Baseball: Cal Readies Itself For Payback Against Card





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Stick a footnote next to the line, "there's no crying in baseball," because there is-only it doesn't come in the form of tears.

Baseball teams manifest their angst and fury in the form of payback.

Should a player get tagged in the back with a 90 mph fastball, he'll calmly toss his bat aside and take his base.

Of course, he fully expects to hear some retaliatory chin music in the next half inning, courtesy of his fire-balling teammate, the pitcher.

Heading into its weekend series with No. 9 Stanford, which begins tomorrow at 2 p.m. at Sunken Diamond, it would be easy for Cal to drop everything right now and cry about why the road isn't getting any easier.

The Bears haven't been playing their best baseball of the season, at a time when they need to be exhibiting their highest level of play.

Now they have to face the former No. 1 team in America.

There's no crying in baseball and the only thing the Bears can do now is to handle their business on the field.

Currently rolling down the slope of a four-game losing streak, including a three-game sweep against Washington last weekend at Evans Diamond and Tuesday's 11-inning loss to the University of San Francisco, Cal (26-23, 8-10 in the Pac-10) finds itself in an unfavorable position at one of the most crucial stages of the season.

"We haven't been playing good, clutch baseball in the past week or so," Bears coach David Esquer said.

Cal could probably use a set of shoe-in games right about now, but the road only gets bumpier this weekend versus one of the very best teams in the nation-a team that earlier in the season took two of three games from Cal.

For a team mired in a late-season slump, being pitted against an elite team isn't the most pleasant follow-up to a set of letdowns.

But the Bears need only remind themselves of how they felt following the first series with the Card in order to get the team psyched up for yet another "biggest series of the year," as Esquer would call it.

The players' hunger for payback against Stanford was epitomized by a postgame reaction by Cal rightfielder Brian Horwitz in March.

"We don't think they're better than us at all," Horwitz said after the Bears had lost the rubber-match of the three-game set with the Card. "We'll get them back next time."

There's no crying in baseball. Only payback, and Cal had better look to go after its redemption this weekend.

Only two conference series remain on the Bears' schedule, including this weekend's set versus Stanford, and next week against Oregon State.

The Cardinal (29-12, 6-6) dropped two of three games last weekend to the Beavers in Corvallis, Ore. Stanford and OSU are currently tied for fourth place in the Pac-10 race with their .500 conference records.

Outfielder Jason Cooper paces the Card offensively, batting .366 with team highs in both home runs (10) and RBIs (39).

Jeremy Guthrie anchors the pitching staff with a 6-1 record in 12 starts and a 2.89 ERA.

Heading to enemy territory with an 8-10 record in the Pac-10, the team is barely hanging on, or in the words of Cal coach David Esquer, the Bears are now playing for their lives in each and every game they are faced with this season.

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