24 Jul

central casting

Nice line put up by Zack Cozart on Tuesday night: 4 3 4 2. The ex-Ole Miss standout matched his career-high with the four hits (raising his average to .243), belted his eighth homer and padded his RBI total to 36. Not bad numbers for a guy who plays regularly for the Cincinnati Reds primarily because of his defense, which is steady if unspectacular. Cozart is among the small but significant cast of Mississippi-connected characters involved in the “pennant race” in the National League Central. With two wild cards available, the top three teams in that division are basically jostling for three playoff spots. Winning the division is a plum, yes, but when all three teams already appear bound to make the playoffs, it takes a little drama out of the so-called “pennant race.” Regardless, Cozart and the Reds are currently in third place, chasing St. Louis and Pittsburgh. In the Reds’ bullpen is former Mississippi Braves hurler J.J. Hoover. And it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Cincy bring up former Taylorsville High flash Billy Hamilton as a base-stealing weapon down the stretch. St. Louis’ vaunted rotation includes former Rebels star Lance Lynn, who has struggled of late but has abundant experience under pressure. And coaching first base for the Cardinals is Jackson native and onetime Mississippi State first baseman Chris Maloney. The Pirates’ rotation features former M-Braves standout Charlie Morton, and Ole Miss product Alex Presley, a quality lefty hitter, is toiling in Triple-A. Of course, Pittsburgh is managed by former Jackson Mets skipper Clint Hurdle, who steered the last edition of OJMs into the Texas League playoffs in 1990. P.S. Port Gibson product Silento Sayles, the prep stolen base king, got his first bag as a pro on Tuesday; he’s with Cleveland’s rookie team in the Arizona League. … Onetime Mississippi State player and coach Jimmy Bragan is one of the three inaugural inductees into the Southern League Hall of Fame. Bragan was president of the SL in the 1980s.

Mike Christensen

Mike Christensen

A long-time sports fan and 30-year newspaper veteran muses on all things baseball in Mississippi. Contact: mwchristens@gmail.com
Mike Christensen

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