It’s a Dog Day in Omaha, where Mississippi State plays Washington in a College World Series opener. Meanwhile, some former Dogs enjoyed a day of their own on Friday in the big leagues. Atlanta Braves TV broadcasters, Jeff Francoeur in particular, were effusively impressed with the arm of Hunter Renfroe, the ex-State star who made a couple of cannon-shot throws from deep right field to third base for San Diego. More impressive was the two-strike, two-out, two-run single Renfroe stroked in the seventh inning, putting the Padres up a run in a game they would go on to win 9-3. Renfroe has been in the throes of a skid and was batting just .229 at the time. He got another hit in the ninth and finished with a .245 average. At Yankee Stadium, Bulldogs alum Jonathan Holder pitched a scoreless sixth inning for his third hold of the year as New York beat Tampa Bay 5-0. Holder trimmed his ERA to 2.28. At Seattle’s Safeco Field, former State standout Mitch Moreland drove in a run and scored in Boston’s six-run third inning against Mariners ace James Paxton, but the Red Sox squandered a lead and lost 7-6. P.S. Southern Miss product Brian Dozier hit his 10th homer — off Cleveland’s Corey Kluber — to help Minnesota beat the Indians 6-3. It was Dozier’s 161st career bomb, moving him into sixth place alone on the all-time list of Mississippi natives. … Ole Miss alum Zack Cozart (shoulder) was placed on the 10-day disabled list by the Los Angeles Angels.
Today is one of those days when a Mississippi Braves fan scanning the previous day’s box scores might have to pause and think, Why did Atlanta let him go? Former M-Braves are scattered all over the big leagues now, and quite a few are having impactful seasons in places other than the ATL. The enigmatic Jason Heyward is suddenly crushing it for the Chicago Cubs; he went 3-for-6 with three RBIs in a big win against Milwaukee and is batting .387 with 10 RBIs in his last 15 games. For the year: .281, three homers, 28 RBIs. Jose Martinez, breaking out in St. Louis, went 3-for-4 with his 10th homer in a victory against San Diego. He is batting .327. Gorkys Hernandez, playing regularly in San Francisco, had a 2-for-3 game with two runs in the Giants’ loss to Miami. Hernandez, always a plus defender in center field, is hitting .293 with seven homers. Mallex Smith, another pretty good center fielder, was 2-for-4 with an RBI for Tampa Bay, which beat Toronto. Smith is batting .288 with 12 steals. Luis Avilan has fared well in his middle-relief role for the Chicago White Sox, who have been terrible. He worked a scoreless inning in a loss to Cleveland and trimmed his ERA to 3.26. And Craig Kimbrel just keeps throwing gas for Boston; he struck out the side in the 12th inning against Baltimore to preserve a 2-0 win and notch his 21st save in 23 chances. P.S. Ole Miss alum Drew Pomeranz, who has one win this year for Boston after notching 17 in 2017, remains on the disabled list with no announced timetable for his return. The left-hander last pitched on May 31, when he yielded four runs in five innings and fell to 1-3, 6.81 as Boston lost to Houston 4-2. “I’ll take some positive moving forward and take it into the next one,” he said after that game. He went on the 10-day DL with biceps tendinitis two days later. Pomeranz, who started the season on the DL, has lasted more than five innings in only two of eight starts.
