29 Jun

missing out

While his Boston teammates are making the much-ballyhooed trip to London this weekend, Mitch Moreland is staying stateside. The Mississippi State alum remains on the injured list, recuperating from a quadriceps injury. He has been sidelined for all but one day since May 26. Moreland took live batting practice at Fenway Park this week and reportedly will head out on a rehab assignment soon. The Red Sox, the defending world champs, could certainly use Moreland’s bat (not to mention his glove at first base) as they try to chase down the New York Yankees in the American League East. When he initially went on the injured list with a back injury in late May, Moreland was leading the Red Sox in home runs with 13. He was activated on June 7, went 0-for-2 against Tampa Bay, then went back on the IL the next day with the quad injury. He is batting .225 (slugging .543) with 34 RBIs in 47 games. An All-Star in 2018, the injury woes have assured that Moreland won’t be going to Cleveland on July 9. P.S. Former Ole Miss standout Mike Mayers, on the IL (shoulder) since mid-April for St. Louis, has begun a rehab assignment at Triple-A Memphis. Mayers, in his fourth big league tour, had a 5.40 ERA in eight appearances for the Cardinals this season.

21 May

making ’em count

The numbers look a little strange. Mitch Moreland, the Mississippi State alum from Amory, has more home runs than singles in 42 games for Boston. “Mitchie 2-Bags” also has more homers than doubles. His batting average of .239 ranks as one of the lowest among the Red Sox’s regulars, and yet, with just 32 hits, he leads the team in homers with 12, is tied for the team lead in RBIs with 31 and ranks second in slugging percentage at .575. In short, he has been productive. And the team, after a sluggish start, is winning, which is what matters more than any of those other numbers. As Moreland told the Boston Globe in a recent article: “I wanted to go up there, get my pitch, and put a good swing on it. In this game, that is really all you can control. Whatever I’ve got to do to help the team win, I’m fine with.” In a 12-2 bashing of Toronto on Monday, Moreland went 3-for-5 with two doubles and three runs. He is batting .292 over his last 15 games with five homers, 16 RBIs and 12 runs. The BoSox, 10-2 in games in which Moreland has homered, are 25-22 overall, 12-5 in May, and 4½ games behind first-place New York in the American League East. After the Toronto series, they close out May with Houston, Cleveland and the Yankees. Moreland’s continued productivity could be huge in that stretch.

08 Apr

big bang

For Mitch Moreland, it was a milestone home run. For his Boston team, it was a lot more than that. Moreland, the former Mississippi State standout from Amory, blasted his 150th career homer on Sunday, a seventh-inning shot that lifted the Red Sox to a 1-0 win at Arizona in the finale of a brutal road trip. The defending world champs went 3-8 against Seattle, Oakland and the Diamondbacks. Their home opener is Tuesday vs. Toronto. “It’s going to be nice to get back home and get in front of our fans and get rolling,” Moreland told mlb.com. Unlike so many of his teammates, Moreland is off to a good start. He is batting .258 with club-leading numbers of three homers, nine RBIs and a .645 slugging percentage. Now in his 10th MLB campaign and third with Boston, Moreland made his first All-Star Game last year in addition to winning his first ring. He has 40 homers for Boston – plus one in last year’s World Series – plays a Gold Glove-caliber first base and has become a key part of an elite team. Moreland hit his first big league homer for Texas on Aug. 13, 2010, against Boston’s Josh Beckett. His 150 total puts him ninth on the career list of Mississippi natives; Bill Melton and Frank White are tied for seventh at 160.

28 Oct

yes, that was big

The ball traveled 437 feet into the right-field seats at Dodger Stadium. It left the bat at 110 mph, according to Statcast. The blast came with two outs and two on in the seventh inning and put the Boston Red Sox on the scoreboard for the first time in Game 4 of the World Series. Mitch Moreland’s pinch-hit home run on Saturday night was big in so many ways for the Red Sox, who erased a four-run deficit and beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 9-6 to move within one win of a championship. Amory native and ex-Mississippi State star Moreland, having a quiet Series to that point, said in a postgame interview on MLB Network that he went to the plate looking for a changeup from Ryan Madson. “I thought I’d sit on that and see what happens,” Moreland said in his genuine aw-shucks style. He got a changeup on the first pitch and crushed it. Suddenly, the Red Sox trailed just 4-3. “It kinda took a big hit to get us going,” Boston’s Brock Holt said in a TV interview. “That home run by Mitch was huge,” said teammate Xander Bogaerts. The homer was the fourth of Moreland’s postseason career, more than any other Mississippi native has hit. In his ninth MLB season, Moreland has played in 48 postseason games, batting .244 with 18 RBIs. This is his third World Series. The first two — in 2010 and ’11 with Texas — ended in disappointment. This one might turn out differently, and if it does, Red Sox Nation can look back on Moreland’s big homer as a big reason why.

