Crystal Springs native Hunter Renfroe hit his 26th home run of the season for San Diego on Sunday, the last day of the MLB regular season. That’s an impressive total to be sure. But it’s not the record for homers in a rookie season by a Mississippi native. That belongs to Luke Easter, who hit 28 for Cleveland in 1950 – at the age of 35. Easter, a Jonestown native, was the first black Mississippian to play in the majors, breaking in late in 1949. Greenville native George Scott hit 27 “taters” as a rookie for Boston in 1966. Vicksburg’s Ellis Burks, Mississippi’s all-time home run leader with 352, hit 20 for the Red Sox in 1987, his first year. Worth noting: Renfroe hit four homers in 11 games at the end of the 2016 season but was still classified as a rookie this year. Calhoun native Dave Parker, who launched 339 career bombs, hit just four as a rookie in 54 games for Pittsburgh in 1973. McComb native Corey Dickerson hit 24 homers in 2014, his first full season with Colorado, but he no longer had rookie status. Gulfport’s Bill Melton cracked 23 in 1969 as a first-year regular for the Chicago White Sox, but he had exceeded rookie standards in 1968. … Billy Hamilton, the former Taylorsville High star, finished the season with 59 stolen bases, one shy of MLB leader Dee Gordon. Hamilton’s last attempt at a 60th bag on Sunday was foiled when the lead runner in a double steal was thrown out in Cincinnati’s win over the Chicago Cubs. Hamilton, with 243 career steals, is the all-time leader among Mississippi natives. … Ole Miss alum Zack Cozart went 0-for-3 to finish at .297 in what was probably his final game with the Reds. Cozart is among a sizable group of Mississippi-connected players headed for free agency, including Lance Lynn, Seth Smith, Mitch Moreland, Jarrod Dyson and Tyler Moore.
Billy Hamilton’s left thumb, which was broken on Sept. 6, probably still hurts. But the former Taylorsville High star can still swing the bat. And he can still run. Hamilton’s blazing speed was on display Sunday against Boston at Great American Ballpark, first when he tripled to drive in a run and later when he escaped a rundown between first and second base and wound up scoring. On that play, Hamilton dashed to third on a bad throw and scooted home when the Red Sox neglected to cover the plate. “In my whole career, that’s one of the best ones …,” Hamilton told The Associated Press. (Boston would win the game, however, 5-4 thanks to some heads-up baserunning by Mookie Betts.) Hamilton has played twice since coming off the disabled list last Wednesday. He is 3-for-8 with a pair of runs. He still leads the National League with 58 steals, two ahead of Miami’s Dee Gordon. Hamilton is batting .250 (.301 on-base percentage) with 10 triples and 84 runs in 134 games in his fourth season as a Reds regular.
The Billy Hamilton highlight reel, filled with daring stolen bases, ridiculous diving catches and great throws, added something new today: a walk-off home run. The Taylorsville High product swatted a Josh Hader fastball over the left-field wall at Great American Ballpark as Cincinnati beat Milwaukee 5-4. It was not only the first walk-off ever for Hamilton but his first right-handed homer of the season. The 160-pound leadoff batter and center fielder, who also picked up his 12th assist in the game, has four homers his season and 17 career bombs. “I’d rather throw a guy out than hit the big homer, but I’ll take both of them,” he told The Associated Press. On the season, he is batting .250 with 36 RBIs, 82 runs and an MLB-best 58 steals.
His team has the worst record in the American League, and he’s not having such a good year, either. So that first career walk-off hit on Wednesday night and the subsequent Gatorade shower had to feel pretty good to Tim Anderson. “I’m going to enjoy it and wear it until tomorrow,” the ex-East Central Community College star told csnchicago.com. Anderson’s ninth-inning single scored Avisail Garcia and the Chicago White Sox beat playoff-contender Minnesota 4-3 at Guaranteed Rate Field. Though his bat has perked up a bit this month, Anderson was in a 1-for-20 slump when he stepped to the plate in the ninth on Wednesday. He is hitting .239 on the year after batting .283 as a rookie in 2016. He has produced 14 homers, 42 RBIs and 49 runs but hasn’t been the base-stealing threat (six bags) he was projected to be as a first-round pick in 2013. At shortstop, Anderson has 25 errors and a .944 fielding percentage, well below league average. But for one night, at least, he soaked in some glory – and some Gatorade. P.S. Cincinnati’s Mississippi-flavored lineup did not produce an appetizing result on Wednesday. The Reds started Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton in center field, Ole Miss product Zack Cozart at short and UM alum Stuart Turner at catcher. Alas, they went 2-for-10 in a 9-3 loss to the Chicago Cubs.
