22 Sep

must-win mode

Being in must-win mode, Milwaukee must feel pretty good today with Brandon Woodruff going to the mound at Cincinnati. The former Mississippi State star from Wheeler is coming off one of his best starts of 2022, a 4-1 win against the mighty New York Yankees on Saturday, and is 2-0 with a 1.71 ERA in his last three starts. The Brewers aren’t likely to catch St. Louis in the National League Central — they’re 7.5 games back — but they are just 2.5 games back of Philadelphia for the final wild card berth. Woodruff (11-4, 3.26) worked eight innings against the Yankees, allowing five hits and one walk while fanning 10. He got Giancarlo Stanton four times and Aaron Judge once. Judge, the likely MVP of the American League, said Woodruff’s combination of fastballs and off-speed stuff “makes for a tough day trying to pick your poison.” Woodruff should have his way with lowly Cincinnati, even at the hitter’s haven that is Great American Ballpark. The Reds will counter with the flame-throwing Hunter Greene (4-12, 4.97). … At Chicago on Wednesday, the White Sox — also in must-win mode — were counting on a strong outing from ex-Ole Miss standout Lance Lynn against Cleveland, but they didn’t get it. Lynn was knocked around for six runs (three earned) in six innings as the ChiSox lost to the Guardians 8-2. Chicago fell 6 games back of first-place Cleveland in the AL Central, and Lynn fell to 7-6, 4.02.

17 Sep

let the dogs out

Friday was a banner day for ex-Mississippi State stars in the big leagues and the minors. Start in Milwaukee, where Bulldogs alumnus Hunter Renfroe led off the ninth inning with a double and eventually scored the walk-off run in a 7-6 victory against the New York Yankees. (Garrett Mitchell, a rookie who spent most of this season at Double-A Biloxi, got the winning knock for the Brewers, clinging to hope in the National League wild card race.) Move to St. Louis, where Chris Stratton threw three pitches, got one key out and notched the win for the Cardinals, who are closing in on the NL Central title. Stratton got the final out of the seventh inning with two runners on base and St. Louis rallied in the bottom half to go ahead and ultimately beat Cincinnati 6-5. Stratton is 4-0 with a 3.06 ERA since he joined the Cards in August and has a 1.29 in his last seven appearances. At Tampa Bay, Nathaniel Lowe blasted his 25th homer to help also-ran Texas beat the wild card-chasing Rays 4-3. Tampa Bay is third in the American League wild card standings, behind Toronto and Seattle. … Down in the minors: Justin Foscue homered and drove in four runs as Frisco, Texas’ Double-A club, clinched the second-half title in the Texas League South; Jordan Westburg went 5-for-5 with his 17th homer for Triple-A Norfolk (Baltimore), his 26th overall this season; and Brent Rooker smacked his fifth homer for Triple-A Omaha (Kansas City), his 24th all told in the minors this season.

14 Sep

clearing the bases

Time for Atlanta to make room for Ozzie Albies? The former Mississippi Braves star, on an injury rehab assignment at Triple-A Gwinnett, went 5-for-5 with a walk-off home run on Tuesday. The Braves’ erstwhile second baseman is batting .348 in 23 ABs at Gwinnett. He has been on the injured list since mid-June with a broken bone in his foot. … Former M-Braves Ronald Acuna, Dansby Swanson and Michael Harris II contributed six hits, four RBIs and three runs in Atlanta’s 5-1 win at San Francisco that moved the Braves within a half-game of the New York Mets in the National League East. Former M-Braves right-hander Kyle Wright became the Braves’ first 18-game winner since 2003. … East Central Community College product Tim Anderson, out for over a month with a hand injury, reportedly will ramp up baseball activities for the Chicago White Sox and could return to the lineup next week. The All-Star shortstop and team leadoff batter is hitting .301. … The White Sox, keeping pace in the American League Central with Cleveland, won for the 10th time in 14 games since manager Tony LaRussa stepped aside for health reasons. Ex-Mississippi State star Kendall Graveman worked a scoreless inning for his 24th hold as the ChiSox beat Colorado 4-2. … The Guardians remained 3 games up on Chicago by beating the Los Angeles Angels 3-1 as Southern Miss alum Kirk McCarty picked up his third MLB win with 3 1/3 scoreless relief innings. The rookie lefty now has a 4.88 ERA. … Former State standout Hunter Renfroe had two hits, an RBI and a run in Milwaukee’s 8-4 win against rival St. Louis and Jordan Montgomery. The Brewers, 7 games back of the Cardinals in the NL Central and fourth in the wild card standings, have won three in a row. … Ex-Mississippi College star Blaine Crim went 1-for-3 with two RBIs in his Triple-A debut for Round Rock in the Texas chain. He hit .295 with 24 homers and 91 RBIs at Double-A Frisco. … USM product Matt Wallner put up a 3-for-4 with two RBIs for Triple-A St. Paul (Minnesota) to lift his average to .257; he has six homers and 31 RBIs in 48 games there. He hit .299 with 21 homers in Double-A to start the season. P.S. On this date in 1912, Crystal Springs native Phil Redding made his big league debut — and it was one to forget. Right-hander Redding, starting for St. Louis against the Boston Braves, allowed 16 hits, five walks and nine earned runs in eight innings. (Was he being punished?) He won his next two starts, pitched in one more game in 2013 and then never again in the majors.

