Though it was widely assumed that Andrew McCutchen would take over in center field this season for San Francisco, it is being reported by ESPN that the Giants are interested in signing free agent Mississippian Jarrod Dyson and bumping the newly acquired McCutchen to a corner spot. Former Southwest Mississippi Community College standout Dyson is an outstanding defender who batted .251 with 28 steals for Seattle in 2017. … Having gone four years without a postseason at-bat in Cincinnati, Zack Cozart surely improved his chances of a 2018 playoff appearance by signing with the Los Angeles Angels as a free agent last month. As the Ole Miss product tells it (to mlb.com), “It’s tough to beat playing with Joey Votto, but now I’m going to the Angels and probably the best player in the world (Mike Trout) is on the team, and I played against Albert (Pujols) early on when he was on the Cardinals, so I know how good he can be.” Cozart will join fellow newcomers Shohei Ohtani and Ian Kinsler on a loaded Angels club that could challenge Houston in the American League West. … Drew Pomeranz, the former Ole Miss standout who won 17 games for Boston in 2017, avoided arbitration by agreeing to a 1-year, $8.5 million contract last week. Also signing pre-arbitration deals were former Taylorsville High star Billy Hamilton ($4.6M with Cincinnati) and Meridian Community College product Corey Dickerson ($5.9M with Tampa Bay). … Ex-Mississippi State standout Kendall Graveman has yet to reach an agreement with Oakland; he asked for $2.6M, the team offered $2.36M. … Columbia High product Ti’Quan Forbes is among a group of Chicago White Sox hitters gathered in Arizona this week for a mini-camp. Forbes, a second-round pick by Texas in 2014, was acquired by the ChiSox in a trade last summer. A 21-year-old third baseman/shortstop, Forbes is batting .242 for his pro career but hit 11 home runs in A-ball last season. … Worth noting (and reading): mlbtraderumors.com is now publishing installments of Tim Dillard’s “The Inner Monologue of @DimTillard.” The former Itawamba Community College star and onetime big leaguer, who is still an active pitcher in Milwaukee’s minor league system, is quite the entertaining fellow, as you’ll find from reading his posts. The hidden twinkies story is classic.
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.
Five years after he was drafted 20th overall out of Mississippi State, Chris Stratton is starting to look the part of a first-round pick. Stratton threw six shutout innings for the San Francisco Giants in a 2-0 win over Milwaukee on Monday and notched his second straight win over a contending club. The right-hander from Tupelo, who turns 27 today, beat Washington in his previous start, working 6 2/3 scoreless innings in that game. Overall, he has a 3.98 ERA in seven appearances (four starts) and is 2-2 with a save, which he worked four innings to achieve. Reports indicate the Giants haven’t settled on a role for Stratton, who pitched solely out of the bullpen in seven appearances in 2016. “Any opportunities that come my way, I’ll be ready for anything. If they send me back to the pen, I’ll still do the same thing: try to get out there and put up zeroes,” he told The (San Jose) Mercury News. Oddly enough, Monday’s star turn came five years to the day after Stratton was hit in the head by a batted ball during batting practice while in A-ball. He suffered a concussion that curtailed his rookie season. He progressed incrementally through the Giants’ system thereafter, reaching Triple-A in 2015 and getting his first big league look last year. His minor league numbers are 38-34, 4.07, working almost exclusively as a starter.
Chris Stratton, the ex-Mississippi State star from Tupelo, got knocked around early in his first big league start today but soldiered on for 6 2/3 innings in San Francisco’s 6-2 loss at Detroit. Stratton, making his third appearance this year and 10th of his career, was a late fill-in for Johnny Cueto, reportedly learning about an hour before the game that he was getting the ball at Comerica Park. He was touched for six hits and five runs in the first three innings; Ole Miss product Alex Presley had two hits and two RBIs for the Tigers. Stratton allowed just three baserunners thereafter. Though he was saddled with the loss for the last-place Giants (34-53), he likely earned some points with his 106-pitch effort. A first-round pick in 2012, when he was the SEC pitcher of the year for the Bulldogs, Stratton has had his ups and downs in the minors, posting a 37-34 record with a 4.11 ERA. He was 3-5, 5.71 in 12 starts at Triple-A Sacramento this season before coming up on Saturday for his second big league stint of this year.
