so far, with only five left to play, the Longhorns now sit at 17-13 on the year and 3-6 in the Big 12. According to Boyd's World, they're currently sporting an RPI of 57; much like basketball, in a 64-team field it is very difficult to snag an at-large bid with an RPI much worse than 35.

Texas' remaining conference opponents are in even worse shape: Kansas (65), West Virginia (136), Baylor (85), Kansas State (77), and the extremely-disappointing TCU (133). That means Texas needs to not only win these series, but get at least a couple of sweeps in there as well if they're going to improve their tournament standing. In fact, even as bad as their record is, the Longhorns still sport the second-best RPI in the conference behind Oklahoma (18). Unless someone besides OU wins the conference tournament, the Big 12 could suffer the embarrassment of being a one-bid league this season.

In one sense, though, that could be good news for Texas. If they can figure this thing out and start winning series now, it's possible the second-ranked Big 12 team may get a bid just by virtue of being the second-ranked Big 12 team. So all hope is not yet lost. But if the Longhorns continue to fail to put together complete efforts, it will be a lost cause soon. When the pitchers look good, the offense slows to a crawl. When the bats get going, the pitching and defense break down. Or the bats work fine until there are men on base, then they get stranded.

Against OU, it was mostly a case of fine (even great) pitching and truly putrid hitting. In three games, the 'Horns managed a total of four runs: one Friday in the 2-1 loss, one Saturday in the 1-0 win behind Dillon Peters' superb pitching performance, and a veritable explosion to score two runs in Sunday's 4-2 loss. It's a tribute to the pitching that all three games were close. Unfortunately, after taking a 2-1 lead into the eighth on Sunday, Texas watched Corey Knebel have a very un-Corey-Knebel-like outing; he gave up three runs in the eighth to take the loss. But to pin it entirely on him would be a mistake; look back a couple of sentences and refresh your memory: four runs. In three games. That's a recipe for getting swept, and the blame lies mostly with the hitters (and, we suppose, some credit goes to Oklahoma's pitching staff).

So your Longhorns now sit squarely on the Baseball Bubble. The next couple of weeks will see them either fall entirely off the bubble, strengthen their position, or--as is our prediction--do just enough to not burst it, but still keep the situation pretty tenuous. It starts tonight at 6:00 against Texas State on the LHN. This is your open thread.

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