We’ve almost come to expect this kind of thing from Brandon Woodruff, the former Mississippi State star now pitching for Milwaukee. Six innings, one hit, one run and — for the first time in 2021 – a win on his ledger. Woodruff and the Brewers (9-7) beat San Diego and Joe Musgrove 3-1 on Monday night at Petco Park. For Woodruff, it was his first decision in four starts despite posting a 1.96 ERA, among the best in the National League. It was also his 20th career win. After yielding a walk and a hit in a long first inning, Woodruff fairly cruised, finishing with seven strikeouts and three walks. “The credit goes to Woody for saying, ‘That’s it,’ (after the first inning),” manager Craig Counsell said in a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story. “He got locked in and just pitched beautifully after that.” That’s what an ace does. Woodruff is among a crowd of pitchers who rose through Milwaukee’s system, including stops at Double-A Biloxi, and are now part of one of the best staffs in MLB. Closer Josh Hader, who got the save Monday, has not allowed an earned run in five appearances and has two saves and two wins. Setup men include Brent Suter, who has a 3.48 ERA and three holds in seven games, and Devin Williams, the 2020 NL rookie of the year. Corbin Burnes (1-1, 0.49), Freddy Peralta (2-0, 2.00) and Adam Houser (1-2, 3.14) – all Shuckers alums — are in the rotation with Woodruff. P.S. Ex-Ole Miss star Drew Pomeranz, who pitched in relief for San Diego, allowed a run for the first time in six appearances in 2021 when Tyrone Taylor – another ex-Shucker – took him deep. … MSU product Kendall Graveman got five outs in Seattle’s win against the Los Angeles Dodgers and has yet to allow a run in his six games this season.
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.
Here’s what we know: Two months from today, the Mississippi Braves will open their 2021 season at home as part of the new Double-A South. What we don’t yet know is who the players will be — or who will manage them. Just guessing, there could be as many as six of Atlanta’s top 20 prospects stationed in Pearl come May 4. Catcher Shea Langeliers (rated No. 4 in the system by mlb.com), shortstop Braden Shewmake (No. 5), pitcher Freddie Tarnok (No. 11), outfielder Trey Harris (No. 13), third baseman C.J. Alexander (No. 18) and first baseman/outfielder Greyson Jenista (No. 20) appear to be at the Double-A stage of development. Shewmake, Harris, Alexander and Jenista all spent time with the M-Braves in 2019, when minor league teams last played. Langeliers and Shewmake were first-round picks out of major colleges in 2019 and look to be on the big league fast track. Langeliers, who played in low-A ball in 2019, is said to have the best arm among all catchers in the Braves’ system; he could be Atlanta’s regular catcher next year. Shewmake, long, lean and athletic, is projected to make the majors this season. Both are in big league camp as non-roster invitees, along with Tarnok, Harris and Alexander. Minor league camps haven’t yet opened. The 2021 season will be the M-Braves’ 16th at Trustmark Park. They’ve cranked out a lot of big leaguers but have won just one league championship, in 2008, Season 4. They would seem due for another. … Biloxi, also in the reconfigured Double-A South, also opens on May 4, at Birmingham. The Shuckers have announced the return of manager Mike Guerrero for his fifth season. It would not be a surprise to see ex-Mississippi State star Ethan Small, a top Milwaukee prospect, begin 2021 at Biloxi.
Three Mississippi State products avoided arbitration hearings by agreeing to new MLB contracts on Friday. Brandon Woodruff, who has emerged as the ace of the Milwaukee staff, got a nice pay raise, jumping from a 2020 salary of $633,100 to a reported $3.3 million in his first year of arbitration eligibility. The right-hander from Wheeler, a 2019 All-Star, is 19-11 with a 3.66 ERA in three-plus seasons in the majors. He went 3-5, 3.05 in last year’s abbreviated campaign. Chris Stratton, also an MSU alum, got $1.1M deal from Pittsburgh in his first year of arbitration eligibility. The Tupelo native, who made $507,500 in 2020, is 18-18 with a 4.97 ERA over parts of five seasons and posted a 3.90 in 27 relief outings last season. Ex-State star Adam Frazier, Pittsburgh’s second baseman last year, agreed to a $4.3M contract as a second-year arbitration eligible player. The .273 career hitter made $2.8M last year, when he batted .230. There has been speculation he’ll be traded before the season starts.
