Competition was stiff for MLB Line of the Night, Mississippi Division. Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton put up a 4223 (AB-R-H-RBI) on Tuesday, with a homer and a triple, his eighth, which ranks second in the big leagues. Ole Miss product Seth Smith had a 3223 with a double. Jarrod Dyson, the ex-Southwest Mississippi Community College star, produced a 5221 with a stolen base, No. 24 on the year. Former Mississippi State standouts Hunter Renfroe (3220) and Adam Frazier (4030) also put up some numbers worthy of mention. But Line of the Night must go to State product Mitch Moreland, whose 5323 included a double, a homer, his 13th, and a “productive” out that figured prominently in Boston’s crazy 12-10 win against Cleveland. With two outs and one on in the ninth at Fenway Park, the Red Sox down a run, Moreland reached first on a wild-pitch third strike. Christian Vazquez followed with a three-run bomb that beat Indians closer Cody Allen and moved Boston back into first place in the American League East. P.S. Dyson’s stolen base was the 200th of his career. He has an amazing 85 percent success rate. The McComb native ranks third among Mississippians on the all-time steals list, behind Hamilton (228) and Gee Walker (223). … Smith’s big night helped Baltimore beat Kansas City and give Buck Showalter his 1,481st managerial victory. The former State star moved into sole possession of 24th place on the all-time list, ahead of Earl Weaver. … Former Mississippi Braves Lucas Sims and Ozzie Albies debuted for Atlanta on Tuesday. Sims took the loss against the Los Angeles Dodgers, allowing three runs in six innings. Albies went 0-for-2 with a run.
Rookie Rafael Devers added his name to a small list on Monday when he went 4-for-4 for Boston against Cleveland. The list of Red Sox players who recorded four hits in a game at the age of 20 or younger now numbers five. Red Sox legends Babe Ruth, Ted Williams and Tony Conigliaro did it, along with the lesser known Dalton Jones, a McComb native who spent six years with the BoSox in the 1960s. Jones, who went to high school in Louisiana, signed with Boston in 1961 and made the big club – at age 20 — out of spring training in 1964. He homered in his second game and notched two four-hit games that season, finishing with a .230 average. The lefty-hitting second baseman/third baseman was on Boston’s 1967 Impossible Dream team and went 7-for-18 in the World Series that year. Jones left the Red Sox after the 1969 season and played three more years with Detroit and Texas. His career average was .235 – not exactly the stuff of legend. But he is and always will be on that legendary list with Ruth, Williams, Conigliaro and the rising star Devers.
It is a three-team scrap, at the moment, in the American League East. Boston clings to a 1-game lead over the New York Yankees with Tampa Bay hanging 2.5 back. The Rays are visiting Yankee Stadium for a four-game series that starts tonight. Boston hosts surging Kansas City, an AL Central and wild card contender, for three starting on Friday. It’s not a good time to be in a slump, but both Corey Dickerson of the Rays and Mitch Moreland of the Red Sox are in one. Former Meridian Community College star Dickerson, a first-time All-Star this year, is batting .209 with one homer and four RBIs over his last 23 games. His average has plunged to .303. Yankee Stadium is a great hitter’s park for lefties, and Dickerson is batting .343 with three bombs against Yankees pitching this season. So … a breakout might be coming. The Rays would love to see it. Moreland, the ex-Mississippi State standout, is hitting .124 without a homer in his last 24 games and went 2-for-17 on the club’s recent road trip. His average is down to .239, and he’s been dropped in the BoSox’s order. He suffered a broken toe in mid-June but played through it and says it’s fine now. If there is a positive for Moreland entering the weekend, he is a better hitter at Fenway Park: .253 with six of his 12 homers and a .341 on-base percentage. He doesn’t have a hit in seven at-bats against Royals pitchers this year, so … perhaps he is due. The Red Sox surely hope that’s true.
