16 Sep

on center stage

If you can watch/listen to only one game tonight, make it Washington-St. Louis at Busch Stadium. Former Mississippi State star Dakota Hudson (15-7, 3.38 ERA) leads the Cardinals against Stephen Strasburg (17-6, 3.49) and the Nationals in a game that means a lot to a lot of teams. St. Louis (83-66) leads the National League Central by 2 games over Chicago, which is second in the wild card standings to Washington (82-66). Milwaukee is still in the thick of the Central and wild card races, as well, and New York, Philadelphia and even Arizona aren’t yet toast. Hudson, a ground-ball machine, has had a great season. Still classified as a rookie, the 24-year-old right-hander is 5-1, 1.70 over his last seven starts; the lone loss came last week at Colorado. No Nationals batter has more than four at-bats against Hudson, and none has more than one hit. Southern Miss product Brian Dozier, a Nationals second baseman, is 0-for-4 vs. Hudson.

05 Sep

watch for it

Riding a hot hand, Washington manager Dave Martinez has been giving more playing time to Asdrubal Cabrera at second base, relegating Southern Miss product Brian Dozier to spot duty. Cabrera had started the last three games, but for tonight’s contest at Atlanta, the opener of a huge four-game series between the top two teams in the National League East, Dozier is back in the lineup. Left-hander Max Fried (15-4), a Mississippi Braves alumnus, is slated to start for the Braves; Stephen Strasburg (16-5, 3-0 vs. the Braves in 2019) goes for Washington. Dozier has been the Nats’ regular second baseman most of the season after signing as a free agent late last year, but he last started a game on Aug. 31. (Howie Kendrick got a start on Sept. 1.) Dozier, 32, coming off a disappointing finish to his 2018 season, is batting .236 with 19 homers and 45 RBIs for Washington. He will be a free agent again after this season. Veteran switch-hitter Cabrera, signed last month after being released by Texas, is batting .324 with three homers and 23 RBIs in 20 games with the Nationals. … Watch for ex-Ole Miss star and Nats reliever Aaron Barrett (see previous posts) to make his first MLB appearance in over four years during this series.

04 Sep

big league chew

The long road back for Aaron Barrett is almost complete. The former Ole Miss standout, who missed two full seasons with injuries, including a broken elbow, was added to Washington’s major league roster on Tuesday. His 2019 debut will be his first MLB appearance since Aug. 5, 2015. Barrett, 31, pitched at Double-A Harrisburg this season, earning Eastern League All-Star honors. His manager, Matt LeCroy, broke down in tears when he announced to the team that Barrett was returning to the big leagues. Barrett had a 3.47 ERA in 90 games for the Nationals in 2014-15. … Barrett was not in Washington for the Nationals’ insane 11-10 win against the New York Mets, who scored five runs in the top of the ninth and then allowed seven in the bottom half. Ex-UM pitcher Mickey Callaway, the Mets’ manager, tried to keep yet another gut-wrenching loss in perspective for his wild card-contending club. “We’ve had to digest several, and you’ve got to come out tomorrow and win the series,” he told northjersey.com. … Former Petal High star Anthony Alford, back with Toronto as a September call-up, struck out as a pinch hitter in the Blue Jays’ loss to Atlanta. Alford, once a highly touted prospect, has three hits in 31 MLB at-bats spread of three seasons. He batted .259 with seven homers at Triple-A Buffalo this season. … In 12 games since he joined the Braves as a waiver claim, Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton is 6-for-18 with three walks (.429 on-base percentage), four runs, two RBIs and three steals. He has also played flawlessly in center field. … Corey Dickerson, the Meridian Community College product from McComb, drove in another run in a Philadelphia victory on Tuesday, giving him 26 RBIs in 26 games since he was acquired in a deadline trade. … Former Mississippi State star Adam Frazier went 3-for-4 with his ninth homer for Pittsburgh and is hitting .362 over his last 15 games.

19 Aug

join the crowd

Brian Dozier did not contribute to Washington’s 18-hit, 14-run barrage in a 14-inning loss to Milwaukee on Saturday night, going 0-for-1 as a pinch hitter. Maybe he felt a little left out. On Sunday, the ex-Southern Miss star started at second base and made quite an impact. Dozier went 3-for-4 with two of the Nationals’ eight home runs plus a season-high four RBIs in a 16-8 victory against the Brewers, the Nats’ sixth win in the last seven games. Dozier said in a TV interview that he felt energized by the way his teammates were swinging the bats; they had 19 hits all told on Sunday. “You kind of want to join the crowd,” he said. A free agent signee in the off-season, Dozier has struggled at times this year. His .236 average is about 10 points below his career mark coming into 2019. He had only two homers this month before Sunday’s outburst. He now has 19 on the year, one shy of reaching 20 for the sixth straight season. He has 191 career homers; only four Mississippi natives have topped 200 career bombs in the big leagues. And he went over 1,000 career hits earlier this year. As the Nationals chase a playoff berth – they’re 5.5 games out in the National League East and lead the wild card race – they can probably count on Dozier, now an eight-year veteran, to step up in some big moments. P.S. The Brewers, also in the NL playoff hunt, surely are missing Brandon Woodruff, their All-Star starter out of Wheeler High and Mississippi State. Woodruff (11-3, 3.75 ERA) has been out since July 22 with an oblique injury. He reportedly has resumed throwing and could return next month.

