03 Oct

pick of the lot

Going from the Gulf South Conference to the Northwest League might have been a geographical leap for Blaine Crim, but the former Mississippi College star moved from college competition to the pros this year without breaking stride. A 19th-round draft pick as a senior out of NCAA Division II MC, Crim batted .348 with eight homers and 48 RBIs at two entry levels in Texas’ system and was named MVP of the short season Class A Northwest League. The 22-year-old Alabama native, the GSC player of the year in 2019, gets the nod as the first baseman on the all-Mississippi minor league team for this season. Former Harrison Central High star Bobby Bradley, who hit 33 homers and was a Triple-A International League All-Star, makes the team as a DH. Bradley, also a first baseman, played 15 games in Cleveland this summer, though he never got a September call-up after helping Columbus win the IL pennant. (He was one of five Mississippians who made their big league debut in 2019.) At catcher is minor league vet Kade Scivicque, a Southwest Mississippi Community College alum. He hit .295 with nine homers between Triple-A and Double-A in Detroit’s system. Delta State alum Trent Giambrone is a repeat pick from 2018 at second base. He hit .241 with 23 homers and 17 steals at Triple-A Iowa in the Chicago Cubs’ chain. The shortstop is again Errol Robinson, the ex-Ole Miss star who scuffled at Triple-A for the Los Angeles Dodgers but batted .310 in Double-A to finish the season. He hit .260 with five homers overall. Though he spent a big chunk of the season in Atlanta, DeSoto Central alum Austin Riley is the pick at third base again after hitting .295 with 15 homers in Triple-A. He belted 18 for the big Braves in a season tinged by a prolonged slump wrapped around an injury. In the outfield, start with Milton Smith II, a 2018 draftee by Miami out of Meridian CC who hit .305 with 20 stolen bases at the short season A level. Zack Shannon, the ex-Delta State slugger, smacked 12 homers (with a .260 average and 60 RBIs) at Class A in Arizona’s organization. And Jacob Robson, a fourth-year pro from Mississippi State, had another solid year, batting .267 with nine homers and 25 steals at Triple-A in the Detroit system. Somewhat surprisingly, he did not get a call-up from the woeful Tigers. Former Ole Miss standout David Parkinson, in his first Double-A campaign in the Philadelphia chain, went 10-9 with a 4.08 ERA as a starter, and Petal High product Demarcus Evans was lights out as a reliever for Texas with an 0.90 ERA, six wins and 12 saves between high-A and Double-A.

03 Oct

roster watch

Billy Hamilton could get his first taste of the postseason in the National League Division Series with Atlanta, which hosts St. Louis today at SunTrust Park. The former Taylorsville High star apparently has made the Braves’ roster and figures to serve as a pinch runner and defensive replacement in center field. DeSoto Central alum Austin Riley, an outfielder/corner infielder, did not make the NLDS roster. Hamilton, who has 299 career stolen bases over seven big league seasons and is a plus-defender, hit .268 with four steals, nine runs and three RBIs in 26 games for the Braves, who picked him off waivers from Kansas City in August. Ex-Mississippi State standout Dakota Hudson, 16-7 with a 3.35 ERA in 33 games (32 starts) for the Cardinals, reportedly will be available out of the bullpen for Games 1 and 2 and is a potential starter for a possible Game 4 in St. Louis. The right-hander had a 2.63 ERA as a rookie reliever in 2018. P.S. Tampa Bay’s Charlie Morton, who pitched for the Mississippi Braves in 2007, became the first pitcher in MLB history to notch a win in three winner-take-all playoff games when he beat Oakland in their wild card showdown on Wednesday night. Morton also won Game 7 of both the 2017 American League Championship Series and the 2017 World Series for Houston.

