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.
One went to Ole Miss, the other to Mississippi State. One is a lefty, the other a right-hander. One has more than 130 games of big league experience, the other has 51. But Drew Pomeranz and Kendall Graveman do have a couple of things in common. Both have 10 wins this season, and both go to the mound tonight in meaningful games. Pomeranz, the big lefty out of UM, starts for Boston against Tampa Bay at Fenway Park. The Red Sox are 2 games out in the American League East and first in the wild card standings. Former State star Graveman, pitching for Oakland, will face Houston at Minute Maid Park. The A’s are an also-ran, but the Astros are a wild card contender still hanging on, if barely, in the AL West race. Pomeranz is 2-3 with a 4.06 ERA in his eight starts for the Red Sox, who gave up a highly touted pitching prospect to get him from San Diego, where he won eight games and made the All-Star team. He is still looking for his first win for the BoSox at Fenway, where he is 0-1 with a 5.02 in three starts. He’ll face a Tampa team – and possibly red-hot Meridian Community College product Corey Dickerson – that beat him on Aug. 25, though Pomeranz allowed just two runs and fanned 11 in six innings. Graveman is 10-8, 3.97 with three wins in his last four starts, including a brilliant two-hit shutout against the Chicago White Sox on Aug. 19. He is 2-1 against the Astros, including a victory at hitter-friendly Minute Maid Park on July 9. P.S. There are a handful of Mississippians currently in Triple-A who are hoping to pitch in some meaningful MLB games down the stretch. Former Southern Miss standout Scott Copeland is 3-2, 3.47 for Buffalo in Toronto’s system, and ex-State star Chad Girodo has a 3.69 ERA for the same club. MSU alum Chris Stratton is 6-2, 2.37 in his last 10 appearances for San Francisco’s Sacramento team. UM product Mike Mayers is just 1-4 at Memphis since his one appearance for St. Louis in late July but has a 3.55 ERA in 15 Triple-A games overall. Picayune High product T.J. House has posted a 1.29 ERA in his last 10 appearances for Cleveland’s Columbus club. Former Pillow Academy star Louis Coleman, coming back from injury, has delivered three scoreless appearances at Oklahoma City and reportedly will be recalled by the Los Angeles Dodgers when rosters expand on Sept. 1.
Amid the rubble of the Oakland A’s season, Kendall Graveman stands tall. The former Mississippi State right-hander, who tossed his first career shutout last Friday, is 8-2 with a 3.47 ERA over his last 15 starts. For the season, he is 9-8, 4.09 for an injury-riddled team that sits at 53-71 in the American League West. Graveman was a key contributor on State’s 2013 College World Series club, posting a 4-4 record and 2.81 ERA as a senior that year. Toronto picked him in the eighth round of the ’13 draft, and he blew through the minors to make his MLB debut in September of 2014. The Blue Jays then sent him to Oakland with three other players in the Josh Donaldson trade that off-season. Graveman’s 2015 season with the A’s was a bit uneven (6-9, 4.05) and 2016 got off to a wobbly start, as well. In mid-May, he was 1-6 with a 5.48 ERA. Then came the turnaround, which has included two wins against Houston, one against Baltimore and a complete-game W against Tampa Bay. And there is reason to believe the good times will continue for Graveman, a ground-ball pitcher who thrives on control. His shutout last week – a 98-pitch two-hitter against the Chicago White Sox — followed a phone conversation with his boyhood hero, Hall of Famer Greg Maddux, the ultimate craftsman. “I was like a kid in a candy shop. I was just asking him questions and he was very generous to talk to me for 15 or 20 minutes about the mental side of the game,” Graveman told the San Francisco Chronicle.
Chris Coghlan, the former Ole Miss standout, has a grand total of 10 hits for the Chicago Cubs this season. The one he got on Thursday night at Wrigley Field may stick in the memory for a while. Batting in the sixth inning with the bases loaded and the Cubs down 2-0 to St. Louis, Coghlan looked back at the umpire and tried to call time before a pitch by Carlos Martinez. Time wasn’t granted. Coghlan swiveled back toward Martinez, re-gripped the bat as the pitch — a changeup – was en route and smacked a two-run single into right field. “Crazy,” he called it after the Cubs had secured a 4-3 win in extra innings. The first-place Cubs have been on a crazy roll with 10 straight wins, though Coghlan’s contributions have been limited. The 31-year-old veteran has just seven at-bats in August. In 24 games since he was reacquired from Oakland, he is batting .208 with four RBIs. But … it takes a bench to win a championship, and the Cubs have a deep one. For his part, Coghlan can play almost anywhere — a quality Cubs manager Joe Maddon seems to really like — and he is a .259 career hitter with some pop from the left side. (He hit five homers for the A’s but none since rejoining the Cubs.) He’ll have more moments, though it’s unlikely any will be quite as crazy as Thursday’s. P.S. Picayune High product T.J. House was sent back to Triple-A by Cleveland, a first-place club in the American League. House made three appearances during his call-up, allowing one run in one inning of work.
