Bullpens for contending teams come under extreme scrutiny in September. Crucial situations abound. To wit: At SunTrust Park in Atlanta on Monday night, Dakota Hudson, pitching for St. Louis, faced a few and survived, if a little bloodied. The former Mississippi State star entered the game in the sixth inning with two runners on, one out and the Cardinals up four. Hudson retired the two batters he faced. Both the inherited runners scored, but the runs were unearned because of throwing errors. Hudson got the first two Braves batters in the seventh but then yielded three straight hits and a run that pulled Atlanta within 6-5. Cardinals manager Mike Shildt struck with the rookie right-hander, and he struck out Johan Camargo to end the inning. Hudson got a hold, his 10th (to go with four wins) in 21 appearances, as the Cardinals rolled on to an 11-6 win, keeping pace in the National League Central and a grip on the second wild card. … Flash to Minute Maid Park in Houston: Pascagoula native Tony Sipp, pitching for the Astros, entered in the seventh with his club up 1-0 on Seattle. Sipp, very effective this year as a situational reliever, got a strikeout and a ground out sandwiched around a walk but was lifted after allowing a single. Ryan Pressley bailed Sipp out — the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College alum actually was credited with a hold — but the Astros went on to lose 4-1 when Hector Rondon gave up an eighth-inning grand slam to Daniel Vogelbach. Houston’s lead in the American League West dipped to 4 games over Oakland. … At Miller Park in Milwaukee, MSU product Brandon Woodruff got the ball in the seventh inning with a nice cushion, the Brewers leading Cincinnati 8-0. Still, the former Wheeler High star made the most of the opportunity, delivering three scoreless innings for his first MLB save. He now has a 3.99 ERA (and three W’s) in 16 games for the Brewers, who lead the NL wild card standings and lurk just 2.5 games behind the Chicago Cubs in the Central Division.
Boston will be in the playoffs, but it’s highly questionable whether Ole Miss product Drew Pomeranz will be there. The left-hander, who lost his job in the Red Sox’s rotation earlier this season, has been erratic working out of the bullpen. He yielded three hits and two runs in 1 2/3 innings against the New York Mets on Sunday, almost squandering a 3-0 lead in the sixth inning. His ERA rose to 6.17, roughly three runs higher than his 2017 number. He has allowed 22 baserunners in his last 13 2/3 innings. Hard to see Pomeranz being summoned in a clutch situation. … If the New York Yankees survive the American League wild card showdown, it’ll be interesting to see if Lance Lynn, another ex-UM star, makes their rotation for the divisional round. Lynn, added in a July trade, is 2-2 with a 4.47 ERA in nine games for the Yanks. He allowed one run on three hits against Toronto on Sunday but lasted just five innings. He got a no-decision in a game the club lost 3-2. In the pecking order of pinstriped starting pitchers, Lynn likely stands behind Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ and CC Sabathia. … Playing the role of spoiler in the National League Central, Corey Dickerson was practically a one-man wrecking crew against Milwaukee on Sunday. The former Meridian Community College star had a hand in each of Pittsburgh’s runs in a 3-2 victory that stung the Brewers, who are trying to chase down Chicago in the division. Dickerson went 3-for-4 with two runs and an RBI for the Pirates. They took two of three from Milwaukee over the weekend, dropping the Brewers 2.5 games behind the Cubs. The Pirates have three games left with Milwaukee and four with Chicago. Dickerson is hitting .293 on the year, and the RBI on Sunday was his 50th. In his sixth big league season and with his third team, he hasn’t seen the postseason.
It went in the box score as a hold (H, 20 to be precise), but that designation doesn’t do justice to what former Biloxi Shuckers star Josh Hader did for Milwaukee on Monday night. In a huge game at Wrigley Field, Hader struck out all six batters he faced in the seventh and eighth innings, preserving the Brewers’ one-run lead in what ended as a 3-2 win against the Chicago Cubs. The Brewers cut the Cubs’ lead in the National League Central to 1 game heading into tonight’s contest, the second of the three-game set. In the eighth inning, Hader cut down Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez. That’s big time. A lefty with vicious stuff, Hader now has 127 punchouts, a Brewers record for relievers. “To have any type of record is a great feeling,” he told mlb.com. Hader pitched, as a starter, in Biloxi in 2015 and ’16. In the latter season he gave a preview of what was to come in The Show, posting a 0.95 ERA with 73 strikeouts in 57 innings. … In San Francisco, the fingerprints of former Mississippi Braves were all over Atlanta’s 4-1 win against the Giants, which moved the Braves 5 games ahead of Philadelphia atop the NL East. Ozzie Albies went 2-for-4 (with a triple) and scored twice, driven in both times by Dansby Swanson (sac fly, squeeze bunt). More significant perhaps was the pitching of three left-handers, all M-Braves alums. Sean Newcomb worked six innings for the W, moving to 12-8 with a 3.82 ERA. Jonny Venters tossed a scoreless eighth inning for his 12th hold, and A.J. Minter closed it out for his 14th save. Though he has had some notable hiccups, his ERA is now 3.36. Minter was in Mississippi in 2016 and ’17, pitching mostly in middle relief. He had only two saves in his minor league career.
