Both Mitch Moreland and Desmond Jennings are in the lineups (see previous post) for tonight’s American League playoff game. Moreland is playing first base and hitting seventh for host Texas, while Jennings is in center field and leading off for Tampa Bay.
The Mississippi factor in tonight’s wild card playoff game might not be much of a factor in the outcome. Former Mississippi State star Mitch Moreland, now Texas’ first baseman, has hit just .125 over his last 10 games and struck out seven times in his last 15 at-bats. It’s possible the lefty hitter won’t even start against Tampa Bay left-hander David Price. Desmond Jennings, the ex-Itawamba Community College standout who usually mans center field for Tampa Bay, may not play either. He has been battling a hamstring problem and has made just two pinch-hit appearances since Sept. 22. Jennings was a late-season spark for Tampa and is batting .252 with 14 homers and 20 stolen bases. One intriguing matchup of note: The Rangers’ hitting coach is former Jackson Mets infielder Dave Magadan, and the Rays’ pitching coach is onetime Jackson Generals coach Jim Hickey. … Ole Miss product Seth Smith, who has had a lackluster 2013, ended the regular season on a strong note, going 3-for-5 with two runs and an RBI in Oakland’s 9-0 win over Seattle. The A’s get Detroit in the ALDS. … Four former Mississippi Braves pitchers got decisions in games with playoff implications on Sunday: Julio Teheran beat Zach Miner in Atlanta’s win over Philadelphia, Todd Redmond (Toronto) was roughed up by Tampa Bay, and Scott Diamond (Minnesota) lost to Cleveland. … Ten former M-Braves played in Atlanta’s 12-5 romp, including Christian Bethancourt, who struck out in his first MLB at-bat after sitting on the bench for a couple weeks. His time will come. … Only one of the six Mississippi-connected managers in MLB made the postseason: former JaxMets skipper Clint Hurdle of Pittsburgh. Davey Johnson, another OJMs manager, is retiring in Washington. Ex-JaxMets infielder Ron Gardenhire reportedly is getting a new contract with Minnesota, which went 66-96. MSU alum Buck Showalter will return in Baltimore, former JaxMets catcher John Gibbons reportedly will be back in Toronto and JaxMets alum Ned Yost is expected to keep his job with Kansas City.
It is that time of the year, that most wonderful time of the year in baseball, when pitching swells in importance. On Friday, cheers went out to Lance Lynn, Cliff Lee, Kris Medlen and Craig Kimbrel. Former Ole Miss star Lynn scattered four hits over six innings to spark St. Louis to a 7-0 win over the Chicago Cubs, clinching the National League Central title for the Cardinals. It was the 15th win for Lynn and his second straight after a long dry spell. Lee, the Meridian Community College alum, was brilliant for Philadelphia against Atlanta, scattering three hits over eight innings while fanning 13 and walking none. “I can’t tell you how good that guy is,” said the Braves’ Chris Johnson, who had one of the hits, an eighth-inning home run (on an 0-2 pitch) that propelled Atlanta to a 1-0 victory. Former Mississippi Braves standout Medlen, every bit as brilliant as Lee, got the W — he is 15-10 and has nine wins in his last 11 starts — with eight dominant innings, and ex-M-Braves closer Kimbrel rang up his 50th save with a 1-2-3 ninth.
Mike Feder, the former Jackson Mets general manager, was honored by the San Diego Padres and threw out the first pitch at Petco Park on Thursday night. Feder was named the Pacific Coast League’s executive of the year earlier this month for his work at Tucson, the Padres’ Triple-A affiliate. Tucson was a lame duck franchise (formerly located in Portland) when Feder, who had been out of baseball for 12 years, was recruited for the GM job in 2011. The franchise (but not Feder) will move to El Paso next season. Feder was a two-time Texas League executive of the year (1980 and ’81) during his JaxMets tenure, which included three TL championships at Smith-Wills Stadium. He left after the 1987 season to take a job as GM of a Tucson club that at that time was a Houston Astros affiliate. P.S. To continue on a Smith-Wills Stadium theme, Belhaven’s fall ball series is ongoing at the old ballpark. The next game is scheduled for Monday at approximately 3 p.m. It’s open to the public.
Paul Maholm’s reaction to Carlos Gomez’s ridiculous antics in Wednesday’s Milwaukee-Atlanta game was remarkably calm. Maholm, the veteran left-hander out of Mississippi State, gave up a first-inning homer to Gomez, who proceeded to bark at Maholm and other Braves as he made his way around the bases. Catcher Brian McCann physically prevented Gomez from crossing the plate and all hell broke loose. Gomez was tossed, along with Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman. Maholm, however, kept his cool and pitched on, going seven innings (eight hits, three runs) in what became a 4-0 loss. Maholm, who has battled some injuries, is now 10-11 with a 4.41 ERA for a team that is 93-65 and contending for the National League’s best record. Gomez’s homer was the 17th Maholm has allowed this year. He is reportedly vying with former Jackson Generals ace Freddy Garcia for the No. 4 starter job in the postseason. Not sure if Wednesday’s outing helped Maholm’s cause. As for the Gomez incident, Maholm told mlb.com: “… I’m probably going to say he’s the last guy who’s going to act like that when he hits a homer.” Not sure what that means.
Let the record show that Billy Hamilton was finally caught stealing in the 14th attempt of his MLB career. It happened today, when the New York Mets’ Juan Centeno (no, never heard of him either) cut Hamilton down at second base in the fifth inning of Cincinnati’s 1-0 loss. Former Taylorsville High star Hamilton made another start in center field and hit leadoff, going 1-for-4 with two strikeouts. He is batting .389 in 18 at-bats and has tallied nine runs to go with his 13 bags. He reportedly has not been guaranteed a postseason roster spot for the Reds, who are 4 games back of first-place St. Louis in the National League Central and destined for a wild card.
