07 Aug

stepping up

There were a slew of big games on the major league slate on Sunday, and a slew of Mississippians came up big in some of the biggest. The most dramatic moment was produced by Matt Wallner, the Southern Miss career home run leader whose first big league walk-off homer in the ninth inning gave Minnesota a 5-3 win against Arizona. The two-run shot — off the Diamondbacks’ recently acquired closer Paul Sewald — was Wallner’s seventh homer of the year for the Twins and 70th off his pro career. He also made a great catch in left field. The Minnesota native has spent much of this season in Triple-A but appears to have secured a roster spot with the first-place Twins. “He’s a big boy and hits the ball so hard,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli told mlb.com. “It’s a controlled, violent swing.” The 6-foot-4, 220-pound lefty hitter is batting .268 (.304 in his last seven games) with 16 RBIs and 16 runs in 30 games. Sunday’s win was the Twins’ fourth straight and gave them a 4.5-game lead over Cleveland in the American League Central. At Arlington, Texas, hot-hitting Mississippi State alum Nathaniel Lowe slugged his 13th home run — a two-run shot off Sandy Alcantara in the third inning — to help Texas whip Miami 6-0, the first-place Rangers’ sixth straight win. Lowe is batting .351 with four homers and 17 RBIs since the All-Star break for a club that is 14-7 over that span. Ex-MSU star Chris Stratton, a trade deadline pickup from St. Louis, threw 1 1/3 innings Sunday, his third straight scoreless appearance for the Rangers. They maintained a 2.5-game lead in the AL West over Houston, which beat New York at Yankee Stadium 9-7. MSU alum J.P. France got the win for the Astros, working 3 1/3 innings (no earned runs) in his first relief appearance of the season. The rookie right-hander, who has made 15 starts, is 8-3 with a 2.75 ERA. In the National League, the surging Chicago Cubs beat Atlanta 6-4 at windy Wrigley Field as ex-George County High star Justin Steele picked up his 13th win, which leads the big leagues. Steele, not real sharp, allowed three earned runs with seven strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings against the powerful Braves, runaway leaders in the NL East. The Cubs moved to within 1.5 games of NL Central leader Milwaukee, which lost 4-1 to Pittsburgh in ex-State standout Brandon Woodruff’s return from the injured list (see previous post). In the Sunday nightcap on ESPN, former Ole Miss star Lance Lynn allowed one run (a homer) in six innings to pace the NL West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers past San Diego 8-2. Lynn, 36, is 2-0 with a 2.77 ERA in two starts since the Dodgers got him at the trade deadline. He was 6-9, 6.47, in 21 starts for the White Sox.

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