Corey Dickerson, who hasn’t yet played a postseason game in his seven-year big league career, is playing like a man on a mission for a Philadelphia team battling for a wild card berth in the National League. The former Meridian Community College star from McComb hit two home runs on Tuesday night, propelling the Phillies to a huge 6-5 win against visiting Atlanta. Philly is 2 games out of the second wild card spot. Since joining the Phillies at the trade deadline, Dickerson has batted .300 with eight homers and 34 RBIs in 33 games. “I’ve loved it here,” he told mlb.com. For the year, including 44 games with Pittsburgh, Dickerson is batting .307 with 12 bombs and 59 RBIs. … Hunter Renfroe, the Mississippi State product from Crystal Springs, has been out of the San Diego lineup for several days and apparently will be out for quite a few more as he rests a sore ankle. The ankle issue, coupled with an elbow problem, helps to explain Renfroe’s woeful second half. (He never publicly complained about either injury.) He is batting .169 with four homers and 13 RBIs since the All-Star break. He has two homers since the start of August. On the year, Renfroe has 31 homers with a .222 average and 143 strikeouts in 414 at-bats. P.S. Down on the farms: Harrison Central High alum Bobby Bradley hit a three-run homer to help Columbus beat Durham 8-3 in the opener of the Governors’ Cup, aka the International League Championship Series. It was the second postseason clout for Bradley, who hit 33 homers for the Clippers in the regular season, plus one in MLB with Cleveland. … Ex-State star Jake Mangum singled and scored the tying run in the seventh inning as Brooklyn rallied past Lowell 4-3 to win the New York-Penn League championship. Mangum, a 2019 draftee of the New York Mets, batted .247 with 18 RBIs and 29 runs in 53 games for the short season Class A Cyclones.
The team he left behind in late June will play for the Southern League championship this week. But rest assured former Biloxi Shuckers standout Trent Grisham is quite happy to be where he is – with Milwaukee in the heat of a playoff race. The 22-year-old outfielder, batting leadoff for the Brewers at Miami, matched a franchise rookie record with five hits on Monday, sparking the club to an 8-3 win that kept it within 2 games of the second wild card in the National League. “It’s a lot of fun,” Grisham told mlb.com. Grisham doubled, tripled, scored twice and drove in two runs in Monday’s victory. Called up on Aug. 1, the lefty hitter is batting .260 with four homers and 13 RBIs in 32 big league games. He batted .254 with 13 homers for the Shuckers this season – his second tour with the Double-A team – and made the SL All-Star Game. He was promoted to Triple-A San Antonio on June 20. A 2015 first-round pick, Grisham is one of several ex-Shuckers having an impact with the Brewers. … The current Biloxi team, in the SL Championship Series for the third time since 2015, hosts Game 1 against the Jackson (Tenn.) Generals tonight at MGM Park.
Another dominant season by Demarcus Evans has landed the former Petal High standout on MLB Pipeline’s Prospect Team of the Year. The 6-foot-4, 270-pound right-hander pitched 60 innings over two levels in the Texas system, posting a 0.90 ERA, a 6-0 record, 12 saves, 100 strikeouts and a .119 batting average against. In his last 24 appearances at Double-A Frisco, Evans yielded just one earned run. Evans was a Class A South Atlantic League All-Star in 2018 and later was picked for the Arizona Fall League’s Rising Stars game. A 25th-round draft pick, Evans is in his fifth pro season but is only 22 years old. He is not currently ranked among the Rangers’ Top 30 prospects by MLB Pipeline, but that will change next time the rankings are reconfigured. P.S. Brandon Woodruff, the ex-Mississippi State and Wheeler High star, threw two simulated innings for Milwaukee on Sunday, according to reports. Out since July with an oblique injury, the 2019 All-Star may be close to returning to duty. He is 11-3 with a 3.75 ERA in 20 starts. The Brewers are just 2 games back in the National League wild card race and 6.5 behind NL Central leader St. Louis.
