30 Jul

bring the wood

Since coming off the injured list in late June, Brandon Woodruff has been putting the hurt on opposing batters. The Mississippi State product from Wheeler, now working for the Milwaukee Brewers, beat Boston at Fenway Park on Friday night, his fourth win (against no losses) in six starts since his IL stint. Woodruff (9-3, 3.55 ERA, on the season) checked the Red Sox on four hits and two walks in 6 1/3 innings, allowing one run and punching out nine in the 4-1 win that kept the first-place Brewers 3 games up on St. Louis in the National League Central. “If I can get ahead and mix it up a little bit …,” he told mlb.com in casually explaining his success. Over his last six starts, Woodruff has a 2.06 ERA, a 1.06 WHIP and 48 strikeouts in 35 innings. “Very happy to hand him the ball every five days,” manager Craig Counsell told Sportsnaut before Friday’s game. Woodruff has matched his win total from a hard-luck 2021 and seems certain to surpass his career-high 11 wins in 2019. He was an All-Star in both of those seasons. The big right-hander was an 11th-round draft pick in 2014 after an uneven career at State; it might rank as one of Milwaukee’s shrewdest picks ever. P.S. Ex-Ole Miss star Lance Lynn, who started this season on the IL, allowed three homers in the Chicago White Sox’s 7-3 loss at home to Oakland. Lynn is 1-4, 6.42 ERA, in nine starts. He was an 11-game winner and an All-Star in 2021. The White Sox fell to 49-50 and might lose Tim Anderson to a suspension. The East Central Community College alum appeared to bump the home plate umpire in Friday’s game while arguing his ejection for protesting a strike call. … Former DeSoto Central High star Austin Riley, who homered and doubled twice in Atlanta’s 5-2 win vs. Arizona, is batting .427 with 11 homers, 13 doubles, 21 runs and 24 RBIs in July. … Southern Miss left-hander Dalton Rogers, the third player picked from the state in this year’s draft (third round), has signed with Boston for a reported $447,500, according to mlb.com. USM pitcher Landon Harper (14th round) reportedly has signed with Atlanta.

27 May

bark in the park

There will be a Dog-fight, of sorts, in St. Louis tonight when the Cardinals send Dakota Hudson to the bump to face Milwaukee and Brandon Woodruff. The big right-handers were teammates at Mississippi State in 2014. Neither had much of an impact on that Bulldogs club — combining for two wins — but are now key pieces of the rotation for their respective MLB teams, keen rivals in the National League Central. Woodruff, from Wheeler, is 5-2 with a 4.76 ERA for the Brewers, who lead the division at 29-16. He is coming off his best start of 2022. Hudson is 3-2, 3.60 for the Cardinals, second at 24-20, and is coming off a shaky start. Woodruff was an 11th-round pick out of Starkville in 2014 and has blossomed in pro ball, making two All-Star teams and putting up a 33-23 overall record in Milwaukee. Hudson went 34th overall in 2016 and rose quickly, making his MLB debut in 2018. He missed most of last season after Tommy John surgery and is 27-12 overall. P.S. Konnor Pilkington, another former MSU star, went 3 1/3 innings on Thursday in his second big league start for Cleveland. The rookie lefty gave up three runs in a game the Guardians eventually won 4-3. … George County High product Justin Steele was charged with seven of the 20 runs Cincinnati scored against the Chicago Cubs in a 20-5 win and fell to 1-5, 5.40. … Ex-Ole Miss standout Mike Mayers, who has a 5.40 ERA as a middle reliever, has been designated for assignment by the Los Angeles Angels. He was an effective pitcher for the club in 2020 and ’21.

22 Sep

all too familiar

One run allowed on two hits and a walk over six innings. Ten strikeouts. An excellent day’s work for a big league pitcher — but not quite good enough for Milwaukee’s starter on this particular day. Brandon Woodruff, the former Mississippi State standout from Wheeler, hung up that pitching line against St. Louis on Tuesday night but suffered a loss. Woodruff has seen this movie before. Despite a 2.52 ERA, one of the best in MLB, Woodruff’s record is 9-10. He surpassed 200 strikeouts on the season but had no reason to celebrate. The Brewers’ lone run in the 2-1 loss came after Woodruff had departed. They have scored an average of 2.82 runs in his 29 starts. That’s the worst run support for any qualified pitcher in the majors. “It’s a hard game, man,” Woodruff told mlb.com postgame. “We’re doing everything we can.” Milwaukee has clinched a playoff berth but not the National League Central title. The magic number remains 3 to put away the Cardinals, who have won 10 in a row. The two meet again today in Milwaukee. P.S. DeSoto Central High product Austin Riley’s 30th home run of the season propelled Atlanta to a 6-1 win over Arizona and kept the first-place Braves 3 games up on Philadelphia in the NL East. … Another former Mississippi Braves standout, Tommy LaStella, led off the game with his sixth homer to help San Francisco beat San Diego 6-5 and stay a game up on the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West.

