All of a sudden, LSU looks a bit vulnerable. Raph Rhymes is slumping, Ty Ross is out and the Tigers dropped a 6-3 game to Vanderbilt in the second game of an SEC series Saturday. No. 4 LSU (39-12, 17-9) dropped to second place in the SEC after Kentucky swept Alabama in Saturday doubleheader, moving a half-game ahead. The Tigers are tied with South Carolina, which also dropped out of first place, losing in extra innings to Georgia.
Overview: LSU hit into four double plays and left nine runners on base as four Vanderbilt pitchers, led by starter Sam Selman (8-3), combined to slow down the Tigers bats just enough.
Offensively, Vandy (25-25, 12-14) knocked LSU starter Aaron Nola (6-3) for nine hits and three runs, two earned, in 5 1/3 innings. Commodores three-hole hitter Anthony Gomez went 4-for-5, scoring twice and driving in two runs to spearhead a 12-hit Vanderbilt attack.
Turning point: In the fifth and sixth innings, LSU got two runners on with less than two outs and failed to score in either inning, thanks to double plays.
In the fifth inning, Selman gave up a out-out double to Tyler Hanover, followed by a single by Jacoby Jones. But Jones was thrown at at second attempting to steal as Arby Fields struck out for an inning-ending double play.
In the sixth, Selman ran out of gas, issuing walks to Austin Nola and Mason Katz to start the inning. But releiver Drew VerHagen got Raph Rhymes to hit into a double play, then, after a Jordy Snickeris' infield single plated a run, VerHagen struck out Grant Dozar to end the inning.
Vandy, meanwhile, turned a 1-0 lead to 3-0 with a two-run sixth, so while LSU was blowing opportunities to get runs on the board, the Commodores were adding runs to extend their lead.
Key Player: It wasn't who did well, but who was kept from doing well.
Rhymes continued a tough weekend by going 0-for-4, rolling into two double plays and striking out with two on and none out in the eighth. LSU eventually scored two in the inning to pull within 6-3 before reliever Will Clinard got Vandy out of the inning and pitched a shutout ninth for his third save.
Rhymes, The nation's leading hitter, was batting .500 entering the series, got an infield hit his first at-bat in Friday's 2-1 LSU win to get to .503, and has gone 0-for-6 since then, dropping his average to .485.
Key Stat: 11, as in the number of innings LSU went without scoring a run. In Friday's 2-1 win, the Tigers scored both runs in the second inning, then were shut down over the final six at-bats. On Saturday, LSU did not scratch until the sixth inning.
Miscellaneous: Today's 1 p.m. rubber match will match right-handers Tyler Beed (1-4, 4.14) of Vanderbilt and Ryan Eades (5-2, 3.62) of LSU. ... LSU was dealt a blow Saturday when catcher Ty Ross was lost to an appendectomy. It's not clear if Ross, a .305 hitter and defensive stalwart behind the plate, will be able to return this season. Jordy Snickeris started in his place. Vandy stole five bases off Snickeris Saturday.