09 Oct

remember the time

Atlanta hosts St. Louis in Game 5 of the National League Division Series today, 14 years to the day after one of the most painful losses in Braves history. Atlanta lost 7-6 at Houston in an NLDS game that lasted 18 innings – at the time the longest in postseason history – and eliminated the Braves. The Oct. 9, 2005, game also featured the first postseason intersection of players from two different eras of Jackson-area Double-A baseball. Atlanta’s lineup included Brian McCann and Jeff Francoeur, both of whom started that season with the Mississippi Braves in Pearl. Lance Berkman, who played for the Jackson Generals in 1998, started for Houston, and Raul Chavez, another ex-Gen, also played that day. McCann hit a home run as the Braves built a 6-1 lead. But Berkman belted a grand slam in the eighth and Brad Ausmus hit a solo homer in the ninth – both shots coming off Kyle Farnsworth — to tie it. Among the parade of pitchers in the extra frames was Vicksburg native John Thomson, who worked two scoreless innings for Atlanta. Weir’s Roy Oswalt was on the Houston roster but didn’t pitch; he had started and won Game 3 the day before. Roger Clemens pitched the last three innings for the Astros and got the win when Chris Burke took M-Braves alum Joey Devine deep for the walk-off winner 5 hours, 50 minutes after first pitch. Rest assured, no Braves fan has forgotten that game.

07 Oct

welcome to the show

Former Mississippi State ace Dakota Hudson is scheduled for his first career postseason appearance today for St. Louis, starting Game 4 of the National League Division Series against Atlanta, a must-win situation for the Cardinals. Hudson, 16-7 with a 3.35 ERA this season, does have some experience in pressurized situations, having started three postseason games for State in 2016. He went 0-2, losing to LSU in the SEC Tournament, taking a no-decision against Southeast Missouri State in the Starkville Regional and losing to Arizona in Game 1 of the Super Regional at Dudy Noble Field. He got knocked around by LSU, yielding nine hits and four runs (two earned) in five innings of a 6-2 loss at Hoover, Ala. (Jared Poche got the win for the Tigers.) Hudson wasn’t sharp against SEMO in the regional, lasting just 3 1/3 innings and allowing four runs, but the Bulldogs rallied to win. His best performance came against Arizona, a start that came the day after the 6-foot-5 right-hander was drafted 34th overall by the Cardinals. He worked 6 1/3, allowed seven hits, one walk and one run – but the Bulldogs lost 1-0 to the Wildcats’ Bobby Dalbec. Arizona took the Super Regional the next day. Hudson signed with St. Louis and two years later made his big league debut. Today, he makes his biggest appearance at Busch Stadium. MSU has paid for several billboards that have gone up in St. Louis wishing Hudson good luck. P.S. Billy Hamilton, the ex-Taylorsville High star, stole third base as a pinch runner and scored the tying run during the Braves’ ninth-inning rally in Game 3 on Sunday. Hamilton, in his first postseason, has scored two runs in his two appearances. … In the other NLDS, Southern Miss alum Brian Dozier started and went 0-for-2 for Washington in its loss to Los Angeles, which can take the series in Game 4 today at Nationals Park. Dozier, in his third postseason, is batting .174. He homered in his very first at-bat for Minnesota in 2017 but has only three hits in 22 ABs since.

04 Oct

stuff happens

It’s that time of year. The postseason begins for 10 MLB clubs, and heads begin to roll for many of the other 20. Chris Young, a former Mississippi State pitcher, was relieved of his duties today as Philadelphia’s pitching coach after one rather rocky season. This follows news of ex-Ole Miss pitcher Mickey Callaway’s firing Thursday as New York Mets manager after two seasons. (On the long list floated out there as possible replacements is former MSU star Buck Showalter, who was not retained by Baltimore after the 2018 season.) Back in 2018, there were seven Mississippi-connected skippers in MLB. Now, with Ned Yost having retired in Kansas City and Clint Hurdle getting canned in Pittsburgh, we’re down to two. Brian Snitker, the former Mississippi Braves manager, is safe for a while in Atlanta. Former Jackson Mets standout Ron Gardenhire is in charge of the major rebuilding project in Detroit; who knows how many more years he’ll get? P.S. MSU product Nate Lowe, a rookie first baseman, did not make Tampa Bay’s roster for the American League Division Series against Houston.

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.

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.

23 Sep

final fling

The final homestand of Ned Yost’s final season as manager of the Kansas City Royals will begin Tuesday with a game against Atlanta, the organization that gave the former Jackson Mets star his first big league coaching job. Yost, 65, who won a World Series with the Royals in 2015, formally announced his pending retirement today. A catcher in his playing days, Yost spent 1976 and part of the ’77 season with the JaxMets, New York’s Double-A club. He had a short big league career before landing a job as Atlanta’s bullpen coach in 1991. He coached for the Braves until 2003, when he was hired as Milwaukee’s manager. He took the reins in Kansas City in 2010 and is the Royals’ all-time winningest manager. The current club is 57-100, headed for its third straight losing season. … Yost is one of five Mississippi-connected managers in the majors; the others are Ole Miss alum Mickey Callaway, former Mississippi Braves manager Brian Snitker, former JaxMets infielder Ron Gardenhire and ex-JaxMets manager Clint Hurdle.

