It’s a small sample size but still worth noting: Former DeSoto Central High standout Austin Riley is batting .325 (13-for-40) with three homers and 11 RBIs through his first 10 games in Triple-A. He has hit safely in eight of those games, including a four-hit, three-homer performance on Sunday, and has yet to make an error at third base. He also has two hat tricks (three-strikeout games) for Gwinnett. “It’s all about adjustments,” Riley told the Marietta Daily Journal. “Each level you move up, the pitchers get better. You never stop learning in this game.” Riley, one of Atlanta’s top-rated prospects, batted .333 with six homers in 27 games for the Double-A Mississippi Braves before his promotion. At 21, Riley is the same age as Ozzie Albies and a year older than Ronald Acuna, who are leading the “Baby Braves” contingent that has helped revitalize the big league club. Most projections have Riley making the majors in 2019, but he could force the Braves’ hand this summer. P.S. Ex-Mississippi State star Dakota Hudson is also in Triple-A and knocking on the MLB door. St. Louis’ first-round pick in 2016, right-hander Hudson is 4-1 with a 2.88 ERA in seven starts for Memphis. He is rated the Cardinals’ No. 4 prospect by MLB Pipeline. … Hunter Renfroe, the State alum who is hoping to get back to the big leagues, went 1-for-5 with an RBI double and three K’s Thursday in his first game after being sent to Triple-A El Paso. Renfroe was batting .200 with two homers for San Diego when he went on the disabled list in mid-April. … Former Petal High star Anthony Alford, sent down by Toronto earlier this week, went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts at Triple-A Buffalo on Wednesday. … Also itching for another shot in The Show is Ole Miss product Bobby Wahl, who has a 1.50 ERA, two saves and 26 punchouts in 18 innings for Triple-A Nashville in Oakland’s system. Wahl made seven appearances for the A’s last year before suffering a shoulder injury. He was dropped from the 40-man roster in the fall. … Braxton Lee, the ex-UM standout from Picayune who started this season in the majors with Miami, is currently on the DL at Triple-A New Orleans. He hit .176 in eight MLB games and is at .186 in 12 games for the Baby Cakes. … Ole Miss alum and onetime big leaguer Alex Presley, who had been at Triple-A Norfolk in Baltimore’s system, has been granted his release and is now a free agent.
Kind of a good news/bad news scenario for Kendall Graveman. Oakland brought Graveman, the Mississippi State product, back up from Triple-A Nashville to make a start on Friday. Great. The start would be against the sizzling-hot New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. Oh. Unbowed, Graveman answered the call with a strong six-inning effort, allowing just three hits and one earned run and notching his first big league win of the season in a 10-5 Oakland victory. The A’s opening day starter, Graveman was sent to the minors to work on mechanics after going 0-5 with an 8.89 ERA. He may have put those troubles behind him on Friday. “I thought I attacked better and had a good mindset,” he told mlb.com. Graveman did allow two home runs, including a three-run shot by Aaron Judge in his final inning. But those three runs were unearned because of an error that started the inning. It’s unclear if Graveman will remain in the Oakland rotation, but he certainly made a good case for doing so. … Two other Magnolia State college alums made MLB starts on Friday, and it did not go well for either. Ex-State standout Brandon Woodruff, also recalled from the minors on Friday, lasted just three innings for Milwaukee, allowing nine hits, a walk and seven runs against Colorado (at Coors Field). Former Ole Miss star Lance Lynn went 4 2/3 for Minnesota but was KO’d after yielding eight hits, two walks and four runs against the Los Angeles Angels. Still, there was some good news for the pair: Their teams rallied to win.
Both Kendall Graveman and Lance Lynn were saddled with another loss on Wednesday, but there was a difference in their outings. Former Mississippi State star Graveman may have found something; ex-Ole Miss standout Lynn is still searching. Graveman fell to 0-5 for 13-12 Oakland, allowing three runs in six innings of a 4-2 loss to Texas. But utilizing his changeup more frequently and effectively, he struck out seven batters and actually trimmed his ERA to 8.89. “I thought the changeup was really good,” Graveman told mlb.com. “Got a lot of swing-and-misses. For me, that’s a big plus, something I’m working on … .” Lynn, in his fourth start for Minnesota, was KO’d by the New York Yankees in the fourth inning of a 7-4 defeat, the 8-11 Twins’ sixth straight L. Lynn (0-2) yielded six runs – including two homers – and saw his ERA jump to 7.71. “When I made pitches, I would get outs, but I didn’t make them when it counted,” Lynn said in an mlb.com article. P.S. Cool to see five former Mississippi Braves combine for eight hits, three runs and three RBIs in Atlanta’s 5-4 victory at Cincinnati. Included was Ronald Acuna’s first big league hit and Ozzie Albies’ seventh homer. In addition, M-Braves alums Jesse Biddle tossed two scoreless innings and A.J. Minter notched his first save.