Detroit’s road to clinching a playoff berth went through Minnesota’s Target Field on Monday. Southern Miss product Brian Dozier threw up a roadblock. Dozier’s ninth-inning home run, his 18th of the year, tied the score and he crossed the plate with the game-winning run in the 11th as the Twins beat the Tigers 4-3. Detroit’s magic number to clinch a playoff spot in the American League remains at 1, its number for claiming the Central Division at 2. Dozier, finishing strong for a team long out of contention, has 13 hits in his last eight games. He is batting .248 and has 65 RBIs. Former Ole Miss standout Alex Presley (two hits on Monday) also has been playing well for Minnesota, putting up a .286 average with eight RBIs and seven runs in 22 games since joining the club in a late July trade. Both Dozier, a second baseman, and Presley, an outfielder, have an eye on securing jobs for next season — and producing against a contender like Detroit certainly doesn’t hurt.
Bill Selby could go deep. He smacked 14 home runs in his one season at Northwest Mississippi Community College, where he is now the hitting coach. He belted a school-record 23 one year at Southern Miss. In the minor leagues, he hit 189 bombs. He went deep five times in his one season in Japan. And in his journeyman MLB career of 198 games, he clubbed 11 more. One of those homers is a significant footnote in baseball history. On July 14, 2002, Selby, playing for the Cleveland Indians, hit a walk-off grand slam against Mariano Rivera, the great New York Yankees closer. Drumroll, please: It was the first walk-off homer allowed by Rivera and one of only five hit to date against the future Hall of Famer, who debuted in 1995. Selby’s feat is noted in an excellent piece on Rivera (“Exit Sandman”) in the current (Sept. 23) issue of Sports Illustrated. P.S. Ole Miss alum Seth Smith celebrated Oakland’s American League West clincher on Sunday. Smith didn’t play Sunday or Saturday. He is 6-for-18 in his last 10 appearances but those have been sporadic. He’s at .248 for the year. … Former Itawamba CC star Desmond Jennings left Tampa Bay’s big 3-1 win over Baltimore with what was reported as a tight hamstring. He was initially listed as day-to-day. The AL wild card-leading Rays need Jennings in the lineup. … Taylorsville High product Billy Hamilton, batting leadoff for Cincinnati, went 3-for-6 with two steals and two runs in an 11-3 win over Pittsburgh. The two teams are 2 back of St. Louis in the National League Central/wild card battle. … Ex-UM standout Chris Coghlan, auditioning to be Miami’s third baseman in 2014, made two errors in the second game of a doubleheader against Washington. The second boot came in the bottom of the ninth and allowed the game-winning run to score.
It was a long time coming for Lance Lynn, but the right-hander out of Ole Miss finally notched win No. 14 for St. Louis on Saturday. Lynn allowed one run in 6 1/3 innings as the Cardinals beat Milwaukee 7-2 and stayed 2 games up in the National League Central. Lynn (14-10, 4.09 ERA in 32 starts) had not won since Aug. 4. … Itawamba Community College product Desmond Jennings continued to swing a hot bat for Tampa Bay, hitting his 14th homer and knocking in four runs to help the Rays beat Baltimore 5-1 and keep the top spot in the American League wild card standings. Jennings has 11 RBIs in his last 10 games. … Billy Hamilton, the Taylorsville tornado, is scheduled to start in center field today for Cincinnati, which fell a game back of Pittsburgh and 3 behind St. Louis in the NL Central with Saturday’s loss at Pittsburgh. Hamilton, who has made just one previous start since coming up, is 10-for-10 in stolen bases.
Start in Pittsburgh, where, in the ninth inning on Friday, Ole Miss alum Zack Cozart (single) and Taylorsville High product Billy Hamilton (stolen base, run) played big parts in Cincinnati’s huge comeback win. After getting three runs in the ninth, the Reds won 6-5 on a Joey Votto homer in the 10th. They’re now tied with ex-Jackson Mets manager Clint Hurdle’s Pirates in the National League wild card battle, both 2 games behind their Central Division rival St. Louis. … Flash to Tampa Bay, where, in the 18th inning, former Itawamba Community College standout Desmond Jennings doubled and scored the game-winning run on a hit by David DeJesus. “That was fun, man,” Jennings said. The Rays’ 5-4 win over Mississippi State product Buck Showalter’s Baltimore Orioles puts them atop the American League wild card race, with Cleveland now in second. The O’s are 2.5 games out. … In Cleveland, the Indians (Mississippi connection: ex-Ole Miss star Mickey Callaway is the first-year pitching coach) beat Houston 2-1. … At Kansas City, former JaxMets catcher Ned Yost’s resilient Royals (2.5 games back of Cleveland in the wild card) dealt Texas a blow with their 2-1 win. Last out of the game: MSU alum Mitch Moreland, 0-for-3 on the night, flies out to former Southwest Mississippi CC star Jarrod Dyson in deep center field. Texas, essentially done in the AL West, is a half-game behind Cleveland in the wild card standings. … Jump to Chicago, where Atlanta cut its magic number for clinching the NL East to 1 by beating the Cubs with a ninth-inning rally. MSU product Paul Maholm allowed four runs in 5 1/3 innings and got no decision when the bullpen blew a lead. … At Colorado, in a game with no playoff impact, ex-Meridian CC standout Corey Dickerson belted his fourth homer of the year; it came off ex-Mississippi Gulf Coast CC ace Tony Sipp, who took the loss for the Diamondbacks.