On his way to 700 home runs, Albert Pujols victimized seven different Mississippians for a total of 14 round-trippers during his 22-year career. He took Roy Oswalt and Kendall Graveman deep four times each, got Paul Maholm twice and belted one apiece against Louis Coleman, Drew Pomeranz, Dakota Hudson (his current teammate with St. Louis) and Demarcus Evans. Pujols got Weir’s Oswalt for No. 23 in 2001, when both were rookies. He got ex-Mississippi State star Graveman twice in one game in 2017, Nos. 611 and 612. Evans, the former Petal High standout, made his big league debut on Sept. 18, 2020, for Texas, and, as luck would have it, the first hitter he faced was future Hall of Famer Pujols, then with the Los Angeles Angels. Pujols sent Evans’ second pitch — a 93-mph fastball — over the wall in Anaheim for his 662nd career home run. Pujols, one of four members of the 700 home run club, has gone deep off a record 455 different pitchers. So far. P.S. Friday night was also a somewhat special occasion for Pujols’ teammate Corey Dickerson. The outfielder from McComb made his first MLB pitching appearance, working a scoreless ninth inning in the Cardinals’ 11-0 win against the Dodgers.
Being in must-win mode, Milwaukee must feel pretty good today with Brandon Woodruff going to the mound at Cincinnati. The former Mississippi State star from Wheeler is coming off one of his best starts of 2022, a 4-1 win against the mighty New York Yankees on Saturday, and is 2-0 with a 1.71 ERA in his last three starts. The Brewers aren’t likely to catch St. Louis in the National League Central — they’re 7.5 games back — but they are just 2.5 games back of Philadelphia for the final wild card berth. Woodruff (11-4, 3.26) worked eight innings against the Yankees, allowing five hits and one walk while fanning 10. He got Giancarlo Stanton four times and Aaron Judge once. Judge, the likely MVP of the American League, said Woodruff’s combination of fastballs and off-speed stuff “makes for a tough day trying to pick your poison.” Woodruff should have his way with lowly Cincinnati, even at the hitter’s haven that is Great American Ballpark. The Reds will counter with the flame-throwing Hunter Greene (4-12, 4.97). … At Chicago on Wednesday, the White Sox — also in must-win mode — were counting on a strong outing from ex-Ole Miss standout Lance Lynn against Cleveland, but they didn’t get it. Lynn was knocked around for six runs (three earned) in six innings as the ChiSox lost to the Guardians 8-2. Chicago fell 6 games back of first-place Cleveland in the AL Central, and Lynn fell to 7-6, 4.02.
By some cosmic coincidence, five Mississippi natives debuted in the major leagues on this date between 1917 and 1955: Sammy Vick, Eric McNair, Culley Rikard, Don Blasingame and Fred Waters. Vick, born in Batesville, broke in with the New York Yankees in 1917 and enjoyed his best season in 1919 as the team’s primary right fielder. The next season Babe Ruth arrived in town, and Vick was displaced. They reportedly were pals before Vick was traded in 1921 and faded from the big leagues. He batted .280 over his five-year career. Meridian native McNair, nicknamed “Boob,” debuted with the Philadelphia A’s in 1929 and was a regular on some outstanding clubs. He won a World Series ring with the 1930 A’s. An infielder, he played 14 years in The Show and batted .274 with 82 home runs. Rikard, from Oxford, came up with Pittsburgh in 1941 and batted .270 over three seasons with the Pirates. Blasingame, the “Corinth Comet,” broke in with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1955 and enjoyed an outstanding 12-year career that included an All-Star Game appearance. He hit .258 and stole 105 bases. Benton native Waters, who played at Southern Miss, reached the big leagues in ’55 with Pittsburgh and went 2-2 with a 2.89 ERA in 25 games over two years. P.S. Born on Sept. 20, 1970: former Ole Miss star Chris Snopek, who played in 215 MLB games over four years in the late ’90s.
It didn’t take long into his big league career for Matt Wallner to do what Matt Wallner does: go yard. The former Southern Miss slugger, called up from the minors by Minnesota today, hit a 414-foot home run against Cleveland’s Shane Bieber in his third at-bat. Wallner is USM’s career home run leader and has 50 minor league bombs on his three-year pro ledger, including 27 this year split between Double-A and Triple-A. He also crushed a homer in the All-Star Futures Game in July. Wallner becomes the 25th Mississippian to play in the majors in 2022 and the fifth to make his debut, the third from USM. (The other rookies are Ethan Small, Konnor Pilkington, Kirk McCarty and Chuckie Robinson.) … St. Louis recalled ex-Mississippi State star Dakota Hudson from a brief hiatus in the minors to start against Cincinnati today, and the right-hander threw eight innings, allowing one unearned run, and departed with a comfortable lead. Hudson had a 7-7 record entering today’s game.