While the Drew Pomeranz-Kendall Graveman matchup was something of a dud, another Mississippi product provided the fireworks on Friday night at Oakland Coliseum. Mitch Moreland, the former Mississippi State standout from Amory, hit a grand slam that boosted Boston to a 7-3 win over Oakland and gave the Red Sox a 17-2 record, among the best starts in MLB history. Ole Miss alum Pomeranz, in his first start of the year for Boston, was tagged for three runs in the first inning and left in the fourth. Ex-State star Graveman lasted five-plus and was charged with the loss, falling to 0-4 with a 10.07 ERA. He surrendered a three-run bomb to Jackie Bradley Jr. in the second inning and the three runners on base when Moreland hit his sixth-inning slam were also his doing. Moreland was 0-for-2 against Graveman when he came up in the sixth but didn’t get to face the right-hander a third time. Emilio Pagan came on, and Moreland promptly crushed a high fastball into the right-field seats for the BoSox’s fifth grand slam of the season. Moreland is on an 11-for-23 tear, raising his average to .333 with two homers and 11 RBIs.
While Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw are hooking up in a marquee MLB matchup in Los Angeles tonight, there’s a Mississippi-flavored clash up the coast in Oakland that also bears watching. Boston, which has roared from the starting gate with a 16-2 record, welcomes former Ole Miss star Drew Pomeranz back from the disabled list. A 17-game winner in 2017, Pomeranz will oppose ex-Mississippi State standout Kendall Graveman, the A’s opening day starter who has struggled to a 9.87 ERA through four outings. (For the record, they did not cross paths in college.) Pomeranz, who suffered a forearm strain in spring training, made two rehab starts — one in Triple-A, the other in Double-A — and posted a 3.72 ERA over 9 2/3 innings. Graveman, who has yielded six homers this season, gets to face a scorching-hot Red Sox lineup (27 runs in three wins against the Angels) that may include State product Mitch Moreland. He has two bombs against Graveman in 12 career at-bats. P.S. JaCoby Jones, the former Richton High star, hit his first career walk-off homer — his first of 2018 — to propel Detroit to a 3-2 win in 10 innings against Kansas City today. Jones is batting .300 in 13 games.
In need of some good games, Hunter Renfroe, the ex-Mississippi State star now with the San Diego Padres, produced one on Saturday. Renfroe drove in a run with a sac fly, assisted on throwing a runner out at the plate and smacked a go-ahead home run in the seventh inning as the Padres beat San Francisco 5-4 before a sellout crowd at Petco Park. Renfroe, 1-for-3 with a walk on the day, lifted his average to .190. The Crystal Springs native has two homers and eight RBIs — seven in his last four games — for the 6-10 Padres. The club’s opening day right fielder in 2017, Renfroe made the roster as a reserve this spring. Injuries have given him more playing opportunities of late. “He’s battling hard up there right now,” San Diego manager Andy Green told mlb.com. Renfroe generated great expectations coming up in the Padres’ system and debuted late in 2016 with a .371 average and four homers in 11 games. Last year was one of ups and downs. He hit 26 homers but batted just .231 with 140 strikeouts in 445 at-bats. He was sent to the minors at one point for a few small repairs. The 6-foot-1, 220-pound Renfroe has tremendous power and can be an asset in the outfield with his strong throwing arm. He needs more games like Saturday’s to remain a part of the Padres’ future. P.S. Also in need of a good game was former State standout Kendall Gravemen, now with the Oakland A’s. He didn’t have one. The right-hander yielded five runs in four innings and took the loss as the A’s fell at Seattle 10-8. Graveman is 0-3 with a 9.87 ERA in four starts.
On Aug. 28, 1981, Kelvin Moore made his MLB debut for Oakland and went 1-for-4 in a loss to Bobby Ojeda and the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Moore’s first game in the big leagues was also the first in The Show for any Jackson State alumnus, a milestone worthy of note during Black History Month. Moore – one of those rare players who threw lefty but batted from the right side — played in 76 games over three seasons for the A’s and hit eight home runs. His debut seemed to open a door for JSU, an historically black school with a modest enrollment. Between 1981 and 1996, eight JSU products reached the major leagues, according to baseball-reference.com, and several had significant careers. The colorful and controversial Oil Can Boyd followed Moore in 1982; he went on to pitch 10 years in the majors. Then came Curtis Ford, Dave Clark (a first-round draft pick), Marvin Freeman, Howard Farmer, Wes Chamberlain and Mike Farmer. Dewon Day, who pitched in 13 games for the Chicago White Sox in 2007, is the only other Tigers alum to make it, an unfortunate sign of the times in MLB, which has seen a decline in the numbers of African-American players in recent years. All nine of the JSU big leaguers were coached by Bob Braddy, a recent inductee into both the College Baseball and Mississippi Sports Halls of Fame. Among SWAC schools, only Southern University, with 16, has produced more big leaguers than JSU. (Day played for both schools.) … The Tigers, now coached by Omar Johnson and coming off a 38-17 season, open their 2018 campaign tonight at the University of New Orleans and will then host Mississippi State at Braddy Field on Wednesday. Among the current Tigers, third baseman Jesus Santana and outfielder Lamar Briggs may have pro potential.