Three takeaways from LSU baseball's series loss against Auburn
BATON ROUGE - For the second time this season, LSU baseball lost a home series to an SEC opponent.
The Tigers (19-9, 4-5 SEC) dropped two out of three games to Auburn (19-9, 5-4), as LSU lost on Thursday 6-5 and Saturday 6-4, but won on Friday, 9-2.
Here are three takeaways from the Tigers' series against Auburn.
LSU's defensive mistakes have affected pitching
LSU's defense has been a problem all season, especially up the middle.
Second baseman Jordan Thompson and shortstop Cade Doughty have combined to commit 19 errors. In an attempt to fix the issue, new LSU coach Jay Johnson had flipped their positions last weekend against Florida.
Doughty also committed an error in the opening game against Auburn, but the biggest defensive mistake the two made in the series wasn't recorded in the box score.
In the eighth inning of Saturday's game — with a defensive shift on against Auburn first baseman Sonny Dichiara — Doughty and Thompson found themselves on the left side of the bag. So when Dichiara hit a ground ball between Thompson and Doughty, instead of communicating, the two collided and failed to even touch the ball as it squirted into left field for a base hit.
As a result, a run was scored, increasing Auburn's lead at the time to three.
"We were both just trying to make a play," Thompson said. "We just ran into each other, a little miscommunication."
Defensive lapses, like Thompson and Doughty's collision, have made life even harder for a Tigers' pitching staff that has had its own problems.
"It definitely can be tough on them, that's why we've got to clean it up, we've got to be better for them," Thompson said. "Because they're working for us."
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LSU's offense stranded too many runners
The Tigers struggled to generate timely hits against Auburn, stranding 20 runners in its two losses and going 4-for-22 in two-out situations in those games.
It happened in the seventh inning of Saturday's game when LSU had runners at first and second with nobody out, only trailing by a run.
Brayden Jobert and Jordan Thompson struck out. Gavin Dugas got hit by a pitch to load the bases, but the Tigers couldn't capitalize on that mistake either. Josh Pearson popped out to shortstop to end the inning.
"We were kind of just that one at bat away," Johnson said. "A couple of the balls we did hit hard with guys on base were at people."
LSU's offense has still been stellar for most of the season. The nine runs and 12 hits it put up against Auburn on Friday were further proof of that.
But with a struggling defense and a pitching staff that has lacked consistency, LSU's offense doesn't have much room for error.
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Blake Money continues to struggle
Blake Money was tabbed as the Tigers' most reliable arm entering the season, starting on opening day and throwing seven scoreless innings against Maine. He allowed just one earned run in his first 20⅔ innings.
But since the schedule has gotten tougher, Money has struggled. He's allowed no less than four earned runs in each of his last four starts, surrendering 15 earned in his last 13⅓ innings pitched — all against SEC opponents.
Money was even pitching well on Thursday against Auburn, throwing four scoreless innings. But in the fifth he allowed five hits and five earned runs. An error from Doughty did not help, but all of the runs he surrendered were with two outs.
LSU has lost all three of its series openers against SEC opponents. For that trend to change, the Tigers will need Money — or someone else — to step into that top of the rotation role.
Koki Riley is a recruiting and high school sports reporter for The Daily Advertiser and the USA TODAY Sports South Region. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.