Today’s subject: Bobby Etheridge. Etheridge’s first start in the big leagues came on July 17, 1967, at Candlestick Park in San Francisco — and it was one to write home about. Batting second for the Giants – behind Southern Miss alum Jim Davenport – Greenville native Etheridge went 2-for-5, including a two-run ninth-inning triple in a 4-3 loss to the Chicago Cubs. Etheridge didn’t play a lot that year (40 games) on a team that included Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry, but he made enough of an impression that his 1968 Topps card included one of those sweet All-Star Rookie gold trophies. Etheridge played a year at Mississippi State and another at Mississippi Delta Junior College (where he helped win a state title) before entering pro ball in 1964. He played his last MLB game in 1969, finishing with a .244 career average. Etheridge played four more years in the minors, finishing up with Double-A Memphis in 1973. He spent the rest of his days back in Greenville, where he worked for Mississippi Marine. He died in 2015; the obit described him as “humble,” “a man of integrity” and “an avid hunter.” He could also play a little ball.
The high of his first career double, which drove home three runs, did not last for Chris Stratton. The Mississippi State alum, whose primary job is pitcher, gave all the runs back and more in the bottom of the same inning and took a loss as San Francisco fell to San Diego 8-4 on Wednesday night. It’s been a season of highs and lows – including two trips to the minors — for Stratton, now 10-10 with a 4.88 ERA. In his previous start, he threw a two-hit shutout against Colorado. The start before that he yielded four runs in five innings vs. Milwaukee. “That’s baseball. You have to battle with what you have that day,” the Tupelo native told mlb.com. … Ex-Southern Miss star Brian Dozier got a lift from his first RBI since Sept. 4, helping the Los Angeles Dodgers beat Colorado and tighten their grip on first place in the National League West. The scuffling Dozier is batting .218, .189 for the Dodgers. … Former State standout Adam Frazier hit his ninth homer and Meridian Community College product Corey Dickerson went 2-for-3 with a run as Pittsburgh beat Kansas City 2-1. Dickerson is on an 8-for-20 roll, lifting his average to .294, 12th in the NL. … Wednesday was a blend of high and low for Spencer Turnbull, the ex-Madison Central High star who made his first big league start for Detroit. After a clean first inning, he gave up four runs in the second inning and six all told in four innings of work against Minnesota, which won 8-2. “I’m sure I’ll get better from it,” Turnbull said in an mlb.com story. He was 24-21, 3.59 ERA in 90 starts in the minors. P.S. The 2016 Mississippi Braves’ roster included the likes of Ozzie Albies, Johan Camargo, Dansby Swanson, Sean Newcomb, A.J. Minter and Mallex Smith. It’s easy to forget that Willians Astudillo was also on that club – and batted .267 with four homers and 30 RBIs as one of the primary catchers. Astudillo is now getting a lot of attention in the big leagues with Minnesota. Nicknamed “El Tortuga” (The Turtle), the 5-foot-9, 225-pound Astudillo is hitting .317 with three homers and 14 RBIs for the Twins. He has hustled his way into several popular highlights.
There were two significant firsts involving former Magnolia State prep stars in the majors on Friday, one in San Francisco, the other in Cleveland. Start with Chris Stratton, the former Tupelo High (and Mississippi State) standout who threw his first big league shutout, leading the Giants past Colorado 2-0. And then there was Spencer Turnbull, the Madison Central alum who threw a 1-2-3 inning in his MLB debut for Detroit against the Indians. Stratton allowed just two hits and two walks with seven strikeouts against the powerful Rockies lineup. Now 10-9 with a 4.66 ERA, Stratton called it “one for the record books there for me.” The win against the National League West leader stopped an 11-game losing streak for the Giants, and they celebrated both that and Stratton’s gem on the field postgame. The Tigers also celebrated a win against a first-place club, and Turnbull played a key role, delivering a shutdown seventh inning after his club had taken a 4-2 lead in the top half. With a contingent of family and friends at Progressive Field, the 25-year-old right-hander retired Yan Gomes (by punchout), Jason Kipnis and Francisco Lindor. Detroit won 5-4 against the American League Central leader, which was denied a division-clinching victory. P.S. Baseball America has published a correction to its ranking of the states by pro players produced (see previous post). Mississippi still ranks fourth in players produced per 100,000 people, behind Florida, California and Georgia and ahead of the likes of Arizona, Louisiana, Alabama and Texas. BA’s original state population numbers were wrong, which threw off its ratios.