29 Jul

party crashers

Dakota Hudson celebrated the anniversary of his big league debut on Sunday in St. Louis, but the Houston Astros crashed the party. Hudson, the former Mississippi State standout, was knocked around for five runs on eight hits in four innings as the Astros claimed a 6-2 victory over the Cardinals in an interleague matchup of division leaders. A sinkerball pitcher who typically gets a lot of ground balls, Hudson relied more on sliders Sunday, according to reports, and gave up three home runs. “I felt like I had good execution, they just got to a few pitches,” he told mlb.com. Hudson had won his four previous starts in July and is now 10-5 with a 3.88 ERA for a Cardinals club that dropped into a first-place tie with Chicago in the National League Central. The Cardinals host the Cubs for a compelling three-game series starting on Tuesday. On July 28, 2018, a little over two years after signing with St. Louis as a first-round draftee, Hudson threw a perfect inning in relief against the Cubs, registering two strikeouts. P.S. Southern Miss product Brian Dozier went 2-for-3 with two RBIs and two runs to help Washington and ace Stephen Strasburg beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 11-4. Dozier’s 15th homer of the year, a two-run shot, came in the fifth inning off Walker Buehler and put the Nationals ahead 2-1. Washington, 5.5 games back of Atlanta in the NL East, hosts the Braves in a big three-game series starting today.

25 Jul

quiet contributor

He came in from the bullpen in the seventh inning of a 1-0 game with a runner on and two outs. He struck out the batter, the only one he would face. His team, the Washington Nationals, went on to win 2-0 over Colorado in Game 2 of a twinbill. Tony Sipp, the former Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College star from Pascagoula, did his job Wednesday. Again. He’s a situational reliever, typically called on just to get one or two hitters. It’s not a job that warrants many headlines, but Sipp has been good at it this season, especially so over the last couple months. The 36-year-old lefty has posted eight straight scoreless appearances. He has yielded just one run in his last 13 games. He has been a quiet contributor for a Nationals club that has won 35 of its last 50 and pulled within 4 games of first-place Atlanta in the National League East. For the season, Sipp has eight holds and a 3.79 ERA – inflated by some early scuffles – in 19 innings spread over 33 appearances. A former 45th-round pick out of Clemson, Sipp is in his 11th big league season. He signed a one-year, $1.25 million deal with Washington as a free agent in March. The Nationals, who have had their share of bullpen issues this season, surely feel they are getting their money’s worth from Sipp.

20 Jun

bang for the buck

As the Washington Nationals try to stay relevant in the National League East race, they’ve been getting a lot of production of late from a certain free agent signee. Over his last 15 games, he’s batting .327 with five homers and 12 RBIs. He homered in both games of a Wednesday doubleheader and drove in four runs as the Nationals swept Philadelphia to get to 35-38. Brian Dozier, the former Southern Miss star, has overcome a slow start with his new team to raise his average to .235. He’s got 12 homers, 28 RBIs and 28 runs. Dozier, who finished 2018 with the Los Angeles Dodgers, signed a one-year, $9 million deal with the Nationals, who are starting to get some bang for those bucks. For comparison sake, the marquee free agent who left Washington and signed with Philadelphia for 13 years and $330 million is in the throes of wicked slump. Bryce Harper, who went 0-for-4 in Wednesday’s twinbill, is hitting .208 with one homer in his last 15 games for a skidding Phillies team that has fallen to 39-34 and 4 games back of Atlanta in the NL East. Harper is batting .243 with 12 homers and 49 RBIs and is third in the NL in strikeouts with 91. (To be fair, he’s tied for second in walks with 47.) He’s even getting booed at home games. Philadelphia brass may not be feeling buyer’s remorse just yet, but they certainly aren’t getting the bang for the buck they expected. … Dozier’s 12th homer of the year accounted for one of the two runs the Nationals scored in a 2-0 win in Wednesday’s second game, the highlight of which was Max Scherzer’s seven brilliant innings the day after suffering a broken nose. “That’s why you put him in the category of one of the best, if not the best, in the game, the best of our generation,” Dozier told mlb.com.