It’s not often you run across the name of Hughie Critz in a story these days. The Starkville native last played a big league game in 1935. But ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, in a piece about Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton, notes a link between Critz and the current Cincinnati star. Hamilton, with 40 runs in 54 games, is on pace to score 109. His on-base percentage is .305. Since 1920, Crasnick writes, only two players — Tony Armas in 1984 and Critz in 1930 — have scored 105 runs or more in a season in which they had an OBP of .305 or lower. Critz, who started that 1930 season with the Reds and finished it with the New York Giants, scored 108 runs with an OBP of .292. The diminutive infielder had 172 hits and 30 walks, and he stole only eight bases. (Hamilton, probably the fastest player in the game today, has an MLB-best 28.) Not to diminish Critz’s accomplishment, but it should be noted that the 1930 season came at the height of a “lively ball” era that saw huge offensive numbers posted across the board. Critz spent most of that year with the Giants, who had three players you might have heard of – Bill Terry, Mel Ott and Fred Lindstrom – who drove in over 100 runs each and also scored 100-plus. Critz, a Mississippi A&M (State) alum, batted .268 with a .303 OBP over an outstanding 12-year career in which he scored 90 or more runs five times.
Chris Stratton, who could be vying a job in San Francisco’s rotation next spring, was razor sharp in his second Arizona Fall League start on Thursday. The ex-Mississippi State standout from Tupelo threw five shutout innings, yielding just three hits with no walks and six strikeouts. He has allowed just one run in nine innings over two starts for Scottsdale. A first-round pick by the Giants in 2012, Stratton got a look in the big leagues back in May, posting a 3.60 ERA in seven relief appearances. He has been a starter in his minor league career, going 12-6, 3.87 at Triple-A Sacramento in 2016 and 34-29, 3.92 for his career. Stratton’s stuff isn’t as overwhelming as it often was at State, but he is making it work. … Stratton’s mound opponent on Thursday was former Madison Central High star Spencer Turnbull, a Detroit prospect pitching for Salt River. He allowed four hits, three walks and three runs in three innings in a 4-1 loss. Turnbull’s 2016 season was curtailed by injuries; he went 1-1, 3.00 in six games at Class A Lakeland after going 11-3, 3.01 in low-A ball in 2015.
Anything that happens in the MLB playoffs that rekindles memories of the 1986 postseason has got to be pretty special. And it happened on Tuesday night. The Chicago Cubs’ comeback victory at San Francisco was the biggest in postseason-series clinching history, according to mlb.com. Down 5-2 in the ninth, the Cubs scored four times against the Giants’ tattered bullpen, surpassing what the New York Mets – a team loaded with former Jackson Mets – accomplished against Houston in the National League Championship Series 30 years ago. Davey Johnson’s Mets scored three runs in the top of the ninth to tie the Astros, then won the game and the series 7-6 in 16 innings. Ten former JaxMets played in that epic Game 6. Lenny Dykstra ignited the ninth inning rally with a leadoff triple, and Mookie Wilson knocked him in and later scored himself. Rick Aguilera and Roger McDowell combined for eight innings of scoreless relief, and Jesse Orosco, despite blowing a save in the 14th and yielding two runs in the 16th, nailed down the win by fanning Kevin Bass with two runners on. Ole Miss alum Jeff Calhoun came on in relief for the Astros in the 16th and yielded a hit, a walk and a run and threw two wild pitches during the three-run inning. That NLCS was a thrill ride from start to finish, and the World Series that followed was pretty interesting, too. P.S. Spotted in the Giants’ dugout on Tuesday: former Delta State standout Eli Whiteside, now a bullpen catcher for the club. Whiteside played for the Giants during their 2010 and 2012 championship runs and last played in the majors with the Cubs in 2014.