Cincinnati has fortified its lineup with the reported addition via waiver claims of outfielders Hunter Renfroe, the ex-Mississippi State slugger, and Harrison Bader. Renfroe, 31 and an eight-year MLB vet, was batting .242 with 19 home runs and 56 RBIs for the scuffling Los Angeles Angels. Bader was with the enigmatic New York Yankees. The Reds, with a very young roster, are 69-66, 6 games back in the National League Central and fifth in the wild card standings. Ex-MSU star Jeff Brantley, now a Cincy broadcaster, said in an interview in late June — when the Reds were in first place and riding an 11-game win streak — that the true test for the team would come in the dog days of August (see previous post). “The young guys haven’t played that duration of baseball,” Brantley said. The Reds went 10-17 in August, an indication they needed some juice. Renfroe’s power should play well at Great American Ballpark, a well-known launching pad where the Reds will host division and wild card rival Chicago in a big series that begins Friday. Renfroe has belted 120 homers the past five seasons while playing for five different clubs.
Tanner Allen, the former Mississippi State All-America, is finding his groove at Double-A Pensacola, the third level he has played at this season. The lefty-hitting outfielder, a 2021 draftee by Miami, smacked his first Double-A homer on Wednesday night and is 10-for-23 (.323) in eight games for the Blue Wahoos. Overall this season, Allen is batting .275 with nine homers, 39 RBIs and eight stolen bases. … Former Pascagoula High star Willie Joe Garry Jr., who has reached Double-A in his fifth pro season, is also enjoying success at the game’s herd-cutting level. Garry, a lefty-hitting outfielder, is batting .263 for Wichita in the Minnesota system. He has four doubles, two triples, three homers, 16 RBIs, nine runs and four steals for the Wind Surge. Garry, a 2018 draftee, is still only 23. … Ex-Ole Miss standout Grae Kessinger, at Double-A Corpus Christi on a rehab assignment from Houston, delivered a two-run single in the eighth inning to boost the Hooks to a 2-1 win against Frisco. Kessinger, who made his big league debut earlier this season, is batting .194 in 19 games for the Astros. … Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton has signed a minor league contract with Tampa Bay. The MLB veteran, recently released by the Chicago White Sox (see previous post), could be a serviceable pinch runner/defensive replacement for the Rays, who are battling for an American League playoff berth. … Darius Vines became the fifth Mississippi Braves alum to debut as a starting pitcher for Atlanta this season, throwing six strong innings to notch the win at Colorado on Wednesday night. Former M-Braves Dylan Dodd, Jared Shuster, AJ Smith-Shawver and Allan Winans also debuted this year and are among the 16 different starters the Braves have used in 2023. … The Braves visit the Los Angeles Dodgers tonight for a compelling clash of National League titans, with Atlanta ace — and M-Braves alum — Spencer Strider (15-4, 3.46 ERA) facing former Ole Miss star Lance Lynn (4-0, 2.03 in five starts for LA). Of note: Lynn has allowed an MLB-worst 34 homers (six since joining the Dodgers), while the homer-happy Braves just set a franchise record for bombs in a season with 250. P.S. The U-18 version of Team USA, including Jackson Prep standout Konnor Griffin, begins play tonight (local time) against The Netherlands in the U-18 World Cup in Taipei, Taiwan. The U.S. is the defending champion. Griffin had an RBI triple and scored a run in an exhibition victory against Chinese Taipei earlier this week.
A day after being placed on waivers, Hunter Renfroe did a little personal public relations work, going 3-for-4 with a home run and four RBIs in the Los Angeles Angels’ 10-8 win at Philadelphia. The hard-luck Angels waved the white flag on 2023 on Tuesday when they placed several key veterans on waivers, hoping they might be claimed — and their remaining salary picked up — by a contending club. Ex-Mississippi State star Renfroe showed what he is capable of against the Phillies, who happen to be a contender. He belted his 19th homer, a two-run shot in the second inning, and added a two-run single as part of an eighth-inning rally. He also had a double, his 31st. The Crystal Springs native, in a bit of a slump of late, is batting .242 with 56 RBIs. With 176 career homers, he ranks seventh on the all-time list among Mississippi natives. He also plays a mean right field, having registered eight assists this year and 65 career. Renfroe signed a 1-year, $11.9 million contract with the Angels as a free agent in the off-season, joining his fifth different team in five years. Another change of uniforms might be in the offing. P.S. Darius Vines, who went 7-4 with a 3.95 ERA for the Double-A Mississippi Braves in 2022, is set to join the long list of M-Braves alums to pitch in the majors. The right-hander is scheduled to start tonight for Atlanta — at Colorado, not exactly the place you’d pick for your debut. … Hurston Waldrep, the Braves’ first-round pick in July who joined the M-Braves on Tuesday, made four starts in A-ball, last pitching on Aug. 26. On four days rest, his next start would come Thursday, when the M-Braves play Rocket City at Trustmark Park. No announcement has been made. The Southern Miss alum, drafted out of Florida, has a 1.20 ERA so far this season.
