(Photo: Scotty Bara/WCSN)
The pitching woes of the Arizona State baseball team had flown under the radar. After all, the team had won seven of eight and four-in-a-row, so there was not much room for complaint.
Yet as the Sun Devils dropped their two next games to USC and Arizona, the issue came to the forefront. Most notably, sophomore Ryan Kellogg had been rocked for 18 hits and an 8.02 ERA in only 10.1 innings in his last two starts.
That all changed Saturday night.
In front of a crowd of 2,599, one of which was Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Kellogg fired eight stellar innings, leading the Sun Devils (19-13, 9-5) to a 4-1 win over the California Golden Bears (14-17, 3-8).
The outing for Kellogg tied his career-long at Packard Stadium. The southpaw allowed only five hits and one earned run en route to his fourth win of the season.
“Fastball command was better than it was last week,” Kellogg said. “Changeup was hit and miss but it was better. Slider, [I] threw it a lot for a strike. And then curveball, didn’t throw it that often, but the few times I threw it, it worked out.”
“That’s one of the best games I’ve seen him pitch in a while,” head coach Tim Esmay said. “To do that at Packard, I mean I know what he did against Oregon State that was a bit less of an offensive place, this is an offensive place. I thought he was outstanding tonight. He’s exactly what the doctor ordered… That was vintage Kellogg tonight.”
First baseman Nate Causey sparked the Sun Devils in the first inning, as he blasted the first pitch he saw from Cal starter Kyle Porter onto Rural Road. Despite leading the Sun Devils with a .474 slugging percentage, the long ball was Causey’s first of the season, and put ASU up 1-0.
However, after Causey’s blast, hard hit baseballs were scarce. Porter limited the potent Sun Devil offense to six hits and matched Kellogg for much of the game. Porter departed after 7.1 innings and struck out six.
“It’s definitely fun when it’s a pitcher duel,” said Kellogg. “He’s got his stuff, I have mine, let’s see who comes out on top at the end. It keeps the intensity up, keeps the guys more engaged and they’re just ready to keep going out there and keep being relentless and they finally cracked him.”
Cal evened the game at one in the fifth inning, but ASU regained a one-run lead in the sixth with a sac-fly from shortstop Colby Woodmansee.
A two-run eighth inning for the Sun Devils that featured two walks, a hit-batter, and a run-scoring wild pitch gave ASU a 4-1 lead and some breathing room heading into the ninth.
To avoid the same, push-it-under-the-rug mentality that was characteristic of the Sun Devils four-game winning streak, the performance that ensued from Ryan Burr cannot go unnoticed.
Burr entered the game in the ninth inning with a 4-1 lead and in line for his seventh save of the season. However, Burr proceeded to throw 10 consecutive balls that included two walks and a hit batter. Burr now has issued seven walks in his last 3.1 innings.
Esmay pulled Burr after the bases were loaded, and reliever Jordan Aboites entered and bailed Burr out. The 5’6” sophomore induced a popout and a game-ending double play to escape the jam and earn his first save of his collegiate career.
“We’re going to give [Burr] the ball again tomorrow. Probably for the first time, he’s in a situation kind of like hitters go through, first time he hasn’t had the outcome he’s looking for. Obviously Ryan Burr is one of the best closers we’ve had here. So when you have that guy in the back end, you have to keep giving him the baseball. Ryan’s going to be fine.”
The Sun Devils have now won eight of their last ten conference games, and four straight conference series. The victory also gives Esmay his 400th career win.
Arizona State will host Cal for the series finale tomorrow at 12:30 p.m., looking for its first series sweep of the 2014 season. Right-hander Darin Gillies will take the mound for the Sun Devils and will oppose right-handed pitcher Ryan Mason for the Golden Bears.
You can reach Jacob Garcia on Twitter @Jake_M_Garcia or via email at Jacob.M.Garcia@asu.edu