Hunter Renfroe’s reputation may have saved a game for San Diego on Saturday. Pittsburgh had the tying run at third base with no outs in the ninth inning but did not challenge the arm of the former Mississippi State standout on back-to-back fly balls to right field. Padres closer Brad Hand then ended the 4-3 game with a strikeout. On the second of the two fly balls to Renfroe, he smacked into the wall in foul territory while making the catch. Many in Petco Park seemed surprised the Pirates did not send Gregory Polanco from third base. “I know that I have a resume that I throw guys out … but in that case, I don’t know why they wouldn’t (run),” Renfroe told mlb.com. It would have taken a good — perhaps great — throw to get the runner. “If anybody’s got the arm strength to do, Hunter does,” Padres manager Andy Green said. Renfroe has two outfield assists this season and 12 in his big league career, nine coming in 2017 when he played more regularly. (He also has 14 errors all told, and he took a bad route on a fly ball hit by Polanco in the ninth that became an RBI triple.) Renfroe also has a reputation for tremendous power but has just four homers this season in 46 games. He went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts on Saturday and is at .252 for the season.
When a scout told Sports Illustrated before the season that Hunter Renfroe reminded him of Jethro Bodine, he meant it as a compliment. The 6-foot-1, 220-pound Renfroe, a country boy from Crystal Springs, has Jethro-type strength, and it was on full display Sunday in San Diego. The ex-Mississippi State star smashed a pinch-hit grand slam for the Padres, his first homer since he returned May 28 from a lengthy stay on the disabled list. The slam, which propelled the Padres to a 6-3 win against Cincinnati, hit high up on the Western Metal Supply Co. Building down the left-field line at Petco Park. Renfroe pointed down the line with his bat as the ball flew out and then made an impressive bat flip when it hit the wall. “I’m swinging the bat well now, just got to keep it going,” he told mlb.com. Renfroe was a regular much of last season, when he hit 26 bombs, but his strikeout numbers (140) raised questions and he entered 2018 battling for a job. Hitting just .200 with two homers when he went down with an elbow problem in mid-April, Renfroe is 7-for-14 since he came back from Triple-A El Paso. The Padres reportedly are encouraged. “Anybody that’s ever doubted him has probably learned not to doubt him,” Padres manager Andy Green said in an mlb.com article. P.S. Renfroe, who debuted in 2016, now has three career grand slams and 33 career homers. He has a ways to go to catch fellow Mississippians Brian Dozier and Mitch Moreland, who also went deep on Sunday in big games. Fulton’s Dozier, who hit his ninth of the year as Minnesota beat Cleveland, has 160 career, joining Bill Melton and Frank White in a tie for sixth on the all-time list of Mississippi natives. Amory’s Moreland hit his 10th in Boston’s win at Houston and now has 142 career, two shy of ninth-place Charlie Hayes.
Hunter Renfroe appears to have found his stroke at Triple-A El Paso, which could mean a return to San Diego is imminent. Renfroe, the ex-Mississippi State and Copiah Academy star, went 3-for-4 and belted two home runs on Wednesday in his seventh game with the Chihuahuas. With six hits in his past three games, Renfroe has raised his average from .118 to .276. Renfroe last played in game for the Padres on April 18. He went on the disabled list (right elbow inflammation) on April 21 and was shipped to El Paso on May 17. Renfroe hit .200 with two homers in 17 games in a platoon role for San Diego. Over parts of three MLB seasons, he is batting .238 with 32 homers. The last-place Padres (21-30) rank near the bottom of the National League in home runs. P.S. Another State product, Kendall Graveman, could also be returning to the big leagues soon, according to some reports. Graveman is 2-0 with a 5.00 ERA in three starts for Oakland’s Triple-A Nashville club. After a rough start with the A’s, the right-hander was sent down on April 26. He returned on May 11 and beat the New York Yankees but was sent back to Nashville a couple days later. He won his only start since.
In need of some good games, Hunter Renfroe, the ex-Mississippi State star now with the San Diego Padres, produced one on Saturday. Renfroe drove in a run with a sac fly, assisted on throwing a runner out at the plate and smacked a go-ahead home run in the seventh inning as the Padres beat San Francisco 5-4 before a sellout crowd at Petco Park. Renfroe, 1-for-3 with a walk on the day, lifted his average to .190. The Crystal Springs native has two homers and eight RBIs — seven in his last four games — for the 6-10 Padres. The club’s opening day right fielder in 2017, Renfroe made the roster as a reserve this spring. Injuries have given him more playing opportunities of late. “He’s battling hard up there right now,” San Diego manager Andy Green told mlb.com. Renfroe generated great expectations coming up in the Padres’ system and debuted late in 2016 with a .371 average and four homers in 11 games. Last year was one of ups and downs. He hit 26 homers but batted just .231 with 140 strikeouts in 445 at-bats. He was sent to the minors at one point for a few small repairs. The 6-foot-1, 220-pound Renfroe has tremendous power and can be an asset in the outfield with his strong throwing arm. He needs more games like Saturday’s to remain a part of the Padres’ future. P.S. Also in need of a good game was former State standout Kendall Gravemen, now with the Oakland A’s. He didn’t have one. The right-hander yielded five runs in four innings and took the loss as the A’s fell at Seattle 10-8. Graveman is 0-3 with a 9.87 ERA in four starts.
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.
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.
He’d surely much rather be in the big leagues, but Hunter Renfroe is doing something now that he wouldn’t be doing in San Diego: Chasing a championship. The ex-Mississippi State star, demoted by the Padres last month, has helped Triple-A El Paso reach the Pacific Coast League finals. He drove in the go-ahead run on Friday night as the Chihuahuas beat Reno 7-6 to complete a three-game sweep in the semifinals. In 14 regular season games for El Paso, Renfroe batted an eye-popping .509 with four homers, 18 RBIs and 18 runs. He went 3-for-12 with a homer and three RBIs in the Reno series. “Hunter came down here with a smile on his face, ready to play some baseball,” El Paso manager Rod Barajas told milb.com. Renfroe was hitting .230 with 20 homers for the Padres when he was sent down, ostensibly to work on making more contact. El Paso awaits the winner of the other PCL semifinal between Memphis and Colorado Springs. Former Ole Miss standout David Goforth pitches for Colorado Springs, a Milwaukee affiliate, and worked in Friday’s game, a 16-15 win that put the Sky Sox up 2-1 in the series. MSU product Dakota Hudson, one of St. Louis’ top prospects, got the win for the Redbirds on Wednesday night, allowing one earned run in six innings. P.S. In his first MLB appearance since July 31, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College alum Tony Sipp pitched a clean inning for Houston in its 9-8 loss to Oakland. Veteran left-hander Sipp, having a difficult year, has a 6.27 ERA. … Ex-Northwest Mississippi CC star Cody Reed made his first big league appearance since May 3, pitching an inning (one unearned run) for Cincinnati in a loss to the New York Mets.