LOS ANGELES — Justin Jones said his hip bothered him Sunday afternoon, and given the numbers he put up, the news wasn’t surprising.
The Cal baseball team’s usual Saturday starter, rested an extra day after pitching four innings Tuesday at UC Davis, had arguably his worst outing of the season, taking a 5-2 loss against No. 17 UCLA.
In three innings at Jackie Robinson Stadium, the sophomore put nine runners on base, giving up three runs on six hits.
“Justin could definitely be sharper, and we expect him to be,” coach David Esquer said.
It’s been a rough road recently for Jones, a Freshman All-American for Cal (30-18, 13-11 in the Pac-10) last year. Save for his four frames of one-hit shutout ball against the Aggies, his control has been more miss than hit in his last few appearances.
The Bruins put themselves in scoring position in each of the first three innings, with left fielder Cody Keefer’s RBI single evening the score at 1-1 in the bottom of the first. UCLA (31-20, 16-8) then battered Jones for four hits in the third. Three of the hits, including both RBIs, came against a stretch of three batters that entered the game hitting a collective .231.
Jones (7-5) got the hook after that, but none of his three relievers fared markedly better. Freshman Kyle Porter immediately gave up a leadoff double in the fourth, allowing two hits and a run in 2 1/3 innings. Senior Kevin Miller pitched only an inning — two hits, no runs — to save his arm for a midweek start. Closer Matt Flemer allowed a triple and a single to open the eighth for UCLA’s fifth run.
The Bruins closed their final home game of 2011 by outhitting the Bears 12 to five, a .263-batting team averaging .364 on the day.
Starting pitcher Adam Plutko shined in the even innings for UCLA, retiring the side all four times in his eight-inning showing. A day after junior Trevor Bauer iced an eight-strikeout complete game, the true freshman kept Cal off base, striking out three but allowing only three hits.
“Bauer spit in our face yesterday, and we didn’t respond today,” second baseman Tony Renda said. “We all know we need to pick it up.”
Renda, who went 2-for-4 with an RBI, put the Bears on board early, doubling into left center to score Austin Booker after the left fielder walked to open the game.
But Cal’s bats kept whiffing after that; the Bears’ second hit didn’t come until center fielder Louie Lechich’s solo shot in the fifth. Lechich, who walks up to Kanye West’s “Power” at home in Evans Diamond, bounced his first collegiate home run off the batting cages behind right field.
“He picked at the corners,” Renda said of Plutko. “Didn’t leave a lot in the middle. We were just trying to do too much on him. Seeing a guy throw 88 after you just saw a guy throw 98, your eyes light up and you try to hit it as far as you can.”
Jack Wang covers baseball.