In a weekend replete with rivalry matchups and key series in the major leagues, Mississippians played roles large and small.
On Friday: Mississippi State product Mitch Moreland, on his 34th birthday, banged out three hits including a three-run homer to spark wild card chaser Boston to a win over American League East frontrunner New York at Fenway Park. … Former MSU standout Adam Frazier went 2-for-3 with a triple and two RBIs as Pittsburgh, playing spoiler, took down National League Central leader St. Louis at PNC Park.
On Saturday: Meridian Community College alum Corey Dickerson went 2-for-5 with a two-run double as Philadelphia beat New York in a battle of NL wild card contenders at CitiField. … Southwest Mississippi CC product Jarrod Dyson walked, stole a base and scored a run as red-hot Arizona, making a wild card run, beat Cincinnati 2-0 at Great American Ballpark. … Ex-Ole Miss star Aaron Barrett, making his first MLB appearance in four years (see previous posts), worked a scoreless inning for NL wild card leader Washington in its loss to NL East leader Atlanta at SunTrust Park. Barrett broke down in tears in the dugout in one of the season’s most moving moments.
On Sunday: Dickerson drove in two runs and Philadelphia pitching coach Chris Young, a State alum, trotted out eight pitchers as the Phillies won 10-7 in the rubber game of their series vs. the Mets. New York, managed by ex-UM star Mickey Callaway, also deployed eight pitchers in the 4 hour, 29 minute game. … Former Ole Miss standout Drew Pomeranz retired the only two batters he faced in the seventh inning to help Milwaukee fend off NL Central rival Chicago and take three of four in the series at Miller Park. … UM product Jacob Waguespack was roughed up for six runs in 4 1/3 innings as AL wild card leader Tampa Bay whipped Toronto for a third straight time at Tropicana Field.
As Monday dawned, none of the six division races were particularly close, but four teams (including Boston on the fringe) remain in the AL wild card chase and six are still hunting the two spots in the NL. Today brings the finale of the Yankees-Red Sox series, a Braves visit to Philadelphia and a big interdivisional matchup of the Diamondbacks and Mets in New York.
In a season of gloom for the Chicago White Sox, Tim Anderson has been a major bright spot. The ex-East Central Community College star leads the American League in hitting and looks on track to becoming the first Mississippi-connected player to claim a batting title in 41 years. Anderson, a career .274 hitter, is batting .334 after a 2-for-5 effort (in a loss) on Saturday. He also has 16 homers, 52 RBIs, 69 runs and 16 steals in 107 games. The fourth-year big leaguer, a shortstop, had a 20-homer/20-steal campaign in 2018 but batted just .240. How has he made the 90-point improvement? “The main thing was just getting good pitches to hit and laying off all the stuff they threw me last year, which was sliders in the other batter’s box,” he told the Chicago Sun-Times. Three Mississippi natives have won batting titles: Buddy Myer in 1935 with Washington, Harry Walker in 1947 with St. Louis (after being traded from Philadelphia) and Dave Parker in 1977 and again in ’78 with Pittsburgh. Anderson, an Alabama native, was a first-round pick by the White Sox in 2013 after leading ECCC to a state championship. Some Mississippi Braves fans might recall that Anderson homered in his first Double-A at-bat while playing for Birmingham at Trustmark Park in 2014.
