The final career postseason appearance for Roy Oswalt came on this date in 2011 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. Ah, but the game is better remembered as the one in which a squirrel — later anointed as the “rally squirrel” — darted across home plate while the Holmes Community College product – and 2019 Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame inductee — was throwing a pitch. It was Game 4 of the National League Division Series between Oswalt’s Philadelphia Phillies and the Cardinals. Oswalt didn’t pitch particularly well, allowing five runs in six innings. He took the loss in a 5-3 defeat that evened the 5-game series at 2-all. The squirrel incident occurred in the fifth inning, with the Cardinals already ahead 3-2. No rally actually took place, but Oswalt and Phils manager Charlie Manuel were upset that the pitch was called a ball and not waved off. As the story goes, back in Philadelphia for Game 5, a Phillies fan threw a stuffed squirrel into the St. Louis bullpen, and after the Cardinals took the series, they adopted the “rally squirrel” as a mascot of sorts. They went on to win the World Series. Only in baseball.
The book on David Parkinson says he has average stuff. The numbers from his first full pro season say something else. The Ole Miss alumnus led all of minor league baseball in ERA with a sparkling 1.45 over two levels of A-ball in the Philadelphia system. The 22-year-old left-hander from Virginia went 11-1, struck out 141 batters and walked just 35 in 124 1/3 innings. That doesn’t sound average. Parkinson was a top-drawer starter for the Rebels in 2016 and ’17, winning 11 games total with a 2.78 ERA in 2016 and a 3.39 in ’17. The Phillies picked him in the 12th round of the 2017 draft. He pitched well in limited innings that summer, then blossomed this season as a starter at low-A Lakewood and high-A Clearwater. He went 3-0, 1.24 in August for the Threshers, helping them make the Florida State League playoffs. He could be on the bump tonight in a decisive game. Parkinson is rated the No. 19 prospect in the Philadelphia system by MLB Pipeline. P.S. In the big leagues: Richton High product JaCoby Jones hit his 10th homer for Detroit on Wednesday and became the sixth Mississippian to reach double digits in home runs this season. Brian Dozier has just one bomb since Aug. 9 but still leads the All-Mississippi Home Run Derby with 20, followed by Hunter Renfroe (19), Tim Anderson (18), Mitch Moreland (15) and Corey Dickerson (11). Adam Frazier has eight.
Chris Coghlan will get a World Series ring next month. He’s looking for a uniform to wear. The Ole Miss alum was released by Philadelphia in a bit of a surprise move on Tuesday. Trying to make the lowly Phillies as a non-roster invitee, Coghlan, 32, didn’t have a great spring (.231, five RBIs) but did offer a left-handed bat and the versatility to play several positions. Coghlan batted .250 with six homers last year, which he split between Oakland and the champion Chicago Cubs. Over an eight-year career interrupted by injuries, Coghlan batted .260 with 52 homers. He hit .321 with Florida in 2009 when he won rookie of the year honors but never came close to that figure again. … Catching up on other roster news: Former Rebels star Stuart Turner apparently will make Cincinnati’s big club as a backup catcher, and lefty Cody Reed out of Northwest Mississippi Community College is going to stick in the Reds’ bullpen. However, Greenwood native Louis Coleman, a relief pitcher, was sent to the minor league camp, as was ex-Itawamba CC star Desmond Jennings, who reportedly can choose to be a free agent. … JaCoby Jones – who, it should be noted, did play a little football at Richton High – appears to have won Detroit’s center field job after batting .333 this spring. He debuted with the Tigers last summer. Former Ole Miss standout Alex Presley, despite batting .452 in a bid to win an outfield spot, was sent down by the Tigers. … Ex-Mississippi State star Jonathan Holder, who made his MLB debut last summer, appears to have claimed a job in the New York Yankees’ bullpen. He has had a strong spring (3.00 ERA). … MSU product Chad Girodo was sent out by Toronto. The lefty had a 2.08 ERA this spring after posting a 4.35 as a rookie last season.
