Texas puts a 13-game winning streak on the line this weekend against Oklahoma State. The 'Pokes are hanging out toward the bottom of the conference standings this season at 5-7, and if the season ended today they would be the seven seed in the conference tournament. However, the season doesn't end today and a sweep at the hands of the red-hot Longhorns could put Okie State in the position of trying to fight their way back into a spot in the eight-team Big XII tourney. The statistics are, as one might expect, very much in Texas' favor.
As perceptive and mathematically-inclined BON readers, you will no doubt notice in the pitching matchups below that each Texas starter this weekend has and advantage of more than two full runs in ERA over his Oklahoma State counterpart. Even more striking from a big picture perspective is a look at OSU's schedule and results. Having played very few quality opponents, they have managed only two victories over teams that could even arguably qualify for that distinction--and honestly, it's a charitable definition of the word "quality" to include Texas Tech and Oklahoma in that crowd. In Okie State's only other series against a squad playing anywhere close to the level of ball Texas is playing, they were swept by Kansas State without much of a fight.
The season story arc for Texas remains as expected (hoped for?). The pitchers have been, at their worst, as good as advertised--and at their best they have been otherworldly. The three weekend starters continue to dominate and the bullpen refuses to let off the gas when their opportunities come along, and Chance Ruffin gives up about a run every ten appearances or so. Ruffin serves as arguably this season's best proof that Augie knows what he's doing, as the move to the closer role has elevated his game to a level even better than his amazing 2008 freshman campaign. Chance has given Texas hitters the confidence of knowing that if they can get an 8-inning lead, they're going to win the ballgame.
However, if the pitching were the whole story, then it would be less of an arc and more of a straight line of excellence. The emerging story lately, though, has been the Longhorn hitters' ability to provide the staff with something called "run support." Look it up. As InDKR'sShadow rightfully pointed out earlier this week, hitting is a fickle mistress and no one should expect that the recent offensive explosion will continue uninterrupted for the rest of the season. But it's a lot of fun while it lasts, and there's no reason to believe that even if/when this torrid pace stops the team will return to its anemic hitting from earlier in the season. The increased reps and confidence that come with a good run at this point of the season means that as things settle down, the new offensive "floor" will be higher than it was beforehand. That's all just speculation, of course, but speculation is fun.
This will serve as your Game One open thread.
PROBABLE PITCHING MATCHUPS (via Texas Sports preview)
Friday, April 23, 2010 - 6:05 p.m. Central
Texas: RHP Taylor Jungmann (3-1, 2.56 ERA)
OSU: LHP Thomas Keeling (3-4, 4.84 ERA)
Saturday, April 24, 2010 - 2 p.m. Central
Texas: RHP Cole Green (8-0, 2.09 ERA)
OSU: LHP Tyler Lyons (3-2, 4.84 ERA)
Sunday, April 25, 2010 - 1 p.m. Central
Texas: RHP Brandon Workman (7-1, 2.89 ERA)
OSU: LHP Andrew Heaney (3-0, 5.44 ERA)