COLUMBIA — The count lied.
For Missouri (20-25, 6-16 Southeastern Conference) starting pitcher Brett Graves, a two-strike count did not offer security or room for error. No. 9 Vanderbilt's hitters didn't assume a defensive posture, hunker down and pray for a walk or a ball they could wear.
Graves allowed 11 hits in 5 2/3 innings of work. Five — plus a pivotal hit batter — came with two strikes, and three of those were in the sixth inning, where the Commodores took a decisive lead on their way to beat the Tigers 8-3 Friday night at Taylor Stadium.
"I felt really good entering the game," Graves said. "I just at times made it a little too easy for them, and I don't know, that's how it goes, I guess."
Graves held Vanderbilt scoreless through the first two innings. He retired Dansby Swanson and Xavier Turner on eight pitches to open the third and went 0-2 on Bryan Reynolds.
He tried a throw a curve at the lefty Reynolds' back foot and succeeded — literally.
The ball hit Reynolds in the foot. Graves allowed a single and Reynolds advanced to third. Then, after getting to a full count against Nolan Rogers, Graves gave up another single. Reynolds scored to tie the game at 1-1.
After a scoreless fifth, Graves entered the sixth inning carrying a 3-2 lead. He put Vince Conde in an 1-2 hole.
Rhett Wiseman fell behind 0-2.
Double, upon which Conde came around to score and tie the game.
After Jason Delay singled — with just one strike, mercifully — the Commodores led 4-3.
They added another run in the sixth and three in the eighth, which was more than enough of a cushion for dominant relievers Walker Buehler and Brian Miller.
Graves wasn't sure if his issues with two-strike pitches stemmed from a lack of action on his pitches, problems locating them or a confluence of the two. He made sure to give credit to Vanderbilt's hitters, who racked up 16 hits in total.
Graves said he still felt good during the sixth inning.
"I've had better outings with worse stuff and I've had probably worse outings with better stuff, both ways," he said. "But I definitely wasn't coming into the game afraid or in fear of my stuff not being there. I felt great in the bullpen before, so I don't think that had anything to do with it."
As Missouri coach Tim Jamieson saw it, as patient and opportunistic as the Commodores might have been at the plate, they still didn't do it all themselves.
"You're going to make mistakes, but still a lot has to happen in that inning for them to rally like they did," he said. "We need to step up on the mound. We didn't do it."
Jamieson was referring specifically to the rally that ensued after Reynolds was hit — Graves had to throw 19 more pitches to finish the inning — but his point held concerning all the Commodores' rallies.
Missouri's hurlers needed to make the right pitches at the right times. They didn't, so the Tigers lost.
Jamieson said he's still debating whether to start John Miles or Keaton Steele on the mound tomorrow with Eric Anderson unable to pitch for the foreseeable future. Either way, Missouri is scheduled to play at 2 p.m.
Supervising editor is Sean Morrison.