There were huge hits by Brett Gardner and Aaron Judge in the eighth inning and another dominant ninth by Aroldis Chapman, but don’t overlook what Jonathan Holder did for the New York Yankees in their 9-6 win over Boston on Wednesday night. Former Mississippi State standout Holder entered the game in the top of the eighth. Boston led 6-5 – thanks in part to State alum Mitch Moreland’s sixth homer — and had runners at second and third with one out. Holder struck out Christian Vazquez and, after intentionally walking Mookie Betts, got a ground out by Andrew Benintendi to end the inning. In the bottom half, as Yankee Stadium went nuts, Gardner’s two-run triple and Judge’s two-run homer off Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel, the former Mississippi Braves star, put New York ahead. Chapman then notched his ninth save with a three-strikeout ninth. Holder, who doesn’t get a lot of work out of the Yanks’ stacked bullpen, got the win and is now 1-1 with a 5.79 ERA in nine games. He has delivered 2 2/3 scoreless innings in his last three outings. … While the Yankees have won 17 of 18 to move past the Red Sox into first place in the American League East, New York’s other team is in a nosedive. The Mets, under first-year manager Mickey Callaway, the ex-Ole Miss star, may have reached a nadir on Wednesday. They lost 2-1 at Cincinnati – the National League’s worst team – and suffered a batting-out-of-order gaffe in the first inning. Once 11-1, the Mets have lost eight of nine and fallen to third place in the NL East at 18-17. A headline in one New York paper called it a “laughable spiral.” The language will get worse if things don’t begin to turn around. “(W)e’re better than this, and we’re going to start figuring it out,” Callaway said in an mlb.com article.
Figures to be a lot of buzz at Ferriss Field in Cleveland tonight when Delta State and Mississippi College meet with a berth in the Gulf South Conference Tournament championship game on the line. The old rivals are both 2-0 in pool play. The winner advances to Wednesday’s title game. Top-seeded DSU (40-8) is 16-4 at home this season, but 4-seed MC (31-15) took one from the Statesmen in a three-game set last month. Clay Casey went 2-for-3 with his 16th home run of the year in DSU’s 7-5 win against North Alabama on Monday, while Billy Cameron and Blaine Crim combined for eight hits and seven RBIs in the Choctaws’ 11-1 win over West Alabama. … Southern Miss’ remarkable Nick Sandlin earned a fourth national player of the week award from Collegiate Baseball on Monday. He threw a six-hit shutout against UAB last week, improving to 7-0 with an 0.88 ERA. The Golden Eagles (35-12) have cracked the top 10 – at No. 9 – in d1baseball.com’s weekly rankings. Baseball America has USM 13th for the second straight week. (Ole Miss is sixth and fifth in those two polls.) … DeSoto Central High product Austin Riley, one of Atlanta’s top prospects, went 1-for-5 in his Triple-A debut on Monday, rapping a single in his first at-bat for Gwinnett. Riley was hitting .333 with six homers and 20 RBIs for the Double-A Mississippi Braves when he was promoted. The top position player prospect left on the M-Braves’ roster is catcher Alex Jackson, rated No. 14 by MLB Pipeline. Jackson is batting .221 with a homer and seven RBIs. … It’s time again, boys and girls, for Red Sox-Yankees. Tonight, at Yankee Stadium (6:05 p.m., MLB Network), former Ole Miss standout Drew Pomeranz pitches for Boston against New York’s emergent ace Luis Severino. Pomeranz is 1-1 with a 6.14 ERA but pitched well in his last start. The left-hander has a 3.12 career ERA at Yankee Stadium. Neither Aaron Judge nor Giancarlo Stanton has homered off Pomeranz – but Gary Sanchez has taken him deep three times. Mississippi State alum Mitch Moreland, who figures to be in Boston’s lineup, is 4-for-12 career vs. Severino.
Congratulations to Marcus Thames, the former East Central Community College star from Louisville who was named hitting coach of the New York Yankees on Monday. Thames, 40, was the club’s assistant hitting coach the past two seasons. A 30th-round draft pick out of Texas State in 1996, Thames played 10 seasons in the big leagues and homered 115 times in 640 games with a batting average of .246. One of his career highlights came on the first AB of his career. On June 10, 2002, playing for the Yankees at Yankee Stadium, he homered on the first pitch he saw from the great Randy Johnson, then with Arizona.