19 Sep

whatever happened to …

Corey Wimberly, the former Alcorn State star and longtime minor leaguer, is coaching for Peoria in the Arizona Fall League, which began play Wednesday. He has managed in the Boston Red Sox organization for the last two seasons, spending 2019 at Class A Salem. His charges lost in the Carolina League title series. Wimberly was an All-SWAC infielder for Alcorn who batted .462 with 42 stolen bases, 55 runs and 32 RBIs in 38 games in 2005. (Somehow, he did not win the Ferriss Trophy.) He was drafted as a sophomore-eligible in the sixth round by Colorado in 2005. Wimberly played 12 years of pro ball, reaching the Triple-A level (including a stint with Atlanta) but never getting the big league call. He batted .297 with 351 stolen bases for his career. He last played in the Mexican League three years ago. P.S. There are three Mississippi college products on the current AFL rosters. Ole Miss alum Brady Feigl, a right-hander in Oakland’s system, pitched a scoreless inning for Mesa in its opener. Ex-Southern Miss standout Kirk McCarty, a pitcher in the Cleveland system, is also on the Mesa club. USM product Bradley Roney, who pitched for the Mississippi Braves this season, gave up a home run but registered a hold for Scottsdale. M-Braves alum Trey Harris, Atlanta’s 2019 minor league player of the year, went 2-for-4 with a homer for the Scorpions.

18 Sep

touching the bases

On this date in 2013, Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton made his first big league start for Cincinnati and flashed the skills that had so many in baseball excited about his future. Hamilton, who had already stolen five bases as a pinch runner before he got his first start, went 3-for-4 with a double, two walks, two runs, an RBI and four stolen bases as the Reds beat Houston 6-5 in 13 innings at Minute Maid Park. Hamilton led off the 13th with a walk, stole second, went to third on a wild pitch and scored on Jay Bruce’s two-run double. Though he now has 298 steals – most ever by a Mississippi native – Hamilton’s inability to hit consistently (.242) has dogged his career. He is currently filling a role – and filling it well — as a pinch runner/defensive replacement for Atlanta. … With a 4-for-6 effort on Tuesday, East Central Community College alumnus Tim Anderson moved into the major league lead with a .336 batting average. The Chicago White Sox shortstop hit his 17th home run in a loss to Minnesota. The last Mississippian (native or college alum) to win a batting title was Grenada native Dave Parker, who won the National League crown in 1978 with Pittsburgh. … Corey Dickerson may have played his last game for Philadelphia. The Meridian Community College alum from McComb, a free agent after this season, went on the injured list for the Phillies on Tuesday with a broken foot. He hit .293 with eight homers and 34 RBIs in 34 games for Philly. Dickerson, a .286 career hitter, also missed a lot of time early in the season with Pittsburgh because of a shoulder injury.

06 Sep

three things

Thing 1: If you watched Max Fried pitch Thursday night, you’d be lying if you claimed your jaw didn’t drop. One hit and no walks allowed over seven shutout innings against a loaded Washington lineup in the opener of a big four-game series in Atlanta. Fried is 16-4, 3.86 ERA, for the first-place Braves, who won 4-2 on Thursday. If you watched Fried pitch in 2017 for the Mississippi Braves, you’d be stretching it to say you saw this coming. In his second season after returning from Tommy John surgery, the tall left-hander from California went 2-11 with a 5.92 ERA. Ugh. He struck out 85 in 86 2/3 innings but walked 43. Acquired from San Diego in 2014 as part of the Justin Upton deal, Fried was a highly rated prospect in 2017. The Braves gave him a big league look that season and more time in 2018, when Fried posted a 2.94 ERA over 14 games. He won a job in the rotation this spring, and his development hit a new peak on Thursday. “As good as it gets” is how catcher Brian McCann described it to mlb.com. … Thing 2: Dakota Hudson, the ex-Mississippi State star and current St. Louis ace, had a day on Thursday. The rookie right-hander tossed six shutout innings, yielding just one hit, and picked up the first two RBIs of his MLB career in a 10-0 win against San Francisco. Hudson is 15-6 — two wins off the big league lead and tops among all rookies – and has a 3.40 ERA for the surging first-place Cardinals, who, according to Hudson, are having “a blast.” … Thing 3: Dylan File gave up one run over 8 1/3 innings to pace Biloxi to a 4-1 win over Pensacola in Game 2 of the Southern League South playoff series at MGM Park. The Shuckers lead the best-of-5 series 2-0. File went 9-2, 2.79 this season for the Double-A Shuckers, a Milwaukee affiliate.

05 Sep

watch for it

Riding a hot hand, Washington manager Dave Martinez has been giving more playing time to Asdrubal Cabrera at second base, relegating Southern Miss product Brian Dozier to spot duty. Cabrera had started the last three games, but for tonight’s contest at Atlanta, the opener of a huge four-game series between the top two teams in the National League East, Dozier is back in the lineup. Left-hander Max Fried (15-4), a Mississippi Braves alumnus, is slated to start for the Braves; Stephen Strasburg (16-5, 3-0 vs. the Braves in 2019) goes for Washington. Dozier has been the Nats’ regular second baseman most of the season after signing as a free agent late last year, but he last started a game on Aug. 31. (Howie Kendrick got a start on Sept. 1.) Dozier, 32, coming off a disappointing finish to his 2018 season, is batting .236 with 19 homers and 45 RBIs for Washington. He will be a free agent again after this season. Veteran switch-hitter Cabrera, signed last month after being released by Texas, is batting .324 with three homers and 23 RBIs in 20 games with the Nationals. … Watch for ex-Ole Miss star and Nats reliever Aaron Barrett (see previous posts) to make his first MLB appearance in over four years during this series.