Thing 1: If you watched Max Fried pitch Thursday night, you’d be lying if you claimed your jaw didn’t drop. One hit and no walks allowed over seven shutout innings against a loaded Washington lineup in the opener of a big four-game series in Atlanta. Fried is 16-4, 3.86 ERA, for the first-place Braves, who won 4-2 on Thursday. If you watched Fried pitch in 2017 for the Mississippi Braves, you’d be stretching it to say you saw this coming. In his second season after returning from Tommy John surgery, the tall left-hander from California went 2-11 with a 5.92 ERA. Ugh. He struck out 85 in 86 2/3 innings but walked 43. Acquired from San Diego in 2014 as part of the Justin Upton deal, Fried was a highly rated prospect in 2017. The Braves gave him a big league look that season and more time in 2018, when Fried posted a 2.94 ERA over 14 games. He won a job in the rotation this spring, and his development hit a new peak on Thursday. “As good as it gets” is how catcher Brian McCann described it to mlb.com. … Thing 2: Dakota Hudson, the ex-Mississippi State star and current St. Louis ace, had a day on Thursday. The rookie right-hander tossed six shutout innings, yielding just one hit, and picked up the first two RBIs of his MLB career in a 10-0 win against San Francisco. Hudson is 15-6 — two wins off the big league lead and tops among all rookies – and has a 3.40 ERA for the surging first-place Cardinals, who, according to Hudson, are having “a blast.” … Thing 3: Dylan File gave up one run over 8 1/3 innings to pace Biloxi to a 4-1 win over Pensacola in Game 2 of the Southern League South playoff series at MGM Park. The Shuckers lead the best-of-5 series 2-0. File went 9-2, 2.79 this season for the Double-A Shuckers, a Milwaukee affiliate.
Riding a hot hand, Washington manager Dave Martinez has been giving more playing time to Asdrubal Cabrera at second base, relegating Southern Miss product Brian Dozier to spot duty. Cabrera had started the last three games, but for tonight’s contest at Atlanta, the opener of a huge four-game series between the top two teams in the National League East, Dozier is back in the lineup. Left-hander Max Fried (15-4), a Mississippi Braves alumnus, is slated to start for the Braves; Stephen Strasburg (16-5, 3-0 vs. the Braves in 2019) goes for Washington. Dozier has been the Nats’ regular second baseman most of the season after signing as a free agent late last year, but he last started a game on Aug. 31. (Howie Kendrick got a start on Sept. 1.) Dozier, 32, coming off a disappointing finish to his 2018 season, is batting .236 with 19 homers and 45 RBIs for Washington. He will be a free agent again after this season. Veteran switch-hitter Cabrera, signed last month after being released by Texas, is batting .324 with three homers and 23 RBIs in 20 games with the Nationals. … Watch for ex-Ole Miss star and Nats reliever Aaron Barrett (see previous posts) to make his first MLB appearance in over four years during this series.
Former Mississippi high school stars Bobby Bradley (Harrison Central) and Austin Riley (DeSoto Central) faced off, sorta, in the International League playoffs on Wednesday when Columbus and Gwinnett tangled in the semifinals. Riley homered for the Gwinnett Stripers (Atlanta’s Triple-A club), but Columbus (Cleveland) won Game 1 5-4 as Bradley went 2-for-5 with two RBIs, a run and a stolen base. Riley, currently on a big league rehab assignment, hit 15 homers for the Stripers this season before moving up to the majors, where he hit 17 more for the Braves. Bradley, who also got a look in MLB this summer, led the IL with 33 homers. … Biloxi won its Southern League South playoff opener 11-10 on a Dillon Thomas walk-off homer in the 10th inning at MGM Park. In the North opener, Delta State product Dalton Moats threw a scoreless inning in Montgomery’s 4-0 win against Jackson. … Ex-DSU star Zack Shannon hit a home run for Kane County in a loss to Clinton in the Class A Midwest League playoffs. Shannon hit 12 homers during the season. Also in the MWL, Ole Miss product Grae Kessinger and former Southern Miss standout Matt Wallner, both 2019 draftees, are on opposing sides in the Quad Cities-Cedar Rapids series. Kessinger had a hit and a run QC’s Game 1 win, while Wallner went 0-for-4. … Former Itawamba Community College star Tyreque Reed belted a homer for Hickory as the Crawdads beat Delmarva in the Class A South Atlantic League playoffs. Reed hit .282 with 13 homers for Hickory this season. … Walker Robbins, the George County High alum, notched a hold for Johnson City as the Cardinals beat Burlington to claim the rookie Appalachian League championship. Robbins, in his fourth pro season but first as a fulltime pitcher, posted a 2.52 ERA in 17 games for Johnson City.
