Every baseball game should tell you something about your team. Every game should teach you something. Plainly put, it is either good or bad. You can either sow the seeds of change or prepare to harvest the rotten fruit of errors. Even in midweek games, Auburn has to take the philosophy of: "What can we do to get better?".
That's why I always like to take a little check list into each game or series. There are things I want to try to make extra attention to notice to see if Auburn is trending in a positive of negative direction. Here's what I'm paying attention to for tonight's game against South Alabama:
1. How does Jon Luke Jacobs respond?
JLJ has been on, essentially, 2 weeks rest, thanks to the rain out last weekend down in Mobile. For pitchers, those tricky and finicky beasts that they are, sometimes they can be "over rested" and not be as sharp. JLJ still has potential and a spot in the weekend. Especially if Kendall struggles next Saturday against LSU. We want to see if Saturday vs Ole Miss was an aberration or the norm for Will. If JLJ pitches well tonight, then it will put added pressure on Kendall to perform.
2. Does the bullpen get some work?
Not only has JLJ gotten rest with the rainout, so have guys like Trey Cochran-Gill, Chase Williamson and Zach Blatt. For Blatt, the rainout might have helped and maybe he can respond like Luckie did last weekend. For TGC and Williamson, it seems like forever that we say them take the mound. Against UM, Auburn only needed 3 pitchers out of the bullpen (Luckie, Slade Smith, and Justin Bryant). That means that in a close situation it might be all up to Dillon Ortman.
3. Do Creede and Gonzo bounce back?
A series to forget for the Auburn spark plugs going 1 for 12 (.077) and 1 for 13 (.083) respectively. I mentioned this over on AUPPL, but when C & G don't get on, then Auburn doesn't steal. When we don't steal we force other players to pick up the slack. That hurts Auburn. We've built the team on speed.
4. What's the lineup?
It was good to see JB at bat and his .273 average from the DH spot was a nice addition. However, I wouldn't be opposed to giving him the night off completely and letting a guy like Bobby Andrews or Jarred Smith get a swing. Andrews in particular might need some work and if he shows improvement then he could easily replace Gonzo (temporarily) at the top of the lineup and give Auburn that base stealing threat.
AUPPL NOTE: As I'm typing this up, I see that they've posted the lineups and that Bryant is in fact DHing. That doesn't really change anything in the thinking (Andrews/Smith could still get reps) but the lineup does show one thing: Caleb Bowen is trying to supplant Blake Austin as the full time catcher. Bowen had a solid series and if he can develop a solid bat then there's no reason he shouldn't start. Austin cooled off from the opening series and Catcher is one position where Auburn could stash a bat.
5. Could we see more long ball development?
South Alabama is a team that gives up some longballs. 12 so far this season. Especially tonight's starter Dillon Buhrkuhl (2 taters). Power is something Auburn isn't going to be magically bestowed with over the season. It's something we have to develop and hopefully guys like Garrett Cooper and Zach Alvord can make some headway tonight.