09 Jul

heat check

With five multi-hit games over his last nine, Nathaniel Lowe is heating up. So, too, it seems are the Texas Rangers, the defending World Series champs who floundered through much of the first three months of the 2024 season. Mississippi State alum Lowe went 3-for-4 with an RBI on Monday as the Rangers whipped the Los Angeles Angels 9-4 for their fourth straight win and sixth in the last eight. Texas is 43-48, 5.5 games out of first in the American League West, 7 games out of a wild card berth. “We’re poised to make some things happen …,” Lowe told The Associated Press. No team has repeated as champion since the New York Yankees in 2000. Lowe, batting .276 on the season, has hit at a .370 clip over his last seven games and .339 over his last 15. His power is down this season, but he has three homers in his last nine games, lifting his total to six. He averaged 21 bombs the last three years. While winning a Gold Glove at first base in 2023, Lowe was also a key cog in a Rangers offense that led the AL in runs and OPS. Still trotting out a scary lineup, the Rangers currently rank eighth in those categories. With 22 runs in their last two games and 52 in the last eight, they appear to be heating up.

29 May

star quality

Don’t look now, but Jordan Westburg is putting up numbers worthy of All-Star consideration. After a 2-for-3, two-RBI performance for Baltimore on Tuesday, the Mississippi State product is batting .291 with 34 RBIs, ranking second among American League third baseman in both categories. (Westburg also has played second base and shortstop, but his primary spot has been the hot corner.) Over 51 games, the second-year big leaguer is tied for third among AL third baseman with 28 runs and is fourth in homers (eight), on-base percentage (.351) and OPS (.859). Westburg, named AL player of the week in mid-April, currently has a five-game hit streak with eight hits during that span. It doesn’t hurt his cause that the Orioles are 34-19, second in the AL East to New York. Westburg, 25, was a first-round pick out of MSU in 2020 and debuted with the O’s last summer, batting .260 with three homers in 68 games. P.S. Ex-Ole Miss standout Gunnar Hoglund improved to 6-2 after throwing 5 1/3 shutout innings Tuesday for Double-A Midland against Corpus Christi. Hoglund leads the Texas League in wins and has a 3.76 ERA over 10 appearances (nine starts) for the Oakland affiliate. The 6-foot-4 right-hander was a first-round pick by Toronto in 2021 — after going 10-5, 3.68, in three seasons in Oxford — and was acquired from Oakland in 2022 in the Matt Chapman trade.

23 Apr

attention, please

Jordan Westburg might not be the first name that comes to mind when one thinks of the star-studded Baltimore Orioles lineup, but the former Mississippi State standout certainly grabbed some attention last week. Westburg batted .478 with two doubles, a triple, two homers and eight RBIs in the week that ended Saturday and was named the American League’s Player of the Week on Monday. The second-year big leaguer, who has started at three different positions this season, is batting .320 with five homers, 18 RBIs and 14 runs in 21 games for the O’s, who lead the AL East with a 15-7 record. He even got some MVP votes in an mlb.com poll announced Monday. Westburg saw a nine-game hit streak end on Monday, when he went 0-for-3 with a walk in a 4-2 victory at the Los Angeles Angels. He had five multi-hit games during that hit streak. A first-round pick in 2020, Westburg batted .260 with three homers and 23 RBIs in 68 games after a midseason call-up in 2023. P.S. The Gulf Coast Athletic Conference Tournament, featuring Rust and Tougaloo, begins with four games Wednesday at Smith-Wills Stadium in Jackson. Fifth-seeded Rust opens the double-elimination event against Southern-New Orleans at 9 a.m. on Wednesday. Tougaloo, the 6-seed, opens against Dillard (Fla.) at 4 p.m. The top seed is Wiley (Texas), which went 18-3 in the NAIA league. Second-seeded Talladega (Ala.) finished 17-3. Third-seeded Dillard enters the tourney with a 10-game win streak.