After winning both halves of their division race, the Biloxi Shuckers will begin pursuit of an elusive pennant tonight when the Southern League South playoffs start at MGM Park. The Shuckers went 82-55 overall in 2019. They play wild card qualifier Pensacola in the best-of-5 division series. Biloxi made the postseason in 2015, its first year on the Coast, and again last year but did not capture the league title. Milwaukee’s Double-A club last won the SL pennant in 2001, when it was in Huntsville. (The Mississippi Braves, who just completed their 15th year in Pearl, have won one SL pennant, that coming in 2008.) Biloxi will be without league pitcher of the year Trey Supak, who was promoted in July, and All-Star first baseman Patrick Leonard, who is injured. All-Star closer Nate Griep (1.98 ERA, 22 saves) is still around, as is the power-hitting foursome of Weston Wilson (19 homers), Cooper Hummel (17), Jake Gatewood (13) and Dillon Thomas (13). C.J. Hinojosa is the leading hitter at .280, and Luis Aviles Jr. stole 27 bags. Alec Bettinger (5-7, 3.44) is slated to start Game 1. Former Mississippi State standout Daniel Brown (3.19) works out of the Biloxi pen, as does Clayton Andrews (2.59), who also plays some outfield (.281). … The M-Braves finished 62-74 overall and, despite a prospect-filled roster, didn’t seriously challenge in either half in the South. The M-Braves also had three players make the All-Star team: pitcher Ian Anderson and outfielders Cristian Pache and Drew Waters, who was the league’s MVP. Waters became the fifth Jackson area Double-A player to win a player of the year honor. Tim Leary, a pitcher for the Jackson Mets, won the Texas League award in 1980, a year when the league did not have a separate award for pitchers. Darryl Strawberry (1982) and Gregg Jefferies (1987) also won the TL award as JaxMets, and Roberto Petagine won it in 1993 with the Jackson Generals. Javy Lopez in 1992 was the last Braves prospect to win the SL MVP; the team was in Greenville, S.C., at that time.
The long road back for Aaron Barrett is almost complete. The former Ole Miss standout, who missed two full seasons with injuries, including a broken elbow, was added to Washington’s major league roster on Tuesday. His 2019 debut will be his first MLB appearance since Aug. 5, 2015. Barrett, 31, pitched at Double-A Harrisburg this season, earning Eastern League All-Star honors. His manager, Matt LeCroy, broke down in tears when he announced to the team that Barrett was returning to the big leagues. Barrett had a 3.47 ERA in 90 games for the Nationals in 2014-15. … Barrett was not in Washington for the Nationals’ insane 11-10 win against the New York Mets, who scored five runs in the top of the ninth and then allowed seven in the bottom half. Ex-UM pitcher Mickey Callaway, the Mets’ manager, tried to keep yet another gut-wrenching loss in perspective for his wild card-contending club. “We’ve had to digest several, and you’ve got to come out tomorrow and win the series,” he told northjersey.com. … Former Petal High star Anthony Alford, back with Toronto as a September call-up, struck out as a pinch hitter in the Blue Jays’ loss to Atlanta. Alford, once a highly touted prospect, has three hits in 31 MLB at-bats spread of three seasons. He batted .259 with seven homers at Triple-A Buffalo this season. … In 12 games since he joined the Braves as a waiver claim, Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton is 6-for-18 with three walks (.429 on-base percentage), four runs, two RBIs and three steals. He has also played flawlessly in center field. … Corey Dickerson, the Meridian Community College product from McComb, drove in another run in a Philadelphia victory on Tuesday, giving him 26 RBIs in 26 games since he was acquired in a deadline trade. … Former Mississippi State star Adam Frazier went 3-for-4 with his ninth homer for Pittsburgh and is hitting .362 over his last 15 games.