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.
Kendall Graveman lost his arbitration case with the Oakland A’s, but the former Mississippi State standout will still be a happy camper in spring training, which formally begins this week in Arizona and Florida. Graveman, who made $545,000 in 2017, will get $2.36 million this season, not the $2.6M he had asked for. Hi ho. Graveman, 27, Oakland’s opening day starter last year, went 6-4 with a 4.19 ERA, missing considerable time with an arm injury. He is 22-24, 4.11 career. Ole Miss alum Braxton Lee, on Miami’s 40-man roster, is headed for his first big league camp, while ex-State star Dakota Hudson and Southern Miss product Cody Carroll got coveted non-roster invites from St. Louis and the New York Yankees, respectively. On the flip side, big league vets such as Lance Lynn, Seth Smith, Jarrod Dyson, Chris Coghlan and Tyler Moore remain among the throng of unsigned players.
Here’s the list of Mississippians headed for camp:
40-man roster members
Anthony Alford (Petal), Toronto; Tim Anderson (East Central CC), Chicago White Sox; Zack Cozart (Ole Miss), Los Angeles Angels; Brian Dozier (Southern Miss), Minnesota; Corey Dickerson (Meridian CC), Tampa Bay; Adam Frazier (Mississippi State), Pittsburgh; Billy Hamilton (Taylorsville), Cincinnati; JaCoby Jones (Richton), Detroit; Braxton Lee (Ole Miss), Miami; Mitch Moreland (Mississippi State), Boston; Hunter Renfroe (MSU), San Diego; Stuart Turner (Ole Miss), Cincinnati Pitchers
Kendall Graveman (MSU), Oakland; Jonathan Holder (MSU), New York Yankees; Jacob Lindgren (MSU), Atlanta; Mike Mayers (Ole Miss), St. Louis; Drew Pomeranz (Ole Miss), Boston; Cody Reed (Northwest CC), Cincinnati; Tony Sipp (Gulf Coast CC), Houston; Chris Stratton (MSU), San Francisco; Brandon Woodruff (MSU), Milwaukee
Bobby Bradley (Gulfport/Harrison Central), Cleveland; Jack Kruger (MSU), Los Angeles Angels; Austin Riley (Southaven/DeSoto Central), Atlanta; Kade Scivicque (Southwest CC), Atlanta
Cody Carroll (USM), New York Yankees; Chad Girodo (MSU), Toronto; David Goforth (Ole Miss), Washington; T.J. House (Picayune), Chicago White Sox; Dakota Hudson (MSU), St. Louis; Cody Satterwhite (Ole Miss), Washington; Bobby Wahl (Ole Miss), Oakland
Free agents: Jarrod Dyson (Southwest CC); Seth Smith (Ole Miss); Lance Lynn (Ole Miss); Chris Coghlan (Ole Miss); Desmond Jennings (Itawamba CC); Tyler Moore (MSU); Alex Presley (Ole Miss); Louis Coleman (Greenwood/Pillow Academy); Scott Copeland (USM)
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.