While the Drew Pomeranz-Kendall Graveman matchup was something of a dud, another Mississippi product provided the fireworks on Friday night at Oakland Coliseum. Mitch Moreland, the former Mississippi State standout from Amory, hit a grand slam that boosted Boston to a 7-3 win over Oakland and gave the Red Sox a 17-2 record, among the best starts in MLB history. Ole Miss alum Pomeranz, in his first start of the year for Boston, was tagged for three runs in the first inning and left in the fourth. Ex-State star Graveman lasted five-plus and was charged with the loss, falling to 0-4 with a 10.07 ERA. He surrendered a three-run bomb to Jackie Bradley Jr. in the second inning and the three runners on base when Moreland hit his sixth-inning slam were also his doing. Moreland was 0-for-2 against Graveman when he came up in the sixth but didn’t get to face the right-hander a third time. Emilio Pagan came on, and Moreland promptly crushed a high fastball into the right-field seats for the BoSox’s fifth grand slam of the season. Moreland is on an 11-for-23 tear, raising his average to .333 with two homers and 11 RBIs.
While Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw are hooking up in a marquee MLB matchup in Los Angeles tonight, there’s a Mississippi-flavored clash up the coast in Oakland that also bears watching. Boston, which has roared from the starting gate with a 16-2 record, welcomes former Ole Miss star Drew Pomeranz back from the disabled list. A 17-game winner in 2017, Pomeranz will oppose ex-Mississippi State standout Kendall Graveman, the A’s opening day starter who has struggled to a 9.87 ERA through four outings. (For the record, they did not cross paths in college.) Pomeranz, who suffered a forearm strain in spring training, made two rehab starts — one in Triple-A, the other in Double-A — and posted a 3.72 ERA over 9 2/3 innings. Graveman, who has yielded six homers this season, gets to face a scorching-hot Red Sox lineup (27 runs in three wins against the Angels) that may include State product Mitch Moreland. He has two bombs against Graveman in 12 career at-bats. P.S. JaCoby Jones, the former Richton High star, hit his first career walk-off homer — his first of 2018 — to propel Detroit to a 3-2 win in 10 innings against Kansas City today. Jones is batting .300 in 13 games.
Aside from nasty weather, what’s the biggest story in the big leagues to date? It’s a tough call. Shohei Ohtani and the surging Los Angeles Angels? The red-hot Boston Red Sox? The amazin’ New York Mets? A case could be made for any of the three first-place teams – and it’s interesting to note that there’s a Mississippi connection on each club. Ole Miss alum Zack Cozart has had an impact as a newcomer with the 13-3 Angels, batting .273 with two homers and seven RBIs. In Boston (13-2), which travels to Anaheim for a three-game set beginning Tuesday, former Mississippi State star Mitch Moreland is batting .292 in his sporadic calls to duty. And ex-UM star Drew Pomeranz should be joining the Red Sox rotation soon. The Mets, managed by former Ole Miss pitcher Mickey Callaway, have the best ERA in the majors and the best record (12-2) in the National League. They host NL East rival Washington in a big series starting tonight. For the record, the other first-place teams also have Mississippi ties: Southern Miss product Brian Dozier (.289, four homers) and Ole Miss’ Lance Lynn (0-1, 5.00 ERA) with Minnesota; Meridian Community College alum Corey Dickerson (.358, 12 RBIs) and ex-State star Adam Frazier (.250) with Pittsburgh (where Clint Hurdle is the manager); and Southwest CC product Jarrod Dyson (.176) with Arizona.
Brian Dozier’s power plays at the top of Minnesota’s lineup. The former Southern Miss star hit his 28th career leadoff home run on Sunday, then added a second homer in the sixth inning to propel the Twins to a 7-0 win at Baltimore. The leadoff bomb came on the first pitch, the fourth time in his career Dozier has done that, according to mlb.com. “There’s a process behind it,” he said. Dozier is 5-for-14 as one of a handful of Mississippians in the majors who came out clicking in the opening series of 2018. Ole Miss product Zack Cozart is 7-for-19 with a homer and three RBIs as the leadoff batter for his new club, the Los Angeles Angels. The converted shortstop has moved from third base to second – another position he had not played previously – following an injury to Ian Kinsler. Ex-Mississippi State standout Adam Frazier, also batting leadoff, is 4-for-10 for Pittsburgh and scored the only run in the Pirates’ Game 1 victory against Detroit on Sunday. Former East Central Community College star Tim Anderson is 3-for-8 with two homers – on opening day – three RBIs and a steal in two games for the Chicago White Sox. P.S. Sad to hear about the passing of Jerry Moses, the Yazoo City native who played parts of nine seasons in the big leagues. He died March 27 at age 71. Moses is the youngest Boston Red Sox player to hit a home run, going deep at age 18 against Jim “Mudcat” Grant on May 25, 1965, at Fenway Park. Moses hit .251 with 25 homers for his career and made the 1970 All-Star Game for the Red Sox.
