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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.