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.
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.
That was quite a 1-2 punch Milwaukee threw at San Diego on Tuesday night. Brandon Woodruff, the former Mississippi State standout, started and Drew Pomeranz, the ex-Ole Miss star, finished as the red-hot Brewers won 3-1 at Miller Park and moved into a tie with Chicago for second in the National League Central and wild card races. Between them, Woodruff and Pomeranz pitched four hitless innings with eight strikeouts. Woodruff, coming off the injured list, threw 37 pitches – hitting 99 mph – in two innings in his first appearance since July 21. “It feels, in a way, like a brand new season, the butterflies and stuff,” Woodruff told mlb.com. Pomeranz, the veteran lefty acquired from San Francisco at the trade deadline, has been a revelation working out of the Brewers’ bullpen. He has a 2.53 ERA, two saves and nine holds in 20 games, 19 in relief. He has punched out 36 batters in 21 1/3 innings, four in two innings Tuesday when he averaged 95 with his fastball. He had a 5.68 ERA in 21 games (17 starts) for the Giants. “I think, from Drew’s perspective, it’s ‘I can let it fly.’ That’s what he’s doing,” Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell said in an mlb.com story. … The Padres’ run came on a homer by State product Hunter Renfroe, playing his first game in 10 days because of nagging injuries. His 32nd bomb was his first since Aug. 10. And, yes, he struck out against both Woodruff and Pomeranz.
Another day, another former Bulldog in the MLB spotlight. Tonight, ex-Mississippi State standout Brandon Woodruff will return from nearly two months on the injured list to start for Milwaukee against San Diego at Miller Park. On Monday, Dakota Hudson pitched seven strong innings for St. Louis in a big victory – his 16th — against Washington. Woodruff and the Brewers are chasing the first-place Cardinals in the National League Central and the Nationals in the wild card race. Milwaukee has won 13 of its last 16, keeping its surge alive despite the loss of MVP candidate Christian Yelich. The Brewers hope to get a lift from Woodruff, who is 11-3 with a 3.75 ERA and made the All-Star Game back in July. The 26-year-old right-hander last pitched on July 21, when he suffered an oblique strain. He told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel it was a long, slow process getting back to form. “We’re playing some good baseball right now,” he said. “I want to be part of it and I want to contribute any way I can.” Woodruff reportedly threw no more than 45 pitches in his tuneup sessions, so three innings might be all the Brewers can expect from him tonight. P.S. Gulfport native Bobby Bradley and the Columbus Clippers take on the Sacramento River Cats in tonight’s Triple-A National Championship Game at Memphis’ AutoZone Park. FS1 will televise the game at 7 p.m. Bradley, an International League All-Star, hit .264 with 33 homers for the Clippers and also did a 15-game stint with Cleveland. Sacramento is a San Francisco affiliate.
For the fifth straight year, at least one Mississippi college product will be at the MLB All-Star Game. The honor tonight in Cleveland belongs to Brandon Woodruff, the former Mississippi State standout from Wheeler who was named as a replacement to the National League pitching staff. He follows Mitch Moreland (2018), Zack Cozart and Corey Dickerson (2017), Drew Pomeranz (2016) and Brian Dozier and Jonathan Papelbon (2015) as recent All-Stars out of Magnolia State schools. Woodruff has emerged as Milwaukee’s ace this season, posting a 10-3 record with a 3.67 ERA. The Brewers, second in the NL Central, are 14-4 in his starts. Woodruff found out at a team meeting on Saturday that he would be taking teammate Josh Hader’s spot in the 90th Midsummer Classic. Woodruff called it “pretty cool.” “Sitting here now and becoming an All-Star was something I didn’t think of. The first couple of years, you have a lot of times where you feel like, ‘Man, this game is tough,’” he told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Woodruff came out of State as a raw prospect in 2014, drafted in the 11th round by the Brewers after putting up a 5.95 ERA, 44 strikeouts and 34 walks in 56 innings over two years in Starkville. He developed quickly. By 2016 he was the organization’s minor league pitcher of the year, and he debuted in The Show in 2017. Woodruff helped the Brewers reach the NL Championship Series last fall, getting the win and homering (off Clayton Kershaw) in Game 1. P.S. For the record, DeSoto Central High’s Blaze Jordan won the High School Home Run Derby in Cleveland on Monday night. … This is the sixth All-Star Game in Cleveland, which memorably hosted the 1981 game that ended the player strike. On Aug. 9 at old Municipal Stadium, Grenada native Dave Parker hit the only home run in his six All-Star Game appearances. Two years earlier, in the ’79 All-Star Game at Seattle, Parker won MVP honors when he cut down runners at third and home with laser throws from right field and drove in a run for the victorious NL.
