16 Nov

he’s a winner

Corey Dickerson won his first Gold Glove earlier this month. That was sort of icing on the cake for the McComb native, who’s best known for his hitting and certainly did not disappoint in that phase of the game for Pittsburgh in 2018. In his first season with the Pirates, after strangely being cut loose by Tampa Bay, Dickerson batted .300 with a .330 on-base percentage. The Meridian Community College product hit 13 homers, 35 doubles and seven triples, drove in 55 runs, scored 65 and even stole eight bases. He helped keep the Pirates in playoff contention late into the season. Even after they fell off that pace, the lefty-hitting left fielder continued to rake, batting .385 over his last 15 games. It was an outstanding season by any measure and easily worthy of the 2018 Cool Papa Bell Award, given here for the best performance by a Mississippian (native or college alum) in the majors. There were some other noteworthy efforts: Tim Anderson had a 20-homer/20-steal season; Mitch Moreland had a good first half and made the All-Star Game; Hunter Renfroe enjoyed a late-season power surge. Dickerson was just better across the board. … It’s the second time Dickerson has earned the Cool Papa Bell Award, which honors Negro Leagues legend Cool Papa Bell, the first Mississippi native to be enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Previous honorees include Moreland, Brian Dozier (twice), Desmond Jennings, Lance Lynn, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Chris Coghlan.

24 Sep

central casting

All eyes – well, a lot of them — are on the National League Central and the two intra-divisional series that start today in Chicago and St. Louis. And, yes, Mississippi ties are all around. The first-place Cubs host fourth-place Pittsburgh – officially eliminated from postseason contention on Sunday – in a four-game series at Wrigley Field, while second-place Milwaukee – 2.5 games behind the Cubs – and the third-place Cardinals – 4.5 games behind the Cubs – tangle in a three-game set at Busch Stadium. The Brewers and Cardinals top the wild card standings, with Colorado lurking 1.5 games back. The Brewers’ roster includes former Mississippi State standout Brandon Woodruff and several other former Biloxi Shuckers, notably pitchers Josh Hader, Freddy Peralta, Jacob Barnes and Taylor Williams and shortstop Orlando Arcia. Brewers coach Carlos Subero is a former Shuckers manager. Ex-Ole Miss star Mike Mayers and State alum Dakota Hudson have been key contributors in St. Louis’ bullpen, and ex-Mississippi Braves John Gant and Chasen Shreve are also on the pitching staff. The Milwaukee-St. Louis season series is tied 8-8. The Cubs suit up a pair of M-Braves alums – Jason Heyward and Tommy LaStella – and their pitching coach is former Jackson Generals coach Jim Hickey. The Cubs have the best record in the NL but they’re in no position to breathe easy against a Pirates lineup that usually features Meridian Community College alum Corey Dickerson, one of the league’s leading hitters, and ex-State standout Adam Frazier. Pittsburgh is managed by former Jackson Mets skipper Clint Hurdle, and the hitting coach is Waynesboro native Jeff Branson. P.S. Frazier hit his 10th home run on Sunday and joins Hunter Renfroe, Brian Dozier, Tim Anderson, Mitch Moreland, Dickerson and JaCoby Jones as Mississippians with double-digit bombs in the majors this season.

20 Sep

highs and lows

The high of his first career double, which drove home three runs, did not last for Chris Stratton. The Mississippi State alum, whose primary job is pitcher, gave all the runs back and more in the bottom of the same inning and took a loss as San Francisco fell to San Diego 8-4 on Wednesday night. It’s been a season of highs and lows – including two trips to the minors — for Stratton, now 10-10 with a 4.88 ERA. In his previous start, he threw a two-hit shutout against Colorado. The start before that he yielded four runs in five innings vs. Milwaukee. “That’s baseball. You have to battle with what you have that day,” the Tupelo native told mlb.com. … Ex-Southern Miss star Brian Dozier got a lift from his first RBI since Sept. 4, helping the Los Angeles Dodgers beat Colorado and tighten their grip on first place in the National League West. The scuffling Dozier is batting .218, .189 for the Dodgers. … Former State standout Adam Frazier hit his ninth homer and Meridian Community College product Corey Dickerson went 2-for-3 with a run as Pittsburgh beat Kansas City 2-1. Dickerson is on an 8-for-20 roll, lifting his average to .294, 12th in the NL. … Wednesday was a blend of high and low for Spencer Turnbull, the ex-Madison Central High star who made his first big league start for Detroit. After a clean first inning, he gave up four runs in the second inning and six all told in four innings of work against Minnesota, which won 8-2. “I’m sure I’ll get better from it,” Turnbull said in an mlb.com story. He was 24-21, 3.59 ERA in 90 starts in the minors. P.S. The 2016 Mississippi Braves’ roster included the likes of Ozzie Albies, Johan Camargo, Dansby Swanson, Sean Newcomb, A.J. Minter and Mallex Smith. It’s easy to forget that Willians Astudillo was also on that club – and batted .267 with four homers and 30 RBIs as one of the primary catchers. Astudillo is now getting a lot of attention in the big leagues with Minnesota. Nicknamed “El Tortuga” (The Turtle), the 5-foot-9, 225-pound Astudillo is hitting .317 with three homers and 14 RBIs for the Twins. He has hustled his way into several popular highlights.