25 Oct

gold rush

This could be the year. Billy Hamilton, for all the jaw-dropping plays he has made in center field these last five years, has not won a Gold Glove. The Taylorsville native and Cincinnati center fielder is among the finalists this year, as are Meridian Community College alum Corey Dickerson and former Mississippi State star Mitch Moreland. The nine winners from each of the two leagues will be announced on Nov. 4. The dash-fast Hamilton made 348 putouts this season – suffice it to say that’s a lot – registered 12 assists and committed just two errors. Dickerson, who played left field for Pittsburgh, also had an excellent year with the glove, making just one error with seven assists. Moreland, Boston’s first baseman, won a Gold Glove with Texas in 2016; he made two errors this year while handling 809 chances. Southern Miss product Brian Dozier took gold at second base with Minnesota in 2017 but did not make the list of finalists this year. Greenville natives Frank White and George Scott own the most Gold Gloves among Mississippians with eight apiece. White racked up his at second base with Kansas City back in the 1970s and ’80s. Scott earned his as a first baseman with Boston and Milwaukee in the ’60s and ’70s.

23 Oct

expectations

We should not expect much from the two Mississippi products in the 2018 World Series, according to one espn.com writer, who has offered a guide to each of the players on the Boston and Los Angeles rosters. The 50-player list was “loosely organized by how prominently each player should figure into his team’s hopes and plans.” Former Mississippi State star Mitch Moreland hit .245 with 16 homers and 58 RBIs for the Red Sox this season and is a Gold Glove-caliber first baseman. He was hindered by a hamstring injury early in the postseason. Brian Dozier, a Southern Miss alumnus, has played sparingly for the Dodgers in recent weeks, perhaps also bothered by the lingering effects of a knee injury. On the espn.com chart, Moreland was ranked No. 21, just ahead of Yasiel Puig and Nathan Eovaldi. And yet, the 33-year-old Moreland, an All-Star this summer, was described as “an old, slow first baseman with a low batting average and only moderate power, who costs enough money for it to count and offers little upside beyond what’s there.” Uh, OK. The writer’s assessment of Dozier was far less complimentary. He was ranked No. 50, making him, by extrapolation, the least impactful player in the World Series. An LA newspaper’s description of Dozier in July as a streaky hitter, the espn.com scribe writes, “looks darkly prescient, as Dozier had the worst month of his career in September (he hit .087/.189/.229) and has been demoted to the bench for all but one postseason game so far.” All that is true — but it’s also true that Dozier, 31, is a career .324 on-base guy with 172 homers and owns a Gold Glove at second base. Maybe Moreland and Dozier don’t exactly blow your hair back, but it seems foolish to underestimate either of these battle-tested veterans on baseball’s grandest stage. P.S. Moreland isn’t likely to start Game 1 tonight against Clayton Kershaw, one of many lefties the Dodgers can run out. Dozier very well could start against Chris Sale; he’s 12-for-47 career with three homers vs. the Red Sox left-hander.

19 Oct

he’s back

Mitch Moreland was back in the starting lineup for Boston on Thursday and now he’s back in the World Series – for a third time – after the Red Sox dispatched Houston 4-1 in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series. The Mississippi State alumnus, who had been limited by a hamstring injury since Game 2 of the ALDS, went 2-for-4 and was on base when Rafael Devers smacked his huge three-run homer off Justin Verlander in the sixth inning. Moreland is 4-for-9 this postseason and carries a .252 career postseason average – with three homers, 15 RBIs and 14 runs – over 44 games. He has appeared in the postseason in seven of his nine pro seasons, going back to his rookie year of 2010 with Texas, which lost in the World Series to San Francisco. Moreland went 6-for-13 in that Series, then 1-for-10 the next year as the Rangers fell to St. Louis. Boston has had Mississippi natives on several of its World Series teams – Boo Ferriss in 1946, George Scott and Dalton Jones in 1967, Oil Can Boyd in 1986 – but never on one of its championship teams. Amory native Moreland will be out to change that.

