04 Oct

power of pen

Brandon Woodruff found a niche in Milwaukee this season, his second in the majors. The Mississippi State alum from Wheeler became one of the many bullpen pieces Brewers manager Craig Counsell relied on as the club churned toward the National League Central championship. There’s a good chance Woodruff will pitch today in Game 1 of the National League Division Series against Colorado. Much as Oakland did – without great success – in Wednesday’s American League Wild Card Game, Milwaukee is expected to throw a bevy of relievers at the Rockies. And brace for plenty of pitching changes as the series rolls on. That’s the Brewers’ M.O. — and the key to their chances in this postseason. As Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci writes: “This is the game today: a proliferation of relievers with powerful stuff, and managers armed with specific data on how best to deploy them. … And this October, nobody can play this game better than Milwaukee.” Woodruff made 19 appearances for the club, 15 out of the pen. He has a 3.61 ERA, a 3-0 record and one save. Over his last seven appearances, the 25-year-old right-hander had a 0.73 ERA with 16 strikeouts and three walks in 12 1/3 innings. Woodruff is one of a bunch of former Biloxi Shuckers pitchers — Corbin Burnes, Jacob Barnes, Freddy Peralta, Taylor Williams, Josh Hader – now populating the Milwaukee bullpen. P.S. Brian Dozier, the ex-Southern Miss star from Fulton, has played in one postseason game in his seven years in the big leagues. He has to be champing at the bit for his next opportunity, which could come tonight. Dozier isn’t expected to start for Los Angeles in the NLDS opener against Atlanta, but, despite his late-season offensive struggles, he’ll play at some point in the series. Dozier, possibly dealing with a sore knee, batted .182 with five home runs for the Dodgers after being acquired from Minnesota in July. He did homer on the last day of the regular season. And in that one postseason game, last year against the New York Yankees, he went 2-for-4 with a bomb.

13 Oct

gimme five

There are, most baseball aficionados agree, eight different ways to reach first base. In the crazy top of the fifth inning on Thursday night, the Chicago Cubs produced five of them – in a row — and went on to a 9-8 victory over Washington that sent them to the National League Championship Series. With two outs in the fifth, down 4-3, the Cubs did this: three straight hits (infield hit, single, double), intentional walk, dropped third strike (albeit controversial), catcher’s interference and hit batsman. All that was missing in the four-run inning was an error, a fielder’s choice and fielder’s obstruction. For the record, former Mississippi Braves Jason Heyward (the intentional walk) and Tommy LaStella (the catcher’s interference) were involved in the madness. P.S. Austin Riley, the ex-DeSoto Central High star and Atlanta prospect, went 3-for-5 with a home run (off Madison Central alum Spencer Turnbull) and four RBIs to pace Peoria to a 10-6 win against Mesa on Thursday in the Arizona Fall League. Turnbull, a Detroit prospect, worked 2 1/3 innings, yielding eight hits, a walk and seven runs (four earned) to take the loss.

09 Oct

a look back

Charlie Morton, Houston’s scheduled starter today in Game 4 of the American League Division Series at Boston, spent a largely forgettable season with the Mississippi Braves in 2007. The right-hander, then 23 years old and in his sixth pro season, appeared in 41 games, all but six in relief. He went 4-6 with a 4.29 ERA. He was 0-for-4 in save opportunities. But he got the start for the M-Braves in Game 2 of the Southern League South playoffs against Montgomery at Trustmark Park and delivered what might have been a career-altering performance: seven innings, three hits, one run, eight strikeouts. He made the big leagues the next year after a strong showing in Triple-A. Morton’s MLB career has been unspectacular – 60-78, 4.41 ERA – and stunted by injuries. But he found a footing with the Astros this season, going 14-7, 3.62. Today, at what could be a soggy Fenway Park, he gets his second MLB postseason start. Former M-Braves star Brian McCann (Class of 2005) likely will be the Astros’ catcher today. Waiting in the Boston bullpen, no doubt champing at the bit for a save opportunity, will be Craig Kimbrel, arguably the most dominant closer to pass through Pearl these last 13 years. Kimbrel was 6-for-6 in save opps with two wins and a 0.77 ERA in 12 games for the M-Braves in 2009. … Should there be a Game 4 in the Los Angeles-Arizona National League Division Series, former M-Braves standout Alex Wood is slated to start for the Dodgers. The lefty, a spectacular 16-3, 2.72 this season, went 4-2, 1.26 in 10 starts for the M-Braves in 2013 and made the big leagues that same year.