Of the 93 hits Mitch Moreland has this season, No. 93 on Sunday night might have been one of the least well-struck. Still, it set off a mad celebration at Fenway Park. Mississippi State product Moreland sliced an opposite-field flare into left field, scoring a runner from second base with two outs in the ninth and giving Boston a 6-5 win over Houston in a battle of American League juggernauts. “Yeah, I mean, I’ll take it every time,” Moreland, who has been battling a slump, said in an mlb.com story. Moreland, an All-Star this summer, is hitting just .200 over his last 30 games. For the year, the lefty-hitting first baseman is at .251 with 15 homers and 67 RBIs. Nicknamed “2 Bags” last year for his knack of smacking doubles, Moreland has 40 extra-base hits and is slugging .450. The win was Boston’s 98th of the year, its seventh walk-off, and salvaged the third game of the series against the Astros. … Meanwhile, in Wappingers Falls, N.Y., another ex-Bulldogs star got mobbed on Sunday after registering a three-pitch save that secured the New York-Penn League championship. Jacob Billingsley, a 32nd-round pick out of State in June, closed out Tri-City’s 4-2 victory over Hudson Valley in the short-season Class A circuit. “That was fun. Man, that was fun,” Billingsley told milb.com. “It means everything to a lot of these guys.” Billingsley pitched in nine games for the Astros affiliate and posted a 5.63 ERA (inflated by one bad outing) with one save. The 24-year-old right-hander entered Sunday’s contest – Game 2 of the best-of-3 – in the 12th inning with the bases loaded and two outs. He induced a fly ball with his third pitch to set off the ValleyCats’ celebration.
Count Hunter Renfroe among those who’ll hate to see August end. The ex-Mississippi State star has had that kind of a month for the San Diego Padres. He hit his ninth homer of August — 17th of the season — in the Padres’ 8-3 win against Seattle on Wednesday. The big outfielder is batting .299 this month with 26 RBIs. He is at .253 with 53 RBIs for the season, which included a sluggish start, an injury and a stay in the minors. One writer called Renfroe’s resurgence “astounding.” The Padres, in the throes of a rebuild, surely must like what they’ve seen of late. … Fours were wild for Billy Hamilton on Wednesday in Cincinnati’s crazy 13-12 loss to Milwaukee at Great American Ballpark. The ex-Taylorsville High standout — the recent subject of trade speculation — hit his fourth career leadoff homer, which was his fourth bomb of the season, and matched a career-high with four hits. He also scored three times, though he departed the game after a headfirst slide into home. Hamilton is batting .243 with 28 RBIs, 66 runs and 29 steals, way down from his average (58) the previous four seasons. He was caught stealing for the eighth time on Wednesday. … Drew Pomeranz, whose turn in Boston’s rotation in 2018 had been largely terrible, has fared better in the bullpen. The big lefty from Ole Miss threw a scoreless ninth in the Red Sox’s wild 14-6 win over Miami. In seven relief appearances, he has a win and a 3.97 ERA. He won just once in his 11 starts. His season ERA is still an ugly 5.89. P.S. And one more thing: Cody Reed gets his second start of 2018 today as the Reds play Milwaukee again. The Northwest Mississippi Community College product has pitched well in relief since returning from the minors (see previous post) and has a 3.68 ERA in 11 MLB games all told this season.
Ah, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. Mississippians experienced both on Friday — and something in between, as well — in the wide world of big league baseball. Start with the agony. In the big Houston-Oakland showdown, former Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College standout Tony Sipp, an Astros reliever, surrendered a walk-off home run to Matt Olson that gave the A’s a 4-3 win in 10 innings and cut Houston’s lead to 1 game in the American League West. Sipp has been very good this season. His ERA entering Friday’s game was 1.50. He hadn’t allowed a run since June 24. He hadn’t allowed a home run all season. So, yeah, that one hurt. On to the thrill: Mitch Moreland, the Mississippi State product, is also having a helluva year — and so is his team, the Boston Red Sox, who have the best record in the game. They trailed early on Friday against Tampa Bay in Fenway Park but rallied, going ahead to stay in the fifth inning on an RBI hit by Moreland, his 62nd RBI of the year. He scored a run in the seventh inning as the Red Sox, 87-36 and 43-15 at home, stormed to a 7-3 win. Meanwhile, at Yankee Stadium, ex-Ole Miss star Lance Lynn, who had been lights out in his first three appearances for New York, gave up four runs in the first inning against Toronto but his personal agony was erased by a thrilling Yankees rally. They won a rain-shortened affair 7-5, staying within shouting distance — if only barely — of the Red Sox in the AL East. Lynn now has a 2.61 ERA in four games, three starts, with the Yanks since arriving in a trade with Minnesota.
