COLUMBIA — In the fourth inning of Missouri's game Friday night against Mississippi State, Tigers right-hander Brett Graves got an out and then allowed two singles in succession.
Next, Graves went 1-1 on Mississippi State's C.T. Bradford. When the third pitch, a breaking ball, missed high and outside, Missouri pitching coach Matt Hobbs ran out of the dugout as if it were on fire.
He jogged to the mound, talked to Graves for about 10 seconds, then headed back. He then retook his place on the dugout railing, clipboard at hand.
Many of Missouri's (17-19, 6-10 Southeastern Conference) wins and close games this season have been fraught with fragility and tension. The Tigers' 3-2 loss in 11 innings was just another example.
Bradford grounded out to first base, but Gavin Collins drove the two Bulldog runners in with a soft single to center the very next at-bat.
Missouri's speedy center fielder Jake Ring got a good jump on the ball, but he never had a chance. His dive was one of desperation to do whatever he could to keep the 1-0 lead the Tigers had at the time from turning into a deficit.
"This is a hard league to score runs in," Missouri coach Tim Jamieson said.
With the score at 2-1, the Tigers would need to do that against who Jamieson called the two best relievers the team has seen this year in Jacob Lindgren and Jonathan Holder.
The lefty, Lindgren, struck out seven Missouri hitters in three innings of work. He threw his slider with impunity, even when it was in dirt, which never seemed to prevent the Tigers from swinging at it.
He lacked control later in his outing, though. Missouri loaded the bases in the sixth on a hit batsman and two walks. Lindgren then threw a wild pitch that bounced back to the screen, and the Tigers tied the game.
Another walk loaded the bases for designated hitter Eric Anderson. This was the Tigers' opportunity to lessen the pressure just a bit.
Holder froze Anderson on a 3-2 fastball on the inside corner for the strikeout. Anderson tossed the bat and headed to first base to try to sell the walk, but the umpire wasn't convinced.
"I knew it was right on the black," Anderson said. "So I figured, (I) may as well at least beg for something."
Holder was a hero in Mississippi State's run last season to the College World Series final. He didn't look any less mortal against the Tigers in his 5 1/3 scoreless innings.
Relief pitcher Keaton Steele was strong in the four innings he threw for Missouri, but an RBI single in the 11th handed him the loss and the Bulldogs the win.
It could have easily gone the other way, with a different call, or a pitch an inch lower, or some other seemingly meaningless variable. In that sense, it was like the Tigers' 13-inning loss two Fridays ago against Georgia, or any one of the numerous close, low-scoring matchups they've dropped this season.
For better of worse, Missouri's used to this by now. The Tigers don't indulge in the "what-if" game. That doesn't make losses like Friday's any easier to take, though.
"We could have done some things better here, could have done some things better there," Graves said. "But overall, I feel like we played well enough to win, so that's why it's more frustrating."
Missouri takes the field again at 2 p.m. Saturday for a matchup against Mississippi State.
Supervising editor is Sasu Siegelbaum