Eleven years ago today, Chris Coghlan became the first and so far only Mississippi native or college alumnus to win an MLB rookie of the year award. Coghlan, a former Ole Miss star, claimed the trophy with the Florida Marlins in 2009. He is one of only three Magnolia State natives or college alums to win one of baseball’s three big individual player awards. Grenada native Dave Parker won the National League MVP trophy in 1978, and Meridian Community College product Cliff Lee was the American League’s Cy Young Award winner in 2008. … Former Mississippi minor league players raked in a nice haul of awards this year, including former Mississippi Braves standout Freddie Freeman winning NL MVP and Biloxi Shuckers alum Devin Williams NL rookie of the year. Williams also won the league’s Trevor Hoffman Award as reliever of the year. Freeman won a Silver Slugger, as did M-Braves alum Ronald Acuna. Former M-Braves pitcher Max Fried and ex-Shuckers outfielder Trent Grisham, who plays for San Diego, picked up Gold Gloves. … Freeman is the first M-Braves product to win an MVP but not the first former Jackson area Double-A player to do so. Former Jackson Mets star Kevin Mitchell was NL MVP in 1989 with San Francisco, narrowly beating out former Mississippi State star and Giants teammate Will Clark. The M-Braves have produced two rookies of the year, Acuna in 2018 and Craig Kimbrel in 2011, and Jackson Mets alum Darryl Strawberry took that honor in 1983. Mike Scott, a former JaxMets pitcher, won the Cy Young Award in 1986.
There is a positive report on Garrett Crochet’s arm injury, which has been termed a “flexor strain in his left forearm.” The former Ocean Springs High (and Tennessee) star made his big league debut for the Chicago White Sox this season – just weeks after being drafted in the first round – and impressed with a 100-mph fastball and eight strikeouts in six innings. But he left his one postseason appearance with the injury, triggering concerns. Apparently, he’ll be fine. White Sox GM Rick Hahn told mlb.com, “We expect him to continue to progress and he’ll be without restriction come next spring.” … Former Mississippi State ace Ethan Small, who seemed on the cusp of a call-up with Milwaukee, got good reviews from his time in the Brewers’ alternate camp. “Ethan really worked on his off-speed offerings while in Appleton,” Brewers farm director Tom Flanagan said in an mlb.com story. “He made some strides and left in a really good place.” … Ex-Ole Miss star Thomas Dillard was also in the Brewers’ alternate camp, where he continued to work at catcher, his position at Oxford High. “He got a lot of time behind the plate and looked very playable back there,” Flanagan said. … Tyler Keenan, drafted out of UM by Seattle in June and invited to their alternate camp, is among 40 players in the Mariners’ Developmental Fall League program in Arizona. (There is no Arizona Fall League this year.) … Blaze Jordan, the ex-DeSoto Central star drafted in the third round this year, is on Boston’s Instructional League roster and is already slotted as the Red Sox’s No. 15 prospect by MLB Pipeline. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound corner infielder is 17 years old. … Other 2020 draftees in fall camps include Ole Miss’ Anthony Servideo and State’s Jordan Westburg with Baltimore; State’s Justin Foscue with Texas; Bulldogs product J.T. Ginn with the New York Mets; and Biloxi High alum Colt Keith with Detroit. Ginn is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. … Ex-Rebels star Ryan Rolison is in Colorado’s fall program, as is fellow UM product Will Ethridge and Delta State alum Tanner Propst, a 2020 undrafted signee. Rolison and Ethridge are ranked among the Rockies’ Top 30 prospects by MLB Pipeline, Rolison at No. 2.