Spoiler. It’s not a role Zack Cozart, the ex-Ole Mis star, or any of his Cincinnati teammates want to be playing, but it’s where they are in mid-August. Buried in the cellar of the National League Central, the Reds (49-68) have a boatload of games left against the other four division teams, which are bunched within 3 games of each other in the division standings. Cozart in particular could be a major thorn in the side of those clubs. The starting shortstop for the NL All-Star team last month, he is having a career year and showing no signs of easing off on the gas. Since coming off a second stint on the disabled list last Sunday, Cozart is 9-for-26 with four home runs and seven RBIs. “I want to be playing and playing well the rest of the year,” he told mlb.com. “That’s the goal.” Overall, he is batting .316 with 16 homers (matching his career-best) and 46 RBIs. A pending free agent, Cozart has been the subject of trade rumors dating back to the off-season, but it doesn’t appear now that he’s going anywhere this season. That could be bad news for Milwaukee, which has seven games left with the Reds including today’s at Miller Park, the Chicago Cubs (10), St. Louis (six) and Pittsburgh (nine). … The Reds’ roster includes two other Mississippi-connected players, Taylorsville High alum Billy Hamilton and Ole Miss product Stuart Turner. Former Northwest Mississippi Community College star Cody Reed is pitching in Triple-A and could be added in September. P.S. Props to UM alum Drew Pomeranz, who notched his career-best 12th win – and fifth in a row – as Boston beat the New York Yankees 10-5 on Saturday. … Ex-Rebels star Chris Coghlan, who has been on Toronto’s DL for weeks, was designated for assignment, clouding the remainder of his year. … The Cardinals honored their 1987 pennant-winning team on Saturday (before beating hapless Atlanta) at Busch Stadium. Jackson native and Jackson State product Curtis Ford was a semi-regular outfielder on that club, which lost to Minnesota in the World Series.
Billy Hamilton went from the batter’s box to third base in 10.62 seconds on a triple in Cincinnati’s game against San Diego on Monday night. According to mlb.com, that’s tied for the third fastest time this season; the ex-Taylorsville High star already claims the two fastest times. Hamilton presents a bundle of compelling — and sometimes head-scratching — numbers. To wit:
44 – Stolen bases, best in the majors. His career-best is 58, which he’ll probably surpass.
9 – Triples this season, second in the big leagues and a career-high. Oddly enough, he has only 12 doubles.
70 – Runs this season, which is tied for 18th among MLB qualifiers. This despite the fact he is hitting just .251 with a .299 on-base percentage; 136 players have a higher OBP.
.340 – Batting average in the first inning. His triple on Monday came in the first – as the leadoff batter — and he would score the first run in the Reds’ 11-3 victory at Great American Ballpark.
.367 – Batting average on the first pitch. He has a homer, three triples, three doubles and seven RBIs when he puts the ball in play on the 0-0, which he has done 49 times in his 438 at-bats. As a leadoff batter, he is normally expected to work the count.
.219 – Batting average as a right-handed hitter. That’s his natural side. He is batting .265 as a lefty, where he gets most of his ABs. The Reds made Hamilton a switch-hitter after drafting him.
P.S. Former first-round pick D.J. Davis has perked up a bit at Class A Dunedin in the Toronto system. The former Stone County High standout is batting .343 over his last 10 games, raising his season average to .247. He has 28 stolen bases. This may be a critical year for the 23-year-old Davis, drafted in 2012, after he batted just .197 at the high-A level in 2016.
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.