Mitch Moreland is caught up in the middle of something special. Moreland, the Mississippi State alum from Amory, hit a key home run on Tuesday night to help Boston repel Toronto 10-7 in a wild 10-inning affair. It was the Red Sox’s 80th win of the year; that’s seven more than the next best total. They swept the rival New York Yankees four straight over the weekend. They’re on a 24-5 roll. There’s even buzz about them threatening Seattle’s 2001 record of 116 wins. “Yeah, we’re pretty good,” Moreland said in his typically understated manner in an mlb.com story. His decision to re-sign with the Red Sox as a free agent in the off-season is shaping up as a brilliant career move. He has delivered 14 homers and 55 RBIs as part of a lineup stacked with All-Stars, himself included. And consider that the Red Sox have achieved these heights with little contribution from ex-Ole Miss star Drew Pomeranz, a 17-game winner in 2017 who has one victory this season. He started Tuesday’s game and lasted just 4 2/3 innings, yielding two runs. His ERA is 6.31. “We need this guy,” manager Alex Cora told mlb.com. “This guy is very important to us for what we want to try to accomplish, so we’ll keep working at it.” P.S. Former State standout Hunter Renfroe went deep for San Diego, his 10th of the year and 40th of his career. He is hitting .297 with three homers in his last seven games.
Brian Dozier wasn’t the only Southern Miss alumnus to put on a new uniform on Tuesday. Cody Carroll was promoted from Triple-A Norfolk to Baltimore and was in New York, though he did not pitch, for the Orioles’ game against the Yankees. Carroll was acquired from the Yankees last week in the Zach Britton trade. The 25-year-old right-hander had a 2.38 ERA and nine saves at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre before the deal and pitched twice for Norfolk. Overall, he has 57 strikeouts, 18 walks and no homers allowed this season. It’ll be interesting to see how O’s manager Buck Showalter uses him. “He’s a guy that’s up to 100 mph,” a scout told masnsports.com. “Sinker/slider guy with a big-time power arm and a good slider.” Carroll is the 25th Mississippian (native or college alum) to appear on a major league roster this season and will be the third to make his debut. … Dozier, dealt by Minnesota to the Los Angeles Dodgers just before the trade deadline, actually made it to Dodger Stadium and was in uniform in the ninth inning of Tuesday night’s game. He didn’t play but reportedly will start at second base tonight. “I told Dave (Roberts, Dodgers manager), you’ll get 100 percent from me,” Dozier said in an mlb.com article. “Off the bench, playing every day, whatever the case may be.” … Ex-Mississippi State star Mitch Moreland, who had two hits in his first All-Star Game, is just 4-for-28 since for Boston. That .143 skid has dropped his average to .264. He has 12 homers and 48 RBIs. … Tim Anderson, the former East Central Community College standout, was pulled from Tuesday’s game by Chicago White Sox manager Rick Renteria after Anderson didn’t run out a line drive that appeared to be caught by the Kansas City third baseman. The umpire, however, ruled it a no-catch, and Anderson was thrown out at first base. He said he understood and accepted Renteria’s decision. “It can’t happen. It doesn’t look good,” Anderson told mlb.com. Anderson, also in a slump, is batting .241 with 14 homers and 43 RBIs. … The disaster that has been Ole Miss product Mickey Callaway’s rookie season as New York Mets manager got worse on Tuesday, when the club suffered a 25-4 loss to Washington, the most lopsided defeat in franchise history. At least it didn’t happen at CitiField.