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.
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.”
Corey Dickerson has had a down year by his standards, but the Miami Marlins have had an unexpectedly good year — and as a result, the McComb native is going to the postseason for the first time in his eight-year MLB career. Miami, pegged for a last-place finish in the National League East, clinched second place in the division with a 4-3 win against the New York Yankees on Friday night. Dickerson, who signed with the Marlins as a free agent in the off-season, is batting .259 with seven homers and 16 RBIs in 51 games. He hit .304 in 2019, playing with Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, and is a .284 career hitter with 122 homers. The former Meridian Community College star, 31, was a veteran presence for a Marlins team that was hit hard by a COVID-19 outbreak at the start of this truncated season. … Elsewhere on an eventful Friday night: Former Mississippi Braves star Freddie Freeman may have had his MVP moment when he launched an 11th-inning walk-off homer for Atlanta, which clinched the No. 2 seed in the NL playoffs. Freeman’s blast upstaged Ronald Acuna’s. The M-Braves alum hit a 495-foot homer, the longest in MLB this season, to lead off the Braves’ first inning. It was Acuna’s 19th career leadoff bomb in three seasons. … Former Biloxi Shuckers standout Trent Grisham hit a seventh-inning walk-off home run, giving San Diego a win against San Francisco in the second game of a twinbill. It was Grisham’s 10th homer and it saved Ole Miss alum Drew Pomeranz from taking a loss. Pomeranz gave up a three-run homer in the sixth inning that put the Padres behind. Those were the first runs allowed all season by the big left-hander in 20 appearances. The playoff-bound Padres have clinched the No. 4 seed in the NL. P.S. There’s much more at stake tonight in the NL, and no game is more significant than Milwaukee-St. Louis. Ex-Mississippi State star Brandon Woodruff, the Brewers’ No. 1, faces St. Louis’ longtime ace, Adam Wainwright. Both teams are still grappling for a playoff berth. Woodruff is 2-5 with a 3.43 ERA, Wainwright 5-2, 3.05. Woodruff, who went 11-3, 3.62 and made the All-Star Game in 2019, has not had the type of season that was expected of him. He’s 0-2 in four September starts. Win today, and that’ll be forgotten. Several Cardinals have had success against Woodruff in limited at-bats. Paul DeJong is 3-for-9 with a homer, Brad Miller 2-for-6 with a homer and Paul Goldschmidt 3-for-12. Tyler O’Neill also has taken Woodruff deep.
Mississippi State alumnus Nate Lowe took part in an historic event on Friday night, and he took advantage of the opportunity to have one of the best games of his young MLB career. Lowe was part of Tampa Bay’s all-left-handed hitting lineup — the first in big league history — and delivered two homers and four RBIs in an 11-1 rout of Boston. Lowe, who batted .263 with seven homers as a rookie in 2019, was 1-for-14 since being recalled by the Rays on Sept. 1. “I’m pretty thankful for the opportunity and I hope (the bat) gets hot from here. Like, super hot from here,” he told mlb.com. Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash, who’ll seemingly try anything, went with all lefties to try to snap the first-place Rays out of an offensive funk. … Ex-Bulldogs star Brandon Woodruff stepped up in a time of need for Milwaukee (see previous post), throwing seven shutout innings at the Chicago Cubs. He yielded one hit, no walks and fanned 12. The Brewers won 1-0 on a walk-off sac fly. … Austin Riley’s bat has cooled off after a recent surge. The former DeSoto Central star is 5-for-29 (.174) in his last seven games for Atlanta and went 1-for-7, leaving nine runners on base, in Friday’s loss to Washington. The Braves left 22 on base as a team in the 8-7, 12-inning defeat. … Ole Miss product Jacob Waguespack was recalled from Toronto’s alternate site on Friday, but his return didn’t go well. The right-hander allowed six runs on seven hits in 2 2/3 innings in an 18-1 loss to the New York Mets.