Brandon Woodruff found a niche in Milwaukee this season, his second in the majors. The Mississippi State alum from Wheeler became one of the many bullpen pieces Brewers manager Craig Counsell relied on as the club churned toward the National League Central championship. There’s a good chance Woodruff will pitch today in Game 1 of the National League Division Series against Colorado. Much as Oakland did – without great success – in Wednesday’s American League Wild Card Game, Milwaukee is expected to throw a bevy of relievers at the Rockies. And brace for plenty of pitching changes as the series rolls on. That’s the Brewers’ M.O. — and the key to their chances in this postseason. As Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci writes: “This is the game today: a proliferation of relievers with powerful stuff, and managers armed with specific data on how best to deploy them. … And this October, nobody can play this game better than Milwaukee.” Woodruff made 19 appearances for the club, 15 out of the pen. He has a 3.61 ERA, a 3-0 record and one save. Over his last seven appearances, the 25-year-old right-hander had a 0.73 ERA with 16 strikeouts and three walks in 12 1/3 innings. Woodruff is one of a bunch of former Biloxi Shuckers pitchers — Corbin Burnes, Jacob Barnes, Freddy Peralta, Taylor Williams, Josh Hader – now populating the Milwaukee bullpen. P.S. Brian Dozier, the ex-Southern Miss star from Fulton, has played in one postseason game in his seven years in the big leagues. He has to be champing at the bit for his next opportunity, which could come tonight. Dozier isn’t expected to start for Los Angeles in the NLDS opener against Atlanta, but, despite his late-season offensive struggles, he’ll play at some point in the series. Dozier, possibly dealing with a sore knee, batted .182 with five home runs for the Dodgers after being acquired from Minnesota in July. He did homer on the last day of the regular season. And in that one postseason game, last year against the New York Yankees, he went 2-for-4 with a bomb.
Marcus Thames, the slugger from Louisville, is on a list that is both short and long at the same time. In its current issue (May 18), Sports Illustrated highlights the players who homered on the first pitch they saw in the big leagues. Minnesota’s Eddie Rosario became the 29th to achieve that feat on May 6. Just the 29th. And yet, it seems crazy that it has happened 29 times! First pitch. Home run. Thames did it on June 10, 2002. The former East Central Community College star, debuting for the New York Yankees, took Randy Johnson deep at Yankee Stadium. Thames, now a coach in the Yankees’ minor league system, is one of the few players on the list the casual fan might actually have heard of. There’s Bert Campaneris, Junior Felix, Adam Wainwright (yes, the pitcher), Starling Marte, Daniel Nava and Jay Bell. Bell went on to hit 194 more homers and has the most of any player on the first-pitch-homer list. Thames is second with 115. He hit just .246 over his career, but he did have some thump, averaging a home run every 15.4 at-bats, a remarkable ratio. P.S. Kudos to Oxford High’s Jason Barber, who is featured in Sports Illustrated’s Faces in the Crowd, which makes note of his 0.00 ERA and two no-hitters this season. … Kudos also to former Mississippi Braves star Todd Cunningham, who went 3-for-4 with an RBI and two runs in his first big league start, sparking Atlanta’s 5-3 win at Miami on Friday night. … Former Ole Miss star Zack Cozart and Taylorsville High product Billy Hamilton homered for Cincinnati, the only runs yielded by Madison Bumgarner in San Francisco’s 10-2 rout of the Reds. Southern Miss alum Brian Dozier went yard (on his 28th birthday) for Minnesota, and ex-UM standout Seth Smith homered for Seattle. Cozart leads all Mississippians in the majors with six homers.