The Mississippi Braves started their 2018 season with a win in April and ended it with a win on Labor Day. But there weren’t enough W’s in between for the Double-A club, in its 14th season in Pearl, to make the Southern League playoffs. A late run in the second half came up short of what would have been a fifth playoff appearance. Managed by Jackson native Chris Maloney, the M-Braves finished 67-71 overall. A bunch of prospects appeared on the roster: 13 of Atlanta’s Top 30 as rated by MLB Pipeline, five of the top seven. Most came and went quickly. Pitching once again was the M-Braves’ calling card. The team finished second in the SL in ERA, allowed the fewest homers and ranked fourth in strikeouts. Touki Toussaint, Bryse Wilson, Kyle Wright and Ian Anderson, among others, took star turns on the bump. But Trustmark Park can be tough on hitters, and they didn’t hit well on the road, either, which is a bad combination. The M-Braves’ .308 on-base percentage ranked 10th — last — in the league, as did their home run total. They were ninth in runs. Luis Valenzuela, at .282, was the only M-Braves batter to rank in the league’s top 20 in batting average. Travis Demeritte had the most interesting numbers: 17 homers, 22 doubles, 63 RBIs with a .222 average and 140 strikeouts. Tyler Marlette, Tyler Neslony and Ray-Patrick Didder had some moments. Cristian Pache, a top 10 prospect added late in the season, showed promise and might be a centerpiece of the 2019 team. … Meanwhile, Biloxi has enjoyed a big year, sweeping both halves in the SL South and claiming the MVP, pitcher and manager of the year awards. The Milwaukee-affiliated Shuckers, managed by Mike Guerrero, are slated to host Pensacola tonight at MGM Park in Game 1 of the South Division Series. Corey Ray, who led the league in homers and steals, was the MVP, and Zack Brown, the ERA champ, was voted top pitcher. If there were a closer of the year award, Nate Griep (34 saves) would’ve won it.
The headlines went to Christian Yelich, who provided the offense for Milwaukee on Sunday. A less-heralded but no less important role was played by Mississippi State alum Brandon Woodruff, whose relief work helped the Brewers beat Washington 9-4. “This is Brandon Woodruff’s game,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell told mlb.com. “(T)o deliver four innings of scoreless relief in that situation is absolutely huge.” Woodruff, making his first big league appearance since July 23, came on in the fourth inning with the Brewers trailing and held the Nationals to three hits with five strikeouts through the seventh. A seven-run fifth inning, highlighted by a Yelich grand slam, put Milwaukee in charge. Combined with St. Louis’ loss to Cincinnati, the win puts the Brewers back on top in the National League wild card standings. Woodruff is 3-0 with a 4.24 ERA in 13 games with Milwaukee this season. He was 3-2, 4.04 working primarily as a starter at Triple-A Colorado Springs. He could be a valuable piece for the Brewers in the heat of this playoff chase. … The New York Yankees, leading the American League wild card race, were hoping for better stuff from ex-Ole Miss star Lance Lynn than they’ve gotten of late. Lynn was KO’d in the fourth inning — by a two-run double by Richton High alum JaCoby Jones — and wound up taking the loss in an 11-7 defeat against Detroit at Yankee Stadium. Lynn was charged with six runs in 3 2/3 innings. Acquired from Minnesota in a July trade, the big right-hander is 1-2 with a 5.09 ERA in his seven games with the Yankees. The Yanks head to Oakland, No. 2 in the wild card standings, for a three-game series beginning today. P.S. Former State star Chris Stratton, whose San Francisco club has waved a white flag on the postseason, pitched well on Sunday: three hits, two runs in six innings. But he was up against the New York Mets’ Noah Syndergaard, who tossed a complete game and beat the Giants 4-1. Stratton is 9-8, 4.90.
Mississippi-connected pitchers were in the MLB news on Tuesday. And much of the news wasn’t good. Drew Pomeranz, the former Ole Miss star, came off the disabled list to make his first start for Boston since May 31. He lost. Mississippi State alum Brandon Woodruff, who has been on the elevator between Milwaukee and Triple-A Colorado Springs this season, went down again. For ex-State standout Kendall Graveman, the news was far worse. Oakland announced that Graveman will have Tommy John surgery, which could mean he’ll miss all of 2019. “It’s going to take him a little while to get back,” A’s manager Bob Melvin told mlb.com. “So we’re all feeling that a little today.” Then there’s Southern Miss product Cody Carroll, who was among the three minor leaguers traded by the New York Yankees to Baltimore for Zach Britton. For Carroll, who has been pitching very well at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, the move from the powerhouse Yankees to the moribund Orioles might mean a clearer path to the big leagues. So there’s that. … Pomeranz allowed six hits – two homers – two walks and four runs in 4 2/3 innings vs. Baltimore and fell to 1-4, 6.91 in nine starts for the Red Sox. He did not seem discouraged. “Literally two bad pitches, so that’s about it,” he told mlb.com. … Woodruff has a 4.80 ERA in 12 games with the Brewers. Optioned out for the fifth time in 2018, he’ll no doubt be back with the big club soon. … Graveman was 1-5, 7.60 for the A’s this year and was demoted to Triple-A Nashville in late April. He made four Triple-A starts before being shut down in late May. … Carroll, in his fourth pro season, was rated the No. 15 prospect in the Yankees’ system. He was 3-0 with nine saves and a 2.38 ERA at SWB and over his last 10 games had a 0.82 ERA and four saves. He might get a look with the O’s before season’s end.
Billy Hamilton of the Cincinnati Reds pulled off another Spider-Man act on Friday night, scaling the center-field wall at Busch Stadium to steal a home run from a St. Louis batter. But as jaw-dropping as the Taylorsville High product’s snag was, it might not have been the most stunning highlight from a Mississippian in the majors on this particular night. Brandon Woodruff, the ex-Mississippi State star from Wheeler, a pitcher for Milwaukee, crushed — yes, crushed — a home run into the right-field seats at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park. It was the first career homer for Woodruff, a righty who bats lefty. Just called back up — for the fifth time in 2018 — from Triple-A Colorado Springs, Woodruff also threw three scoreless innings in middle relief as the first-place Brewers fell to the Pirates 7-3.