When a scout told Sports Illustrated before the season that Hunter Renfroe reminded him of Jethro Bodine, he meant it as a compliment. The 6-foot-1, 220-pound Renfroe, a country boy from Crystal Springs, has Jethro-type strength, and it was on full display Sunday in San Diego. The ex-Mississippi State star smashed a pinch-hit grand slam for the Padres, his first homer since he returned May 28 from a lengthy stay on the disabled list. The slam, which propelled the Padres to a 6-3 win against Cincinnati, hit high up on the Western Metal Supply Co. Building down the left-field line at Petco Park. Renfroe pointed down the line with his bat as the ball flew out and then made an impressive bat flip when it hit the wall. “I’m swinging the bat well now, just got to keep it going,” he told mlb.com. Renfroe was a regular much of last season, when he hit 26 bombs, but his strikeout numbers (140) raised questions and he entered 2018 battling for a job. Hitting just .200 with two homers when he went down with an elbow problem in mid-April, Renfroe is 7-for-14 since he came back from Triple-A El Paso. The Padres reportedly are encouraged. “Anybody that’s ever doubted him has probably learned not to doubt him,” Padres manager Andy Green said in an mlb.com article. P.S. Renfroe, who debuted in 2016, now has three career grand slams and 33 career homers. He has a ways to go to catch fellow Mississippians Brian Dozier and Mitch Moreland, who also went deep on Sunday in big games. Fulton’s Dozier, who hit his ninth of the year as Minnesota beat Cleveland, has 160 career, joining Bill Melton and Frank White in a tie for sixth on the all-time list of Mississippi natives. Amory’s Moreland hit his 10th in Boston’s win at Houston and now has 142 career, two shy of ninth-place Charlie Hayes.
Tim Anderson, the former East Central Community College star, found himself in the leadoff spot for the Chicago White Sox on Saturday. Apparently, he likes it there. Anderson hit two home runs, drove in a career-high four runs and scored three times to fuel an 8-4 win at Detroit’s Comerica Park. The reedy (6 feet 1, 185 pounds) shortstop is batting .246 with 10 homers, 18 RBIs and 11 steals. He leads all Mississippians in the majors in homers and steals. His second bomb, a three-run shot, on Saturday came off Louis Coleman, the pride of Schlater, and put the White Sox up 7-3 in the sixth. “I’m having a hot streak right now,” Anderson, who also homered on Friday, told The Associated Press. Anderson hit fifth on Friday, seventh on Thursday and eighth on Wednesday after not playing on Tuesday. Apparently, the White Sox, having a brutal season, are searching for a lineup that clicks. Maybe they found something. Anderson, a 2013 first-rounder out of ECCC now in his third MLB campaign, has shown flashes of stardom. He hit .257 last year with 17 homers, 56 RBIs and 15 steals after batting .283 as a rookie. P.S. Coleman wasn’t the only Magnolia State product to yield a homer on Saturday. Chris Stratton, the Tupelo native and Mississippi State alum, gave up two bombs but got the win as San Francisco beat the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. Stratton, now 6-3 with a 4.97 ERA, allowed three runs in five innings. Kyle Schwarber and Javier Baez took him deep. Ex-Ole Miss standout Drew Pomeranz allowed a homer to Atlanta’s Dansby Swanson and lasted just 3 1/3 innings for Boston, which rallied to beat the Braves 8-6 at Fenway Park. There is speculation that Pomeranz may be moved to the bullpen.
Mitch Moreland doesn’t always start for the Boston Red Sox. But when he does, he prefers to rake. The ex-Mississippi State star is batting .311 with seven home runs and 22 RBIs in 34 games (103 at-bats) for the 34-16 Red Sox. The lefty-hitting first baseman has started only 25 games there in a platoon with Hanley Ramirez. Moreland, who re-signed as a free agent with Boston in the off-season, batted cleanup and homered in a 6-3 loss at Tampa Bay on Thursday night. It was his fifth homer in his last 15 games, and he is batting .333 over that stretch. With Ramirez mired in a deep slump, there has been much speculation in Boston media about Moreland, who is also the superior fielder, getting more playing time, even against lefty starters. Certainly seems to make sense. “We’ll figure it out. We’ll find at-bats for Mitch,” manager Alex Cora told mlb.com after Thursday’s game. The Red Sox host Atlanta tonight and with right-hander Julio Teheran scheduled for the Braves, Moreland ought to be in the lineup. P.S. Moreland’s homer was the 139th of his career, moving the Amory native out of a tie with Matt Lawton for 10th place on the all-time list for MLB homers by Mississippi-born players. Brian Dozier is the only other active player in the top 10; the ex-Southern Miss star from Fulton ranks eighth with 158. Ellis Burks tops that chart with 352, followed by Dave Parker (339), George Scott (271), Chet Lemon (215), Dmitri Young (171), Bill Melton (160), Frank White (160), Dozier, Charlie Hayes (144) and Moreland. The not-yet-officially-retired Seth Smith has 126. … Dozier also has seven bombs this season and is tied with Moreland and Tim Anderson (East Central Community College) for the lead in the 2018 All-Mississippi Home Run Derby.