Mississippi-connected pitchers were in the MLB news on Tuesday. And much of the news wasn’t good. Drew Pomeranz, the former Ole Miss star, came off the disabled list to make his first start for Boston since May 31. He lost. Mississippi State alum Brandon Woodruff, who has been on the elevator between Milwaukee and Triple-A Colorado Springs this season, went down again. For ex-State standout Kendall Graveman, the news was far worse. Oakland announced that Graveman will have Tommy John surgery, which could mean he’ll miss all of 2019. “It’s going to take him a little while to get back,” A’s manager Bob Melvin told mlb.com. “So we’re all feeling that a little today.” Then there’s Southern Miss product Cody Carroll, who was among the three minor leaguers traded by the New York Yankees to Baltimore for Zach Britton. For Carroll, who has been pitching very well at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, the move from the powerhouse Yankees to the moribund Orioles might mean a clearer path to the big leagues. So there’s that. … Pomeranz allowed six hits – two homers – two walks and four runs in 4 2/3 innings vs. Baltimore and fell to 1-4, 6.91 in nine starts for the Red Sox. He did not seem discouraged. “Literally two bad pitches, so that’s about it,” he told mlb.com. … Woodruff has a 4.80 ERA in 12 games with the Brewers. Optioned out for the fifth time in 2018, he’ll no doubt be back with the big club soon. … Graveman was 1-5, 7.60 for the A’s this year and was demoted to Triple-A Nashville in late April. He made four Triple-A starts before being shut down in late May. … Carroll, in his fourth pro season, was rated the No. 15 prospect in the Yankees’ system. He was 3-0 with nine saves and a 2.38 ERA at SWB and over his last 10 games had a 0.82 ERA and four saves. He might get a look with the O’s before season’s end.
Will it be the Dodgers? Red Sox? How ’bout the Brewers? There are many teams rumored to be interested in trading for Brian Dozier, the ex-Southern Miss star currently playing second base for Minnesota. And why not? He’s a Gold Glover-caliber defender with power and, from all indications, a great clubhouse presence. He’s also a free agent after this season. While the conventional wisdom is that the Twins’ season has gone off the rails, Dozier, not surprisingly, begs to differ. “Everyone keeps talking about trade deadlines and trades and selling and all this; this game can turn in a minute,” he told the St. Paul Pioneer-Press on Tuesday. “And I have a feeling it’s turning now.” Alas, despite Dozier’s 14th homer, the Twins’ five-game win streak ended Tuesday night with a 9-4 loss at home to Kansas City, which had lost 10 straight. The Twins are 40-49, 8 1/2 games behind first-place Cleveland in the American League Central. Yes, they made an improbable rally last year to earn a wild card berth. Doing that again, considering the other contenders, would seem even more improbable. It’s much more likely they’ll trade Dozier for prospects. The Dodgers, if they don’t get Manny Machado, would seem to be a very nice fit.
The preseason magazines didn’t give Mitch Moreland much attention. Sports Illustrated’s Boston Red Sox preview didn’t mention him at all. The Amory native and former Mississippi State standout had re-signed as a free agent with the Red Sox in mid-December with no guarantee of a spot in the lineup. But Moreland did what he does: Keep grinding. And on Sunday, Moreland got a spot on the American League All-Star roster, voted in by his fellow players. It’ll be the first trip to the Midsummer Classic for the humble nine-year veteran. Funny how things work out. Boston had five players make the All-Star squad. When Boston manager Alex Cora informed the team of this news, his announcement of Moreland’s selection reportedly got the loudest response. “Out of all of them — I’m very proud of all of them — but to tell the team that he’s an All-Star, that was amazing,” Cora said in an mlb.com article. Moreland wasn’t in the lineup for Games 1 or 2 of the season, coming in late as a defensive replacement at first base for Hanley Ramirez. When his at-bats did come, Moreland started slowly. But by mid-May, he had taken the everyday job. Ramirez was released at the end of that month. As a 17th-round draft pick, Moreland said he always felt like he had to battle for everything he got in the game. “I might not be the fastest or have the quickest hands or whatever, but I’m going to work as hard as anybody out there,” he told masslive.com on Sunday. That lunch-pail mentality has served him well. He reached the big leagues with Texas in 2010 – his fourth pro season — and has been in The Show ever since. He’s had some good years. He has 143 career homers. He has a Gold Glove. And, hey now, he’s an All-Star. P.S. Props also to former Mississippi Braves Freddie Freeman, Ozzie Albies and Craig Kimbrel and Biloxi Shuckers alum Josh Hader for making the All-Star rosters.
