Home runs were the dominant theme in the MLB playoffs on Wednesday night. There were 14 in the three games, and a couple of postseason homer records were set. Unfortunately for former Ole Miss star Lance Lynn, he was on the bad end of one of those records. The 36-year-old right-hander, starting for Los Angeles, allowed four solo homers in the third inning, accounting for all of Arizona’s scoring in a 4-2 win that clinched a National League Division Series sweep for the upstart Diamondbacks. No team had ever hit four homers in one inning of a postseason game. “The way (Lynn) was throwing the baseball, I didn’t expect that,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts told the Los Angeles Times. Maybe it shouldn’t have been a total shock. Lynn led all of MLB with 44 homers allowed this season, which he split between the Chicago White Sox and the Dodgers. And the ball flies at Arizona’s Chase Field. Lynn — described by TBS’s Ron Darling as “stubborn, angry and mule-ish” on the mound — got through the first two innings, allowing just two singles. Then … boom: 1,626 feet of home runs in the third. Lynn was gone after 2 2/3 and the Dodgers, the No. 2 seed in the NL, were gone from the postseason a little while later. Lynn has had a great career. He won an SEC title at Ole Miss and a World Series title with St. Louis. He has made two All-Star Games. He has won 136 major league games, five more in the postseason, and he won a World Baseball Classic game earlier this year. But that four-homer inning is no doubt gonna sting for a while. … Elsewhere, Philadelphia hit a club-record six homers, two by Bryce Harper, in a 10-2 win over Atlanta at another homer haven, Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies lead that NLDS 2-1 heading into Game 4 tonight. Former Mississippi Braves standout Spencer Strider, a 20-game winner this year, will start for the Braves. … Houston clinched its seventh straight American League Championship Series appearance by beating host Minnesota 3-2 in Game 4. All the runs in that game came via the long ball, with Jose Abreu hitting the go-ahead shot — his third in the two games at Target Field — in the fourth inning.
Nathaniel Lowe made a couple of noteworthy contributions Tuesday night in Texas’ American League Division Series-clinching win. The Mississippi State product blasted a 437-foot homer in the sixth inning, capping the scoring in a 7-1 victory over Baltimore. Less attention-grabbing but certainly significant was a second inning at-bat that ended in an out. Leading off the inning, Lowe battled Baltimore starter Dean Kremer for 15 pitches before lining out to left field. The Rangers proceeded to score five runs in that inning, knocking out Kremer (53 pitches all told) and seizing command at Globe Life Field. Lowe’s homer, on a 1-1 pitch, was one of four by the mighty Rangers, who hit an AL-best 233 this season. Lowe, who has prodigious power, had 17 homers, which ranked just seventh on the team. He has not had a hot postseason — 4-for-22 — but his team has won five straight, by a 32-12 count, and is headed for the AL Championship Series for the first time since 2011. (Another ex-MSU first baseman, Mitch Moreland, was on that club.) Baltimore, the AL East champion and top seed in the playoffs, is going home. Former State star Jordan Westburg had a hit and scored the lone run for the Orioles on Tuesday but also struck out three times, including the game’s final out. MSU alum Adam Frazier was 0-for-2, capping a hitless series. P.S. Texas will meet the Houston-Minnesota winner in the ALCS. The visiting Astros crushed the Twins 9-1 on Tuesday to take a 2-1 lead in their best-of-5. Ex-Southern Miss standout — and Minnesota native — Matt Wallner was 0-for-2 with two walks for the Twins. The lefty-hitting Wallner should be in the lineup tonight vs. Astros righty Jose Urquidy when the teams meet again at Target Field. … Lance Lynn, the veteran right-hander out of Ole Miss, will make his 28th career postseason appearance tonight for Los Angeles, which faces elimination against Arizona in the National League Division Series. Lynn is 5-5 with a 5.28 ERA in playoff games.