No Mississippi native has won a Cy Young Award. Justin Steele, the left-hander from Lucedale, is building a mighty strong case. Steele threw six shutout innings Tuesday night to lead the Chicago Cubs to a 1-0 victory against Milwaukee at Wrigley Field. The former George County High star has 15 wins, tied for the National League lead, and a 2.69 ERA, second in the loop. He also has a league-best 18 quality starts, perhaps none bigger or better than Tuesday’s. The Cubs’ win snapped the first-place Brewers’ nine-game win streak and trimmed second-place Chicago’s deficit to 4 games in the NL Central. Steele was struck in the left leg, just above the knee, by a line drive in the second inning but, unfazed, went on to throw 111 pitches, allowing just six hits and one walk while fanning eight. When he got a punch out for the final out of the sixth, he walked off the mound to a standing ovation from the 33,294 at the Friendly Confines. “I loved it. I love pitching in that environment,” Steele told mlb.com. Steele out-dueled former Biloxi Shuckers ace Corbin Burnes, a former Cy Young winner (2021), who pitched seven brilliant innings for Milwaukee. … Cliff Lee, a Meridian Community College alum from Arkansas, won the American League Cy Young in 2008 with Cleveland. Former Jackson Mets standout Mike Scott won the NL award in 1986 with Houston. The award was initiated in 1956. P.S. The AL West race sure looks like fun. Seattle, Texas and Houston are tied at the top after Tuesday’s results. Mississippi State product J.P. France picked up his 10th win for the Astros, going 5 2/3 (two runs) to beat Boston 6-2 at Fenway Park. France gained a measure of revenge against the Red Sox, who pounded the rookie right-hander for 10 runs in a loss last week. Ex-State star Chris Stratton got the final two outs of the sixth inning, stranding two inherited runners, to pluck the win for Texas, which beat the New York Mets 2-1 at CitiField. Stratton has a 2.00 ERA in 11 games for the Rangers.
Brandon Parker, former West Harrison High and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College star, will make his home debut this week for the Mississippi Braves, who are hosting Rocket City in a seven-game Southern League series at Trustmark Park. Parker, an outfielder now in his fourth pro season, is 3-for-13 since Atlanta moved him to Double-A from High-Class A Rome, where he hit .250 with five homers and 21 RBIs. As a freshman at Gulf Coast in 2018, Parker was the NJCAA Division II player of the year. He set the school home run record with 24 and batted .424 with 81 RBIs that year. The Braves drafted him in 2019. On Rocket City’s roster is former Itawamba CC and Mississippi State left-hander Houston Harding, who has a 9.48 ERA (thanks mainly to a couple of rocky outings) in 13 appearances for the Los Angeles Angels’ affiliate. The Coldwater native had a 1.32 ERA at High-A Tri-City before being promoted in late June. … Biloxi High product Colt Keith and ex-Ole Miss ace Gunnar Hoglund were named to MLB Pipeline’s Prospect Team of the Week. Keith, a top Detroit prospect, went 11-for-24 with three homers for Triple-A Toledo last week, when he was also named the International League’s player of the week. Hoglund, Oakland’s No. 19 prospect and a first-round pick (by Toronto) in 2021, threw five hitless innings with seven strikeouts in his debut for High-A Lansing. … Former Magnolia Heights Academy standout Cooper Pratt, a sixth-round pick this year by Milwaukee, helped the Brewers’ Arizona Complex League team win the league championship. Pratt, a shortstop, batted .356 for the ACL Brewers. … Former MSU pitchers Jackson Fristoe and Eric Cerantola have been promoted by their respective organizations. Fristoe moved up to Low-A Tampa in the New York Yankees’ system and Cerantola to Double-A Northwest Arkansas in the Kansas City system. … Jackson Prep’s Konnor Griffin and ex-Madison Central star Braden Montgomery, now at Texas A&M, have been ranked among the top 10 2024 major league draft prospects by MLB Pipeline. Griffin, an outfielder/pitcher, is a senior this year. Montgomery, also a two-way player, recently transferred from Stanford, where he was an All-Pac-12 performer.