25 Aug

hangry for a w?

Brandon Woodruff, 2021 All-Star, ranks fifth in the majors in ERA, third in WHIP, 13th in punchouts. The 6-foot-4, 243-pound, red-bearded right-hander from Wheeler can be an intimidating presence on the mound for Milwaukee. But lately, he hasn’t been himself. Woodruff is 0-3 in his last seven starts. On June 29, he was 7-4 with a 1.87 ERA. Today, as the Mississippi State product prepares to face division rival Cincinnati, he is 7-7, 2.48. In his most recent outing, he gave up six runs in five innings against St. Louis. He lasted just three innings in a laborious start before that. Both of those games were on the road. Woodruff draws Cincinnati at American Family Field in Milwaukee, where he is 3-1, 2.26. After a loss on Tuesday, the Reds are 8.5 games back of the first-place Brewers in the National League Central but are very much in the wild card hunt. It’ll be interesting to see how Woodruff performs. It’ll be interesting also to see if he gets support from the Brewers’ hitters. That’s been an issue in many of his 10 no-decisions. Key matchup for Woodruff: Joey Votto, who is batting .318 with two home runs against him.

31 May

cy young watch

The competition is stiff for the Cy Young Award in the National League, home to Jacob deGrom, Trevor Bauer, Yu Darvish, Max Scherzer, et al. If Brandon Woodruff wasn’t in the conversation entering 2021, he certainly is now. Woodruff beat Scherzer head-to-head on Sunday, allowing just two hits while fanning 10 in a 3-0 win by Milwaukee over Washington. The former Mississippi State star from Wheeler is 4-2 with a 1.27 ERA — second in MLB only to deGrom — and has racked up 10 straight quality starts. Batters are hitting .138 against him — that’s second-best in MLB — and he is tied for seventh in the majors with 83 strikeouts. He toyed with the Nationals’ hitters on Sunday, utilizing three effective pitches. “I was mixing it up and getting ahead and moving the ball around to different quadrants of the zone. That’s what helps out,” Woodruff said in a classic understatement in an mlb.com article. What’s more, the 6-foot-4, 240-pound right-hander just exudes confidence on the mound. The only Mississippi-connected pitcher to win a Cy Young is Cliff Lee, the Meridian Community College product who claimed the American League honor in 2008 with Cleveland. (BTW, Ole Miss alum Lance Lynn — 6-1 with an AL-best 1.37 ERA — is off to a Cy Young-caliber start with the Chicago White Sox.)

01 Apr

no place like home

Brandon Woodruff gets the start today in Milwaukee’s home stadium, which is celebrating the 20th anniversary of its grand opening this month. Former Mississippi State star Woodruff delivered one of the greatest moments in the ballpark’s history three years ago, one Mississippi baseball aficionados surely remember. Miller Park, which opened on April 6, 2001, has a new name this season: American Family Field. (Ugh.) A writer for mlb.com recently ranked the top five games in Miller Park history, and coming in at No. 4 was Oct. 12, 2018, Game 1 of the NLCS, a 6-5 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. Woodruff, in his first MLB postseason, took a star turn that night, pitching two perfect innings in relief and hitting a 407-foot home run off Clayton Kershaw in the third inning. P.S. More stadium stuff: PNC Park in Pittsburgh also opened 20 years ago with three Mississippians in the starting lineups for Cincinnati and the host Pirates in Game 1 on April 9, 2001. Vicksburg native Dmitri Young, Cincy’s left fielder, scored the first run at the new yard. In the first inning, he was hit by a pitch and came around on Sean Casey’s homer. The Pirates’ leadoff batter was McComb’s Adrian Brown, the center fielder, who struck out to start a 1-for-4 day. Also in the Pittsburgh lineup was ex-Southern Miss star Kevin Young, who played first base and went 1-for-3. The Reds won the game 8-2. … Los Angeles Dodgers fans will finally get to experience the renovated Dodger Stadium this month. The team will be allowed to host fans at 20 percent capacity – about 11,000 people — at the onset of the regular season. The World Series champs’ home opener is April 9. Under the direction of Jackson native Janet Marie Smith (see previous post), the Dodgers spent $100 million renovating the stadium ahead of the 2020 season, which was delayed to July and played without fans because of the pandemic. Smith, a Mississippi State grad, previously oversaw stadium projects at Camden Yards, Fenway Park and Turner Field and has consulted on many others.