Figures to be a lot of buzz at Ferriss Field in Cleveland tonight when Delta State and Mississippi College meet with a berth in the Gulf South Conference Tournament championship game on the line. The old rivals are both 2-0 in pool play. The winner advances to Wednesday’s title game. Top-seeded DSU (40-8) is 16-4 at home this season, but 4-seed MC (31-15) took one from the Statesmen in a three-game set last month. Clay Casey went 2-for-3 with his 16th home run of the year in DSU’s 7-5 win against North Alabama on Monday, while Billy Cameron and Blaine Crim combined for eight hits and seven RBIs in the Choctaws’ 11-1 win over West Alabama. … Southern Miss’ remarkable Nick Sandlin earned a fourth national player of the week award from Collegiate Baseball on Monday. He threw a six-hit shutout against UAB last week, improving to 7-0 with an 0.88 ERA. The Golden Eagles (35-12) have cracked the top 10 – at No. 9 – in d1baseball.com’s weekly rankings. Baseball America has USM 13th for the second straight week. (Ole Miss is sixth and fifth in those two polls.) … DeSoto Central High product Austin Riley, one of Atlanta’s top prospects, went 1-for-5 in his Triple-A debut on Monday, rapping a single in his first at-bat for Gwinnett. Riley was hitting .333 with six homers and 20 RBIs for the Double-A Mississippi Braves when he was promoted. The top position player prospect left on the M-Braves’ roster is catcher Alex Jackson, rated No. 14 by MLB Pipeline. Jackson is batting .221 with a homer and seven RBIs. … It’s time again, boys and girls, for Red Sox-Yankees. Tonight, at Yankee Stadium (6:05 p.m., MLB Network), former Ole Miss standout Drew Pomeranz pitches for Boston against New York’s emergent ace Luis Severino. Pomeranz is 1-1 with a 6.14 ERA but pitched well in his last start. The left-hander has a 3.12 career ERA at Yankee Stadium. Neither Aaron Judge nor Giancarlo Stanton has homered off Pomeranz – but Gary Sanchez has taken him deep three times. Mississippi State alum Mitch Moreland, who figures to be in Boston’s lineup, is 4-for-12 career vs. Severino.
Lance Lynn did not downplay the significance of his outing for Minnesota on Saturday. “It feels like a monkey is off my back, honestly,” the ex-Ole Miss star told mlb.com. Lynn, signed as a free agent this spring to bolster the rotation of team expecting to contend, earned his first win as a Twin in an 8-4 victory over the White Sox at Chicago’s Guaranteed Rate Field. He pitched out of some trouble early to go six innings, allowing eight hits and two runs with seven strikeouts. He is 1-3 with a 7.28 ERA this year. His career mark, in six years with St. Louis, is 73-50, 3.49. … Former East Central Community College star Tim Anderson hit two homers for the ChiSox — neither of them off Lynn — to give him six for the season, most of any Mississippian in the majors. … Mitch Moreland, the Mississippi State product from Amory, hit his fifth homer for Boston in an 8-5 win at Texas. Moreland is batting .338 with 16 RBIs for the first-place Red Sox. Also in that game, Mississippi Braves alum Craig Kimbrel notched his 300th save, becoming the sixth former Jackson area Double-A player to hit that milestone. joining Billy Wagner, Jeff Reardon, Randy Myers, Todd Jones and Rick Aguilera on that list. Ex-MSU star Jonathan Papelbon also had 300-plus. Kimbrel reached the plateau in fewer games than any pitcher in history. … Former Petal High star Anthony Alford is getting his second chance in The Show, having been recalled Saturday by Toronto. Alford, one of the Blue Jays’ highest rated prospects, was injured in spring training, one of several setbacks he has suffered in his career. He is batting just .154 in 10 games at Triple-A Buffalo. He went 1-for-8 in four big league games in 2017. Alford’s career minor league average is .269 with 21 homers and 76 steals in 317 games.