You’re dating yourself if you admit to remembering when Freddy Garcia pitched at Smith-Wills Stadium. Hillary Clinton’s husband was president, “Saving Private Ryan” hit the theaters and the second Harry Potter book was published. It was 1998. Garcia, who’ll be 42 in April, is still out there pitching. On Saturday, in Guadalajara, Mexico, he started for Venezuela in its 15-4 win against the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean Series. Garcia threw four shutout innings before running into trouble in the fifth, when he had to leave one out shy of qualifying for the win. The big right-hander was a standout for the ’98 Jackson Generals before Houston sent him to Seattle as part of the big Randy Johnson trade. Garcia made the big leagues in 1999 and won 156 games, plus an ERA title, over 15 seasons. He last pitched in the majors for Atlanta in 2013, including a postseason start. … There are a handful of familiar names in the Caribbean Series, including former Mississippi Braves Christian Bethancourt (three hits for the D.R. on Saturday) and Joey Meneses (with Mexico). P.S. Southern Miss product Cody Carroll, who had a brilliant showing (0.00 ERA, four saves in 11 2/3 innings) in the Arizona Fall League after reaching Double-A last season, has received a non-roster invitation to the New York Yankees’ big league spring camp. Carroll, 25, was a 22nd-round draft pick in 2015.
Jonathan Holder’s task entering spring training with the New York Yankees will be challenging, to say the least. Mississippi State product Holder will be trying to nail down a job in what mlb.com speculates might be the best bullpen of all-time. Holder, 24, has pitched well in his 45 MLB appearances to date – 4.15 ERA, 45 strikeouts in 47 2/3 innings – but he would appear to be far down in the Yankees’ pecking order. Aroldis Chapman, the fearsome left-hander, is the closer. The crew of middle relievers and set-up men includes Dellin Betances, David Robertson, Adam Warren, Tommy Kahnle, Chad Green and Chasen Shreve, the former Mississippi Braves lefty. Holder, a sixth-round pick by New York in 2014, established himself as a prospect in 2016, when he struck out 101 batters and walked just seven in 65 1/3 innings in the minors. The Gulfport native made his big league debut that season and made the opening day roster last year, though he spent most of 2017 in the minors. And the competition for bullpen jobs has only grown more fierce in the Bronx.
On this date in 1920, the course of baseball history – and Sammy Vick’s career – changed. The Boston Red Sox, under new ownership, sold their best player, Babe Ruth, to the New York Yankees for the sum of $125,000. Ruth, who would come to be regarded by some as the best player ever, transformed the Yankees into a dynasty that became major league baseball’s iconic franchise. The “cursed” Red Sox, who had won three World Series with Ruth, fell into a decades-long funk that only recently ended. Ruth was a two-way star for the Sox, hitting a record 29 homers as their left fielder and going 9-5 on the mound in 1919. The Yankees made him a fulltime outfielder in 1920, and he played mostly in right, where he displaced the former starter, Batesville native and Millsaps College alum Vick. After missing most of the 1918 season while serving in the military, Vick, then 24, earned the Yanks’ right field job in 1919. He had an up-and-down year, batting .248 with two homers, 15 doubles and nine triples in 106 games. Ruth’s smashing arrival – he hit 59 homers in 1920 – was the beginning of the end for Vick, who got into just 51 games that year, then was traded to the Red Sox in ’21. That was his final big league season.
Today’s subject: Frank W. Baker. Not to be confused with Frank “Home Run” Baker, an early 1900s star, or Frank Baker Jr., who played for Cleveland in 1969 and ’71, this Baker was a second-round draft pick out of Southern Miss by the New York Yankees in 1967. Baker, a lanky, left-handed hitting middle infielder, is one of a large contingent of players from the Meridian area to make the majors. He played three years at USM, where he is in the Hall of Fame, and parts of four years in the big leagues. After batting .259 at Triple-A Syracuse in 1970, Baker debuted with the Yankees on Aug. 9, going 0-for-3 against Baltimore’s Jim Palmer. In 146 MLB games with New York and then Baltimore, Baker batted just .191. He hit his one big league homer in 1973. He was out of the game by 1975.