03 Feb

historic significance

Much attention is being given to the fact that two black quarterbacks will face off in the Super Bowl for the first time on Feb. 12. As a nod to Black History Month, let’s highlight a less-celebrated but perhaps equally significant event that occurred in baseball 70 years ago and involved a pioneering Mississippian. Dave Hoskins, a Greenwood native, faced future Hall of Famer Satchel Paige in an American League game on Sept. 7, 1953, marking the first time in history that African-Americans opposed each other as starting pitchers in the traditional major leagues. This was six years after Jackie Robinson broke the color line. Hoskins was a major league rookie at age 35 in 1953 with Cleveland. Hoskins, who had attended G.H. Jones Industrial School in north Mississippi (per a SABR article), pitched several years in the Negro Leagues and was the first black player to appear in two minor leagues, including the Texas League in 1952. He became on May 10, 1953, the first black Mississippian to win a game in the major leagues. On May 24 of that year, he and Paige, with the St. Louis Browns, faced each other as relief pitchers in a game in Cleveland. Months later, they met again as starters at old Cleveland Stadium. Neither pitched well. Hoskins gave up five runs in 3 2/3 innings, Paige seven in 4 2/3. Neither was involved in the decision as the Indians prevailed 10-7. Hoskins won nine games for Cleveland in ’53 but would last just one more year in the majors, finishing 9-4 with a 3.81 ERA — and a piece of history — over 40 games. P.S. Jackson State is ranked eighth among the big schools and Rust College No. 3 among the smalls in Black College Nines preseason HBCU Top 10 polls.

06 Oct

fresh start

As a rookie in 2010, Mitch Moreland was dynamite in the postseason. He batted .348 (16-for-46) with a home run and seven RBIs as Texas made it all the way to the World Series before losing to San Francisco. Since then, the Mississippi State alum’s postseason production has been minimal: 3-for-43. In 30 career games, he is batting .213 with three homers. In last year’s American League Division Series against Toronto, the lefty-hitting first baseman was 0-for-13. “That’s in the past,” Moreland told sportsday.dallasnews.com. “All I’m thinking about is Thursday. Right now, I’m 0-for-0.” The Rangers hook up with the (hated?) Blue Jays again in the ALDS – Game 1 is today in Arlington — and Moreland is not exactly swinging a hot bat. He hit .167 with one homer in September and October, finishing the year at .233 with 22 bombs and 60 RBIs. He is 0-for-3 with two walks this season against Marco Estrada, Toronto’s Game 1 starter, 0-for-3 against J.A. Happ and 2-for-6 against Aaron Sanchez. A strong postseason, like the one Moreland enjoyed as a rookie, would certainly be welcomed by the Rangers — and would also look nice on the resume for Moreland, who is a pending free agent. P.S. Former Ole Miss standout Drew Pomeranz apparently will be on Boston’s roster for its ALDS against Cleveland. The left-hander, who made 13 starts for the Red Sox after being acquired from San Diego, was moved to the bullpen and threw a sharp 1 1/3 innings in the final game of the year. Pomeranz, who had a 3.32 ERA this season (4.59 with Boston), has pitched in relief often in his pro career. … The Indians’ pitching coach is UM product Mickey Callaway, now in his fourth year in that position.

23 Sep

it’s a battlefield

A little rest may have done Brian Dozier a lot of good. The former Southern Miss star had an RBI double and scored a run for Minnesota in a 3-1 win over Cleveland on Tuesday night. Dozier, battling a slump for several weeks, was out of the Twins’ lineup on Sunday for just the fourth time all season; the team was off on Monday. Despite his recent struggles, Dozier now has 98 runs and 71 RBIs – 169 runs accounted for (always a telling stat) in 146 games. Tuesday’s crucial win moved the Twins within 2 games of Houston for the second American League wild card. Ah, but there were games that mattered all over the AL landscape on Tuesday, and Mississippi State product Mitch Moreland played a prominent part in one of them. His two-run homer tied the score for Texas in the sixth inning and the Rangers went on to beat Oakland 8-6. Moreland has 23 homers on the year, matching his career-high, and has four homers and 12 RBIs in his last 10 games, of which Texas has won eight. Texas now leads the AL West by 2 games over Houston, which lost to the Los Angeles Angels, who are a half-game back of Minnesota in the wild card standings. Meanwhile, ex-Ole Miss standout Seth Smith went 1-for-3 with a run as Seattle beat Kansas City, which is battling to hold onto the AL’s best record. Toronto, the AL East leader, is just 1½ games back of the Royals in the best record race even after a loss on Tuesday to the New York Yankees, who hold the second wild card and are still in the East Division race, as well. Yes, it gets confusing. But that’s the fun of September these days. P.S. Ole Miss alum Alex Presley had two more hits – that’s 19 in the postseason – scored twice and drove in a run to help Fresno beat Columbus in the Triple-A championship game. Presley hit .413 over 10 games as Fresno, a Houston affiliate, marched to the Pacific Coast League pennant and then took Tuesday’s one-game Triple-A showdown in El Paso, Texas.