Mississippian Lance Barksdale had a great view of a wild and wooly affair in St. Louis on Monday night. The Brookhaven native was the home plate umpire in Milwaukee’s 6-4 win over the Cardinals, a game that had major postseason implications. This one turned when St. Louis right fielder Jose Martinez, who spent a year with the Mississippi Braves, misplayed an Eric Thames fly ball into a triple in the eighth inning. Thames scored the go-ahead run on an errant pickoff throw at first base. The game “featured” 16 pitchers, including an “opener” who threw three pitches. There were three home runs, one by Martinez, whose bat – certainly not his glove — keeps him in the lineup. Brewers bullpen ace and strikeout machine Josh Hader, the former Biloxi Shuckers star, yielded two homers, two walks and three runs, though he did manage two K’s. Ex-Shucker Corbin Burnes got two outs in the seventh and claimed the win; he is 7-0. Former Mississippi State star Dakota Hudson walked in a run (on his first four pitches) and gave up a sac fly that put St. Louis behind in the sixth inning. Ole Miss alum Mike Mayers gave up a big RBI double in the ninth to Brewers star – and likely league MVP – Christian Yelich. Eighteen batters struck out all told, and — oddly — neither team got a hit with a runner in scoring position. There was a runner thrown out at the plate. There were two hit batsmen. There was even a rain delay. When all was said and done, the Brewers stood 1.5 games behind first-place Chicago in the National League Central. The Cardinals are 3 games back of the Brewers and just a half-game up on Colorado in the wild card standings. P.S. Jonathan Holder, the former State star from Gulfport, made his first career start – in his 103rd appearance — for the New York Yankees, serving as the “opener” against Tampa Bay. He walked a pair but didn’t allow a run in his one inning of work and the Yanks went on to beat the Rays 4-1, handing Oakland a postseason berth in the process.
Brian Dozier makes his first trip to the postseason tonight, and it could be a short stay for the Southern Miss product. Dozier’s Minnesota Twins meet the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium in the American League’s wild card game. One game, loser goes home. The Yankees are heavily favored. Of course, no one gave the Twins much of a chance of making the postseason at all back in July, after they traded away a couple of key pitchers. Nevertheless, they persisted, to borrow a phrase. From Aug. 5 to season’s end, they went 33-21. They clinched the second wild card with four days left in the season. Dozier, the leadoff batter and emotional leader of the team, batted .303 with 17 home runs and 41 RBIs in August and September. He hit a clutch homer on Sept. 26 that beat Cleveland and reduced Minnesota’s clinching magic number to 1. Tonight’s game will start with Dozier at the plate facing right-hander Luis Severino. The numbers don’t tell us much. Dozier is 0-for-1 with a walk this season against Severino, who went 14-6 with a 2.98 ERA in 2017. Dozier is 2-for-9 this season at Yankee Stadium, 15-for-62 (.242) with two homers there in his career. But there is more to consider than numbers. Dozier, floated as a trade piece in the off-season, wanted to stay with Minnesota, the team that drafted him eight years ago, even though the Twins were not expected to contend. “He had a lot of unfinished business that he wanted to get done,” USM coach Scott Berry told WDAM-TV in Hattiesburg on Monday. Dozier persisted, and he might just be getting started.
You can argue that the win-or-go-home wild card game isn’t fair – but it sure is fun to watch. Former Mississippi State star Buck Showalter, still seeking his first World Series appearance in his 18th season as an MLB manager, takes his Baltimore Orioles into Toronto’s rowdy Rogers Centre tonight with this one shot at moving on in the postseason. The Blue Jays, managed by former Jackson Mets star John Gibbons, were widely regarded as a favorite in the American League East heading into the season. Showalter’s O’s weren’t supposed to be here. Sports Illustrated in its preseason preview ranked Baltimore 14th in the 15-team league. But a power-hitting lineup and a great bullpen carried the club to an 89-73 record and into the playoffs for the third time in Showalter’s seven years at the Orioles helm. Showalter has won 52 percent of his games – over 1,400 all told — and three manager of the year awards. He’s a Hall of Fame candidate. But his resume is missing a ring. He’ll try to take a step in that direction tonight in an elimination game. Note, too, that there is a history of testiness in this rivalry. As a fan, what more can you ask for?