There is something sort of Yankees-esque about baseball at the University of Tampa, which hosts Delta State this weekend in the NCAA Division II South Super Regional. Two of Tampa’s most famous alumni, Lou Piniella and Tino Martinez, played for the New York Yankees, as did another Spartans alum of note, Sam Militello, now a UT coach. Coincidentally, the UT baseball field sits not far from George M. Steinbrenner Field, where the Yankees hold spring training and field a Class A club. And then there is the championship pedigree. The Yankees – the team of mystique and aura — own 27 World Series titles. The Spartans claim seven NCAA D-II titles, second-most all-time, including the 2015 and ’13 crowns. They should consider wearing pinstripes. The current Tampa team is 39-14, ranked third in the nation and has designs on another championship. Delta State, 42-12 and ranked fifth, has a case full of trophies back in Cleveland but owns only one national championship, from 2004. DSU has a trio of starters – Hunter Riggins, Seth Hougesen and Dalton Minton – that gives it a good shot at winning any best-of-3 series. The key hitter for Tampa might be Yorvis Torrealba – son of the ex-big leaguer Yorvit – who is batting .420 with 11 homers, mainly from the leadoff spot. Stevie Mangum is a .345 hitter and has eight homers. DSU’s offensive leader much of the season has been Jake Barlow (.327, 11 homers, 53 RBIs). The schools have played 10 times over the years, with the Statesmen winning six, mystique and aura be damned.
Jonathan Holder, the Mississippi State product from Gulfport, got the last six outs and earned the win in the New York Yankees’ 4-3, 14-inning victory against the Los Angeles Angels on Monday night. Holder, the fifth reliever called on by the Yanks, trimmed his ERA to 5.54 and struck out three, running his season total to 14 in 13 innings.
Jarrod Dyson, the former Southwest Mississippi Community College star from McComb, went 1-for-5 with a walk and scored twice as the leadoff batter in Arizona’s 12-4 win over Pittsburgh. Dyson scored in both the seventh and eighth innings as the Diamondbacks rallied for 11 runs to overcome a 4-1 deficit. Getting more regular playing time of late, Dyson is at .286 (.379 OBP) with three homers, seven RBIs, 10 runs and three steals.
Brian Dozier, the ex-Southern Miss standout from Fulton, hit his fourth home run, a three-run shot that gave Washington an early lead in a game the Nationals would ultimately lose 7-5 to Colorado. Dozier, who was batting .080 with no RBIs on April 6, has three homers in his last four games and has lifted his average to .188 with six RBIs.
If you hate the New York Yankees, you have to be cringing at the thought of what they might have in 2019. No major league team has ever hit more home runs than the Yankees did in 2018. They might hit more this season. The Yankees’ bullpen set a record for strikeouts in 2018. It might be even better this season. Yikes. A couple of Mississippi natives could be factors in both of those developments, as they were last year. Louisville’s Marcus Thames, a pretty fair slugger in his playing days, is the Yankees’ hitting coach. He gets to work every day with Aaron Judge, Mike Stanton, Gary Sanchez, et al., mostly the same bunch that belted 267 homers in 2018, with 12 guys hitting 10 or more. Some think 300 bombs is well within reach. “If we have a healthy Judge, a healthy Stanton and a healthy Sanchez, who knows what happens?” Thames recently told the New York Post. “I look forward to having them healthy and seeing it.” But is the Yankees’ power hitting even the best element of the team? “Their strength is their bullpen,” Boston manager Alex Cora told mlb.com. New York relievers, including Gulfport native – and Mississippi State career saves leader — Jonathan Holder, averaged 11.4 strikeouts per nine innings last season, and the team has added the intimidating Adam Ottavino to the mix. So, yes, that pen might be mightier still in 2019. “That’s a scary thought,” a rival scout told the New York Daily News. For Yankees haters, it is indeed.
Curious to see what’s next for Jacob Lindgren, the ex-Mississippi State star from Biloxi who has been removed from Atlanta’s 40-man roster and outrighted to Triple-A. Lindgren had Tommy John surgery – his second one – last March and missed all of the 2018 season. The left-hander also missed all of the 2017 season and pitched just seven innings in 2016. The Braves signed him as a minor league free agent after the 2016 season. The future seemed so bright for Lindgren in 2014. After a dominant season at State (0.81 ERA, 100 strikeouts in 55 innings), he was picked in the second round of the draft by the New York Yankees. He made his big league debut in May of 2015. Shortly thereafter, the arm problems began. Some pitchers have returned from two Tommy John surgeries, but the odds aren’t great.
