Another failure to convert keeps Longhorns from first road win

Matt Warden

They came, they saw and they blew it again.

Texas’ 4-3 loss Tuesday night pushed its record on the road this season to 0-4 and gave it a third loss in the Big 12. The Longhorns never fail to get hits against their opponents, but last night was another example of how stranded base runners seal their fate.

Texas started the game strong behind two strikeouts in the first inning from Chad Hollingsworth. But in the second inning the Cougars used a few base hits to drive in three runs and put the Longhorns on the ropes, a feeling which they are familiar with in losses this season.

The bottom half of the second inning began with Texas inducing a groundout before Houston followed up with a single and double to put two runners in scoring position. The Cougars followed up with a single from Kyle Survance, who stole two bases before scoring on a single.

In the Longhorns’ eight losses this season, five of those contests saw the Longhorns give up two or more runs in at least one inning of action. Texas has started each game strong, but whether because of a lack of focus or a stroke of luck for the opponent, the team folds at certain points.

While this bad luck has plagued the Longhorns in many of their losses, a more troubling statistic is their hits to runners left on base ratio. In four of its eight losses, Texas has stranded more runners than it got on base from hits.

Against Houston, Texas tallied a solid seven hits, but stranded seven runners on base, which is unacceptable for an Augie Garrido team built on playing small ball. The problem obviously isn’t getting runners on base, but rather the best hitters not being able to drive them in.

Mark Payton entered Tuesday night’s game with a team-best .409 batting average and 15 RBI. His 1-for-3 effort in the loss resembled his performances in the Longhorns’ other road losses this season, in which he went a combined 1-for-12 at the plate.

Payton has emerged as the go-to player to drive in runs for Texas this season but has single-handedly left eight runners on base during the 0-4 road stretch. If Texas wants to find success on the road, especially in games against tough opponents, Payton must pick up his play.

When searching through box scores and recaps of all the Longhorns’ eight losses, it’s obvious that pitching isn’t the main problem, and it wasn’t the biggest one Tuesday night. Texas is currently surrendering an average of 3.75 runs in its losses compared to 2.33 in its wins.

There is a discrepancy, but not one that’s large enough to nullify the fact that the Texas pitchers keep them in games.

Although Texas pitching has folded at certain points in many of its losses, Tuesday night revealed that the team’s biggest problem is stranding runners when opportunity knocks.

Published on March 20, 2013 as "Longhorns can't convert hits to runs in road loss".