And the National League leader in wins is – drumroll, please — former Wheeler High and Mississippi State star Brandon Woodruff, who notched his sixth on Tuesday. Not what anyone would have predicted for mid-May. The big right-hander threw six innings of one-hit ball as Milwaukee beat Philadelphia 6-1 in a matchup of two of the NL’s best clubs. Woodruff walked five but fanned five in winning his fourth straight start. “The fastball is really overpowering at times, it feels like,” Craig Counsell told mlb.com. “He’s using it well, he’s throwing his off-speed for strikes; it’s a good recipe for success.” Woodruff is 6-1 with a 3.72 ERA in nine starts this season, his third in the big leagues. He also got a hit in three at-bats Tuesday and is at .350 for the year. … Though he doesn’t have the win total to show for it, ex-Madison Central star Spencer Turnbull actually has pitched better than Woodruff to date. The Detroit Tigers rookie right-hander is 2-2 with a 2.42 ERA, fourth-best in the American League, in eight outings. Over his last five starts, Turnbull is 2-0 with a 1.21. He last pitched on Sunday vs. Minnesota, allowing two runs in 5 2/3 innings and departing with a lead. He got a no-decision after the sub-.500 Tigers’ bullpen blew the save. P.S. Miguel Sano, who was at Trustmark Park in Pearl last week on a rehab assignment with Double-A Pensacola, has been activated by the Twins. Accompanying Sano on the rehab assignment was Sam Perlozzo, a Twins senior advisor who managed the Jackson Mets to back-to-back Texas League championships in 1984-85.
Forget Yelich, Grandal and Cain. The hottest hitter for Milwaukee is Brandon Woodruff, the former Wheeler High and Mississippi State standout who is raking at a .714 clip and had a big two-run double in an 8-4 win against St. Louis on Tuesday. According to his baseball card, Woodruff is a pitcher, and he’s been pretty good in that role, too. He went 5 2/3 innings vs. the Cardinals, yielding two runs and fanning six. He is 2-1 with a 5.23 ERA in four starts for the 12-6 Brewers, who lead the National League Central. It is said that Woodruff, who bats lefty and throws righty, puts on quite a show when he takes batting practice. And who can forget the bomb he hit off Clayton Kershaw in the playoffs last year. … East Central Community College alumnus Tim Anderson went hitless for the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday but still leads the American League in batting with a .421 average. He slipped behind Cody Bellinger (.433) for the MLB lead. … After a good start with Kansas City, Billy Hamilton has skidded to .205 through 14 games. The Taylorsville High product has just three steals and six runs. … In the Ugly Numbers category, we find ex-Southern Miss star Brian Dozier (.152, one RBI in 46 at-bats for Washington) and Ole Miss alum Zack Cozart (.091, two RBIs in 44 ABs for the Los Angeles Angels). … Ugly also would describe the outing by the New York Mets’ Steven Matz, who gave up eight runs and failed to retire a batter vs. Philadelphia on Tuesday. He became just the fifth starter ever to do that. One of the others is McComb native Blake Stein, who suffered that indignity on Aug. 31, 1998, pitching for Oakland against Cleveland. To his credit, Stein (21-28, 5.41 ERA over five MLB seasons) struck out eight batters in a row in a 2001 game, also a remarkable feat. … Jacob Webb became the fourth Mississippi Braves alum to debut in the majors this season when he appeared in relief for Atlanta on Tuesday.
