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.
It’s a Dog Day in Omaha, where Mississippi State plays Washington in a College World Series opener. Meanwhile, some former Dogs enjoyed a day of their own on Friday in the big leagues. Atlanta Braves TV broadcasters, Jeff Francoeur in particular, were effusively impressed with the arm of Hunter Renfroe, the ex-State star who made a couple of cannon-shot throws from deep right field to third base for San Diego. More impressive was the two-strike, two-out, two-run single Renfroe stroked in the seventh inning, putting the Padres up a run in a game they would go on to win 9-3. Renfroe has been in the throes of a skid and was batting just .229 at the time. He got another hit in the ninth and finished with a .245 average. At Yankee Stadium, Bulldogs alum Jonathan Holder pitched a scoreless sixth inning for his third hold of the year as New York beat Tampa Bay 5-0. Holder trimmed his ERA to 2.28. At Seattle’s Safeco Field, former State standout Mitch Moreland drove in a run and scored in Boston’s six-run third inning against Mariners ace James Paxton, but the Red Sox squandered a lead and lost 7-6. P.S. Southern Miss product Brian Dozier hit his 10th homer — off Cleveland’s Corey Kluber — to help Minnesota beat the Indians 6-3. It was Dozier’s 161st career bomb, moving him into sixth place alone on the all-time list of Mississippi natives. … Ole Miss alum Zack Cozart (shoulder) was placed on the 10-day disabled list by the Los Angeles Angels.
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.
It’s a small sample size but still worth noting: Former DeSoto Central High standout Austin Riley is batting .325 (13-for-40) with three homers and 11 RBIs through his first 10 games in Triple-A. He has hit safely in eight of those games, including a four-hit, three-homer performance on Sunday, and has yet to make an error at third base. He also has two hat tricks (three-strikeout games) for Gwinnett. “It’s all about adjustments,” Riley told the Marietta Daily Journal. “Each level you move up, the pitchers get better. You never stop learning in this game.” Riley, one of Atlanta’s top-rated prospects, batted .333 with six homers in 27 games for the Double-A Mississippi Braves before his promotion. At 21, Riley is the same age as Ozzie Albies and a year older than Ronald Acuna, who are leading the “Baby Braves” contingent that has helped revitalize the big league club. Most projections have Riley making the majors in 2019, but he could force the Braves’ hand this summer. P.S. Ex-Mississippi State star Dakota Hudson is also in Triple-A and knocking on the MLB door. St. Louis’ first-round pick in 2016, right-hander Hudson is 4-1 with a 2.88 ERA in seven starts for Memphis. He is rated the Cardinals’ No. 4 prospect by MLB Pipeline. … Hunter Renfroe, the State alum who is hoping to get back to the big leagues, went 1-for-5 with an RBI double and three K’s Thursday in his first game after being sent to Triple-A El Paso. Renfroe was batting .200 with two homers for San Diego when he went on the disabled list in mid-April. … Former Petal High star Anthony Alford, sent down by Toronto earlier this week, went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts at Triple-A Buffalo on Wednesday. … Also itching for another shot in The Show is Ole Miss product Bobby Wahl, who has a 1.50 ERA, two saves and 26 punchouts in 18 innings for Triple-A Nashville in Oakland’s system. Wahl made seven appearances for the A’s last year before suffering a shoulder injury. He was dropped from the 40-man roster in the fall. … Braxton Lee, the ex-UM standout from Picayune who started this season in the majors with Miami, is currently on the DL at Triple-A New Orleans. He hit .176 in eight MLB games and is at .186 in 12 games for the Baby Cakes. … Ole Miss alum and onetime big leaguer Alex Presley, who had been at Triple-A Norfolk in Baltimore’s system, has been granted his release and is now a free agent.
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.
Tony Sipp got the word on Thursday that he was going to make Houston’s opening day roster. On Friday night, the veteran left-hander out of Moss Point High and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College responded with a three-strikeout, scoreless inning against Washington in a Grapefruit League contest. It hasn’t been a great spring for Sipp, now 34 and about to start his 10th MLB campaign. He has a 5.19 ERA. He didn’t have a great 2017 for the Astros, either — 5.79 ERA, eight homers allowed in 37 1/3 innings – and wasn’t on the roster for their World Series run. Still, Sipp has a career ERA of 3.83 and will be the lone lefty in the Astros’ bullpen. “We’ve wanted Tony on the team to give us some balance and also because we feel like he’s got a track record where he can help us,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch told msn.com on Thursday. An injury to former Mississippi Braves star James Hoyt apparently paved the way for Sipp to make the 25-man roster. How long he keeps that job is up in the air. P.S. Brandon Woodruff, the ex-Mississippi State standout from Wheeler, yielded four runs in five innings for Milwaukee against the Chicago Cubs on Friday. The right-hander, bidding to make the opening day roster, saw his spring ERA swell to an inconvenient 7.11. … With both Madison Bumgarner and Jeff Samardzija down with injuries, there is little doubt now that State alum Chris Stratton has won a job in San Francisco’s rotation. He has pitched well this spring with a 4.03 ERA in six outings. … Former Bulldogs star Hunter Renfroe, competing for a role in San Diego’s outfield, smacked his sixth homer of the Cactus League season on Friday and is batting .254 with 13 RBIs this spring.