It started – and ended – with a Rebel vs. Bulldog confrontation. The worst start of Lance Lynn’s MLB career began on Saturday with a double off the bat of Adam Frazier. Former Mississippi State star Frazier would also be the last batter ex-Ole Miss standout Lynn would face in the first inning of the Pittsburgh-St. Louis game. In between Frazier’s two at-bats – the second resulted in a walk — the Pirates scored six runs. Lynn, who recorded just two outs, would be charged with eight runs all told in the inning and took the loss in the Pirates’ 11-6 victory. Lynn’s ERA jumped almost 40 points to 3.47; his record dipped to 11-8. What’s worse, the Cardinals fell behind Milwaukee in both the National League Central and wild card races. The Brewers’ 4-3 10-inning, walk-off win over the Chicago Cubs moved them 4.5 games back in the division and 1 back of Colorado for the second wild card. St. Louis is 5 back and 1.5 back in those races. In sum, it was a bad time for a bad start for the usually reliable Lynn, a pending free agent. P.S. Ex-State star Mitch Moreland’s 20th homer of the year propelled Boston to a 5-0 win against Cincinnati and closer to clinching the American League East. The New York Yankees clinched at least a wild card by beating Toronto 5-1 but remain 4 back of Boston in the division. … Southern Miss alum Brian Dozier’s leadoff “little league home run” – he circled the bases on a pair of errant throws – started Minnesota on its way to a 10-4 win over Detroit as the Twins kept a grip on the second wild card in the AL. Kansas City is now third, 4 games back.
A streak has been snapped in Bobby Bradley’s career. For the first time in four seasons in pro ball, the Gulfport native did not make Baseball America’s list of the Top 20 prospects in his league. Bradley, at age 21, batted .251 with 23 homers and 89 RBIs for Akron in the Double-A Eastern League. Not a bad year at all, but apparently there are questions, at least in the minds of some EL managers, about his plate discipline. As BA’s Josh Norris wrote in an online chat on Thursday: “There was a little bit of love for him, but nothing overwhelming. The power is there, but managers saw him as more of a mistake-type hitter than someone who belonged in the Top 20 in the league. There are holes in his swing, and he has work to do defensively as well.” Bradley, a lefty-hitting first baseman who was starring at Harrison Central a little more than three years ago, might use this “snub” as motivation as he heads into the Arizona Fall League, which starts next month. He’ll play for Glendale. Bradley is a career .261 hitter (.352 on-base percentage) with 87 homers. It’s worth noting, of course, that he is still rated No. 5 by BA on Cleveland’s prospect list and is No. 3 on MLB Pipeline’s list. He made the top 10 in the Arizona League, Midwest League and Carolina League on his way up the ladder, and he was the high-A Carolina League MVP in 2016. … Anthony Alford, the former Mr. Baseball from Petal, did make the EL Top 20, checking in at No. 9. Alford, who had a cup of coffee with Toronto in May, hit .302 with five homers, 24 RBIs and 18 steals in 245 at-bats for New Hampshire. The outfielder spent time on the disabled list with a wrist injury suffered shortly after he made his big league debut. … Former Mississippi State star Dakota Hudson, a St. Louis prospect, was No. 10 on the Texas League chart.
Crackle … buzzzz … crackle … We interrupt coverage of the heated major league races to take you to Memphis’ AutoZone Park, where, tonight, the Memphis Redbirds and El Paso Chihuahuas will open the best-of-5 Pacific Coast League Championship Series. Mississippians could play prominent roles. Dakota Hudson, former Mississippi State star, will start Game 1 for the Redbirds, a St. Louis affiliate, and he’ll likely face another ex-Bulldogs standout, Hunter Renfroe, an outfielder for the Chihuahuas, a San Diego farm club. Hudson was the Double-A Texas League pitcher of the year but scuffled a bit in Triple-A, going 1-1 with a 4.42 ERA in seven starts. He delivered a strong start in winning Game 1 of the PCL semifinals, yielding one run in six innings. Ole Miss product Mike Mayers works out of the Memphis bullpen. He had a 3.28 ERA in 31 games and made three scoreless appearances in the semifinal series. Renfroe, sent down by the Padres last month, hit .509 with four homers in 14 games in his return to El Paso, which he led to the PCL pennant in 2016. He had a homer and three RBIs in the Chihuahuas’ semifinal series sweep of Fresno. Renfroe should have some fond memories of AutoZone Park; he made his Triple-A debut there last summer and hit a home run, one of the 105 he has blasted in his five pro seasons.
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.