Eat up some innings. That was Job 1 for Brandon Woodruff on Wednesday, and in that he succeeded. History will show that Woodruff, the former Wheeler High and Mississippi State standout, took the loss in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series. But he pitched well and, most important for Milwaukee, he pitched 5 1/3 innings, giving some needed rest to other members of the bullpen that carries the Brewers’ hopes. The Los Angeles Dodgers lead the series 3-2 after Wednesday’s 5-2 victory at Dodger Stadium. Woodruff, who had thrown two hitless innings in Game 1, came on – as part of a master plan – one batter into Game 5 and pitched into the sixth, battling Clayton Kershaw blow for blow. “I was just trying to get deep in the game,” Woodruff said in a TV interview. He allowed five hits – all singles — and a walk, hit two batters and was charged with three runs, one of them unearned. He struck out eight of the 22 batters he faced. He was lifted after allowing an opposite-field hit to Max Muncy that delivered a runner from second base and put LA ahead 2-1. Though Woodruff’s longest stint in an MLB game this year was five innings back in May, he threw five or more in 10 of his 17 Triple-A starts. Length was what the Brewers needed Wednesday, and that’s what Woodruff gave them, along with a chance to win. Manager Craig Counsell praised his effort. And now the vaunted Brewers pen is locked and loaded for Game 6 on Friday in Milwaukee.
In two appearances in his first major league postseason, Brandon Woodruff has shown an impressive ability to rise to the occasion for the Milwaukee Brewers. The Mississippi State alum from Wheeler threw three hitless innings to start Game 1 of the National League Division Series last week, propelling the Brewers to a three-game sweep of Colorado. The big right-hander topped that performance on Friday night in the opener of the National League Championship Series. Called from the bullpen in the third inning, he tossed two perfect frames with four strikeouts and in between blasted a 400-foot, game-tying home run off Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw. The Brewers bench and the Miller Park crowd went bonkers over the homer. It was one of those postseason moments that will live forever. Woodruff called it “crazy” in a postgame interview. “I knew he could swing the bat a little bit,” Kershaw said in a TV interview. “I didn’t know he could do that.” Throwing what TV broadcaster John Smoltz called “easy gas,” Woodruff went out for the fourth with a 2-1 lead and fanned Max Muncy, Manny Machado and Matt Kemp in succession. Again, the place went nuts. Milwaukee surged to a big lead and its bullpen brigade managed to hold on for a 6-5 victory. What a night. There have been a couple of other defining moments in Woodruff’s relatively brief pro career. In June of 2017, he was slated to make his big league debut but injured himself warming up before the game. He went on the disabled list and then back to the minors, finally getting his second chance about two months later. He was ready, pitching shutout ball into the seventh inning to beat Tampa Bay. Perhaps more telling about Woodruff’s heart and tenacity was his performance on July 24, 2016, for the Double-A Biloxi Shuckers. Six days after burying his brother Blake, who died in a four-wheeler accident back home in Wheeler, Woodruff tossed six shutout innings and hit his first pro home run to win a game at Pensacola. P.S. Mitch Moreland, the ex-State star from Amory, had a good workout Friday and expects to be on Boston’s roster for Game 1 of the American League Championship Series, which starts tonight at Fenway Park. Moreland injured a hamstring in the ALDS.
Milwaukee Brewers manager Craig Counsell has announced that Brandon Woodruff, the former Mississippi State standout, will serve as the “opener” — the first of a probable parade of relief pitchers — in today’s National League Division Series game against Colorado. (See previous post.)