30 Sep

big league chew

With its season down to one game, Milwaukee will hand the ball to Brandon Woodruff to start Tuesday’s National League Wild Card Game at Washington. The former Wheeler High and Mississippi State star went 11-3 with a 3.62 ERA in 2019 and threw four scoreless innings in his last two starts after a long stint on the injured list. He put up a 1.46 ERA in 12 1/3 postseason innings a year ago. “Obviously, I probably won’t be able to go six, seven innings,” Woodruff told mlb.com, “but I’ll be ready to go as long as I can until they take me out.” … Tampa Bay will throw ex-Mississippi Braves right-hander Charlie Morton (16-6, 3.05) in Wednesday’s American League Wild Card Game at Oakland. … East Central Community College alumnus Tim Anderson of the Chicago White Sox won the AL batting title with a .335 average, which also led all of MLB. The last Mississippian (native or college alum) to win a batting title was Grenada native Dave Parker, who took the National League crown in 1978 with Pittsburgh. … A pair of former M-Braves swept the stolen base crowns in the majors: Ronald Acuna of Atlanta led the NL with 37 bags and Seattle’s Mallex Smith topped the AL with 46. For the record, Jackson Generals product Brian Hunter twice won the AL title – in 1999 with Detroit and Seattle and in 1997 with Detroit – and Chuck Carr, a Jackson Mets alum, won the NL title in 1993 with Florida. The only Mississippi native to lead a league in steals is Ellisville’s Buddy Myer, who bagged 30 for Boston in the AL in 1928. … Former Madison Central High star Spencer Turnbull, who yielded three runs in 5 1/3 innings for Detroit against the White Sox on Sunday, absorbed his 17th loss of the season, most by a Tigers pitcher in 11 years. But he has good company: Justin Verlander dropped 17 in 2008. … Former JaxMets skipper Clint Hurdle was fired as Pittsburgh manager prior to Sunday’s finale, which he did not work. Hurdle went 735-720 with three playoff teams in nine seasons with the Pirates, who finished 69-93 this season.

29 Sep

more to come …

The dust has not yet settled on baseball’s regular season. With Milwaukee and St. Louis both losing Friday and Saturday, the National League Central champion remains undetermined. The Cardinals lead by 1 game. We could be headed for a tiebreaker game on Monday, with the loser trekking to Washington for the wild card game on Tuesday. … The Brewers’ loss on Saturday was especially painful. Colorado hit solo homers in the eighth, ninth and 10th innings to steal a 3-2 win; former Ole Miss standout Drew Pomeranz, who has been a stud down the stretch for the Brewers, gave up the first of those bombs to Ian Desmond. … He isn’t slated to start today but don’t be surprised if ex-Mississippi State star Brandon Woodruff, who’s been sharp since coming off the injured list, pitches at some point in the Brewers’ must-win game at Coors Field. … On Friday, State product Dakota Hudson started for St. Louis and delivered five shutout innings — with 10 strikeouts — but the Cards ultimately fell to the Chicago Cubs 8-2, smacked down by a seven-run seventh inning. UM alum Mike Mayers made a rare appearance in that game for St. Louis and worked a clean eighth. Maybe they shoulda used him earlier. … Tampa Bay clinched an American League wild card berth on Friday, with ex-State standout Nate Lowe going 2-for-3 with two runs in a 6-2 win against Toronto. Lowe has made some solid contributions as a rookie this season, batting .265 with seven homers, but he may not make the Rays’ postseason roster. … Oakland also clinched an AL wild card spot on Friday when Cleveland lost to Washington, and the A’s earned home field for the Wednesday game by beating Seattle on Saturday. Kudos to Billy Beane, the former Jackson Mets star (1982-84) now in his 22nd year as Oakland’s GM/vice president. The small-market, cash-strapped A’s, who play in an antiquated ballpark (now called RingCentral Coliseum), have made the postseason 10 times during Beane’s tenure. The team is seeking its first World Series title since 1989, and as Beane has famously said, “If you lose the last game of the season, nobody cares how many games you won … .”

27 Sep

let’s try that again

Given a chance for a do-over, Dakota Hudson gets the ball tonight for St. Louis in a crucial game against the Chicago Cubs at Busch Stadium. Former Mississippi State star Hudson (16-7, 3.45 ERA) was off his game against the Cubs last Saturday at Wrigley Field, giving up three runs (all in the first inning) on three hits and four walks in three innings. (St. Louis did rally to win the game.) With the Cardinals clinging to a 1-game lead over Milwaukee in the National League Central, Hudson starts Game 1 of the three-game set against the reeling Cubs. The Brewers are at Colorado for three. Both St. Louis and Milwaukee have clinched at least a wild card berth but would much prefer to enter the postseason as a division champ. Based on what he said in a TV interview following his last start against the Cubs, Hudson must be champing at the bit for this second shot. “It’s all about what I was doing out there,” he said of the brutal first inning. “I can fix that.” It was his shortest outing since June 29 at San Diego, when he lasted just 1 2/3. He is 6-2 in 10 starts the last two months.

