28 Sep

having fun yet?

Minnesota lost Wednesday night, but Brian Dozier and his Twins mates still enjoyed a postgame celebration. Boston won, but Mitch Moreland and Co. can’t pop the bubbly just yet. There was gloom in Milwaukee for Brandon Woodruff and the Brew Crew, which is running out of chances for a party. The Twins, despite a 4-2 loss to Cleveland, clinched the second wild card in the American League because Los Angeles lost to Chicago. (East Central Community College product Tim Anderson had a game-tying hit in the sixth for the White Sox, who won on Nicky Delmonico’s 10th-inning homer.) “This is a totally different team,” ex-Southern Miss star Dozier told ESPN, referencing the 2016 Twins, who lost 103 games. “It is a totally different mindset.” In the wild card game, Minnesota will visit either New York or Boston. The Red Sox beat Toronto 10-7 – former Mississippi State standout Moreland had a hit and scored in a game-breaking five-run third inning and later added his 21st home run – to remain 3 games up on the Yankees in the battle for the AL East throne. Boston faces a four-game home series against AL West champ Houston to close the season. In the National League, the Chicago Cubs won at St. Louis to clinch the Central Division, eliminating the Brewers, who lost 6-0 at home to Cincinnati. MSU product Woodruff took the loss, yielding the six runs in three-plus innings. “Yeah, it stings a little bit more, especially at the end of the year in this type of race,” Woodruff told The Associated Press. The Brewers are hanging by their fingernails in the NL wild card race, trailing Colorado by 2.5 games with four remaining. St. Louis is 3.5 back, with a game left against the hated Cubs tonight and then three against the Brewers to finish.

27 Sep

southern exposure

Baseball America liked the 2017 Mississippi Braves. They really liked them. Five M-Braves are in the top 10 in the magazine’s ranking of the Top 20 prospects in the Southern League. A sixth made the list, which was released today. The M-Braves’ record on the field wasn’t so great, but the talent Atlanta appears to be developing is impressive. Ronald Acuna, BA’s minor league player of the year, was rated No. 1 in the SL. Look for him in the outfield at SunTrust Park next season. Young pitchers Mike Soroka (ranked No. 4), Luiz Gohara (5), Kolby Allard (10) and Max Fried (19) could be key pieces in the Atlanta rotation in the not-so-distant future. Gohara and Fried already have big league wins on their resumes. Austin Riley, the former DeSoto Central High star, was ranked No. 6 by BA’s editors, who raved about his raw power. He hit eight homers in 178 at-bats as a 20-year-old in Double-A. He’ll challenge for Atlanta’s third-base job soon enough. … Two Biloxi Shuckers made the Top 20: right-handers Corbin Burnes (No. 8) and Luis Ortiz (11). Burnes was Milwaukee’s pick as its minor league pitcher of the year after going 3-3 with a 2.10 ERA for Biloxi and 5-0, 1.05 in A-ball.

21 Sep

that’ll do it

In the category of Best Performance by a Mississippian in the Majors, it’s hard to top a three-homer game. But Adam Frazier did it. The former Mississippi State standout hit his first career walk-off homer for Pittsburgh on Wednesday night, effectively stealing the thunder from former Bulldogs teammate Hunter Renfroe, who belted three homers for San Diego in a losing cause. Frazier’s two-run blast, with two outs in the ninth in a tie game, came off Milwaukee bullpen ace Corey Knebel and delivered a stern punch to the gut of a Brewers team seeking to tie Colorado for the second wild card spot in the National League. Frazier also had a two-run triple in the Pirates’ 6-4 victory. He is batting .282 with six homers in his second big league campaign. Renfroe, also in his second MLB tour, now has 24 homers this season. Both ex-Bulldogs were drafted in 2013, Renfroe in the first round, Frazier in the sixth.

19 Sep

welcome back

It was, to use Hunter Renfroe’s own word, “humbling” to be sent back to the minor leagues after almost five months as a big league regular with San Diego. “You either grow from it or you fail from it,” the ex-Mississippi State standout told The Associated Press. The 25-year-old rookie returned to the Padres with some vigor on Monday, hitting a three-run homer in his first at-bat that propelled the team to a 4-2 win over Arizona. Renfroe went down to Triple-A El Paso on Aug. 18 and hit .509 with four home runs in 14 games, then helped the club reach Game 5 of the Pacific Coast League Championship Series. Monday’s homer was Renfroe’s 21st for the Padres. He also struck out for the 126th time; he has just 26 walks. How Renfroe handles the last two weeks of the season will be closely scrutinized. P.S. Brent Suter threw five shutout innings and fellow former Biloxi Shuckers star Brett Phillips threw out a runner from center field to end the game as Milwaukee kept its playoff drive alive with a 3-0 win at Pittsburgh.

17 Sep

shucker factor

The Milwaukee Brewers, desperate for every win they can get, will send former Mississippi State standout Brandon Woodruff to the bump today to face Miami, which is the “home” team at Miller Park. The Brewers are 4 games behind the Chicago Cubs in the National League Central and running 3 games off the pace in the wild card race. Woodruff, a rookie, has pitched well. The big right-hander is 1-2 with a 3.14 ERA in his five career starts. He is one of several former Biloxi Shuckers who could be key figures in the Brewers’ drive for the postseason. Seventeen Shuckers alums have reached the majors since the team debuted in 2015. The most accomplished of that group so far is shortstop Orlando Arcia, who is batting .273 with 14 homers, 48 RBIs and 13 steals in his second season as a starter. Brett Phillips, a spare outfielder for the Brewers, is the only other ex-Shuckers position player of note; he is batting .220 with two homers in 24 games. There are Shuckers aplenty on the Milwaukee pitching staff. Josh Hader, an electrifying left-hander, has had a significant impact out of the pen, posting a 1.85 ERA in 30 games. Brent Suter also has been effective with a 2-2 mark and 3.66 ERA in 19 games, including 11 starts. Jacob Barnes is 3-4, 4.29 with two saves. Taylor Williams (5.40 ERA in two appearances) and Aaron Wilkerson (scoreless inning in his debut on Friday) are the most recent call-ups. P.S. Northwest Mississippi Community College product Cody Reed notched his first career save for Cincinnati on Saturday, getting the last out against Pittsburgh. … Ex-State star Jonathan Holder has been recalled from the minors by the New York Yankees, who remain in the thick of the playoff race in the American League. Holder had a 1.69 ERA for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this season and has a 3.58 in 34 games for New York.

11 Sep

arms talks

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.

04 Sep

something different

The Billy Hamilton highlight reel, filled with daring stolen bases, ridiculous diving catches and great throws, added something new today: a walk-off home run. The Taylorsville High product swatted a Josh Hader fastball over the left-field wall at Great American Ballpark as Cincinnati beat Milwaukee 5-4. It was not only the first walk-off ever for Hamilton but his first right-handed homer of the season. The 160-pound leadoff batter and center fielder, who also picked up his 12th assist in the game, has four homers his season and 17 career bombs. “I’d rather throw a guy out than hit the big homer, but I’ll take both of them,” he told The Associated Press. On the season, he is batting .250 with 36 RBIs, 82 runs and an MLB-best 58 steals.