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Mizzou slugs its way to first three-game sweep of the season

Austin James homered in three straight games and Peter Zimmerman continued his hot streak in Missouri’s sweep of Western Illinois.

Twitter: @MizzouBaseball

Welcome to Three True Outcomes, where we’ll examine the past week in Mizzou Baseball through the lens of the three true outcomes — strikeouts, walks and home runs. How did the Tigers whiff, how did they take advantage of what was given to them and what did they knock out of the park?

It’s that time of the week where we go through the last week of baseball and look at how the Tigers fared through the lens of the three true outcomes. For a more detailed explanation, take a look at the original Three True Outcomes post. Over the weekend, the Tigers pulled off a three-game sweep of the Western Illinois Leathernecks, who have yet to win a game in the 2020 season.

Free bases! Get your free bases here!

This is a bit nit-picky considering Missouri went a perfect 3-0 on the weekend, but it should be noted; the Tigers currently tie for last in the SEC in both wild pitches and balks. While balks aren’t as much of a concern, the Tigers have chucked 23 WPs in their 14 games this season, including five more this weekend. On Saturday, Western Illinois was able to pull within two runs of Missouri on a wild pitch in the sixth inning.

I’ve noted that Missouri’s pitching has been a bit erratic on the young season, and its unfair to expect perfection from college level pitchers. But in a conference like the SEC, Missouri needs to tighten up their fundamentals and do everything they can to pad their record against non-conference opponents. There’s no easier way to let a team back in a game than having a pitching staff that lets loose. Expect the rotation and bullpen to tighten up as the season progresses as the staff identifies its most dependable (and controlled) arms.

Spencer Miles, future star?

While Steve Bieser started the season with an experienced pitching staff, things haven’t quite shaken out how he’d have hoped. Ian Bedell has been excellent — he logged a 6-inning, 2-run, 12-strikeout performance on Friday — but Art Joven and Konnor Ash have been up-and-down. The search for another dependable starter led Bieser to hometown freshman Spencer Miles, who may be the next big thing in Columbia.

After starting giving up three runs in four innings in his first career start against Texas, Miles turned in a quality start on Sunday, tossing six innings with three runs. He didn’t walk a batter and struck out five.

Miles is now fourth on the team in innings pitched, racking up a 3.60 ERA with 11 strikeouts to only two walks. The freshman is still likely to take his lumps here and there, but his performance early in the season has certainly earned him some trust from Bieser. Look for him to keep earning Sunday starts (or emergency bullpen assignments), especially against non-Power Five opponents.

A new lineup threat emerges

It was a quieter weekend for Mizzou’s two top sluggers, Brandt Belk and Peter Zimmerman. Of course, “quiet,” is a relative term, especially considering Belk went 2-4 on Saturday while Zimmerman went 3-4 on Sunday, including an absolute bomb of a home run. Still it was a step down from the torrid starts both have had.

Luckily, Austin James was there to pick up the slack. The senior shortstop went 3-10 on the weekend, but all three hits left the yard and James racked up 7 runs batted in on the weekend. His season numbers aren’t anything special — he’s only slashing .149/.286/.326 — but if Missouri can have another major power threat at the bottom of the order, that’ll go a long way toward rounding out a lineup that has been pretty top-heavy thus far.