26 Sep

numbers game

2 – Number of Mississippians who celebrated Milwaukee’s playoff-clinching win against Cincinnati on Wednesday night. Neither Mississippi State alum Brandon Woodruff nor Ole Miss product Drew Pomeranz pitched in the game, but both could play key roles in the postseason for a club that still has a shot at winning the National League Central title.
4 – Hits by Tim Anderson, the East Central Community College product whose efforts helped the Chicago White Sox beat Cleveland and clinch the American League Central title for Minnesota. Anderson, riding a 12-game hitting streak, leads MLB with a .339 average and tops the AL batting race by 11 points.
20 – Home runs this season by Brian Dozier, who went deep in postseason-bound Washington’s win over Philadelphia. The ex-Southern Miss standout reached the 20-homer plateau for the sixth straight year with his first round-tripper since Aug. 18.
19 – Homers this season for Mitch Moreland, the former MSU star who went deep as part of a four-hit performance for Boston. Moreland has four homers in his last five games and 56 in his three seasons with the Red Sox, who have missed the playoffs for the first time since 2015.
5 – Wins this year for Jacob Waguespack, the Ole Miss product who threw six shutout innings for Toronto against Baltimore. Waguespack is 5-5 with a 4.38 ERA in 16 appearances as a rookie for an up-and-coming Blue Jays club.
83 – Wins by Mickey Callaway’s New York Mets, a six-game improvement over 2018 but not quite good enough to make the playoffs. The former Ole Miss pitcher, in his second season as Mets manager, saw his club eliminated from NL wild card contention Wednesday when Milwaukee won.

25 Sep

spoiler alert

Chicago Cubs fans might look back on the seventh inning of Tuesday night’s game at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park as the inning that finally put the fork in their 2019 season. It wasn’t surprising that Adam Frazier, the ex-Mississippi State standout, played a lead role for the Pirates in that pivotal frame, starting the seven-run inning with a double and capping it with an RBI single. The Pirates, shut out by Kyle Hendricks to that point, rolled to a 9-2 victory that snapped their nine-game losing streak and extended the Cubs’ losing skid to seven. One more Cubs loss or one more Milwaukee win will officially eliminate Chicago from playoff contention. “It just went away, brother. It went away,” said Cubs manager Joe Maddon, who might be nearing the end of his tenure. Frazier, who took over as the Bucs’ regular second baseman this season, has been flourishing down the stretch for a team that long ago fell out of the playoff race. The lefty hitter, a sixth-round pick out of State by Pittsburgh in 2013, has batted .353 over his last 30 games with three homers, 16 RBIs and 18 runs. Frazier is batting .281 with 10 homers (matching his career-high) and 49 RBIs on the year. He has set career marks with 32 doubles, seven triples and 77 runs. He is eligible for arbitration after this season and should get a nice raise. P.S. Brian Dozier, the former Southern Miss standout, enjoyed a celebration Tuesday with the Washington Nationals, who swept two from Philadelphia to capture a National League wild card berth. Dozier, who went 1-for-3 in Game 1, will be in the postseason for the third straight year and with a third different team (Minnesota, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Nats). He is hitting .233 with 19 homers this year.

24 Sep

a piece of history

Your first big league home run is going to be memorable. When it’s a walk-off bomb, in the 15th inning, well, that qualifies as historic. Former Petal High standout Anthony Alford accomplished that feat for Toronto on Monday night, reportedly becoming just the second player in modern history to hit a walk-off in the 15th inning or later for his first career homer. “It couldn’t happen to a better kid. Everybody was so happy for him,” Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo told mlb.com after the 11-10 win against Baltimore. Alford had entered the game in the ninth inning as a pinch runner. The homer came on what was Alford’s 21st at-bat of the season. He has had just 48 big league ABs spread over the past three seasons. “I really just try to enjoy the moment,” Alford told mlb.com. “Because honestly, you never know when it will happen again.” The 25-year-old former Mr. Baseball has been on the Blue Jays’ prospect charts since 2012, when he was drafted in the third round despite his commitment to play college football (first at Southern Miss, then Ole Miss). He turned to baseball fulltime in 2015. He is a .265 hitter – with 34 homers and 114 steals – in a minor league career full of ups and downs and various injuries. Currently ranked the No. 20 prospect in the Toronto system by MLB Pipeline, Alford is stuck in a crowd of young outfielders vying for opportunities with the Blue Jays.