A maroon four are bound for the stage in the Baltimore-Texas American League Division Series, with two former Mississippi State Bulldogs on the roster of each team. All four best-of-5 division series get under way Saturday. Baltimore, featuring Adam Frazier (MSU 2013) and Jordan Westburg (MSU 2020), is the top seed in the AL and will host Games 1 and 2 against wild card entrant Texas, which suits up Nathaniel Lowe (MSU 2016) and Chris Stratton (MSU 2012). The veteran Frazier, a lefty-hitting infielder, batted .240 with 13 homers, 60 RBIs and 11 steals in his first year with the Orioles; he has a .217 career postseason average and went 2-for-16 against Rangers pitching this year. Westburg, also an infielder, is a rookie called up in July. He hit .260 with three homers and 23 RBIs and didn’t face Texas. Lowe, Texas’ first baseman, saw a dip in his average (.262 from .302) and homer total (17 from 27) from 2022 but did post a .360 OBP, smack 38 doubles and drive in 82 runs. He has a .154 career postseason average; he was 2-for-24 with a homer against Baltimore this season. Stratton, acquired from St. Louis at the deadline, put up a 3.41 ERA for the Rangers, though he didn’t pitch in many high-leverage situations. The veteran right-hander didn’t face the Orioles in 2023. … In the other ALDS — Houston-Minnesota — the Astros’ roster is expected to include State alum J.P. France (11-6, 3.83 ERA as a rookie), ex-Bulldogs star Kendall Graveman (2.42 in 23 games with Houston in 2023) and former Ole Miss standout Grae Kessinger (.200 in 40 at-bats). France started 23 games this season, but his postseason role seems unclear. Graveman, a veteran reliever, has a 1.64 career postseason ERA (in nine games with Houston in 2021). Kessinger, a reserve, has played four infield positions. Minnesota trots out Matt Wallner, the ex-Southern Miss slugger who belted 14 homers for the Twins and 11 more in the minors this year. He went 0-for-3 in the wild card round. … In the National League, DeSoto Central High product Austin Riley is the lone Mississippian on either active roster for the Atlanta-Philadelphia series. Riley batted .281 with 37 homers and 97 RBIs this season and finished strong. In the postseason, he has a .216 average, three homers, 13 RBIs and a World Series ring (from 2021). … Ex-Ole Miss star Lance Lynn went 7-2, 4.36, as a starter for Los Angeles after arriving at the deadline, and he has pitched in 27 postseason games over a long career. Still, his role for the Los Angeles-Arizona series was undecided at last report; he gives up a lot of home runs (44 all told in ’23), which seem to play an outsized role in the postseason.
Before former Mississippi Braves star Freddie Freeman took ex-Biloxi Shuckers ace Josh Hader deep for the series-clinching home run, there was a cool all-Mississippi faceoff in Tuesday’s National League Division Series game at Truist Park. Sixth inning. Score tied. Runners first and third. Two outs. Milwaukee summoned Wheeler’s Brandon Woodruff, ordinarily a starter, from the bullpen to face DeSoto Central High product Austin Riley, Atlanta’s cleanup batter. Riley had blasted a 428-foot homer off Woodruff in the Braves’ Game 2 victory, adding to the anticipation of this clash. Woodruff won Tuesday’s battle; on the first pitch, a 97-mph fastball, Riley grounded out to the third baseman. But Riley and the Braves won the war, 5-4 on Freeman’s majestic eighth-inning bomb, and advanced to the NLCS for the second straight year. Woodruff and the Brewers have been in the playoffs four straight years but only once reached the NLCS. Riley went 5-for-15 in the NLDS with a walk, an RBI and three runs and now gets to play some more. … The Chicago White Sox, who had four Mississippi products on their roster, saw their season come to a disappointing end, getting crushed by Houston 10-1 in the decisive Game 4 of their American League Division Series. Tim Anderson, the East Central Community College alum, went 7-for-19 in the series but was 0-for-4 Tuesday. Former Ole Miss standout Lance Lynn got KO’d in his Game 2 start, yielding five runs in 3 2/3 innings. Ocean Springs High product Garrett Crochet did not allow an earned run in three relief appearances but did allow four of four inherited runners to score, including two in the fourth inning of Tuesday’s game that put the Astros up 5-1. Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton never got off the bench in what likely was his last time in a White Sox uniform. … For Houston, ex-Mississippi State star Kendall Graveman threw a scoreless eighth inning but did manage to add to the bad blood between the teams when he plunked Jose Abreu with a pitch. It looked intentional. ChiSox manager Tony LaRussa said it clearly was. Astros manager Dusty Baker said it wasn’t. The matter will be revisited next season, count on that. Meanwhile, Graveman gets to see former MSU teammate Hunter Renfroe in the ALCS, where the Astros will play Boston.