This season probably won’t be as much fun as 2016 was for Chris Coghlan. The former Ole Miss standout, who won a World Series ring with the Chicago Cubs, has signed a minor league deal with Philadelphia, which went 71-91 in 2016 and doesn’t figure to be any better this year. Coghlan, 31, who hit .252 for the Cubs (after a .146 start to the season in Oakland), reportedly has a chance to make the Phillies’ roster this spring as a utility player. A left-handed hitter, he started at five different positions last year, though he is primarily an outfielder. … The crowd of Mississippians in the Cincinnati fold got a little bigger with the addition of Desmond Jennings, the Itawamba Community College product. The 30-year-old outfielder, released last summer by Tampa Bay, has signed a minor league contract with a spring invite. He joins Zack Cozart, Billy Hamilton, Cody Reed, Stuart Turner and Louis Coleman on the Reds’ spring roster. Jennings, a .245 hitter in a career spent entirely with the Rays, has battled injuries the last couple of seasons and might have a hard time earning a spot in Cincy’s outfield.
Kept seeing and hearing Cliff Lee’s name pop up after Corey Kluber’s brilliant performance for Cleveland in Game 1 of the World Series. Former Meridian Community College star Lee, who last pitched in the big leagues in 2014, never won a World Series ring but did post some impressive postseason numbers that are worth recounting. The stoic left-hander was 7-0 in the postseason at one point and finished 7-3 with a 2.52 ERA in 11 starts; he struck out 89 and walked 10 in 82 innings. He was never better than in Game 1 of the 2009 Series, when he was pitching for Philadelphia against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. Lee went nine, allowed six hits and a lone unearned run, struck out 10 and walked none. Excellent. He beat the Yankees again in Game 5 of that Series, but those were the only games the Phillies won. Lee won 143 games and a Cy Young Award (with Cleveland in 2008) over his 13 big league campaigns. He averaged 7.6 K’s and just 1.9 walks per nine innings for his career. Baseball America once wrote of Lee that he “will be remembered as a pitcher who had arguably the best control and command of any lefthander of this generation.”
While the Houston Astros are keenly focused on the present, and their pursuit of a playoff berth, the rest of us can sneak a peek back at a big day in the club’s history. On Oct. 2, 2005, the last day of the regular season, Weir’s Roy Oswalt outpitched Greg Maddux as the Astros beat the Chicago Cubs 6-4 and claimed the National League wild card. Philadelphia, which also won that day, finished a game back. The win was the 20th of the year for Oswalt, the Holmes Community College alum who won 163 over his 13-year career. The ’05 Astros, with a few former Jackson Generals still around (Lance Berkman, Raul Chavez, pitching coach Jim Hickey, bullpen coach Mark Bailey), went on to beat Atlanta in the division series and St. Louis in the NLCS – Oswalt was the MVP – to reach the franchise’s first and only World Series. They lost to the Chicago White Sox in four (with ex-Generals ace Freddy Garcia winning the clincher, oddly enough). P.S. Though he hasn’t officially retired, Cliff Lee doesn’t have a team for 2016 after the Phillies declined to pick up an option on the ex-Meridian CC star’s contract. Lee, 37, didn’t pitch at all this year because of an elbow problem. His career numbers: 143-91, 3.52 ERA in the regular season and 7-3, 2.52 postseason.
Let’s recap here. The first-place Washington Nationals deal for former Mississippi State star Jonathan Papelbon, who was clamoring for a trade out of Philadelphia, and demote their closer, Drew Storen, to give Papelbon that job. The team, for whatever reason, goes into a funk, falling out of first place. In a crucial series at home against the New York Mets from Sept. 7-9, the Nats are swept, with Papelbon taking the loss in the memorable middle game in which the Mets overcame a six-run deficit. On Wednesday of last week, with the Nationals essentially out of the playoff race, the tempestuous Papelbon hits Baltimore’s Manny Machado with a pitch and gets ejected. Nats star Bryce Harper, seemingly unhappy about the incident, says he expects to get hit the next day. (He doesn’t.) Papelbon gets suspended for three games for the intentional HBP – recall that last year he was suspended after making an obscene gesture toward Phillies fans — but he appeals and plays on. Fast forward to today’s game at home against Philadelphia, Papelbon’s former team. Papelbon appears to instigate a fight with Harper in the dugout after Harper popped out and jogged to first base. Harper, ruffled but not injured, leaves the game, and Papelbon goes out and gives up a two-run homer plus three more runs. He gets yanked and exits to boos. Yes, the Nationals lose in their home finale. Fun times in Washington, huh? The question now is, What do the Nationals do with Papelbon? He has a year left on a 5-year, $61M contract and finding another team willing to take him might be very difficult.
