The “Moneyball” A’s are back in the news, thanks to Cleveland’s remarkable winning streak. The Indians will seek their 20th straight win tonight, which would tie the 2002 Oakland club’s American League record. The A’s record – and the 20th win, in particular – were made famous by the “Moneyball” book and movie. Former Jackson Mets star Billy Beane, played by Brad Pitt in the movie, was the Oakland GM and, of course, star of the film. Chad Bradford, a Byram High, Hinds Community College and Southern Miss alum, also gained a measure of fame from “Moneyball” as one of the frequently featured players. His role in the winning streak is worthy of mention. A situational, submarine-style right-hander, Bradford made eight appearances during the A’s record roll from Aug. 13-Sept. 4, 2002. He did not allow a run in six of those games. One of his two rough outings came in the Sept. 4 game, which was immortalized in the movie. Bradford allowed four runs in a third of an inning as the A’s blew an 11-0 lead against Kansas City. As all the world knows, the A’s won on the dramatic walk-off homer by Scott Hatteberg, who was played by Chris Pratt in the movie. The part of Bradford was played by an ex-minor league pitcher named Casey Bond. The real-life Bradford posted a 3.11 ERA in 75 games for Oakland in 2002, his second year with the team and fifth of 12 he spent in the big leagues.
On Sunday, Kendall Graveman got the ball for Oakland, facing Houston ace Dallas Keuchel and a heavy-hitting Astros team seeking to keep its grip on the best record in the American League. Ex-Mississippi State star Graveman won the duel and the A’s won the game, 10-2, completing a four-game sweep at Oakland Coliseum. Keuchel was KO’d in the sixth. Graveman, coming off a couple of rough outings, found his form, working six innings and allowing just a single run on five hits and two walks. He is 5-4 with a 4.48 ERA in an injury-interrupted campaign. Meanwhile in Cleveland, the Indians won their 18th in a row to pass the Astros in the best-record race.
Today, in Milwaukee, State alum Brandon Woodruff gets the call against Pittsburgh trying to keep the ball rolling for the Brewers. They swept the Chicago Cubs three straight at Wrigley Field over the weekend and moved to within 2 games of the National League Central lead. Rookie Woodruff is 1-1 with a 1.52 ERA in his four starts. His last time out he battled Washington’s Max Scherzer tooth-and-nail and got a no-decision in a 3-2 loss. Woodruff whiffed eight and yielded just two hits and one run in seven innings. “Brandon was up for every bit of it,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell told yahoo.com. “In his first four starts, it is very exciting what we are getting from him.”
Today, in San Francisco, Chris Stratton, another State product, goes to the bump for the lowly Giants against reeling rival Los Angeles, which has lost a club-worst 10 straight games. Stratton is 2-3, 4.10 in nine games, six starts. He posted a 1.52 ERA in four starts in August but got knocked around his last time out at Colorado, lasting just four innings. Stratton hasn’t faced the Dodgers this season but got his first career win against them in relief in 2016. LA still has the NL’s best record, but Washington has closed to within 4 games.
On Tuesday, in St. Louis, former Ole Miss standout Lance Lynn will start for Cardinals against Cincinnati. As of today, St. Louis was also 2 games behind Chicago in the NL Central. Lynn is 10-7, 2.94 in 29 starts but hasn’t gotten a win since Aug. 5, when he beat the Reds in Cincinnati. He has pitched well in six starts since then, but the Cardinals have lost five of the six. Lynn likely will face former Rebels teammate Zack Cozart, who has been swinging a hot bat for the Reds: .318, two homers in his last seven games, including his 19th of the year on Sunday.
Virtually every game played in the American League these days is meaningful, with implications in the division races, the wild card race and/or the best record races. Key situations are magnified, clutch performers identified. Mississippians stepping up on Wednesday included two of the usual suspects: Mitch Moreland and Brian Dozier. Moreland, the ex-Mississippi State standout from Amory, hit a go-ahead pinch home run in the seventh inning for Boston, propelling the AL East leader to a 7-1 win at Toronto. He added a two-run single in the eighth inning, and now has 18 homers and 63 RBIs on the year. He is hitting .346 over his last 27 games and .257 on the year. “He’s in a good place,” Red Sox manager John Farrell told The Associated Press. Dozier, the former Southern Miss star from Fulton, went 4-for-5 with two RBIs and a run in Minnesota’s 11-1 romp past the Chicago White Sox. The Twins moved within a game of AL wild card leader New York (and 7 back of Cleveland in the Central). Dozier, batting .263, has 74 RBIs and 75 runs; that’s 149 runs accounted for in 124 games. He also has 26 homers and 14 steals. He’s in a pretty good place, too. Meanwhile, State alum Kendall Graveman, starting for an Oakland team reduced to a spoiler role, got rocked by the Los Angeles Angels, who are third in the wild card scramble. Graveman yielded three homers and five runs all told over five innings in a 10-8 loss. He got a no-decision but saw his ERA rise to 4.54. P.S. In a Pacific Coast League game that mattered (certainly to him), Hunter Renfroe blasted his third homer in nine games for El Paso. The ex-State star has 12 RBIs and a .526 average since San Diego sent him down to Triple-A.