Friday was a banner day for ex-Mississippi State stars in the big leagues and the minors. Start in Milwaukee, where Bulldogs alumnus Hunter Renfroe led off the ninth inning with a double and eventually scored the walk-off run in a 7-6 victory against the New York Yankees. (Garrett Mitchell, a rookie who spent most of this season at Double-A Biloxi, got the winning knock for the Brewers, clinging to hope in the National League wild card race.) Move to St. Louis, where Chris Stratton threw three pitches, got one key out and notched the win for the Cardinals, who are closing in on the NL Central title. Stratton got the final out of the seventh inning with two runners on base and St. Louis rallied in the bottom half to go ahead and ultimately beat Cincinnati 6-5. Stratton is 4-0 with a 3.06 ERA since he joined the Cards in August and has a 1.29 in his last seven appearances. At Tampa Bay, Nathaniel Lowe blasted his 25th homer to help also-ran Texas beat the wild card-chasing Rays 4-3. Tampa Bay is third in the American League wild card standings, behind Toronto and Seattle. … Down in the minors: Justin Foscue homered and drove in four runs as Frisco, Texas’ Double-A club, clinched the second-half title in the Texas League South; Jordan Westburg went 5-for-5 with his 17th homer for Triple-A Norfolk (Baltimore), his 26th overall this season; and Brent Rooker smacked his fifth homer for Triple-A Omaha (Kansas City), his 24th all told in the minors this season.
Four Mississippi products, each having battled injuries this season, are on the preliminary rosters for the Arizona Fall League, the select circuit for minor league prospects. Mississippi State alums Will Bednar and J.T. Ginn, ex-Southern Miss star Reed Trimble and former Biloxi High standout Colt Keith are slotted to play in the six-team AFL, which starts its season on Oct. 3. Bednar, the MVP of the 2021 College World Series and the 14th overall pick in the ’21 draft by San Francisco, is 1-3 with a 4.19 ERA in 12 games at the Low-Class A level. Ginn, a second-round pick in 2020, has made 10 starts this year in Double-A in Oakland’s system, posting a 1-4, 6.11 ledger. Ginn was traded by the New York Mets to the A’s for Chris Bassitt during spring training. Trimble, an outfielder and 2021 draftee, is hitting .291 in Low-A ball for Baltimore. Keith, drafted in 2020 by Detroit, hit .301 with nine homers in an abbreviated season at High-A. He was Mississippi’s Gatorade Player of the Year in 2019. Among Atlanta’s AFL contingent are current Mississippi Braves Justyn-Henry Malloy and Allan Winans. They’ll be with the Scottsdale team, along with Trimble and Bednar. Ginn will go to Mesa and Keith to Salt River. The rosters could change before or during the season. A bevy of Top 100 overall prospects are scheduled to participate, including four of MLB Pipeline’s Top 20.
A show of power carried the Chicago White Sox past Cleveland on Thursday. Not just the five home runs, mind you, but also the stuff coming out of Lance Lynn’s right hand. The big, burly, bearded veteran out of Ole Miss threw 106 pitches, almost exclusively fastballs, at the Guardians over 6 1/3 innings and yielded just two runs in the White Sox’s much-needed 8-2 victory at Progressive Field. The win in the makeup game moved Chicago to within 3 games of first-place Cleveland in the American League Central. Lynn, who allowed six hits and one walk while striking out six on Thursday, is 5-0 with a 1.43 ERA in his last seven starts. He has 51 punchouts and just five walks in that span, flashing the form that made him a Cy Young Award contender in 2021. Chicago needs more of that down the stretch. Lynn’s 2022 season was delayed by a spring training knee injury and surgery, and the 35-year-old had some wobbly efforts early on. He is just 7-5, 3.99 ERA, in 18 starts overall for a team that has underachieved after winning the division last year. This will be an interesting weekend in the AL Central race. While the Guardians are hosting third-place Minnesota for five games through Monday, the ChiSox are at lowly Detroit for three.
Former Petal High star Anthony Alford has fit in nicely with the KT Wiz of the Korean Baseball Organization. Alford, a onetime big leaguer who played two games for Pittsburgh this season, is batting .268 with 11 homers and 41 RBIs for KT. … Ole Miss product and ex-major leaguer Jacob Waguespack is 2-6 with four saves, five holds and a 3.19 ERA in 27 appearances for Orix in Japan’s Pacific League. … Ex-UM standout and Picayune native Braxton Lee leads the independent Atlantic League in triples with nine and is batting .306 with 73 RBIs, 60 runs and 19 steals for playoff-bound Southern Maryland. The Blue Crabs are managed by Jackson native Stan Cliburn. … Jacob Robson, the Mississippi State alum who had a cup of coffee in the majors in 2021, is playing for the independent Kansas City Monarchs, who are in the semifinals of the American Association playoffs. Robson, a former Detroit farmhand, hit .278 with nine homers, 34 RBIs and nine steals for the Monarchs. His teammates include Mississippi Braves alum Mallex Smith and Casey Gillaspie, son of ex-MSU star Mark Gillaspie. … Former Hattiesburg High star and ex-big league pitcher Robert Carson is the pitching coach for the independent Quebec Capitales, who are in the Frontier League title series. … Colt Keith, the ex-Biloxi High standout, has been given an Arizona Fall League assignment by Detroit. Keith, a highly regarded third base prospect, hit .301 with nine homers at High-Class A West Michigan but didn’t play after June 10 because of a shoulder injury. The AFL season begins Oct. 3. More roster assignments will be announced in the coming days. P.S. Props to Ole Miss product Will Ethridge, who threw five shutout innings on Wednesday night to notch his first Double-A win for Hartford in the Colorado system. Ethridge, a 2019 draftee, is 1-1, 3.42 ERA, in seven games for the Yard Goats. He was 5-6, 5.65, in A-ball.