02 Oct

lighting the fuse

The Washington Nationals may have had a little karma working for them in Tuesday night’s game. Aaron Barrett, the former Ole Miss standout who completed a courageous comeback this season, threw out the ceremonial first pitch at Nationals Park before the National League Wild Card Game. Several hours later, the Nationals pulled off a dramatic comeback of their own to beat Milwaukee 4-3. According to reports – and the highlights on TBS – Barrett’s animated appearance on the mound stirred the crowd into a frenzy, a precursor to what happened during the Nats’ stunning eighth-inning rally. Barrett, who was not on the active roster for Tuesday’s game, made it back to the big leagues this season after missing most of the previous three years following Tommy John surgery and a career-threatening broken arm. Nationals owner Mark Lerner suggested having Barrett throw out the first pitch. “I’m pretty humbled by it. … There are so many people that are deserving to do this,” Barrett said in a story on nbcsports.com. P.S. In defeat, the Brewers certainly got what they hoped for from Mississippi State alum Brandon Woodruff (four innings, one run) and UM product Drew Pomeranz (two shutout innings). … Ex-Southern Miss standout Brian Dozier made a pinch-hit appearance for the Nationals and reached on an error.

01 Oct

one to watch

In identifying an X-factor for each of the current playoff teams, mlb.com’s Richard Justice pegged Drew Pomeranz, the former Ole Miss standout, as that player for Milwaukee. The veteran left-hander has a 2.39 ERA in 25 appearances for the Brewers with 45 strikeouts in 26 1/3 innings. “Pomeranz has been reborn as a dominant late-inning reliever since the Brewers acquired him from the Giants at the Trade Deadline,” Justice wrote. It’s been a long, strange trip for Pomeranz, not only this season but over his entire MLB career. He has been an All-Star and won a World Series ring. He also has been traded four times and pitched in seven different organizations since Cleveland drafted him fifth overall out of Oxford in 2010. After winning a ring with Boston last fall, he signed as a free agent with San Francisco. Through 17 starts with the Giants, he was 2-9 with a 6.10 ERA. They moved him to bullpen, where he had worked in the past – and suddenly everything changed. Pomeranz made four scoreless appearances in late July and impressed the Brewers enough that they traded a top prospect to get him. He has been everything they could have hoped for. Mississippi State alum Brandon Woodruff will start tonight’s National League Wild Card Game at Washington but expect to see Pomeranz – the X-factor — before it’s over. P.S. Woodruff is one of four Biloxi Shuckers alums projected to be in Milwaukee’s lineup. The others are second baseman Keston Hiura, shortstop Orlando Arcia and right fielder Trent Grisham. Ex-Southern Miss star Brian Dozier, who played sparingly down the stretch, isn’t likely to start at second base for Washington.

30 Sep

big league chew

With its season down to one game, Milwaukee will hand the ball to Brandon Woodruff to start Tuesday’s National League Wild Card Game at Washington. The former Wheeler High and Mississippi State star went 11-3 with a 3.62 ERA in 2019 and threw four scoreless innings in his last two starts after a long stint on the injured list. He put up a 1.46 ERA in 12 1/3 postseason innings a year ago. “Obviously, I probably won’t be able to go six, seven innings,” Woodruff told mlb.com, “but I’ll be ready to go as long as I can until they take me out.” … Tampa Bay will throw ex-Mississippi Braves right-hander Charlie Morton (16-6, 3.05) in Wednesday’s American League Wild Card Game at Oakland. … East Central Community College alumnus Tim Anderson of the Chicago White Sox won the AL batting title with a .335 average, which also led all of MLB. The last Mississippian (native or college alum) to win a batting title was Grenada native Dave Parker, who took the National League crown in 1978 with Pittsburgh. … A pair of former M-Braves swept the stolen base crowns in the majors: Ronald Acuna of Atlanta led the NL with 37 bags and Seattle’s Mallex Smith topped the AL with 46. For the record, Jackson Generals product Brian Hunter twice won the AL title – in 1999 with Detroit and Seattle and in 1997 with Detroit – and Chuck Carr, a Jackson Mets alum, won the NL title in 1993 with Florida. The only Mississippi native to lead a league in steals is Ellisville’s Buddy Myer, who bagged 30 for Boston in the AL in 1928. … Former Madison Central High star Spencer Turnbull, who yielded three runs in 5 1/3 innings for Detroit against the White Sox on Sunday, absorbed his 17th loss of the season, most by a Tigers pitcher in 11 years. But he has good company: Justin Verlander dropped 17 in 2008. … Former JaxMets skipper Clint Hurdle was fired as Pittsburgh manager prior to Sunday’s finale, which he did not work. Hurdle went 735-720 with three playoff teams in nine seasons with the Pirates, who finished 69-93 this season.

