As the Houston Astros marched toward their first World Series title last year, all Tony Sipp could do was watch. The veteran relief pitcher, who struggled through much of the 2017 season, wasn’t on the team’s roster for any of their three postseason series. Well, that was then. After an amazing resurgence in 2018, the former Moss Point High and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College standout is on the roster for the American League Division Series against Cleveland. Game 1 is today at Minute Maid Park. A couple of things happened for the 35-year-old left-hander this year. First, he had to battle just to make the team in spring training and essentially keep his career alive. “It all just came together to create that hunger again. It’s do or die; my back is against the wall,” Sipp told the Houston Chronicle last month. Then, he regained confidence in his best pitch, a splitter that had abandoned him in 2016 and ’17. In 54 appearances (38 2/3 innings) this season, Sipp put up a 1.86 ERA. He yielded just one home run after coughing up eight in 2017 and 12 in 2016. He is the lone lefty in Houston’s bullpen; he is best against lefties (0.90 ERA this year) but can also get right-handed hitters (2.89). P.S. Houston’s roster also includes former Mississippi Braves Brian McCann, Evan Gattis and Charlie Morton, a hero of last year’s title run. Hitting coach Dave Hudgens is a former Jackson Generals hitting coach, a last link to the Double-A Astros affiliate that played at Smith-Wills Stadium from 1991-99. … In that other ALDS, which starts tonight at Fenway Park, Boston’s roster includes former Mississippi State star Mitch Moreland (but not Ole Miss alumnus Drew Pomeranz). The New York Yankees have an alum from both State (Jonathan Holder) and Ole Miss (Lance Lynn) in their bullpen, and the Bombers’ hitting coach is former East Central CC standout Marcus Thames.
The final career postseason appearance for Roy Oswalt came on this date in 2011 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. Ah, but the game is better remembered as the one in which a squirrel — later anointed as the “rally squirrel” — darted across home plate while the Holmes Community College product – and 2019 Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame inductee — was throwing a pitch. It was Game 4 of the National League Division Series between Oswalt’s Philadelphia Phillies and the Cardinals. Oswalt didn’t pitch particularly well, allowing five runs in six innings. He took the loss in a 5-3 defeat that evened the 5-game series at 2-all. The squirrel incident occurred in the fifth inning, with the Cardinals already ahead 3-2. No rally actually took place, but Oswalt and Phils manager Charlie Manuel were upset that the pitch was called a ball and not waved off. As the story goes, back in Philadelphia for Game 5, a Phillies fan threw a stuffed squirrel into the St. Louis bullpen, and after the Cardinals took the series, they adopted the “rally squirrel” as a mascot of sorts. They went on to win the World Series. Only in baseball.