17 Sep

three things

Boston will be in the playoffs, but it’s highly questionable whether Ole Miss product Drew Pomeranz will be there. The left-hander, who lost his job in the Red Sox’s rotation earlier this season, has been erratic working out of the bullpen. He yielded three hits and two runs in 1 2/3 innings against the New York Mets on Sunday, almost squandering a 3-0 lead in the sixth inning. His ERA rose to 6.17, roughly three runs higher than his 2017 number. He has allowed 22 baserunners in his last 13 2/3 innings. Hard to see Pomeranz being summoned in a clutch situation. … If the New York Yankees survive the American League wild card showdown, it’ll be interesting to see if Lance Lynn, another ex-UM star, makes their rotation for the divisional round. Lynn, added in a July trade, is 2-2 with a 4.47 ERA in nine games for the Yanks. He allowed one run on three hits against Toronto on Sunday but lasted just five innings. He got a no-decision in a game the club lost 3-2. In the pecking order of pinstriped starting pitchers, Lynn likely stands behind Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ and CC Sabathia. … Playing the role of spoiler in the National League Central, Corey Dickerson was practically a one-man wrecking crew against Milwaukee on Sunday. The former Meridian Community College star had a hand in each of Pittsburgh’s runs in a 3-2 victory that stung the Brewers, who are trying to chase down Chicago in the division. Dickerson went 3-for-4 with two runs and an RBI for the Pirates. They took two of three from Milwaukee over the weekend, dropping the Brewers 2.5 games behind the Cubs. The Pirates have three games left with Milwaukee and four with Chicago. Dickerson is hitting .293 on the year, and the RBI on Sunday was his 50th. In his sixth big league season and with his third team, he hasn’t seen the postseason.

04 Sep

locked in

Pittsburgh faded from postseason contention in August, but don’t blame Adam Frazier. While the Pirates’ bats went quiet during a 10-17 month, former Mississippi State standout Frazier hit a team-best .338 and also led the club with four homers and 14 runs. With the calendar now flipped to September, Frazier remains locked in. He went 4-for-4 on Labor Day – his second career four-hit effort – and smacked his eighth homer of the year in a win over Cincinnati. “One at-bat at a time,” he said in a video interview on mlb.com. “I’m taking that approach and running with it.” Overall, Frazier is batting .288 (.358 on-base percentage) with 28 RBIs in 91 games; he did some remedial time in the minors in June and July. The Pirates (67-71) appear to be positioned to contend in 2019, and based on his recent showing, Frazier should be part of the plan. A lefty hitter, the third-year big leaguer has played second base and all three outfield positions this season and can also handle third and short.

21 Aug

there’s another one

They just keep coming. On Monday, it was Bryse Wilson, the latest fresh, young arm summoned from the minors by Atlanta. Like so many of the others, the 20-year-old Wilson impressed, throwing five shutout innings at Pittsburgh to win his debut, 1-0. All the recent hype about the pitching talent in the Braves’ farm system appears to be very real. Truth is truth, so to speak. Followers of the Double-A Mississippi Braves have been witness to their rise. Of the 33 pitchers Atlanta has employed this season, 18 passed through Pearl. Five M-Braves pitching alums have made their big league debut since July 31. Over the last two years the likes of Sean Newcomb, Max Fried, A.J. Minter, Luiz Gohara, Jesse Biddle, Mike Soroka, Touki Toussaint and now Wilson have made The Show and made a positive impression. Wilson, 3-5 with a 3.97 ERA for the M-Braves this season, certainly looked like he belonged from the get-go on Monday. He struck out the first two batters he faced, Mississippians Corey Dickerson and Adam Frazier. And there are more arms on the minor league runway: Kyle Wright, Ian Anderson, Kyle Muller, et al. It’s hard to keep track. Where will they all fit in? For the Braves, it’s a nice problem to have.

20 Aug

have a day

Adam Frazier earned a prominent place in the spotlight on Sunday, hitting an 11th-inning walk-off home run for Pittsburgh. But there’s a crowd of Mississippians deserving at least a slice of the attention. Mississippi State alum Frazier’s fifth homer of the year and second career game-winner gave the Pirates a 2-1 win against the Chicago Cubs. He said in an mlb.com story that it was “probably the most excited I’ve ever gotten going around the bases.” Frazier has been swinging a hot bat since returning from a trip to the minors; he is batting .386 in his last 15 games. Former Meridian Community College star Corey Dickerson, also with the Bucs, went 2-for-5 to boost his average to .308, best among Mississippi-connected players in the big leagues. Southern Miss alum Brian Dozier had a three-hit game and scored twice for the Los Angeles Dodgers in a 12-1 rout of Seattle. Dozier is batting .250 with three homers, 12 RBIs and eight runs in 17 games for the Dodgers. Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton had a stat sheet-stuffing day for Cincinnati, banging out two triples, drawing a walk, driving in three runs and scoring one in an 11-4 victory vs. San Francisco. Ex-State standout Hunter Renfroe went 2-for-3 with his 14th home run and three RBIs for San Diego in a 4-3 loss to Arizona. East Central CC product Tim Anderson had only one hit but it left the park for his 16th homer, helping the Chicago White Sox beat Kansas City 7-6. And down on the farm, Meridian CC and McLaurin High product Davis Bradshaw produced a 5-for-5 game for short-season Class A Batavia in the Miami system. The speedy Bradshaw, an 11th-round pick in June, bunted for his fifth hit and stole two bases. He is 7-for-16 in four games at Batavia after batting .376 with 15 steals in the Gulf Coast League.