23 Sep

final fling

The final homestand of Ned Yost’s final season as manager of the Kansas City Royals will begin Tuesday with a game against Atlanta, the organization that gave the former Jackson Mets star his first big league coaching job. Yost, 65, who won a World Series with the Royals in 2015, formally announced his pending retirement today. A catcher in his playing days, Yost spent 1976 and part of the ’77 season with the JaxMets, New York’s Double-A club. He had a short big league career before landing a job as Atlanta’s bullpen coach in 1991. He coached for the Braves until 2003, when he was hired as Milwaukee’s manager. He took the reins in Kansas City in 2010 and is the Royals’ all-time winningest manager. The current club is 57-100, headed for its third straight losing season. … Yost is one of five Mississippi-connected managers in the majors; the others are Ole Miss alum Mickey Callaway, former Mississippi Braves manager Brian Snitker, former JaxMets infielder Ron Gardenhire and ex-JaxMets manager Clint Hurdle.

22 Sep

wild things

Of the many moments that mattered on Saturday, perhaps none was bigger than the walk-off two-run homer off the bat of Nate Lowe in the 11th inning at Tampa Bay. The ex-Mississippi State standout’s first career walk-off beat Boston 5-4 and moved the Rays a game up on Cleveland for second place in the American League wild card chase. “There’s not a whole lot better than hitting a walk-off homer in a pennant race,” Lowe told The Associated Press after he was mobbed by his teammates. The opposite-field homer was the lefty-hitting Lowe’s seventh in 45 big league games this year; he hit 16 at Triple-A Durham. Another former State first baseman, Mitch Moreland, had put the Red Sox ahead in the top of the 11th with his 18th homer of the season. … Southern Miss alum Brian Dozier, whose playing time has been sparse of late for Washington, delivered a go-ahead run with a single in the 10th inning at Miami, sparking a six-run rally and a 10-4 win that kept the Nationals a game ahead of Milwaukee atop the National League wild card standings. The RBI was the first in over a month for Dozier, who had entered the game as a pinch hitter and stayed in on a double-switch. … Milwaukee got home runs from former Biloxi Shuckers stars Keston Hiura (No. 18) and Trent Grisham (No. 6) in a 10-1 rout of visiting Pittsburgh. The Brewers are 3 games up on third-place Chicago in the NL wild card race after the Cubs suffered a devastating loss to NL Central leader St. Louis at Wrigley Field. Former Mississippi Braves closer Craig Kimbrel allowed two ninth-inning homers in the Cubs’ 9-8 loss; John Gant (11-1), another M-Braves alum, got the win for St. Louis, which leads the division by 3 games over Milwaukee.

21 Sep

close the book

After a 2018 season filled with celebration, 2019 has brought much frustration for Mitch Moreland and his Boston teammates. Friday night’s game was a case in point. Former Mississippi State star Moreland hit two two-run homers, including a game-tying blast in the ninth inning, but the Red Sox lost 5-4 in 11 at Tampa Bay. The defeat would have eliminated defending world champion Boston — and its $228 million payroll — from wild card contention in the American League, but, technically, a win by Cleveland earlier in the night had already done that. For a variety of reasons, the Red Sox (80-73) never were able to recapture the magic that carried them in 2018. “It’s just been an uphill battle the whole year,” Moreland told The Associated Press after Friday’s loss. Changes already have begun in Boston — baseball operations chief Dave Dombrowski and other front office types are out — and it seems likely that Moreland, among several other players, won’t be back in 2020. The 10-year veteran first baseman is a free agent at the end of the season. He has had three fairly productive years for the Red Sox, though his 2019 campaign was marred by two long stints on the injured list from late May to late July. He is batting .245 with 17 homers and 55 RBIs in 85 games. At age 34, he faces an uncertain future in a game being taken over by much younger players.

20 Sep


It was an uneven kind of season for Ryan Rolison but still good enough that MLB Pipeline honored the ex-Ole Miss star as its pitching prospect of the year in the Colorado system. Left-hander Rolison, a 2018 first-round pick, started 2-1 with an 0.61 ERA in low Class A but encountered some rough times after moving to the high-A level. In 22 games at Lancaster in the California League, Rolison went 6-7, 4.87. He is ranked a top 100 overall prospect by both MLB Pipeline and Bleacher Report. Harrison Central High product Bobby Bradley was named the hitting prospect of the year in Cleveland’s system. The 23-year-old Bradley, a lefty-hitting first baseman who got some big league time this summer, slugged .567 and crushed 33 homers for Triple-A Columbus. He has slipped some on the Indians’ list but could still be an impact player. Drew Waters — the Southern League MVP — and Ian Anderson, both 2019 Mississippi Braves, were named Atlanta’s top prospect hitter and pitcher by MLB Pipeline, and Biloxi Shuckers alums Trent Grisham and Trey Supak were Milwaukee’s honorees. Grisham is in the big leagues.