Ole Miss product Bobby Wahl made his big league debut Wednesday night. He is no doubt anxiously awaiting his second opportunity. Mississippi State alum Kendall Graveman suffered his worst start of the season for Oakland and Wahl offered little relief in a 7-4 loss to Minnesota. Graveman gave up six runs in 3 1/3 innings, yielding four walks and five hits, including Kennys Vargas’ three-run homer. Wahl, recalled from Triple-A Nashville earlier in the day, came on in the sixth inning and lasted just four batters. He hit one (ex-Southern Miss star Brian Dozier) and allowed two hits and a run. Wahl, a fifth-round pick in 2013, had a 1.93 ERA and three saves this season at Nashville. Rated the A’s No. 26 prospect by MLB Pipeline, the right-hander was added to the 40-man roster over the winter. Over 116 games in the minors – working mostly in relief – Wahl, 25, has a 3.79 ERA, 27 saves in 31 chances and 205 strikeouts in 171 innings. His fastball has touched 100 mph. P.S. Former Ole Miss standout Drew Pomeranz seems to be putting to rest any concerns about his left arm. He improved to 3-1 with a 4.00 ERA by throwing 5 1/3 strong innings on Wednesday in Boston’s 4-2 win vs. Baltimore, yet another controversy-filled game in their series. Pomeranz has made three of his five 2017 starts against the Orioles, beating them twice.
Even though he had filled his role admirably, Tyler Moore was designated for assignment by Miami on Monday. The Marlins had to clear a roster spot for former Mississippi Braves star Martin Prado to return from the disabled list. Moore, the Northwest Rankin, Meridian Community College and Mississippi State product, was the odd man out in the numbers game. He was 4-for-11 with an RBI, used primarily as a right-handed pinch hitter. Moore is a .230 career hitter with 24 home runs in 285 big league games; 10 of those homers came with Washington in 2012, his rookie season. He may wind up at Triple-A New Orleans. … Also popping up on Monday’s MLB Transactions page were ex-State standout Kendall Graveman and Ole Miss alum David Goforth. Oakland put Graveman on the 10-day disabled list with a shoulder strain. He is 2-0 with 3.00 ERA in three starts; reports indicate he’ll only miss one turn. Goforth, who was DFA’d by Milwaukee on April 14, was reassigned to Triple-A Colorado Springs. He got into one game, throwing a clean inning, for Milwaukee during his brief call-up. He has a 5.94 ERA in 36 1/3 innings in the majors.
Kendall Graveman has risen to the top in Oakland. With Sonny Gray, the team’s presumptive ace, on the shelf with an injury, former Mississippi State star Graveman has been named the opening day starter. Graveman, 26, went 10-11 with a 4.11 ERA for the 69-win A’s last season, his second full year in the big leagues. He led the team in WHIP. Graveman was an eighth-round pick out of State by Toronto in 2013 and zipped through the minors to arrive in The Show in mid-2014. Oakland acquired him as part of the Josh Donaldson trade prior to the 2015 campaign, and Graveman went 11-10, 4.04 for the A’s that season.
Though his team, the defending world champ, has been eliminated from the postseason race, Jarrod Dyson is surging toward the finish line. Dyson, the former McComb High and Southwest Mississippi Community College star, tripled, drove in a run and scored twice in Kansas City’s loss to Minnesota on Thursday. Over his last 15 games, the lefty-hitting outfielder is batting .353 with 10 runs and five RBIs. For the year, he’s at .271 with eight triples, 45 runs, 25 RBIs and 29 stolen bases. Dyson, who made $1.73M in 2016, is arbitration-eligible again after this season, and speculation is the Royals will seek to bring him back. … Also closing with a kick for an also-ran club is Tim Anderson, the rookie out of East Central CC. Anderson, the Chicago White Sox shortstop, had two hits against Tampa Bay on Thursday and is batting .323 over his last seven games. He is batting .280 with eight homers, 28 RBIs, 55 runs and 10 steals since his June call-up. … Worthy of mention is Mississippi State alum Kendall Graveman, whose Oakland team has been out of the hunt for a long time. Though he is winless over his last six starts, Graveman has pitched valiantly in some big games against contenders, including two against Texas and another vs. Seattle on Thursday. “You always need a guy that you look at as your guy,” A’s manager Bob Melvin told csnbayarea.com. “He’s embraced it; I think he’s proud of the fact that he’s that guy.” Graveman finished 10-11 with a 4.11 ERA for a team that currently sits at 67-92.