After dropping a midweek game against Kansas State, the Tigers now shift their attention to Alabama (25-15, 8-10) as they look to pick up some momentum with the season winding down.
Alabama isn’t particularly exceptional with their hitters 1 through 9, but their top half of the lineup is very strong.
It all starts with UTL Peyton Wilson in the lead-off spot for the Crimson Tide. He plays a variety of positions for the Tide, but he’s penciled in every day at the leadoff spot. As the team leader in runs and stolen bases, he ticks all the traditional boxes for a leadoff hitter, but he’s much more than just a run manufacturer. The switch hitter also has 8 HR this season is second among Tide players in SLG%. Wilson will most certainly make an impact this series with his versatility and bat atop this lineup.
After Wilson, the Tide lineup has guys like William Hamiter and Zane Denton, but the meat of the big bat in the Alabama lineup this season has been C Sam Praytor. The Alabam native doesn’t have an imposing AVG at just .277, but he leads the team in HR, RBI, SLG%, and OPS. Hitting out of the cleanup spot, he is the power bat in this lineup, and it’s almost certain that Tiger pitchers will be pitching around him all weekend.
In the 5-hole, Owen Diodati is another great power bat with 10 HR and 36 RBI, both are second on the team, and he provides great protection for Praytor. However, after that first five, the Alabama lineup takes a big hit. The bottom of the lineup doesn't provide anything special, and the Tigers will need to make sure they don’t let any production come from the bottom half if they want to have success this weekend.
Here’s what the rest of the Crimson Tide lineup looks like this year:
For how good of a season Alabama has had on the diamond, their pitching has been very underwhelming as a whole. They have a team ERA of 4.34 and a BAA of .257 which are both 3rd worst in the SEC. Despite struggling as a team, the Crimson have still found 2 consistent weekend starters in Tyler Ras and Dylan Smith.
Ras is going to get the ball on Friday and is a talented righty who has been the definition of reliable all year. With a 3.94 ERA in 55.1 IP, he hasn’t been exceptional. Outside of a shaky start against Auburn, he’s pitched well in all of his SEC starts, and he’s coming off a great 7 inning, 1 earned-run outing in his last start against Kentucky. Ras isn’t the kind of arm that’s going to strike out a lot of batters, but he’s going to give 5-7 solid innings.
On Saturday, the Tide will turn to Smith. Smith, like Ras, doesn’t have an exceptional ERA with just a 3.34, but he is a strikeout machine. He leads the team with 75 Ks in 65.2 IP, but has struggle on the mound recently. In his last three starts, he’s given up at least 3 ER in each of them has gone past the 5th inning in just one of them. He’s been less consistent than his Friday counterpart, but his ceiling is definitely higher. If Smith can settle in against the Tigers it could be a long night for Mizzou, but if they can knock him around early, it could be tough for the Tide.
On Sunday, the Tide don’t have a go-to guy, so they’ll likely piece the game together with a variety of arms. Only time will tell who they’ll use for Game 3. Tigers fans should look out for Chase Lee and Landon Green who are both exceptional bullpen arms. The backend of the pen is definitely the strength of this staff, but getting to the later innings has been the problem for the Tide at times this year.
Bama has had a much more successful season than the Tigers, but they’re very beatable. Their lack of reliable starting pitching is a huge weakness the Tigers can exploit, but if the Tide get to their bullpen, that could be curtains for the Tigers.
Limiting the damage from the top of the Alabama lineup will also be key. If Halvorsen and Miles can pitch like they did last week, the Tigers will have a chance to do this, too. However, with the inconsistency that has plagued the Tigers all year, nothing can be counted on.
Friday | 6 pm | SEC Network +
Saturday | 2 pm | SEC Network +
Sunday | 11 am | SEC Network