29 Sep

more to come …

The dust has not yet settled on baseball’s regular season. With Milwaukee and St. Louis both losing Friday and Saturday, the National League Central champion remains undetermined. The Cardinals lead by 1 game. We could be headed for a tiebreaker game on Monday, with the loser trekking to Washington for the wild card game on Tuesday. … The Brewers’ loss on Saturday was especially painful. Colorado hit solo homers in the eighth, ninth and 10th innings to steal a 3-2 win; former Ole Miss standout Drew Pomeranz, who has been a stud down the stretch for the Brewers, gave up the first of those bombs to Ian Desmond. … He isn’t slated to start today but don’t be surprised if ex-Mississippi State star Brandon Woodruff, who’s been sharp since coming off the injured list, pitches at some point in the Brewers’ must-win game at Coors Field. … On Friday, State product Dakota Hudson started for St. Louis and delivered five shutout innings — with 10 strikeouts — but the Cards ultimately fell to the Chicago Cubs 8-2, smacked down by a seven-run seventh inning. UM alum Mike Mayers made a rare appearance in that game for St. Louis and worked a clean eighth. Maybe they shoulda used him earlier. … Tampa Bay clinched an American League wild card berth on Friday, with ex-State standout Nate Lowe going 2-for-3 with two runs in a 6-2 win against Toronto. Lowe has made some solid contributions as a rookie this season, batting .265 with seven homers, but he may not make the Rays’ postseason roster. … Oakland also clinched an AL wild card spot on Friday when Cleveland lost to Washington, and the A’s earned home field for the Wednesday game by beating Seattle on Saturday. Kudos to Billy Beane, the former Jackson Mets star (1982-84) now in his 22nd year as Oakland’s GM/vice president. The small-market, cash-strapped A’s, who play in an antiquated ballpark (now called RingCentral Coliseum), have made the postseason 10 times during Beane’s tenure. The team is seeking its first World Series title since 1989, and as Beane has famously said, “If you lose the last game of the season, nobody cares how many games you won … .”

27 Sep

let’s try that again

Given a chance for a do-over, Dakota Hudson gets the ball tonight for St. Louis in a crucial game against the Chicago Cubs at Busch Stadium. Former Mississippi State star Hudson (16-7, 3.45 ERA) was off his game against the Cubs last Saturday at Wrigley Field, giving up three runs (all in the first inning) on three hits and four walks in three innings. (St. Louis did rally to win the game.) With the Cardinals clinging to a 1-game lead over Milwaukee in the National League Central, Hudson starts Game 1 of the three-game set against the reeling Cubs. The Brewers are at Colorado for three. Both St. Louis and Milwaukee have clinched at least a wild card berth but would much prefer to enter the postseason as a division champ. Based on what he said in a TV interview following his last start against the Cubs, Hudson must be champing at the bit for this second shot. “It’s all about what I was doing out there,” he said of the brutal first inning. “I can fix that.” It was his shortest outing since June 29 at San Diego, when he lasted just 1 2/3. He is 6-2 in 10 starts the last two months.