Billy Hamilton and Zack Cozart were a combined 7-for-12 in Cincinnati’s 4-3, 11-inning win over Arizona on Wednesday. Taylorsville’s Hamilton scored the game-winning run and stole his MLB-leading 40th bag, while Ole Miss product and 2017 All-Star Cozart hit his 11th home run. … Ex-UM star Drew Pomeranz won his fourth straight decision and 10th game overall as Boston beat Toronto 5-1. He has trimmed his ERA by almost two runs to 3.51 over his last 12 outings for the first-place Red Sox. … In the minors, former Mississippi State standouts Kendall Graveman and Brandon Woodruff made rehab starts in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. Oakland’s Graveman, on the DL since May 29, allowed four earned runs in 2 1/3 innings for Nashville. Milwaukee’s Woodruff, out since his aborted big league debut on June 13, yielded three runs in 3 2/3 innings for Colorado Springs. … The Mississippi Braves won at home for the first time in the second half, beating Biloxi 3-2 on Kade Scivicque’s walk-off hit in the ninth. The M-Braves are 1-10 at Trustmark Park and 7-18 overall in the Southern League South. Former Southwest Mississippi Community College star Scivicque is batting .270 with three homers and 23 RBIs. DeSoto Central High product Austin Riley went 2-for-4 in his home debut for the M-Braves, and Mike Soroka struck out 12 in seven innings. … Ole Miss alum and Picayune native Braxton Lee leads the Southern League in hitting at .326 for Jacksonville. Traded from Tampa Bay to Miami a few weeks back, Lee is hitting .348 in 18 games for the Marlins’ affiliate. … Errol Robinson, another UM product, has climbed from low-A ball to Double-A this season in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ system. The shortstop, in his second pro season, is batting .307 in 18 games for Tulsa in the Texas League. … Ex-Itawamba CC star Tyreque Reed, a .500 hitter for the Indians this year, continues to rake in the rookie Arizona League. The eighth-round pick by Texas homered on Wednesday and is at .317 with three bombs and 18 RBIs in 17 games.
Not to be overlooked amid all the hubbub over the Home Run Derby and tonight’s All-Star Game: On this date in 1914, Babe Ruth made his big league debut as a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox. His mound opponent at Fenway Park was Pleasant Grove native Willie Mitchell of the Cleveland Naps. Ruth and the Red Sox won the game 4-3 as Mitchell took the loss. But the record will also show that in his first at-bat in the majors, Ruth – not yet known as the Sultan of Swat — was struck out by Mitchell. A crafty lefty, Mitchell pitched parts of 11 years in the big leagues, won 84 games and fanned 921 batters.
Mitch Moreland signed as a free agent with Boston in the off-season. One-year deal, $5.5 million. Both parties have to be thrilled with how this has worked out. Moreland, the ex-Mississippi State star from Amory, has been what Red Sox manager John Farrell calls “a bedrock in our lineup,” which no longer features David Ortiz. The Red Sox are 43-35, tied for first in the American League East with the surprising New York Yankees. Moreland, a lefty-hitting first baseman, is batting .275 and is tied for the club lead with 12 homers and 41 RBIs. He leads in slugging percentage at .486. He will be a free agent again after this season, and his performance has no doubt boosted his market value. When Moreland first signed, speculation was he would platoon at first base with Hanley Ramirez and also get some at-bats as the DH. As it has turned out, Moreland, a Gold Glove winner last year with Texas, has been the regular first baseman essentially from Day 1, appearing in 72 of the team’s 78 games. And there’s this: For the last couple of weeks, he has played with a broken big toe. “It’s a lot more fun playing than it is sitting and watching. That’s the way I look at it,” Moreland told the Boston Herald. That’s the definition of a gamer.
Ole Miss product Bobby Wahl made his big league debut Wednesday night. He is no doubt anxiously awaiting his second opportunity. Mississippi State alum Kendall Graveman suffered his worst start of the season for Oakland and Wahl offered little relief in a 7-4 loss to Minnesota. Graveman gave up six runs in 3 1/3 innings, yielding four walks and five hits, including Kennys Vargas’ three-run homer. Wahl, recalled from Triple-A Nashville earlier in the day, came on in the sixth inning and lasted just four batters. He hit one (ex-Southern Miss star Brian Dozier) and allowed two hits and a run. Wahl, a fifth-round pick in 2013, had a 1.93 ERA and three saves this season at Nashville. Rated the A’s No. 26 prospect by MLB Pipeline, the right-hander was added to the 40-man roster over the winter. Over 116 games in the minors – working mostly in relief – Wahl, 25, has a 3.79 ERA, 27 saves in 31 chances and 205 strikeouts in 171 innings. His fastball has touched 100 mph. P.S. Former Ole Miss standout Drew Pomeranz seems to be putting to rest any concerns about his left arm. He improved to 3-1 with a 4.00 ERA by throwing 5 1/3 strong innings on Wednesday in Boston’s 4-2 win vs. Baltimore, yet another controversy-filled game in their series. Pomeranz has made three of his five 2017 starts against the Orioles, beating them twice.