Thanks to Rule 5.05(a)(8), Hunter Renfroe’s place in postseason history is secure. The Crystal Springs native and ex-Mississippi State standout will forever be linked to the quirky rule that had a major impact in Sunday’s American League Division Series game at Boston. In the 13th inning, with the go-ahead run at first base and two outs, a batted ball hit the short right-field wall at Fenway Park, caromed off the hip of Renfroe, the right fielder who was giving pursuit, and then went over the wall. For a few moments, confusion reigned. Apparently, no one involved had ever seen this happen before. Fenway is one of the few ballparks where something like that is even possible. Had the ball remained in play, the runner would have scored easily and the batter, Tampa Bay’s Kevin Kiermaier, likely would have made third. But the umpires got together and correctly applied Rule 5.05(a)(8), which states that a bounding fair ball unintentionally deflected out of play by a fielder is a ground-rule double. That put the runners at second and third. The score remained tied. Fair or not, the rule is the rule. Nick Pivetta then struck out the next batter, concluding his four shutout innings. In the bottom of the 13th, after Renfroe drew a one-out walk, Christian Vazquez gave Boston a 6-4 win and a 2-1 series lead with a homer over the Green Monster. … Meanwhile, in Chicago, in the other ALDS Game 3, things got a little wacky, as well, as the White Sox rallied from 5-1 down in the third inning to beat Houston 12-6 and stay alive in the best-of-5. The White Sox’s decisive three-run fourth was ignited by — who else? — Tim Anderson. The East Central Community College star led off with an infield single and eventually scored the go-ahead run. (And, yes, there was a quirky deflected-ball play later in that inning.) For his part, Anderson went 3-for-6 with two runs and an RBI Sunday and is now batting .467 in the series. … There are four games on tap today. Something crazy, something you’ve never seen before, is almost guaranteed to happen. That’s baseball.
Lance Lynn gets the start for Chicago in today’s American League Division Series opener, which arguably is the most important game in a best-of-5. Lynn may have gone to Ole Miss, but the big right-hander is a bulldog on the mound. He went 11-6 with a 2.69 ERA for the White Sox this season, working 157 innings in 28 starts, and was considered a Cy Young Award candidate at one point. “He’s going to come at you,” White Sox catcher Yasmani Grandal told the Chicago Tribune, “he’s going to pressure you and you’d better be ready when he’s on the mound.” Lynn’s one appearance against Houston did not go well: six runs in four innings back in June. Expect him to use that as motivation. Lynn has a wealth of postseason experience, having pitched in 26 games going back to his rookie year of 2011, when he won a ring as a reliever with St. Louis. Tim Anderson, the former East Central Community College star, will lead off the game for the White Sox; he was hot down the stretch and went 9-for-14 in his first MLB postseason in 2020. Ocean Springs High alum Garrett Crochet, a lefty reliever, and Taylorsville High product Billy Hamilton, a reserve outfielder, could also play valuable roles for Chicago. But Lynn is the one to watch today. …
Hunter Renfroe feasted (.338, four homers, 18 RBIs) on Tampa Bay pitching this season, perhaps motivated by the fact the Rays cut him loose after last season. The ex-Mississippi State standout, who batted .259 with 31 homers and 96 RBIs in 2021, will be somewhere in the middle of Boston’s lineup — and in right field — in tonight’s ALDS. Renfroe has limited postseason experience, but he hit two homers for the Rays last fall during their run to the World Series and went 1-for-3 in the pressure-cooker AL Wild Card Game vs. New York on Monday. He brings game-changing power, even in a pitcher’s park like Tropicana Field.
It’s unlikely to happen, but it would be kinda cool from a Magnolia State perspective. Tampa Bay faces the New York Yankees in Game 5 of the American League Division Series tonight, which means former Mississippi State teammates Hunter Renfroe and Jonathan Holder could face each other, possibly in a key spot. Renfroe, an outfielder, is not in the Rays’ lineup and has had just one at-bat, as a pinch hitter, in the series. Holder, a reliever, is down in the pecking order in a deep Yankees bullpen. But in an all-hands-on-deck kinda game, anything could happen. Renfroe, from Crystal Springs, and Holder, from Gulfport, were on one of the best teams State has ever had, the 2013 club that reached the finals of the College World Series, falling to UCLA. Renfroe was the hitting star, batting .345 with 16 homers and 65 RBIs. Holder was the closer, posting a 1.65 ERA and 21 saves. Renfroe was drafted that year in the first round by San Diego; Holder went in 2014 in the sixth round to the Yankees. Both are now big league vets. Holder had a 4.98 ERA this season, but that figure was inflated over his last three outings when he yielded eight runs in 4 1/3 innings. Renfroe hit eight homers for the Rays this season but was 0-for-14 against the Yankees and 0-for-1 vs. Holder. They faced off one other time: Holder struck out Renfroe in 2019, when Renfroe was with the Padres. Maybe a third matchup is in the stars for tonight. Unlikely, sure, but it would be kinda cool.