Mississippi college products Lance Lynn and Jonathan Holder each had a hand in a history-making event on Monday night at Yankee Stadium. But not one they’ll want to remember. They were two of the six pitchers used by the New York Yankees in their 16-1 loss to Boston in Game 3 of the American League Division Series. It was the worst postseason loss by any Yankees team, and the 16 runs were the most they’ve allowed in a postseason game. It was the most lopsided win by any visiting team in postseason history. The New York Times called the defeat “humiliating.” Holder, the Mississippi State alum, allowed two hits, a walk and a run in two innings in his first career postseason appearance. That’s a 4.50 ERA – and the best effort by a Yankees pitcher on Monday. It was 10-0 by the time Holder got in in the sixth inning. Lynn, the ex-Ole Miss star, worked in the pivotal fourth, when the Red Sox scored seven runs. He had pitched well in a relief outing in Game 1 last week but not on this night. He faced four batters and retired one. He walked in a run and yielded a three-run double. He was charged with three runs. Game 4, a possible clincher for Boston, is tonight at Yankee Stadium.
Boston would no doubt like to have Mitch Moreland in the lineup tonight for the American League Division Series Game 3 at Yankee Stadium, but it could be a game-time decision. The former Mississippi State star, who carries a .350 average against expected New York starter Luis Severino, has been getting “aggressive treatment” for a hamstring issue that surfaced during Saturday’s game. Moreland went 1-for-3 in the Red Sox’s loss, which evened the best-of-5 series at 1-all. Moreland, an outstanding first baseman, is 6-for-16 in the postseason for Boston the last two years and is a .239 hitter with three homers in 39 career postseason games. He batted .245 with 15 homers this year. … Ole Miss product Lance Lynn worked two scoreless innings for the Yankees in their Game 1 loss in his 25th career postseason appearance. He has a 4.33 ERA in those games, the first 24 of which were with St. Louis. Former State standout Jonathan Holder, who had a 3.14 ERA for the Yankees this year, is yet to pitch in the ALDS and has no career postseason appearances. … Tony Sipp, the Pascagoula native and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College product, did not work in either of Houston’s two wins in the ALDS vs. Cleveland. The veteran lefty has six career postseason appearances, all with the Astros in 2015. Indians batters are 1-for-9 against Sipp this year. Game 3 is today. … Brian Dozier, the former Southern Miss star, got a hit Sunday night in his first at-bat this postseason for Los Angeles but also struck out to end Game 3 of the National League Division Series, a crazy 6-5 win by Atlanta. The win, the loss and the save went to former Mississippi Braves: Touki Toussaint got the W, Arodys Vizcaino the save and Alex Wood – who yielded Freddie Freeman’s clutch home run – took the L. Game 4 is today. … Former Biloxi Shuckers ace Corbin Burnes got the win in relief Sunday for Milwaukee as it wrapped up its NLDS against Colorado. Ex-Shuckers star Orlando Arcia homered in the 6-0 victory. Former State standout Brandon Woodruff, also a former Shuckers hurler, started the Brewers’ NLDS roll with three hitless innings as the “opener” in Game 1. “(T)hat kind of set the tempo for everybody,” said Game 3 starter Wade Miley, a veteran whose 2018 season began on a minor league deal in Biloxi. “We kind of went from there.” Colorado scored just two runs in the series.