26 Sep

numbers game

2 – Number of Mississippians who celebrated Milwaukee’s playoff-clinching win against Cincinnati on Wednesday night. Neither Mississippi State alum Brandon Woodruff nor Ole Miss product Drew Pomeranz pitched in the game, but both could play key roles in the postseason for a club that still has a shot at winning the National League Central title.
4 – Hits by Tim Anderson, the East Central Community College product whose efforts helped the Chicago White Sox beat Cleveland and clinch the American League Central title for Minnesota. Anderson, riding a 12-game hitting streak, leads MLB with a .339 average and tops the AL batting race by 11 points.
20 – Home runs this season by Brian Dozier, who went deep in postseason-bound Washington’s win over Philadelphia. The ex-Southern Miss standout reached the 20-homer plateau for the sixth straight year with his first round-tripper since Aug. 18.
19 – Homers this season for Mitch Moreland, the former MSU star who went deep as part of a four-hit performance for Boston. Moreland has four homers in his last five games and 56 in his three seasons with the Red Sox, who have missed the playoffs for the first time since 2015.
5 – Wins this year for Jacob Waguespack, the Ole Miss product who threw six shutout innings for Toronto against Baltimore. Waguespack is 5-5 with a 4.38 ERA in 16 appearances as a rookie for an up-and-coming Blue Jays club.
83 – Wins by Mickey Callaway’s New York Mets, a six-game improvement over 2018 but not quite good enough to make the playoffs. The former Ole Miss pitcher, in his second season as Mets manager, saw his club eliminated from NL wild card contention Wednesday when Milwaukee won.

25 Sep

spoiler alert

Chicago Cubs fans might look back on the seventh inning of Tuesday night’s game at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park as the inning that finally put the fork in their 2019 season. It wasn’t surprising that Adam Frazier, the ex-Mississippi State standout, played a lead role for the Pirates in that pivotal frame, starting the seven-run inning with a double and capping it with an RBI single. The Pirates, shut out by Kyle Hendricks to that point, rolled to a 9-2 victory that snapped their nine-game losing streak and extended the Cubs’ losing skid to seven. One more Cubs loss or one more Milwaukee win will officially eliminate Chicago from playoff contention. “It just went away, brother. It went away,” said Cubs manager Joe Maddon, who might be nearing the end of his tenure. Frazier, who took over as the Bucs’ regular second baseman this season, has been flourishing down the stretch for a team that long ago fell out of the playoff race. The lefty hitter, a sixth-round pick out of State by Pittsburgh in 2013, has batted .353 over his last 30 games with three homers, 16 RBIs and 18 runs. Frazier is batting .281 with 10 homers (matching his career-high) and 49 RBIs on the year. He has set career marks with 32 doubles, seven triples and 77 runs. He is eligible for arbitration after this season and should get a nice raise. P.S. Brian Dozier, the former Southern Miss standout, enjoyed a celebration Tuesday with the Washington Nationals, who swept two from Philadelphia to capture a National League wild card berth. Dozier, who went 1-for-3 in Game 1, will be in the postseason for the third straight year and with a third different team (Minnesota, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Nats). He is hitting .233 with 19 homers this year.

24 Sep

a piece of history

Your first big league home run is going to be memorable. When it’s a walk-off bomb, in the 15th inning, well, that qualifies as historic. Former Petal High standout Anthony Alford accomplished that feat for Toronto on Monday night, reportedly becoming just the second player in modern history to hit a walk-off in the 15th inning or later for his first career homer. “It couldn’t happen to a better kid. Everybody was so happy for him,” Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo told mlb.com after the 11-10 win against Baltimore. Alford had entered the game in the ninth inning as a pinch runner. The homer came on what was Alford’s 21st at-bat of the season. He has had just 48 big league ABs spread over the past three seasons. “I really just try to enjoy the moment,” Alford told mlb.com. “Because honestly, you never know when it will happen again.” The 25-year-old former Mr. Baseball has been on the Blue Jays’ prospect charts since 2012, when he was drafted in the third round despite his commitment to play college football (first at Southern Miss, then Ole Miss). He turned to baseball fulltime in 2015. He is a .265 hitter – with 34 homers and 114 steals – in a minor league career full of ups and downs and various injuries. Currently ranked the No. 20 prospect in the Toronto system by MLB Pipeline, Alford is stuck in a crowd of young outfielders vying for opportunities with the Blue Jays.