Tonight, for the third time in his last four starts, Chris Stratton will face a contending team as he goes to the mound for the fading San Francisco Giants, who have been out of the running for a while. The ex-Mississippi State star from Tupelo goes against the Colorado Rockies, who have won seven of their last 10 and lead the National League West race by 1.5 games over Los Angeles. Stratton (9-9, 4.99 ERA) beat Arizona, an NL West challenger, on Aug. 27 and lost to NL Central contender Milwaukee in his last outing on Sept. 8. Stratton has been up and down from the minors in what has been an erratic season for the 28-year-old right-hander. But since his last recall on Aug. 21, having made some mechanical changes, he has posted a 2.84 ERA. Less encouraging, however, are his numbers against the hard-hitting Rockies. Charlie Blackmon is 6-for-12 career with two homers vs. Stratton, Nolan Arenado 5-for-11 with two bombs, Ian Desmond 5-for-8, D.J. LeMahieu 4-for-8 with three RBIs, Trevor Story 5-for-9. At least the game is at the Giants’ AT&T Park, where the hits and homers are a little tougher to come by than at Coors Field. P.S. Former Madison Central High standout Spencer Turnbull, now on Detroit’s active roster, has yet to make his MLB debut (see previous post). Maybe it’ll happen tonight when the Tigers tackle Cleveland. … Stratton and Turnbull are among the 12 pitchers from Mississippi preps or colleges currently in The Show.
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.
Tim Anderson went 2-for-5 with a pair of RBIs on Monday night, but ESPN analysts Tim Kurkjian and Eduardo Perez were singing the praises of the shortstop’s defense during the network’s game coverage. The former East Central Community College standout made two highlight-worthy plays in the Chicago White Sox’s 6-2 win over the New York Yankees. On the first, he went deep into the hole and made a jump-and-throw play to nail the batter at first base. On the second, playing in with a runner at third, he short-hopped a hard-hit grounder and cut down the runner at the plate. Defense has been an issue for Anderson, a relative latecomer to baseball, during his three years in the big leagues. He made 28 errors in in 145 games in 2017. But, by all accounts, he is improving. He has just 15 errors in 125 games this year and reportedly is making more plays like the ones he pulled off Monday. “He’s growing and maturing,” Perez said. “He’s a great athlete learning to play baseball,” Kurkjian said. A basketball star in high school in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Anderson didn’t play baseball until his junior year. East Central was his only baseball scholarship offer. In his second year with the Warriors, he batted .495 with 10 homers and 41 steals for a state championship team and was named an NJCAA All-American. Intrigued by his raw skills, the White Sox drafted him 17th overall in 2013. There was speculation then that Anderson might have to move to center field in pro ball, but he has stuck at short. He is also making strides as an offensive threat; he’s at .249 with 17 homers, 58 RBIs and 25 steals in 2018. The White Sox have seen enough that they signed him last year through the 2022 season. P.S. Ex-Mississippi State star Chris Stratton threw a career-high eight innings on Monday as San Francisco shut out Arizona 2-0. Stratton (9-7, 4.99 ERA) allowed five hits, no walks and fanned six in his second straight quality start since returning from a second pit stop in the minors. … In recent MLB moves: Richton High alum JaCoby Jones has been activated from the disabled list by Detroit; Southern Miss product Cody Carroll was sent to the minors by Baltimore; former Ole Miss star Mike Mayers has landed on the DL for St. Louis; and UM alum Bobby Wahl is eligible to come off the DL for the New York Mets but there’s been no word on when that might happen.
Tweaks to his mechanics helped Chris Stratton post wins in his last two starts at Triple-A Sacramento. Tonight, the Mississippi State product from Tupelo gets to see if the changes pass muster in the big leagues. Stratton was recalled by the San Francisco Giants to start against the lowly New York Mets at CitiField. In his previous three big league appearances, Stratton allowed 17 runs in 10 innings. That precipitated a second trip to the minors this summer for the right-hander, who was in the Giants’ rotation to start the season. Though he hasn’t won a game in the majors since June 17, he still leads the San Francisco staff in victories. He is 8-7 with a 5.52 ERA in 20 games. The Giants are a sub-.500 club whose postseason hopes are hanging by a thread. A sweep of the current four-game series against the Mets is a virtual necessity – and a real possibility. The Mets, in their first year under Ole Miss alum Mickey Callaway, have been snake-bit, and not just by injuries. They handed the Giants the winning run on Monday when two fielders collided and a pop fly dropped. Shades of ’62.