37 – Stolen bases for Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton, who got one as a pinch runner on Wednesday in Cincinnati’s 5-4 loss to St. Louis. Hamilton’s total ranks second in MLB, three behind Jonathan Villar. Hamilton, who set the all-time minor league record with 155 steals in 2012, swiped 57 bases for the Reds in 2015 and 56 in 2014.
11 – Home runs allowed in eight starts by Northwest Mississippi Community College alum Cody Reed, the rookie left-hander who gave up another in Cincinnati’s loss to St. Louis. Reed, one of the Reds’ top-rated prospects, fell to 0-6 with a 7.30 ERA.
6 – RBIs by former Southern Miss star Brian Dozier in the last three games, all wins for Minnesota against Cleveland. Dozier, who has a 12-game hit streak, is 5-for-16 with two homers and four runs scored in the series, helping the Twins score 35 times against the Indians’ vaunted pitching staff.
14 – Number of players the Los Angeles Dodgers currently have on the disabled list, which now includes Greenwood native and ex-Pillow Academy star Louis Coleman. Coleman, out with right shoulder fatigue, has appeared in a career-high 50 games in his first season with the Dodgers after five in Kansas City. He has a 3.70 ERA.
2 – Number of former Mississippi Braves to make their MLB debut on Wednesday. Rob Whalen started and got the win for Atlanta against Pittsburgh, and James Hoyt worked a scoreless inning in relief for Houston. By one count, that makes 111 M-Braves alums who have advanced to The Show since the Double-A club arrived in Pearl in 2005.
6 – Runs, matching a season-high, yielded by Mississippi State product Kendall Graveman, who lasted just four innings in Oakland’s 8-6 loss to the L.A. Angels. Graveman, who had won four straight starts in July, now has a loss and a no-decision in his last two. He is 7-7, 4.46.
9 – Hits in his last four games for Petal High alum Anthony Alford, who has boosted his average to .232 at Class A Dunedin in Toronto’s system. The Blue Jays’ No. 1 prospect (by Baseball America) entering this season, Alford has been sidetracked by injuries. The 22-year-old outfielder has five homers, 30 RBIs and 14 steals in 68 games.
4 – Wins in four consecutive starts for Kendall Graveman, the former Mississippi State star now pitching for Oakland. Graveman went nine innings on Saturday to beat Tampa Bay – thanks to a pair of ninth-inning homers – and is now 7-6 with a 4.15 ERA. At one point, he was 1-6, 5.48.
12 – Hits in his last 10 games for Anthony Alford, the former Petal High star now in A-ball with Toronto. Alford, in an injury-plagued campaign, is now batting .210 with four homers and 23 RBIs for Dunedin.
7 – Wins in their last nine games for the Double-A Mississippi Braves, who beat Tennessee 3-0 on Saturday behind the pitching of Lucas Sims and Jason Hursh. The M-Braves are 16-13 and in first place in the Southern League South.
31 – Steals for Billy Hamilton, the ex-Taylorsville High star playing for Cincinnati. Hamilton, batting leadoff on Saturday, went 1-for-4 with a bag and a run in the Reds’ 6-1 win against Arizona. Hamilton has a six-game hit streak that has boosted his average to .251 with 46 runs in 82 games.
3 – Runs scored by Ole Miss product Seth Smith in Seattle’s 14-5 win against Toronto on Saturday. Smith, batting .273, has 43 runs in 83 games for the Mariners. He also has 11 home runs.
7 – Consecutive scoreless appearances for Jonathan Papelbon, the former Mississippi State standout who pitches for Washington. Papelbon yielded a hit and a walk in the ninth against San Diego on Saturday but got the win thanks to a walk-off triple by Stephen Drew. Papelbon is 2-2 with 19 saves and a 2.56 ERA for the first-place Nationals.
3 – Number of former Mississippi Braves who started for the Los Angeles Angels on Saturday (Yunel Escobar, Andrelton Simmons and Todd Cunningham). Two ex-M-Braves started for Atlanta (Freddie Freeman and Jeff Francoeur).