Billy Hamilton’s name popped up all over the box score from Friday’s game between Cincinnati and the Chicago Cubs. The former Taylorsville High star went 3-for-3 with a walk, scored a run, was caught stealing and picked off. Hamilton is batting .222 (.304 on-base percentage) with 45 runs in 84 games for the resurgent Reds; he has 16 steals and has been caught four times. He has averaged 58 steals the past four years. … Richton High alum JaCoby Jones hit his seventh home run of the season for Detroit, taking Texas’ ageless Bartolo Colon deep in the Tigers’ 3-1 win. Jones, in his third MLB season, now has 10 career homers. … Ex-Ole Miss standout Lance Lynn, subject of trade rumors, threw six strong innings for Minnesota in a 6-2 win against Baltimore and moved his record to 6-7. He has a 5.21 ERA. … Northwest Mississippi Community College product Cody Reed, recalled from the minors by Cincinnati on Wednesday, was sent down on Thursday without making an appearance. … Southwest Mississippi CC alum Jarrod Dyson went on the 10-day disabled list with what was called a “lower core” injury. Reports seemed to indicate that the veteran outfielder could be out long-term. He is batting .189 with 16 bags in his first year with Arizona. … Former Mississippi State star Mitch Moreland (back spasms) was held out of Boston’s game on Friday but is expected to play today. He is batting .288 with 11 homers. … Ole Miss product Drew Pomeranz, on the DL for Boston since the end of May, is slated for a second rehab start tonight at Triple-A Pawtucket. Pomeranz’s first rehab start did not go well: four homers and two walks allowed in 2 2/3 innings of work. … Down on the farm, ex-DeSoto Central standout Austin Riley, on the DL at Triple-A Gwinnett in Atlanta’s system since early June, has played two rehab games in the Gulf Coast League. The third base prospect is 2-for-6 with two RBIs. He was hitting .284 with four homers and 18 RBIs when he went down with a knee injury at Gwinnett.
In the Boston Red Sox-New York Yankees clash slated for the next three days at Yankee Stadium, we might be lucky enough to see a matchup of Mississippians in a crucial spot: Amory native Mitch Moreland of the BoSox vs. Gulfport’s Jonathan Holder of the Yanks. Moreland, having a strong year (.290, 11 homers, 40 RBIs), typically hits in the middle of Boston’s order. (A left-handed hitter, he isn’t in the starting lineup tonight against lefty CC Sabathia.) Holder, having a breakout season (1.78 ERA in 26 games), has been getting more calls in key late-inning situations for New York. Moreland is 0-for-1 this year and 0-for-2 career against fellow Mississippi State product Holder, a right-hander. Boston hitters are 0-for-8 against Holder in 2018 and were 1-for-15 against him last year. Moreland is 4-for-14 vs. the Yanks in 2018, with a homer, against Masahiro Tanaka, currently out with an injury. He was 10-for-50 last year, with homers against Tanaka and Sonny Gray, Saturday’s scheduled starter. The Red Sox currently lead the Yankees by a game in the American League East. P.S. Former Ole Miss star Lance Lynn, currently pitching on a one-year deal with Minnesota, is considered an attractive trade piece, and one of the teams mentioned by mlb.com as a good fit is – drumroll – the Yankees. After a sluggish start in 2018, Lynn, a veteran who eats innings, is 4-2, 2.40 over his last seven starts.