Friday, May 10, 2013

series preview: Duke

Date/Time: Fri-Sun, May 10-12; 6:00, 4:00, 1:00

TV: Cavaliers Live

Record against the Blue Devils: 89-53-1

Last meeting: UVA 2-1 over Duke (3-6, 12-3, 10-3)

Last game: UVA 11, VCU 3 (4/30); Liberty 4, Duke 3 (5/5)

Last weekend: UVA bye; Duke bye

National rankings:

Baseball America: UVA #7; Duke unranked
Collegiate Baseball: UVA #8; Duke unranked
NCBWA: UVA #7; Duke unranked
Perfect Game: UVA #6; Duke unranked
Coaches: UVA #8; Duke unranked
Composite: UVA #7; Duke unranked

Duke lineup:

C: Reed Anthes (.213-0-7)
1B: Chris Marconcini (.272-8-34)
2B: Andy Perez (.322-3-21)
3B: Jordan Betts (.283-7-42)
SS: Kenny Koplove (.301-0-17)
LF: Mark Lumpa (.307-0-11)
CF: Grant McCabe (.301-0-14)
RF: Jeff Kremer (.302-0-24)
DH: Aaron Cohn (.333-0-0)

Lineup notes: Most of Duke's lineup is pretty static.  The exceptions are at catcher and DH.  Ryan Munger (.241-0-9) has been behind the plate when Duke starts Drew Van Orden; Van Orden isn't on the slate this weekend because he's been getting knocked around but good lately.  Still, Munger will probably get one of the three games.  Aaron Cohn is a new arrival to the lineup.  Matt Berezo (.270-0-18) has been doing a lot of the DHing, but Cohn has started the last four games for Duke.

Pitching probables:

Friday: LHP Brandon Waddell (4-1, 3.98, 63 K) vs. LHP Trent Swart (4-4, 2.45, 61 K)
Saturday: LHP Scott Silverstein (7-1, 3.32, 50 K) vs. RHP Michael Matuella (4-2, 2.76, 25 K)
Sunday: TBA vs. RHP Robert Huber (5-4, 4.39, 23 K)

Our long national finals week nightmare is over, and the UVA nine return to the field this weekend to take on Duke, the penultimate series before the ACC tournament.  Though we've been operating for a while on the assumption that UVA always comes out of the exam break poorly, they've actually won something like their last four or five post-exam series, so perhaps we can call that myth busted.

Duke is presently on the outside looking in for ACC tourney qualification, sitting in the #9 spot.  And with two of the ACC's tougher teams (UVA and NC State) left on their schedule, it doesn't look great for them, so they'll be playing desperate.  UVA, meanwhile, sits three games out of the division lead and technically controls their own destiny to win it.  A sweep of UNC next weekend would do it, as long as they don't lose any ground this weekend.  But that's as much a longshot, if not more, as Duke's quest to qualify.  More realistic: Attempt to maintain or extend their game-and-a-half lead on NC State and Clemson for the #3 seed, which would keep us out of the UNC side of the tourney field.  Since nobody has a tougher final weekend than UVA does, now is the time to get the job done.

-- UVA at bat

Duke has been shuffling their starting rotation some in an effort to find a workable combination.  As mentioned above, Drew Van Orden is out, on account of being ineffectively wild.  He's just been knocked around a ton this season and hasn't shown great control.  Trent Swart is the ace of the staff and has been a mainstay all season.  A diminutive lefty, Swart commands a mere mid-80s fastball, but has outstanding command; he's very similar to Waddell, his counterpart for Friday's game.

Saturday starter Michael Matuella is a hard thrower who can touch the mid-90s and sit low-90s with his fastball.  Matuella has been brought from the pen to the rotation, having spent a large part of the season in long relief.  Even though he's probably the hardest thrower in the Blue Devil arsenal, he's not a strikeout pitcher; he relies on the heavy fastball to generate outs in the field.  Lastly, there's Robert Huber, with a fastball in between those two and a penchant for boom-or-bust pitching.  Huber has tossed two complete-game shutouts this season, but outside of those, sports a 6.62 ERA.

Out of the pen, Duke has a reliable closer in righty Andrew Istler, who relies largely on good command of his fastball and change.  Sarkis Ohanian and Nick Hendrix, a righty and lefty respectively, provide Duke's other two top bullpen options.  Beyond that, things get iffy, and Ohanian and Hendrix aren't exactly unhittable themselves.  No doubt they'll try Van Orden, and Dalton Brown is another name to watch for, but both have ERAs on the wrong side of 5, and Hendrix is the only left-handed option.  That basically means that Swart and Hendrix are the only two lefties UVA is likely to see all weekend.

As for our own bats, the main thing is to hope they're not stuck in deep freeze after the exam break.  It's always the biggest worry.  It should be possible to score the runs we need against the Dookies, though.

-- Duke at bat

Duke basically has three kinds of hitters:

-- Crappy hitters
-- Good hitters with zilch power
-- Good hitters with good power

It's amazing how well their lineup fits these three archetypes.  There are five .300+ hitters and most of them - the exception being 2B Andy Perez - fall into the middle category, almost exclusively singles hitters.  It's the infield that provides the power: Perez, along with 1B Chris Marconcini and 3B Jordan Betts, are the middle-lineup guys who are depended on for the RBIs.

Duke's lineup took a hit two months ago when regular catcher Mike Rosenfeld ruptured a tendon in his thumb, leaving two very light-hitting options in his place.  Reed Anthes is the superior defensive player, but a lousy hitter, and Ryan Munger has been taking one day a weekend as well behind the plate.  That's probably the only real hole in the Duke lineup, though, or at least, their starting lineup.  Other than deciding whether to start the recently discovered Aaron Cohn or the more-established Matt Berezo at DH, Duke's options off the bench are perilously few.  None at all, really.  The lineup is solid, but they're not going to pinch-hit much.  They can stagger their lineup between righties and lefties and hope for the best.

On the UVA side of things, Brian O'Connor isn't much for employing the TBA in the pitching probables, but there you see it.  The plausible theory off the message boards is that he's prepping his rotation for the postseason and wants to see how the Duke series shakes out before he commits to a Sunday guy.  Nick Howard can be held back if this series goes well the first two games.  It fits what BOC has done in the past for sure; the final series is almost always rejiggered a bit and this would be just a setup to that.  If Howard isn't used, I would hazard a guess on Nate Kirby or Trey Oest.

Bottom line for this weekend, though, is that Duke has a solid lineup ... but one that's been routinely held in check by quality pitching staffs.  They scored three runs all weekend against UNC, six against GT, and ten against FSU.  I think it'd be presumptuous to assume we can limit them to a run a game, but neither is it an elite, run-machine bunch.

-- Outlook

Duke isn't a terrible team, and they can steal games from the ACC's upper echelon.  They have a lot of the pieces to be successful, but the pitching has betrayed them at times.  UVA ought to win the series.  Losing one along the way shouldn't shock anyone, but this needs to be - and should be - a successful weekend.

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