Time for Atlanta to make room for Ozzie Albies? The former Mississippi Braves star, on an injury rehab assignment at Triple-A Gwinnett, went 5-for-5 with a walk-off home run on Tuesday. The Braves’ erstwhile second baseman is batting .348 in 23 ABs at Gwinnett. He has been on the injured list since mid-June with a broken bone in his foot. … Former M-Braves Ronald Acuna, Dansby Swanson and Michael Harris II contributed six hits, four RBIs and three runs in Atlanta’s 5-1 win at San Francisco that moved the Braves within a half-game of the New York Mets in the National League East. Former M-Braves right-hander Kyle Wright became the Braves’ first 18-game winner since 2003. … East Central Community College product Tim Anderson, out for over a month with a hand injury, reportedly will ramp up baseball activities for the Chicago White Sox and could return to the lineup next week. The All-Star shortstop and team leadoff batter is hitting .301. … The White Sox, keeping pace in the American League Central with Cleveland, won for the 10th time in 14 games since manager Tony LaRussa stepped aside for health reasons. Ex-Mississippi State star Kendall Graveman worked a scoreless inning for his 24th hold as the ChiSox beat Colorado 4-2. … The Guardians remained 3 games up on Chicago by beating the Los Angeles Angels 3-1 as Southern Miss alum Kirk McCarty picked up his third MLB win with 3 1/3 scoreless relief innings. The rookie lefty now has a 4.88 ERA. … Former State standout Hunter Renfroe had two hits, an RBI and a run in Milwaukee’s 8-4 win against rival St. Louis and Jordan Montgomery. The Brewers, 7 games back of the Cardinals in the NL Central and fourth in the wild card standings, have won three in a row. … Ex-Mississippi College star Blaine Crim went 1-for-3 with two RBIs in his Triple-A debut for Round Rock in the Texas chain. He hit .295 with 24 homers and 91 RBIs at Double-A Frisco. … USM product Matt Wallner put up a 3-for-4 with two RBIs for Triple-A St. Paul (Minnesota) to lift his average to .257; he has six homers and 31 RBIs in 48 games there. He hit .299 with 21 homers in Double-A to start the season. P.S. On this date in 1912, Crystal Springs native Phil Redding made his big league debut — and it was one to forget. Right-hander Redding, starting for St. Louis against the Boston Braves, allowed 16 hits, five walks and nine earned runs in eight innings. (Was he being punished?) He won his next two starts, pitched in one more game in 2013 and then never again in the majors.
It wasn’t all cupcakes and balloons for Konnor Pilkington on his 25th birthday, though the night did have a happy ending. The Mississippi State product from Pascagoula got the start for Cleveland against the Los Angels on Monday — in a game featured on MLB Network’s Clubhouse Edition — and he no-hit the Angels for 3 1/3 innings. But the big lefty, working with a lead, yielded two-run home runs to Matt Duffy and Mike Trout in consecutive innings that tied the score. Pilkington departed after the fifth and watched from the dugout as the Guardians rallied to win 5-4 in a tense game in which both managers were ejected. Cleveland increased its lead in the American League Central to 3 games. Pilkington, a rookie, has been called up eight different times from Triple-A Columbus yet has managed a fairly steady performance in his big league opportunities. Over 14 games, 10 starts, he has a 4.30 ERA and a 1-2 record. At Columbus, he is 2-4, 5.66. A third-round pick out of State by the Chicago White Sox in 2018, Pilkington was traded to Cleveland last summer. He and former Southern Miss pitchers Nick Sandlin and Kirk McCarty, also a rookie, have been contributors for what appears to be a playoff-bound club. P.S. The Dodgers became the first team to clinch a postseason berth by beating Arizona 6-0 on Monday. Former Mississippi Braves standout Freddie Freeman, in his first year in L.A., has been a driving force in the star-studded lineup. Not to be overlooked is the performance of another M-Braves alum, right-hander Evan Phillips. Phillips, who passed through Pearl in 2016-17, notched his 18th hold on Monday and trimmed his ERA to 1.33 in 55 appearances. He has six wins and two saves for the National League West behemoth.