01 Oct

october is back

Flashback to Oct. 12, 2018: Game 1, National League Championship Series. Brandon Woodruff, the ex-Mississippi State star from Wheeler, hits a home run off Clayton Kershaw and works two perfect innings in relief to lead Milwaukee to a 6-5 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. It’s an enduring postseason highlight for a Mississippi baseball aficionado. (Worth noting: Five days later, Kershaw beat the Brewers – and Woodruff, who again worked in relief – in Game 5. LA won the series in seven.) Back to Oct. 1, 2020: Woodruff squares off with Kershaw again tonight at Dodger Stadium in Game 2 of their NL Wild Card Series; it’s a must-win for the Brewers. Though Woodruff won’t get to hit against Kershaw tonight, the pitching matchup alone is compelling. Woodruff is coming off his best start of the season (eight shutout innings vs. St. Louis on Sept. 26) and has a strong postseason resume (2.20 ERA, 23 strikeouts in 16 1/3 innings over five games). The Hall of Fame-bound Kershaw, 6-2 with a 2.16 ERA this season, has had his ups and downs in the postseason: 9-11, 4.43 in 32 appearances. Woodruff told reporters Wednesday he is taking a measured approach: “I try to treat each day the same and come in and do the same routine, keep everything the exact same.” Perhaps that’ll rekindle some of the magic of Oct. 12, 2018. P.S. MSU product Hunter Renfroe hit .156 for Tampa Bay this season, but eight his 19 hits left the park. It shouldn’t have been a surprise, then, that his lone hit (in four at-bats) in the AL Wild Card Series vs. Toronto was a home run. Renfroe, playing in his first postseason game on Wednesday, hit the first postseason grand slam in Tampa Bay history to cap a six-run second inning as the Rays completed a sweep of the Blue Jays with an 8-2 win. … Former Meridian Community College standout Corey Dickerson, playing in his first postseason game, hit a go-ahead three-run homer for Miami – off Kyle Hendricks, no less — in a Game 1 win against the Chicago Cubs. “It was about seeing it over the plate, get my timing right and letting it go,” Dickerson told mlb. com. “I got a good pitch to hit (a first-pitch, four-seam fastball).” … Former DeSoto Central High star Austin Riley, in his first postseason, went 1-for-8 in Atlanta’s series sweep against Cincinnati. He contributed to the game-winning rally in the 13th inning on Wednesday with a single that moved pinch runner Cristian Pache to second base. Pache later scored the marathon game’s lone run on a Freddie Freeman single. (Worth noting: There were 13 former Mississippi Braves on Atlanta’s 28-man roster.) … Drew Pomeranz, an Ole Miss alum and postseason veteran, worked a scoreless inning in San Diego’s loss to St. Louis in their series opener on Wednesday. Mitch Moreland, an MSU product and also a postseason vet, did not play in Game 1 but is in the lineup at DH for Game 2. … East Central CC alum Tim Anderson, appearing in his first postseason and apparently thrilled to be on the big stage, was 6-for-9 with two runs in the first two games of the White Sox’s AL series against Oakland, then got hits in his first two ABs in today’s Game 3. Ocean Springs High product Garrett Crochet, the ChiSox’s gas-throwing lefty making just his sixth appearance in a big league game, struck out Matt Olson with runners at the corners and two outs in the first inning of Game 3, then struck out Khris Davis to start the second inning before departing with an apparent injury. His velocity reportedly was down.

