Matt Krook’s struggles continue in Ducks’ shutout loss to Washington State

Matt Krook’s teammates greeted him with a line of lukewarm low-fives as the starting pitcher plodded his way into Oregon’s dugout after 2.0+ rough innings Friday night. They tried not to make eye contact with Krook as he spiked his glove into the dugout’s back wall, openly frustrated over the five hits, four runs, one walk and two hit batsmen he’d just conceded to last-place Washington State.

The Ducks (18-17, 7-9 Pac-12) did not recover from the early deficit and fell 4-0 to the Cougars (14-23, 7-12 Pac-12) at PK Park.

“We just got whooped,” Manager George Horton said. “I didn’t like our energy; I didn’t like our intent.”

Krook’s abridged outing came just two weeks after he was promoted to Friday night starter, taking the place of Cole Irvin, who’s had his share of struggles this season as well. Krook and Irvin headlined a starting rotation that was touted as one of the country’s greatest at the beginning of the season but has not lived up to expectations. Through 10 starts apiece, Krook is 3-3 with a 4.70 ERA, and Irvin is 3-4 with an ERA of 4.07.

“I haven’t given up on Matt Krook, but he’s got to get off to a better start,” Horton said.

Oregon struggled at the plate against a Washington State pitching staff that ranked second-to-last in the Pac-12 with a team ERA of 5.11 heading into the game. Starting pitcher Damon Jones and reliever Ryan Walker held the Ducks hitless until the sixth inning. Oregon ended the night with only one hit, a single from A.J. Balta.

“We just didn’t do anything,” Horton said.

The poor offensive showing continues a season-long trend for the Ducks, who have a collective batting average of .224 on the season, good for dead-last in the Pac-12.

All this, and Oregon find itself just three games behind first-place Utah (15-22, 10-6 Pac-12) in the conference standings.

Washington State did most of its damage in the first inning, when it scored three runs off Krook. Following a base hit, strikeout, walk and hit-by-pitch, the Cougars scored on three straight at-bats with two singles and a sacrifice fly to the warning track. Patrick McGrath ended Krook’s day with a no-out, RBI single in the third to extend Washington State’s lead to 4-0.

The silver lining for the Ducks: Matt Mercer impressed in 5.1 innings of relief, allowing no runs on just four hits with two walks and five strikeouts. Jack Karraker also pitched well in the game’s final two frames, in which no Cougars runners reached base.

The Ducks will play the Cougars in game two of the series Saturday at 2 p.m. at PK Park.

Follow Kenny Jacoby on Twitter @KennyJacoby

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Kenny Jacoby

Kenny Jacoby

Kenny is the senior sports editor for the Emerald. He spent two years studying computer and information science before changing his major to journalism. He also freelances for the Register-Guard, interns for the Eugene Weekly and works as a research assistant for UO journalism professor Seth Lewis.