The Texas Rangers have won 74 games this season, rapped out an MLB-best 1,226 hits and scored an American League-leading 731 runs. So when manager Bruce Bochy says that Nathaniel Lowe’s ninth-inning single on Monday was “as big a hit as we’ve had this year,” he is saying a lot. Former Mississippi State standout Lowe’s two-out, two-RBI knock gave the slumping Rangers a 4-3 lead over the New York Mets, and they held on to win for just the second time in 11 games. The Rangers, recently passed in the AL West standings by red-hot Seattle, remained a game back of the Mariners and tied with Houston. With a 3-2 lead in the ninth, Mets manager Buck Showalter, another State product from way back, elected to walk Corey Seager and load the bases ahead of Lowe. Lowe, who had previously extended his hit streak to 10 games, smacked a 2-1 pitch from Trevor Gott into right field to put Texas ahead. Lowe called it a “team win.” It was the team’s first win in 48 games this season in which they trailed after eight innings. While many of the Rangers have slumped of late, Lowe — a Silver Slugger winner in 2022 — has not. He is batting .297 over his last 15 games and is at .282 with 15 home runs and 70 RBIs for the year. P.S. In what passes as a showdown in the AL Central, first-place Minnesota beat second-place Cleveland 10-6, getting a 438-foot homer from Southern Miss alum Matt Wallner, his 10th. The Twins’ lead is 7 games. … Other than that bizarre and somewhat scary incident involving several so-called “fans,” former Mississippi Braves star Ronald Acuna enjoyed an MVP-caliber night at Colorado. Acuna went 4-for-5, hit his 29th homer, stole his 60th and 61st bases, drove in five runs and scored four to power Atlanta to a 14-4 win. No player in MLB history has hit 30 homers and swiped 60 bags in the same season.
Five of the six first-place MLB teams kept their foot on the gas on Friday, and Mississippi college products were a driving force for three of those winners. Brandon Woodruff, Matt Wallner and Lance Lynn delivered praiseworthy performances for Milwaukee, Minnesota and the Los Angeles Dodgers, respectively. Start in Milwaukee, where ex-Mississippi State standout Woodruff threw six innings and allowed one run while punching out 11 batters in the Brewers’ 7-3 win against San Diego. It was Woodruff’s fourth start since he came off a long stay on the injured list (shoulder), and he has won two of them to run his record to 3-1 with a 2.65 ERA. Friday’s outing was his best yet; he has 19 career double-digit strikeout games. “It’s the best time of the year,” he told mlb.com “(A)nd it’s fun when you’re winning.” The Brewers have won six in a row and lead the National League Central by 4 games. At Minnesota, Southern Miss alum Wallner keyed a four-run first inning with a bases-loaded triple and the Twins went on to pound Texas 12-2. Wallner also had a double, scored three times and made a great catch in left field. He is batting .244 with nine homers and 25 RBIs in just 123 at-bats for Minnesota, which leads the American League Central by 6 games. Texas, the first-place team in the AL West, lost for the eighth straight time and fell into a tie with Seattle. Mississippi State product Nathaniel Lowe went 2-for-4 with an RBI in defeat for the Rangers. At Boston, former Ole Miss star Lynn battled through six innings and got the win as the Dodgers rallied late to beat the Red Sox. Lynn, 4-0 with a 2.03 ERA since moving to LA, gave up a couple of early home runs — a season-long bugaboo — but shut the BoSox down from innings 3-6. The NL West-leading Dodgers scored six times in the sixth and seventh innings to win 7-4. They lead the division by 12 games. … For the record, NL East leader Atlanta won at San Francisco, though DeSoto Central High product Austin Riley had a quiet night, and AL East leader Baltimore topped Colorado with MSU alums Jordan Westburg and Adam Frazier combining for one hit in four ABs.