24 May

here and there

Pearl River Community College takes the No. 1 seed into its NJCAA Division II World Series opener on Sunday at Enid, Okla. The Wildcats also take power bats and arms. Five Wildcats have nine or more homers: Dexter Jordan 18, Kasey Donaldson 13, Wiley Cleland and Reece Ewing 11 and Austen Izzio nine. Starting pitchers Shemar Page (7-1) and Miles Smith (8-3) have punchout stuff, Page averaging 10.13 strikeouts per nine innings, Smith 9.80. All of these players, save for Ewing, are Mississippi kids. … The Mississippi Braves have trotted out a new shortstop in the first two games of the current homestand, with recent addition Riley Unroe replacing the slumping Ray-Patrick Didder, who is hitting .123. Unroe, a minor league veteran taken in the Rule 5 draft by Atlanta in the off-season, was batting .304 at Class A Florida when promoted last week to the Double-A M-Braves, who are limping along at 21-24. Tonight at Trustmark Park, right-hander Jasseel De La Cruz is slated for his M-Braves debut. He threw a no-hitter for Florida on Saturday and was 3-1, 1.93 ERA for the Fire Frogs. … Austin Riley’s numbers through nine games in the big leagues are off-the-charts good: .389, five homers, 12 RBIs, eight runs, .833 slugging percentage. Atlanta’s record since the former DeSoto Central High star arrived: 7-2. Looks like he’ll be sticking around. … Seems like only yesterday – actually, it was Sunday – when the rumors were rampant that Mickey Callaway was going to be fired as manager of the New York Mets. The ex-Ole Miss star had just watched his club lose three straight to woeful Miami. The Mets went home and promptly beat Washington four straight, turning Nationals manager Dave Martinez’s chair considerably hotter. “He’s a hell of a manager,” Southern Miss product Brian Dozier, in his first year in Washington, said in an mlb.com story. “I got his back any day.” The Nats, with their huge payroll, are 19-31. … Things are also tough in Detroit, where former Jackson Met Ron Gardenhire’s Tigers just finished an 0-9 homestand to fall to 18-29. Said Gardenhire: “We have to stick together. We have to have each other’s backs.” Gardenhire has stuck with JaCoby Jones in center field; the Richton High alum is batting .173.

22 May

comeback roads

Bradley Roney, the former Southern Miss standout who reached Triple-A in 2016 in Atlanta’s system, pitched in an official game on Tuesday for the first time in almost two years. Roney, 26, worked two scoreless innings for Class A Florida. “It feels so goooooood to be back,” he tweeted after he was activated from the injured list on Monday. Roney, a 2014 draftee by the Braves, last pitched in July 2017 for the Double-A Mississippi Braves. He made 15 appearances that year, posting a 3.75 ERA, four wins and two saves out of the bullpen. If all goes well, he’ll likely get back to Pearl sometime this summer. … Ole Miss product and onetime big leaguer Aaron Barrett, who missed the 2016 and ’17 seasons with major arm injuries (see previous posts), has been effective in his ongoing comeback effort in Washington’s system. The 31-year-old righty has a 3.57 ERA and nine saves in 15 games at Double-A Harrisburg. He has 90 major league appearances on his resume, the last in 2015. … USM alum Cody Carroll, on the IL since the start of the season with a back issue, has begun throwing, according to reports. Carroll made his MLB debut with Baltimore in 2018, his fourth pro season. He was assigned to Triple-A Norfolk in spring training before he was shut down. … Former George County High standout Justin Steele, who is on the Chicago Cubs’ 40-man roster, has struggled since returning from a stint on the IL at Double-A Tennessee. A 23-year-old lefty, Steele has a 9.33 ERA in six outings this season. Steele had Tommy John surgery in 2017 and was limited to 11 games last year, plus some work in the Arizona Fall League.

09 May

delivering jolts

There has been a power surge of late among several Mississippians, notably Bobby Bradley, Austin Riley and Hunter Renfroe. Bradley, the former Harrison Central High star, has begun to mash at Triple-A Columbus in Cleveland’s system. The 22-year-old first baseman has four homers in his last four games, three in his last two. A .366 spurt over his last 10 games has boosted his average to .315 with seven homers and 20 RBIs in his first full season at the Triple-A level. “It’s really a great experience, you learn so much from the veteran guys,” Bradley said in an milb.com story. Riley, the DeSoto Central product, hit two more bombs for Triple-A Gwinnett (Atlanta) on Wednesday. That’s 10 in his last 13 games, during which he has batted an absurd .469. He is at .315 with 12 homers and 32 RBIs. “Obviously, I’m seeing the ball well,” he told milb.com. “I’ve worked really hard on getting my swing where it is now.” Renfroe, the ex-Copiah Academy and Mississippi State standout, hit a go-ahead home run for the San Diego Padres on Wednesday. He also hit a tie-breaking bomb on Monday and a walk-off grand slam on Sunday. “He’s clutch. And he has been for a long time,” Padres manager Andy Green told mlb.com. Renfroe now has nine homers on the year, second to Mitch Moreland’s 10 among Mississippians in the majors. P.S. Ole Miss alum Zack Cozart is 2-for-8 (.125 for year) since coming off the injured list for the Los Angeles Angels, who also designated MSU product Chris Stratton for assignment on Tuesday. Stratton, who’ll likely land in Triple-A, has an 8.59 ERA in seven appearances. … Tony Sipp, the veteran reliever out of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, went on the 10-day IL for Washington with a strained oblique.