27 Sep

dialed in

He had one job to do. He nailed it. The Milwaukee Brewers needed a win on Saturday to keep their postseason hopes alive. Brandon Woodruff, the former Mississippi State star from Wheeler, went to the bump and delivered his best start of the season. “The story of this game was Woody,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell told mlb.com. Woodruff handcuffed the St. Louis Cardinals on two hits and a walk over eight shutout innings in a 3-0 victory. He struck out 10. He retired 19 in a row from the second inning into the eighth. Former Biloxi Shuckers star Josh Hader pitched the ninth for his 13th save. So now, the Brewers’ task for today’s season finale at Busch Stadium is simple: Win and they’re in the National League playoffs. Woodruff has had an uneven season. He’s 3-5 despite a 3.05 ERA. He had not won since Aug. 25 before Saturday’s pressure-packed gem. “I love throwing in these types of games,” he said. As a reward for Saturday’s win, he might get to throw in some more in October. … Meanwhile, at Chicago’s Guaranteed Rate Field on Saturday, another Mississippi native came up large in a big game. Former Ocean Springs High star Garrett Crochet, appearing in just his fifth MLB game, notched his first hold with two scoreless innings for the White Sox against the Cubs. Crochet worked the fifth and sixth innings after the Sox had rallied for a 7-5 lead in a game they’d win 9-5 to keep alive their hopes for an American League Central title. Crochet, a first-round draft pick out of Tennessee in June, has lit up the radar guns since his arrival in the big leagues, throwing 45 pitches of 100 mph or more. He has struck out eight batters in six innings and allowed just three hits and no runs. The 6-foot-6, 218-pound lefty said he never threw all that hard as a kid, so this new-found heat “is pretty cool.”

11 Sep

crunch time

As the Milwaukee Brewers chased down a playoff berth in 2019, Brandon Woodruff became the ace of the pitching staff. The Brewers desperately need the former Mississippi State standout to reprise that role, starting tonight. Woodruff, 11-3 last year, has struggled in 2020, as have the Brewers, who are 19-22 and currently out of the National League playoff picture with less than three weeks to go. Woodruff (2-3, 3.91 ERA) takes the mound in a very meaningful game against the first-place Chicago Cubs at Miller Park. “These last few weeks are going to be a telltale sign of, are we going to do this thing or not?” Woodruff said in an mlb.com piece. “It’s going to be fun.” Well, maybe. Woodruff’s ERA has been climbing steadily over his last six starts. In only one of those starts has he gone more than five innings. He called his most recent outing, a 4 1/3-inning, 3-run stint in a no-decision against Cleveland, “a disgrace.” He could be positioned for a feel-good result against the Cubs. Collectively, Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, Jason Heyward and Anthony Rizzo are just 9-for-48 (.188) with no homers against Woodruff. P.S. Cody Reed, the Northwest Mississippi Community College alum from Horn Lake, went on the 10-day injured list for Tampa Bay with “left pinky finger irritation.” The left-hander has made two scoreless relief appearances since the Rays got him in a trade with Cincinnati.

30 Mar

nasty stuff

One of the new age measures of a good pitch is something called “expected weighted on-base average allowed.” By that measure, former Mississippi State star Brandon Woodruff’s four-seam fastball was among the best in the game in 2019, his .264 mark ranking behind only Gerrit Cole’s, according to the good folks at mlb.com. Woodruff’s four-seamer made their list of the top five “nastiest” in MLB, joining those of Cole, Josh Hader, Yu Darvish and Jordan Hicks. Woodruff was pretty good by the old-fashioned measures, as well, posting an 11-3 record and a 3.62 ERA in 121 2/3 innings for Milwaukee, with 143 strikeouts, 30 walks and a .240 batting average against. The big right-hander’s average velocity on his four-seamer, per mlb.com, was 96.3 in 2019, his third season with the Brewers and first as a full-time starter. Woodruff’s stuff has garnered attention since his days at Wheeler High, where, as a senior in 2011, he punched out 100 batters in 49 1/3 innings and was drafted in the fifth round by Texas. He chose to go to State, where he had trouble harnessing his stuff during an underwhelming three-year career. As a junior in 2014, he made 15 appearances, posting a 6.75 ERA with 29 strikeouts, 25 walks (plus four hit batsmen) in 37 1/3 innings. But the stuff was still good enough for the Brewers to pluck Woodruff in the 11th round, and in 2016, things started to click. Woodruff went 14-9, 2.68 at two minor league levels that season; at Double-A Biloxi, he struck out 124 in 113 2/3 innings with just 30 walks. After his “nasty” big league breakthrough last season, he may well have a Cy Young Award in his future.