Merely looking at a box score, it’s safe to say junior Darin Gillies (1-3, 3.96 ERA) wouldn’t get the blame for ASU baseball’s Saturday afternoon loss to Stanford, after pitching seven scoreless innings of the eight he threw in total.
But Stanford senior first baseman Daniel Diekroeger blasted a 1-2 pitch just over the outfield wall in right center, a solo shot that provided the only offense the Cardinal would need in the bottom of the fourth, forcing Gillies to add another tally to his loss column and end ASU’s bid for five consecutive Pac-12 series victories.
Junior left-hander John Hochstatter (5-1, 2.18 ERA) pitched 7 2/3 scoreless innings on just three hits in the win.
Senior right-handed closer AJ Vanegas relieved Hochstatter in the eighth, and picked up his fourth save of the season.
The Sun Devils (21-16, 10-8 Pac-12) were shutout for 14 straight innings, last scoring in the fourth inning of Friday night’s win.
Hochstatter allowed four of the Cardinal pitchers’ five walks, but ASU stranded seven of nine total baserunners Saturday.
While Gillies and the starting rotation has stepped up in the absence of the usual explosive hitting performances, the run deficit away from Packard Stadium is a growing concern for a team with postseason aspirations.
Sophomore designated hitter RJ Ybarra exemplifies this, perhaps better than anyone in the Sun Devil order.
After junior first baseman Nathaniel Causey singled in the top of the sixth, Ybarra came to the plate just hitting 1-for-9 in the series with five strikeouts.
Ybarra broke out of his slump, bashing a double down the right field line.
With just one out, sophomore third baseman Dalton DiNatale up, and runners at second and third, the Sun Devils were in great position to tie the game or take the lead.
DiNatale hit a grounder to third, Causey was caught in a run down, and the Cardinal would escape the inning with no damage.
ASU would finish the game 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position.
It goes against conventional baseball wisdom to shun defense and pitching in favor of slugfests, but recent numbers would suggest that ASU fares better when it can light up the scoreboard.
Sixteen of ASU’s 21 wins have come when ASU has scored five or more runs.
In wins, ASU is averaging seven runs per game, compared to four runs per game in losses.
If the Sun Devils can manage a way to combine their stellar pitching with their potent hitting, ASU can bounce back with road series win in Tucson.
At the very least, pitching coach Ken Knutson can take solace in the fact that he has a fresh bullpen to work with down the stretch, as no ASU relievers threw in the game Saturday.
With no nonconference game scheduled next week, ASU will have the week to practice and prepare to close out the second half of its penultimate Pac-12 roadtrip when the Sun Devils pay a visit to UA on April 25.
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @modrich_22