As the Houston Astros marched toward their first World Series title last year, all Tony Sipp could do was watch. The veteran relief pitcher, who struggled through much of the 2017 season, wasn’t on the team’s roster for any of their three postseason series. Well, that was then. After an amazing resurgence in 2018, the former Moss Point High and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College standout is on the roster for the American League Division Series against Cleveland. Game 1 is today at Minute Maid Park. A couple of things happened for the 35-year-old left-hander this year. First, he had to battle just to make the team in spring training and essentially keep his career alive. “It all just came together to create that hunger again. It’s do or die; my back is against the wall,” Sipp told the Houston Chronicle last month. Then, he regained confidence in his best pitch, a splitter that had abandoned him in 2016 and ’17. In 54 appearances (38 2/3 innings) this season, Sipp put up a 1.86 ERA. He yielded just one home run after coughing up eight in 2017 and 12 in 2016. He is the lone lefty in Houston’s bullpen; he is best against lefties (0.90 ERA this year) but can also get right-handed hitters (2.89). P.S. Houston’s roster also includes former Mississippi Braves Brian McCann, Evan Gattis and Charlie Morton, a hero of last year’s title run. Hitting coach Dave Hudgens is a former Jackson Generals hitting coach, a last link to the Double-A Astros affiliate that played at Smith-Wills Stadium from 1991-99. … In that other ALDS, which starts tonight at Fenway Park, Boston’s roster includes former Mississippi State star Mitch Moreland (but not Ole Miss alumnus Drew Pomeranz). The New York Yankees have an alum from both State (Jonathan Holder) and Ole Miss (Lance Lynn) in their bullpen, and the Bombers’ hitting coach is former East Central CC standout Marcus Thames.
The Oakland A’s plan to use a bunch of pitchers in tonight’s American League Wild Card Game against the New York Yankees. One who won’t see the mound is Kendall Graveman, the club’s opening day starter this year and in 2017. Ex-Mississippi State standout Graveman had Tommy John surgery in July; he may not pitch again until late in the 2019 season. “It does suck, it’s no fun, it stinks,” he told the San Francisco Examiner when his surgery was announced. “With the love I have for the game, it’s not easy, and it hurts right now — the guys are playing so well and I want to be out there competing with them.” It must be especially painful now, considering that in his previous three years with the A’s, they didn’t sniff the postseason, finishing dead last in the AL West each year. Graveman struggled at the start of this season – he was 1-5 with a 7.60 ERA in the big leagues – and was in the minors when his injury was diagnosed. (Oddly enough, his one MLB victory in 2018 was against the Yankees in May.) The 27-year-old righty also battled injuries in 2017, going 6-4, 4.19. He is 23-29, 4.38 for his career. P.S. Former Mississippi Braves Ryan Buchter and Cory Gearrin could be in the parade of relievers the A’s use tonight. Gearrin was in Mississippi in 2009, posting a 2.84 ERA in 20 appearances. Lefty Buchter passed through Pearl in 2012 and had a 1.31 ERA in 35 games. Both have been effective for the A’s this season. … The Yankees’ bullpen includes former State star Jonathan Holder. The Gulfport native had a 3.14 ERA in 60 games this year. Ole Miss alum Lance Lynn, primarily a starter this year, is also active.
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.
Boston will be in the playoffs, but it’s highly questionable whether Ole Miss product Drew Pomeranz will be there. The left-hander, who lost his job in the Red Sox’s rotation earlier this season, has been erratic working out of the bullpen. He yielded three hits and two runs in 1 2/3 innings against the New York Mets on Sunday, almost squandering a 3-0 lead in the sixth inning. His ERA rose to 6.17, roughly three runs higher than his 2017 number. He has allowed 22 baserunners in his last 13 2/3 innings. Hard to see Pomeranz being summoned in a clutch situation. … If the New York Yankees survive the American League wild card showdown, it’ll be interesting to see if Lance Lynn, another ex-UM star, makes their rotation for the divisional round. Lynn, added in a July trade, is 2-2 with a 4.47 ERA in nine games for the Yanks. He allowed one run on three hits against Toronto on Sunday but lasted just five innings. He got a no-decision in a game the club lost 3-2. In the pecking order of pinstriped starting pitchers, Lynn likely stands behind Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ and CC Sabathia. … Playing the role of spoiler in the National League Central, Corey Dickerson was practically a one-man wrecking crew against Milwaukee on Sunday. The former Meridian Community College star had a hand in each of Pittsburgh’s runs in a 3-2 victory that stung the Brewers, who are trying to chase down Chicago in the division. Dickerson went 3-for-4 with two runs and an RBI for the Pirates. They took two of three from Milwaukee over the weekend, dropping the Brewers 2.5 games behind the Cubs. The Pirates have three games left with Milwaukee and four with Chicago. Dickerson is hitting .293 on the year, and the RBI on Sunday was his 50th. In his sixth big league season and with his third team, he hasn’t seen the postseason.