19 Aug

making a move?

In the midst of a little slump that has knocked him off the pace in the National League batting average race, Corey Dickerson may have gotten a second wind. The former Meridian Community College star from McComb went 3-for-3 for Pittsburgh on Saturday, kicking his average up to .307. The current leader in NL hitting is Freddie Freeman, the ex-Mississippi Braves star who’s at .320. Dickerson was around the top with a .318 mark in late July when he went on the 10-day disabled list with a minor injury. He has scuffled since coming back, but Pirates manager Clint Hurdle isn’t concerned about his leadoff batter. “I love the way he shows up every day,” the former Jackson Mets manager told mlb.com. “He always feels that today’s the day … .” While known more for his power (101 career home runs), the 29-year-old Dickerson is a .284 career hitter; his best season was a .312 with Colorado in 2014. If he gets it going again down the stretch this year, he could join Buddy Myer (1935), Harry Walker (1947) and Dave Parker (1977 and ’78) as the only Mississippi-born players to win a batting title. … The biggest hit by a Pirate on Saturday was delivered by ex-Mississippi State standout Adam Frazier, whose RBI single in the second inning against the Chicago Cubs ended a 24-inning scoreless streak for Pittsburgh. The Pirates (62-62) went on to win 3-1 to snap a five-game losing skid that has knocked them off the pace in the NL playoff race.

04 Aug

timing is everything

Adam Frazier may have found his form, and his discovery comes at a good time. Former Mississippi State standout Frazier delivered a go-ahead RBI single in the eighth inning Friday night for Pittsburgh, capping a three-hit game in the Pirates’ 7-6 win against St. Louis. Frazier’s clutch knock came on a 101 mph sinker from Cardinals gas-thrower Jordan Hicks. “It says a little bit that I’m where I need to be if I can do that on him,” Frazier told mlb.com. Frazier hit .301 in 66 games as a rookie in 2016 and followed that with a strong 2017: .276, six homers, 53 RBIs, 55 runs, six triples, nine steals. But he struggled out of the gate this season and was sent to the minors in June. He made a brief return to the Bucs, went back to Triple-A Indianapolis again and then got another call on July 25. He has 10 hits since, lifting his average to .269 with three homers and 11 RBIs in 66 games. Frazier is a lefty hitter who can play practically anywhere, which, if he continues to produce at the plate, makes him a valuable piece for Pirates manager Clint Hurdle. The old Jackson Mets skipper has guided this overachieving club to 17 wins in its last 22 games and into the thick of the playoff chase in the National League. P.S. Still searching for his form is ex-State star Chris Stratton, whose return to San Francisco’s rotation on Friday did not go well. The right-hander from Tupelo allowed five runs in the first inning and six all told in three innings of work as the Giants fell to Arizona 6-3. After a good start this season — he was 6-3 through May — Stratton wobbled and wound up back in the minors for a stint. He has been knocked around in both appearances since his return and is now 8-7 with a 5.52 ERA. His spot in the rotation may be in jeopardy.

23 Jul

powering up

The suddenly surging Pittsburgh Pirates, the hottest team in baseball, are getting a lot of their juice from Corey Dickerson. The ex-Meridian Community College standout homered for the fourth straight game on Sunday as the Pirates beat Cincinnati 9-2 to extend their winning streak to nine games. Don’t look now, but the Bucs, under former Jackson Mets manager Clint Hurdle, are 51-49 and back in the wild card picture in the National League. Dickerson, once thought to be a possible trade chip, may now be sticking around. An All-Star with Tampa Bay in 2017 before being inexplicably cut loose by the Rays, Dickerson is batting .315 with 11 homers and 42 RBIs for the Pirates. He’s been a steady hitter all season but through the first three months had not shown the power he displayed previously in his career. He went from May 5 to June 30 without a homer. He has hit six in July, five in his last four games, including the 447-foot bomb on Sunday at Great American Ballpark. “My approach changes every day,” Dickerson told mlb.com, noting that he doesn’t always try to hit home runs. Batting mainly in the leadoff spot, he has 10 hits in his last four games and is batting .400 in his last 15. Dickerson and his Pirates mates are in Cleveland today, where their rejuvenation will be challenged by Corey Kluber, ace of the American League Central leader.