17 — Quality starts by George County High product Justin Steele of the Chicago Cubs. The All-Star left-hander went six innings Thursday, allowing two earned runs, and propelled the Cubs to a 5-4, 10-inning win against Pittsburgh. Steele is 14-3 with a 2.80 ERA in 24 starts this season. “I want to be the guy that we rely on,” he told mlb.com.
10 — Runs allowed by ex-Mississippi State standout J.P. France, who took the loss for slumping Texas in a 17-1 defeat against Boston. Rookie France (9-5) lasted just 2 1/3 innings in his worst outing. The Rangers’ lead in the American League West is 1 game over Seattle and Houston.
55 — RBIs this season by former MSU star Brent Rooker, who belted his 22nd homer in Oakland’s 8-5 win over the White Sox. Rooker, the SEC Triple Crown winner in 2017, leads the team in homers, RBIs and batting average at .245.
117 — Hits this season by MSU product Jake Mangum, who banged out two more — including a grand slam — in Triple-A Jacksonville’s 8-4 win over Columbus. Mangum, 27, in his first year in Miami’s system, is batting .315 with five homers, 46 RBIs and 12 steals.
1 — Hit by Kellum Clark, the ex-MSU standout from Brandon, who went 1-for-4 with an RBI in his second game for the Low-Class A St. Lucie Mets.
1 — Hit by Brandon Parker, the Saucier native, West Harrison High alum and ex-Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College star who made his Double-A debut for the Mississippi Braves at Montgomery. Parker, who also drove in a run and drew a walk, is the first Mississippi high school alum to play for the M-Braves since DeSoto Central’s Austin Riley debuted on May 5, 2018, according to a team release. Parker is the first state native to play for the M-Braves since Jackson’s Zack Bird, a Murrah High alum, pitched in three games in 2015.
32 — Consecutive games reaching base by the M-Braves’ Jesse Franklin V, who homered (No. 14) and walked three times in the team’s loss to Montgomery.
On this date in 2010, Roy Oswalt the MLB pitcher became Roy Oswalt the MLB left fielder, appearing at a position other than on the bump for the only time in his 13-year career. The former Weir High and Holmes Community College star, with Philadelphia at the time, came in as a replacement for an ejected player in the 15th inning of a 16-inning game against Houston. And, of course, the ball will find you, as they say. The first batter of the inning, Jason Castro, hit a fly ball to left field, which Oswalt caught without incident. Oswalt came to bat in the bottom of the 16th and grounded out for the final out of the Astros’ 4-2 win in the 5-hour, 20-minute affair. Oswalt, who retired in 2013, was 163-102 with a 3.36 ERA for his career, making three All-Star Games. He wasn’t a terrible hitter, either, banging out 101 hits (.154 average) with a homer and 36 RBIs. P.S. Tim Anderson returned Wednesday from his five-game suspension and went 2-for-5 with an RBI and scored the game-winning run in a 5-4 victory for the Chicago White Sox against Seattle. East Central CC product Anderson was the ghost runner in the bottom of the 10th, took off for third base on a failed pickoff attempt by the Mariners catcher and scored when the shortstop’s throw got past the third baseman.
Billy Hamilton, the former Taylorsville High standout, has piled up a lot of numbers in his major league career — and it seems highly uncertain that he’ll be adding to the totals. The skinny outfielder, just released from Triple-A by the Chicago White Sox, has played in 951 games and gotten 2,988 at-bats over an 11-year MLB career. Originally drafted by Cincinnati, he has played for eight different big league clubs, five in the last three years. He has just 22 MLB at-bats the last two years and only one hit; his career average sits at .239. But his 326 stolen bases are the most ever by Mississippi native, and he has scored 454 runs. And there are a couple of other numbers that might entice a big league team to bring Hamilton aboard when rosters expand from 26 to 28 in September. Though he has never won a Gold Glove, Hamilton has 73 defensive runs saved and 58 outs above average as a center fielder, both very good numbers according to MLB Trade Rumors. His career highlight reel is impressive. He has spent a good chunk of this season on the injured list, most recently with a shoulder problem. But he can still run and catch, even at 32. Here’s hoping he gets another shot.