COLUMBIA – Missouri pitcher Rob Zastryzny allowed only three runs on eight hits Friday night in Missouri's 3-1 loss to Auburn, a vast improvement on his previous outing against Florida in which he allowed six runs on a season-high 12 hits.
But to Zastryzny, the two games are the same. They are both losses, and like all of his Southeastern Conference worst eight losses, he feels responsible for both.
"Every loss means I must’ve given up a run, unearned or earned," Zastryzny said. "If I go out there and throw a perfect game and we lose somehow, that time it won’t be my fault."
Zastryzny gave Missouri a chance to win against Auburn, but the offense could only muster one run on a second-inning Keaton Steele homer. With the bases loaded and only one out in the third inning, Auburn pitcher Conner Kendrick picked off Missouri outfielder Dane Opel at first base — a play Missouri head coach Tim Jamieson called the turning point of the game. In the same at-bat, Steele struck out to neutralize Missouri's only offensive threat of the game.
All Zastryzny sees are the two leadoff home runs he gave up to Auburn slugger Garrett Cooper in the fourth and sixth innings. And, naturally, they were both his fault.
"He didn’t get a hold of me, I let him get a hold of me," Zastryzny, a left-handed junior, said. "Every pitch that I’ve been hit out on this year hasn’t been something nasty and the guy’s just made a good swing on it. It’s been me pitching an off pitch and him capitalizing on it."
Following the game, Zastryzny reflected on his season, citing what he did wrong in the most recent of his career-high eight losses. Against Auburn it was the 0-2 slider he hung to Cooper that was fresh in his mind.
"There’s no reason I go 0-2 hanging slider right there," Zastryzny said. "It’s a freshman move and it shouldn’t be made."
But mistakes from weeks ago seemed just as fresh in his mind. Against Florida he was throwing too high in the zone all game and against Vanderbilt, he didn't have anything going for him at all.
"Every outing there’s one thing that I take upon myself," Zastryzny said. "If you’re watching from an outside perspective, you probably think well that guy’s throwing a lot of strikes, but from my perspective some of them aren’t that good."
Steele, who both pitches and hits for Missouri, said he "loved" Zastryzny's Friday night outing. Still, he wasn't surprised to hear that Zastryzny felt otherwise, and it's part of why Steele respects him.
"He’s just a leader on and off the field," Steele said. "He does the right things off the field and he does the right things on the field."
Perhaps Zastryzny takes pride in taking the heat because he sees himself as a leader, and taking the blame is what he feels a leader should do.
"When I started losing a lot more this year, I started saying, ‘Oh man, I thought I pitched good today,’ " Zastryzny said. "But then I realized that’s not who I am. Any time we lose and I’m on the mound, I’m gonna take it upon myself.”