What a big Wednesday it was for Mississippians in the majors. … Louisville’s Marcus Thames homered and smacked the game-winning hit in the ninth inning as the New York Yankees beat Texas in a battle of American League division leaders. Meridian CC alumnus Cliff Lee started for the Rangers and left in the seventh with the lead, but his bullpen couldn’t hold on. Former Mississippi State standout Mitch Moreland, the pride of Amory, drove in two runs for Texas. … Weir’s Roy Oswalt threw seven shutout innings for his first win with Philadelphia, helping the Phillies keep pace with Atlanta in the National League East. … Nettleton’s Bill Hall belted a pair of homers — he’s got 15 for the year — to help Boston, still kicking in the AL playoff race, notch a big win. … And former MSU star Buck Showalter improved to 8-1 as the new skipper of the Baltimore Orioles. … And there’s more: Former Jackson General Bobby Abreu hit a walk-off homer for the L.A. Angels, ex-Gen Melvin Mora a grand slam for Colorado and former M-Brave Brian McCann a slam for Atlanta, which got a strong start from M-Braves alum Tommy Hanson and another sharp relief appearance from 2009 M-Brave Jonny Venters. Plus, ex-M-Brave Jarrod Saltalamacchia returned to The Show when his new club, Boston, called him up. … And then there was Chris Coghlan. The ex-Ole Miss standout had knee surgery Wednesday; Florida hopes he’ll be able to return before season’s end. Coghlan’s taken a lot of flak for injuring himself during a celebration, but, hey, he was just having some fun. There’s a place in baseball for fun; that’s why we like it so much. Besides, players get hurt in all sorts of weird ways: punching water coolers, sneezing, arguing with umpires. Remember Marcus Thames went on the DL earlier this season after stepping on his own bat following a base hit. Stuff happens.
He blew another save today. An fluky infield hit, a line drive single and a deep fly ball cost Billy Wagner against Houston, though the Atlanta closer got the win (his sixth!) when the Braves scored six in the 10th. That’s seven blown saves for the year, two (plus a loss) in seven appearances this month. Should Braves fans be worried about the former Jackson General? No. Not yet. He’s allowed only four hits and two runs in seven innings in August. He’s nailed down four saves (28 for the year). Saw him against San Francisco at Turner Field on Saturday when the flame-throwing lefty was as scary good as ever, fanning the side on 11 pitches. It’s still in him. His season ERA is 1.78, well below his career average of 2.35. Sure, he’s had some problems, but some of those might have been alleviated had the Braves scored a few more runs. That remains this club’s biggest issue. They’ve got to score more, put some games away. That’s the mark of a championship club, not winning by 2-1 or 3-2 scores.
Cliff Lee’s 100th career win on Friday night wasn’t cause for great celebration among his latest batch of teammates, the Texas Rangers. It’s a nice milestone but nothing more, really. The former Meridian Community College standout has seen his career take off in recent years (22 wins in 2008, 14 in ’09, 10 so far this year) and will likely win a lot more before he’s done. A relevant target for the 31-year-old left-hander is 176. That’s Aberdeen native Guy Bush’s career win total, which is the highest for any Mississippi-connected pitcher. Claude Passeau (Waynesboro) is next in line at 162, then Roy Oswalt (Weir) with 143 (and counting). Oswalt has indicated he might not play much longer, so Bush’s mark may withstand his rise.
P.S. Matt Tolbert, who seemingly dropped off the radar, will begin a rehab assignment in rookie ball this week. The Ole Miss alumnus has been on the disabled list for Minnesota since July 3 with a finger injury. The Twins, hot on the heels of the Chicago White Sox in the American League East, might need the versatile infielder for the stretch run.
Mike Minor is penciled in to start Monday night for the Atlanta Braves, which will make the left-hander the 46th Mississippi Braves alumnus to advance to the major leagues. Minor, just a year removed from Vanderbilt, pitched well here, going 2-6 with a 4.03 ERA for a team that struggled — and still does — to score. More indicative of his stuff, he had 109 strikeouts in 87 innings. He pitched well at Triple-A Gwinnett, too. Maybe the Braves are going out on a limb moving him up so quickly, but in the heat of the division battle, it’s a risk worth taking.
Men of a certain age — OK, and women, too — remember the Baltimore Orioles as a model franchise. Perennial contenders. The Robinson Boys. Jim Palmer. Boog Powell. Dave McNally. Eddie Murray. Cal Ripken. The Oriole Way. But that was a generation ago. The Orioles have been irrelevant for most of the SportsCenter Era, which is just about the worst thing that can happen to a team. New manager Buck Showalter, the former Mississippi State All-American, takes his turn, starting tonight at Camden Yards, at rebuilding the fallen O’s. He talked at his Monday press conference about sifting through personnel to find the right pieces. “When you get 25 nuggets, you get to play in October,” he said. “It’s as simple as that.” Obviously, that’s not simple. He has a few nuggets on the current club — Matt Wieters, Adam Jones, a couple of young arms — but not many. On top of everything else, the Orioles play in the brutal American League East. He’s got a tough row to hoe. Known for his attention to detail, Showalter has a winning record as a big league manager. But obsessiveness isn’t necessarily a good trait in that profession. It’s hard to overlook the fact that Showalter has worn out his welcome relatively quickly at each of his previous three stops: New York Yankees (1992-95), Arizona (1998-2000) and Texas (2003-06).
P.S. Belhaven’s hopes of making a repeat run to the NAIA World Series were significantly enhanced with the recent addition of Southern Miss transfer Anthony Doss, an outfielder, and Mississippi State transfer Jared Miller, a pitcher. Both were highly decorated high school players in the state. … Also on the move for this fall: Hinds Community College slugger Zach Polzin, who signed with NAIA Trevecca Nazarene. Polzin hit 11 homers for the Eagles last spring.
There was a questionable call, yes, but the Mississippi Braves tag team of Julio Teheran and Tyrelle Harris was unquestionably dominant in Monday night’s combo no-hitter at Trustmark Park. The M-Braves beat Mobile 2-0. Teheran, Atlanta’s No. 3 prospect, had an electric fastball that registered at 91-92 on the stadium gun but had to be coming in harder than that. The 19-year-old Colombian, in his second Double-A start, went 5 2/3 innings, departing after 95 pitches. (Atlanta is very strict on its pitch counts for minor leaguers.) He struck out seven and walked two. Mobile managed only one batted ball that was close to being a hit off Teheran. The 6-foot-2, 160-pounder needs polish, obviously, but demonstrated in this outing what all the hoopla was about when Atlanta signed him in 2007. Harris, a 6-foot-4, 235-pounder making his Double-A debut in his second pro season, threw some jaw-dropping breaking stuff. He retired 10 of the 12 batters he faced, six via strikeout. A hard-hit ball that bounced away from first baseman Mauro Gomez in the eighth was ruled an error, but that was the only hard-hit ball against Harris.
P.S. The fact that outfielder Jordan Schafer had to have an injection in his surgically repaired left wrist on Monday is not good news for the onetime top prospect. It’ll be interesting to see how quickly he is able to get back in the M-Braves’ lineup. Or should that be, IF he is able to get back in the lineup.