Mississippi college products Lance Lynn and Jonathan Holder each had a hand in a history-making event on Monday night at Yankee Stadium. But not one they’ll want to remember. They were two of the six pitchers used by the New York Yankees in their 16-1 loss to Boston in Game 3 of the American League Division Series. It was the worst postseason loss by any Yankees team, and the 16 runs were the most they’ve allowed in a postseason game. It was the most lopsided win by any visiting team in postseason history. The New York Times called the defeat “humiliating.” Holder, the Mississippi State alum, allowed two hits, a walk and a run in two innings in his first career postseason appearance. That’s a 4.50 ERA – and the best effort by a Yankees pitcher on Monday. It was 10-0 by the time Holder got in in the sixth inning. Lynn, the ex-Ole Miss star, worked in the pivotal fourth, when the Red Sox scored seven runs. He had pitched well in a relief outing in Game 1 last week but not on this night. He faced four batters and retired one. He walked in a run and yielded a three-run double. He was charged with three runs. Game 4, a possible clincher for Boston, is tonight at Yankee Stadium.
As the Houston Astros marched toward their first World Series title last year, all Tony Sipp could do was watch. The veteran relief pitcher, who struggled through much of the 2017 season, wasn’t on the team’s roster for any of their three postseason series. Well, that was then. After an amazing resurgence in 2018, the former Moss Point High and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College standout is on the roster for the American League Division Series against Cleveland. Game 1 is today at Minute Maid Park. A couple of things happened for the 35-year-old left-hander this year. First, he had to battle just to make the team in spring training and essentially keep his career alive. “It all just came together to create that hunger again. It’s do or die; my back is against the wall,” Sipp told the Houston Chronicle last month. Then, he regained confidence in his best pitch, a splitter that had abandoned him in 2016 and ’17. In 54 appearances (38 2/3 innings) this season, Sipp put up a 1.86 ERA. He yielded just one home run after coughing up eight in 2017 and 12 in 2016. He is the lone lefty in Houston’s bullpen; he is best against lefties (0.90 ERA this year) but can also get right-handed hitters (2.89). P.S. Houston’s roster also includes former Mississippi Braves Brian McCann, Evan Gattis and Charlie Morton, a hero of last year’s title run. Hitting coach Dave Hudgens is a former Jackson Generals hitting coach, a last link to the Double-A Astros affiliate that played at Smith-Wills Stadium from 1991-99. … In that other ALDS, which starts tonight at Fenway Park, Boston’s roster includes former Mississippi State star Mitch Moreland (but not Ole Miss alumnus Drew Pomeranz). The New York Yankees have an alum from both State (Jonathan Holder) and Ole Miss (Lance Lynn) in their bullpen, and the Bombers’ hitting coach is former East Central CC standout Marcus Thames.
Charlie Morton, Houston’s scheduled starter today in Game 4 of the American League Division Series at Boston, spent a largely forgettable season with the Mississippi Braves in 2007. The right-hander, then 23 years old and in his sixth pro season, appeared in 41 games, all but six in relief. He went 4-6 with a 4.29 ERA. He was 0-for-4 in save opportunities. But he got the start for the M-Braves in Game 2 of the Southern League South playoffs against Montgomery at Trustmark Park and delivered what might have been a career-altering performance: seven innings, three hits, one run, eight strikeouts. He made the big leagues the next year after a strong showing in Triple-A. Morton’s MLB career has been unspectacular – 60-78, 4.41 ERA – and stunted by injuries. But he found a footing with the Astros this season, going 14-7, 3.62. Today, at what could be a soggy Fenway Park, he gets his second MLB postseason start. Former M-Braves star Brian McCann (Class of 2005) likely will be the Astros’ catcher today. Waiting in the Boston bullpen, no doubt champing at the bit for a save opportunity, will be Craig Kimbrel, arguably the most dominant closer to pass through Pearl these last 13 years. Kimbrel was 6-for-6 in save opps with two wins and a 0.77 ERA in 12 games for the M-Braves in 2009. … Should there be a Game 4 in the Los Angeles-Arizona National League Division Series, former M-Braves standout Alex Wood is slated to start for the Dodgers. The lefty, a spectacular 16-3, 2.72 this season, went 4-2, 1.26 in 10 starts for the M-Braves in 2013 and made the big leagues that same year.