Vanderbilt (28-7, 9-5 SEC) v. Kentucky (22-12, 8-6 SEC)
The fans have been calling for it, and it seems that Corbin is listening: Freshman pitching savant Patrick "Mad Dog" Raby will be the starting pitcher this afternoon as the Dores go for the sweep. This will be the wise beyond his years strike zone pounder's 9th appearance, and 5th start on the year, with all of those starts coming in mid-week games. While veteran arms like Ben Bowden and Hayden Stone have proven to be more effective out of the bullpen, and potential starting options John "K-Chow" Kilichowski and freshman fireballer Donny "The Element" Everett have been working their way back from arm weakness and/or injury, the 6'3" 235lb freshman from Farragut High has been making his case for the Sunday spot since day one, going 5-0 with a 1.63 ERA, 11.7 strikeouts per 9 innings, and a respectable 3.25 BB/9 rate.
The Mad Dog sits in the low 90s and has demonstrated a high pitching IQ thus far, as he's not only able to pinpoint the fastball. but add and subtract velocity, and pitch in all quadrants of the zone. Raby throws both a 4 seamer and a two seamer with arm side run, so he can throw the Maddux special (inside comeback two seamer) to lefties if he so chooses. Though conventional wisdom states pitchers must keep their pitches low in the zone to succeed (unless they can absolutely blow it by hitters), Raby proves the old adage correct: pitching is all about keeping hitters guessing. The Mad Dog is a wizard at pitching to both corners and mixing up elevation with all three pitches - fastball, changeup, curve - at no discernible pattern, so hitters can't hedge their bets.
This control-forward mix of pitches was on full display in his last outing, where he went two scoreless against an increasingly potent LSU lineup to get his 5th victory of the season, and first out of the pen.
His counterpart, Kyle "Buffalo" Cody (3-2, 4.89), is not one to blow it by anyone, as is evident by his 7.87 K/9 rate. However, he's not going to walk the side either, as his 3.83 BB/9 rate is only .58 higher than Raby's. What stands out more than anything about Buffalo Cody's stat line is the relatively low number of extra base hits allowed (7 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR). Of course, the Mad Dog has only allowed 2 XBH (1 2B, 1 HR), but Buffalo Cody has had to face 4 different SEC lineups (Georgia, Florida, Alabama, and The Chuggers).
Buffalo Cody's strongest appearance came in a series clinching win against the top team in the land, the Florida Gators. Cody, though he recorded a no decision and left the game down 3-0, pitched a quality start, as he threw 6 solid innings against a dangerous lineup. Cody allowed only 6 hits, 4 walks, and 3 Ks. Further, all three earned runs were allowed in the 2nd inning, so Cody proved he could shake off a rough start and throw 4 scoreless from there, thereby allowing his team to stay in the game.
Facing Cody and the Cats' potent lineup (though they have been held in check the first two games of the series) will be a tough challenge for the Mad Dog, but he's shown us so far that he has the chops to do it, and has earned this Sunday start by pitching like a veteran through the opening half of the season. Facing Kentucky will be his greatest challenge to date, but like Walker Buehler before him, he's kicked open the door to the weekend rotation with his performance in mid-week starts and out of the pen. Raby is officially in the weekend rotation now, and with a strong start today, will be foaming at the mouth to maintain that Sunday slot.