Adam Frazier may have found his form, and his discovery comes at a good time. Former Mississippi State standout Frazier delivered a go-ahead RBI single in the eighth inning Friday night for Pittsburgh, capping a three-hit game in the Pirates’ 7-6 win against St. Louis. Frazier’s clutch knock came on a 101 mph sinker from Cardinals gas-thrower Jordan Hicks. “It says a little bit that I’m where I need to be if I can do that on him,” Frazier told mlb.com. Frazier hit .301 in 66 games as a rookie in 2016 and followed that with a strong 2017: .276, six homers, 53 RBIs, 55 runs, six triples, nine steals. But he struggled out of the gate this season and was sent to the minors in June. He made a brief return to the Bucs, went back to Triple-A Indianapolis again and then got another call on July 25. He has 10 hits since, lifting his average to .269 with three homers and 11 RBIs in 66 games. Frazier is a lefty hitter who can play practically anywhere, which, if he continues to produce at the plate, makes him a valuable piece for Pirates manager Clint Hurdle. The old Jackson Mets skipper has guided this overachieving club to 17 wins in its last 22 games and into the thick of the playoff chase in the National League. P.S. Still searching for his form is ex-State star Chris Stratton, whose return to San Francisco’s rotation on Friday did not go well. The right-hander from Tupelo allowed five runs in the first inning and six all told in three innings of work as the Giants fell to Arizona 6-3. After a good start this season — he was 6-3 through May — Stratton wobbled and wound up back in the minors for a stint. He has been knocked around in both appearances since his return and is now 8-7 with a 5.52 ERA. His spot in the rotation may be in jeopardy.
At first blush, it seemed a little strange. On July 7, San Francisco demoted the winningest pitcher on its staff. Former Mississippi State star Chris Stratton, sporting an 8-6 record for a club battling to stay in the playoff chase, was sent down to Triple-A Sacramento. The Giants needed a roster spot for Jeff Samardzija, coming off the disabled list. Giants manager Bruce Bochy said Stratton, who had been knocked around in his last two starts, needed to “catch his breath.” How’s that working out? Hard to tell. Stratton was scratched Wednesday night from what would have been his third start for Sacramento, and he isn’t scheduled for tonight. Could mean something’s up. He is 1-0 with a 4.91 ERA at Sacramento, his second outing having been much sharper than his first. In 38 big league appearances over the past three years, Stratton is 13-10 with a 4.41 ERA. P.S. A well-done article published in the Tupelo Daily Journal earlier this week featured the four former American Legion Tupelo 49ers who have played in the big leagues this season. Stratton, a Tupelo native, is among them, along with Mitch Moreland (Amory), Brian Dozier (Fulton) and Brandon Woodruff (Wheeler). All four were coached on the 49ers by former Tupelo High star Kirk Presley, whose promising pro career was curtailed by injury. Presley “was always such a good mentor,” Stratton told the Daily Journal. Moreland and Dozier were teammates on the 2004 49ers, and they’ll be on the same field this weekend when Boston hosts Minnesota.
Richard Hidalgo, Jackson Generals star of the mid-1990s, got some recognition today – his 43rd birthday – in a column on mlb.com by Joe Posnanski. Posnanski was highlighting “most surprising” major league seasons, of which Hidalgo had one in 2000. In his fourth MLB campaign, he batted .314 with 44 homers and 122 RBIs as Houston’s centerfielder, far and away the best year of a modest career. Hidalgo was a highly rated and impressive-looking Astros prospect when he played in Jackson in 1995 and ’96, hitting .280 with 28 homers over those two seasons. He could play the outfield, too, and throw and run. He spent nine years in the big leagues and finished with 171 bombs. As good as Hidalgo’s 2000 season was, it didn’t make Posnanski’s “most surprising” top 10. But former Jackson Mets star Kevin Mitchell’s 1989 season with San Francisco did. Mitchell, who played at Smith-Wills Stadium in 1983, hit .291 with 47 homers and 125 RBIs that year, winning National League MVP honors on a pennant-winning team that included Will Clark. (And, yes, that was also the year Mitchell made his famous over-the-shoulder, bare-handed catch.)