21 Sep

party on …

Mitch Moreland has done quite a bit of celebrating in his big league career. The Amory native and ex-Mississippi State star was on the field at Yankee Stadium on Thursday night when Boston clinched the American League East with a rollicking 11-6 victory over New York. In his nine MLB seasons, Moreland has had a hand in six division championships, four with Texas and the last two with the Red Sox. He was also on the Rangers’ wild card team in 2012. Moreland is batting .243 with 15 homers and 67 RBIs this season. After making his first All-Star Game in July, he has struggled much of the second half and lost playing time at first base to Steve Pearce. But Moreland’s superior defense will get him into games, and his postseason experience (37 games) is also valuable. He hit .385 in Boston’s division series loss to Houston in 2017. Moreland has played in two World Series – with Texas in 2010 and ’11 – but is yet to win a ring. That could change this fall. P.S. Former Northwest Mississippi Community College standout Cody Reed threw six shutout innings for Cincinnati to get his first win as a big league starter (see previous post). He allowed five hits, no walks and punched out six Miami batters. Lefty Reed, who threw five scoreless innings in his previous start, is 1-2 with a 3.66 ERA in 16 games (six starts) this season.

10 Sep

celebrate, celebrate

Of the 93 hits Mitch Moreland has this season, No. 93 on Sunday night might have been one of the least well-struck. Still, it set off a mad celebration at Fenway Park. Mississippi State product Moreland sliced an opposite-field flare into left field, scoring a runner from second base with two outs in the ninth and giving Boston a 6-5 win over Houston in a battle of American League juggernauts. “Yeah, I mean, I’ll take it every time,” Moreland, who has been battling a slump, said in an mlb.com story. Moreland, an All-Star this summer, is hitting just .200 over his last 30 games. For the year, the lefty-hitting first baseman is at .251 with 15 homers and 67 RBIs. Nicknamed “2 Bags” last year for his knack of smacking doubles, Moreland has 40 extra-base hits and is slugging .450. The win was Boston’s 98th of the year, its seventh walk-off, and salvaged the third game of the series against the Astros. … Meanwhile, in Wappingers Falls, N.Y., another ex-Bulldogs star got mobbed on Sunday after registering a three-pitch save that secured the New York-Penn League championship. Jacob Billingsley, a 32nd-round pick out of State in June, closed out Tri-City’s 4-2 victory over Hudson Valley in the short-season Class A circuit. “That was fun. Man, that was fun,” Billingsley told milb.com. “It means everything to a lot of these guys.” Billingsley pitched in nine games for the Astros affiliate and posted a 5.63 ERA (inflated by one bad outing) with one save. The 24-year-old right-hander entered Sunday’s contest – Game 2 of the best-of-3 – in the 12th inning with the bases loaded and two outs. He induced a fly ball with his third pitch to set off the ValleyCats’ celebration.

08 Aug

heady times

Mitch Moreland is caught up in the middle of something special. Moreland, the Mississippi State alum from Amory, hit a key home run on Tuesday night to help Boston repel Toronto 10-7 in a wild 10-inning affair. It was the Red Sox’s 80th win of the year; that’s seven more than the next best total. They swept the rival New York Yankees four straight over the weekend. They’re on a 24-5 roll. There’s even buzz about them threatening Seattle’s 2001 record of 116 wins. “Yeah, we’re pretty good,” Moreland said in his typically understated manner in an mlb.com story. His decision to re-sign with the Red Sox as a free agent in the off-season is shaping up as a brilliant career move. He has delivered 14 homers and 55 RBIs as part of a lineup stacked with All-Stars, himself included. And consider that the Red Sox have achieved these heights with little contribution from ex-Ole Miss star Drew Pomeranz, a 17-game winner in 2017 who has one victory this season. He started Tuesday’s game and lasted just 4 2/3 innings, yielding two runs. His ERA is 6.31. “We need this guy,” manager Alex Cora told mlb.com. “This guy is very important to us for what we want to try to accomplish, so we’ll keep working at it.” P.S. Former State standout Hunter Renfroe went deep for San Diego, his 10th of the year and 40th of his career. He is hitting .297 with three homers in his last seven games.