On this date in 1920, the course of baseball history – and Sammy Vick’s career – changed. The Boston Red Sox, under new ownership, sold their best player, Babe Ruth, to the New York Yankees for the sum of $125,000. Ruth, who would come to be regarded by some as the best player ever, transformed the Yankees into a dynasty that became major league baseball’s iconic franchise. The “cursed” Red Sox, who had won three World Series with Ruth, fell into a decades-long funk that only recently ended. Ruth was a two-way star for the Sox, hitting a record 29 homers as their left fielder and going 9-5 on the mound in 1919. The Yankees made him a fulltime outfielder in 1920, and he played mostly in right, where he displaced the former starter, Batesville native and Millsaps College alum Vick. After missing most of the 1918 season while serving in the military, Vick, then 24, earned the Yanks’ right field job in 1919. He had an up-and-down year, batting .248 with two homers, 15 doubles and nine triples in 106 games. Ruth’s smashing arrival – he hit 59 homers in 1920 – was the beginning of the end for Vick, who got into just 51 games that year, then was traded to the Red Sox in ’21. That was his final big league season.
On Dec. 15, the Los Angeles Angels formally announced the signing of free agent Zack Cozart, the Ole Miss alumnus, to be their third baseman. Three days later, Boston announced that it was re-signing Mitch Moreland, the ex-Mississippi State standout, to play first base. Since then, there’s been nothing concrete on any of the bundle of other Mississippians looking for a 2018 team. Rumors have connected Lance Lynn to several teams, but as of today the former UM right-hander remains on the free agent market. Same for fellow former Rebels star Seth Smith and McComb native Jarrod Dyson, both outfielders and both coming off fairly productive seasons. Lynn, in particular, would seem to be an attractive piece. He is 72-47 with a 3.18 ERA for his career and has averaged 32 starts a year since 2013, excluding 2016, when he was out with Tommy John surgery. He was 11-8, 3.43 at age 30 last season for St. Louis. Quite a few big-name free agents are also still out there, and once a couple of them sign, the rush could be on. For now, we wait. … David Goforth, another Ole Miss product, signed a minor league contract with Washington in early December, and there are several other state-connected players seeking similar deals. Included are Tyler Moore, Alex Presley, Chris Coghlan, T.J. House, Scott Copeland, Louis Coleman and Joey Butler.
There is a special nook in baseball’s Hall of Neat Feats for players who have stroked pinch-hit home runs in the World Series. Only 21 guys are in this club. Bobby Kielty, an Ole Miss standout in the 1990s, is one of them. Ten years ago this month, Kielty, playing for the Boston Red Sox, connected off of Colorado’s Brian Fuentes, a solo shot in the eighth inning of Game 4 at Coors Field. It gave the Red Sox a 4-1 lead and turned out to be a big run when the Rockies scored twice in the bottom of the eighth. Boston held on to win and sweep the series. That turned out to be Kielty’s last at-bat as a big leaguer. He played seven years in the majors all told, with four different teams. He hit 53 home runs, as many as 13 in one season. He hit one homer in 20 games for Boston in 2007 but made the postseason roster – and then made a little history, as well. The World Series pinch-hit homer club also includes Yogi Berra, Johnny Mize, Elston Howard, Bernie Carbo (who did it twice, also for the Red Sox), and, of course, Kirk Gibson. Who can forget the hobbled, first-pumping Gibson circling the bases after taking Dennis Eckersley deep for a walk-off blast in Los Angeles’ Game 1 win against Oakland in 1988? Many say it propelled the underdog Dodgers to the world championship. Kielty’s pinch-hit bomb wasn’t nearly as significant – but it was special all the same.