Sometimes, good isn’t good enough. Ole Miss product Lance Lynn went into Thursday’s game for St. Louis leading the majors with 21 starts in which he had given up two earned runs or fewer. He made it 22 with a six-inning outing against San Diego, allowing only one run. But it wasn’t good enough for a win. The Cardinals were shut out by Clayton Richard and three relievers and lost 3-0. “That’s just baseball sometimes …,” Lynn told The Associated Press. Lynn fell to 10-7 and the Cardinals to 72-68, 5 games back in the National League Central and 3 off the pace in the wild card chase. Lynn, who has a 2.94 ERA over his 29 starts, has risen to the occasion in what could prove to be a pivotal season in his career. He missed the 2016 MLB season following Tommy John surgery and will be a free agent after this season, his sixth in the big leagues, all with the Cardinals, who drafted him in the first round (supplemental) out of Ole Miss in 2008. Lynn was the subject of trade rumors in mid-July, but the Cardinals held on to him and the 30-year-old right-hander has helped the club stay in playoff contention. He is 3-1 with a 1.95 ERA – and seven no-decisions — since the All-Star break. In short, he’s been good — good enough that he’ll likely find no shortage of suitors in the off-season.
Spoiler. It’s not a role Zack Cozart, the ex-Ole Mis star, or any of his Cincinnati teammates want to be playing, but it’s where they are in mid-August. Buried in the cellar of the National League Central, the Reds (49-68) have a boatload of games left against the other four division teams, which are bunched within 3 games of each other in the division standings. Cozart in particular could be a major thorn in the side of those clubs. The starting shortstop for the NL All-Star team last month, he is having a career year and showing no signs of easing off on the gas. Since coming off a second stint on the disabled list last Sunday, Cozart is 9-for-26 with four home runs and seven RBIs. “I want to be playing and playing well the rest of the year,” he told mlb.com. “That’s the goal.” Overall, he is batting .316 with 16 homers (matching his career-best) and 46 RBIs. A pending free agent, Cozart has been the subject of trade rumors dating back to the off-season, but it doesn’t appear now that he’s going anywhere this season. That could be bad news for Milwaukee, which has seven games left with the Reds including today’s at Miller Park, the Chicago Cubs (10), St. Louis (six) and Pittsburgh (nine). … The Reds’ roster includes two other Mississippi-connected players, Taylorsville High alum Billy Hamilton and Ole Miss product Stuart Turner. Former Northwest Mississippi Community College star Cody Reed is pitching in Triple-A and could be added in September. P.S. Props to UM alum Drew Pomeranz, who notched his career-best 12th win – and fifth in a row – as Boston beat the New York Yankees 10-5 on Saturday. … Ex-Rebels star Chris Coghlan, who has been on Toronto’s DL for weeks, was designated for assignment, clouding the remainder of his year. … The Cardinals honored their 1987 pennant-winning team on Saturday (before beating hapless Atlanta) at Busch Stadium. Jackson native and Jackson State product Curtis Ford was a semi-regular outfielder on that club, which lost to Minnesota in the World Series.
The home run was big, but the single proved bigger for Bobby Bradley on Tuesday night. Bradley, the ex-Harrison Central High star, delivered a walk-off hit in the ninth inning for Akron in a 4-3 win against New Hampshire in the Double-A Eastern League. Bradley hit his 19th homer in the sixth, helping the Rubber Ducks rally from a 3-0 deficit. The lefty-hitting first baseman, 21, one of Cleveland’s highest-rated prospects, is batting .242 with 73 RBIs in his Double-A debut. Bradley has a .335 on-base percentage thanks in part to 49 walks, and he has cut down on strikeouts (95 in 364 at-bats) this year. He is slugging .456. A third-round pick by the Indians in 2014, he has blasted 83 homers in his four pro seasons. He’s getting close. … Former Petal High star Anthony Alford, one of Toronto’s top prospects, was in New Hampshire’s lineup and went 1-for-4. Alford, 23, batting .308 in his first Class AA campaign, got a cup of coffee in the majors earlier this season before an injury knocked him back to the minors. He’ll likely return to the Blue Jays next month. P.S. Former Ole Miss and Mississippi Braves standout Chris Ellis notched his second straight win for Springfield, St. Louis’ Double-A club in the Texas League, on Tuesday. Ellis, who scuffled at Triple-A Memphis to start 2017, is 4-6, 3.60 ERA at Springfield. … Mississippi State product Zac Houston recently was elevated from low-A to high-A ball in the Detroit system. The 6-foot-5 right-hander, a 2016 draftee, has thrown 2 2/3 scoreless innings in his two appearances for Lakeland, where he has joined fellow Mississippians Will Allen, Jake Robson and Spencer Turnbull.