Jonathan Papelbon worked two scoreless innings and got the victory in Philadelphia’s 5-4 win over Tampa Bay on Wednesday, dropping his ERA to 1.63. He has 16 saves. And yet reports are that interest from other clubs in acquiring the disgruntled former Mississippi State star has waned. Isn’t this odd? … Former Southern Miss star Connor Barron, who went undrafted in June after his senior year, remains unsigned, which raises the question of whether he is healthy. Barron can play. He was an All-State shortstop at Sumrall High, where he played on four Class 3A championship teams. Injuries plagued his first three years at USM, but, after a strong 2014 summer season in the Texas Collegiate League, he put up good numbers for the Golden Eagles this season. A lefty-hitting outfielder, Barron batted .290 with eight homers, 40 runs and 13 steals for a good team. … The first-place Mississippi Braves (16-9) took a six-game win streak, matching their season-best, into Wednesday’s game against Mobile at Trustmark Park in Pearl. When you look at their lineup and stats, you have to wonder, How does this team do it? … Biloxi native Barry Lyons threw out the first pitch at the Biloxi Shuckers game at MGM Park on Tuesday night. Lyons, who starred for Delta State and the Jackson Mets before going on to the big leagues, played an unsung part in bringing pro baseball to the Coast. … Mississippi State’s Jacob Robson is scheduled to play in the Cape Cod League All-Star Game on Saturday. Canada native Robson, a CCBL player of the week earlier this month, is batting .297 with eight RBIs and 11 runs in 24 games for the Bourne Braves. Robson batted .324 with 41 runs in 54 games for the Bulldogs this past season.
On a night when the Yankees are at Fenway, the White Sox and Cubs are clashing at Wrigley and the Nats and O’s are dueling at Camden Yards, the best place to be might be PNC Park in Pittsburgh. That’s where former Ole Miss star Lance Lynn and his St. Louis teammates will meet the Pirates in a matchup of the two best teams in the National League. The pitching matchup is a dandy. Lynn, 6-4 with a 2.53 ERA, will be opposed by Pirates ace Gerrit Cole, 12-3, 2.28. The Cardinals won the opener of the four-game series 4-1 on Thursday night, snapping the Pirates’ four-game win streak and extending their lead in the National League Central to 5½ games. Lynn faced the Bucs in St. Louis on May 1, striking out 10 in seven innings in a game won by the Cards 2-1 in 10. Lynn has fared well against Andrew McCutchen (.132) and Pedro Alvarez (.182), not so well against Starling Marte (.381) and Neil Walker (.294, two homers, eight RBIs). Envy Jackson’s Chris Maloney, who, as the Cardinals’ first-base coach, will have a great view of what ought to be a great game. P.S. UM product Aaron Barrett, on the disabled list for Washington, has made three rehab appearances in Class A ball, working three innings with no earned runs allowed. Barrett has a 5.06 ERA in 30 games for the Nationals. … Former Picayune High star T.J. House remains on the DL in the minors for Cleveland. The left-hander last pitched on June 5. He was sent down by the Indians after going 0-4, 13.15 in four starts; he is 0-2, 3.86 in four games for Triple-A Columbus. … Meridian Community College product Cliff Lee reportedly will start throwing later this month, though his return to Philadelphia still appears iffy. The veteran lefty hasn’t pitched at all this season and made just 13 starts last year because of elbow problems.
Jonathan Papelbon is going to Cincinnati next week to represent the Philadelphia Phillies in the MLB All-Star Game on July 14. The ex-Mississippi State standout hopes to be going somewhere else and representing a different team soon thereafter. On the occasion of his selection to a sixth Midsummer Classic, Papelbon reiterated his desire to be traded from the lowly Phils to a contender. “Any team that wants me, I’m willing to go to,” he told mlb.com on Monday. Papelbon, who has a big contract and a combustible nature, has 14 saves and a 1.65 ERA this season. The trade deadline is July 31. … Southern Miss alum Brian Dozier launched his campaign to be a Final Vote All-Star selection by launching a walk-off home run against Baltimore on Monday. It was the 17th homer of the year and first career walk-off blast for the Minnesota second baseman. Passed over in Monday’s selection process, Dozier is one of five players on the American League Final Vote ballot. Fans will pick one; voting runs through Friday at 4 p.m. CDT. Dozier, batting .260 with a league-leading 63 runs and 42 RBIs, is seeking his first All-Star Game appearance. He says he won’t be disappointed if he doesn’t make it. “If it happens, it happens,” he told twincities.com.