09 Sep

southern exposure

No trophy is on the line when the Mississippi Braves and Biloxi Shuckers engage in their season series each year. Wouldn’t it be cool if there were such a thing? The Magnolia Cup? Catfish Clash? Blues Bowl? It might help generate a little more interest in the Southern League rivalry that has been going on since Biloxi became a league member in 2015. The teams sit at the bottom of the league in attendance in 2022, Biloxi at 137,298 and Mississippi at 135,467. That’s kinda sad. The season series has been competitive. The teams met for the 27th time on Thursday at Biloxi’s MGM Park, and the Shuckers — Milwaukee’s Double-A affiliate — beat the M-Braves — Atlanta’s farm club — 5-3 before an announced crowd of 2,015. Biloxi now leads the season series 15-12 with three games remaining. The series was even at 9-9 before the Shuckers took five of six at Trustmark Park in Pearl in August. Ouch. The M-Braves won the first two games of the current six-game set by identical 13-2 scores, bashing eight home runs. Take that. The M-Braves’ Drew Lugbauer, the SL’s home run leader, hit two on Wednesday, boosting his total to 26. Of his team-record 44 career homers, 16 have come at MGM Park. The Shuckers won Thursday’s game on the strength of two homers — the first of the season — by Terence Doston. The M-Braves, 30-28 in the second half, still have a mathematical shot at the South Division title; they are the defending league champs. The Shuckers (25-34) have been eliminated, reduced to a potential spoiler role. In the overall league standings, the Shuckers (59-67) lead the M-Braves (59-68) by a half-game. P.S. Former M-Braves star Jason Heyward and Shuckers alum Brent Suter are among the 30 nominees for the 2022 Roberto Clemente Award. The annual award “recognizes the MLB player who best represents the game through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field.” Heyward is with the Chicago Cubs, Suter pitches for the Brewers.

07 Sep

nature of the game

Every day in the season is filled with highs and lows. Here’s a few from Tuesday:
Highs
Austin Riley, the ex-DeSoto Central High star, drove in the go-ahead run with a sac fly in the sixth inning and Atlanta’s bullpen made it stand up for a 10-9 win at Oakland that gave the Braves a share of the National League East lead.
Logan Tanner, the Mississippi State alum, hit his first professional home run for Daytona, Cincinnati’s Low-Class A affiliate. Tanner, a second-round pick in July, also walked twice and scored three times; he is batting .204.
Reed Trimble, the Southern Miss product, went 3-for-5 with a couple of RBIs and a run for Low-A Delmarva (Baltimore). He is batting .296 with 18 RBIs and 19 runs in 30 games for the Shorebirds.
Joe Gray Jr., the former Hattiesburg High star, went 3-for-5 with a couple of doubles for High-A Wisconsin, though the Milwaukee prospect is batting just .192 in a pivotal season.
Dakota Hudson, ex-State standout, probably not thrilled at being sent to Triple-A by St. Louis, pitched 8 2/3 shutout innings with eight strikeouts in his first appearance for Memphis against Norfolk.
Hunter Renfroe hit his 25th homer and fellow former Bulldogs star Brandon Woodruff allowed just one run in seven innings for Milwaukee, but …
Lows
Renfroe and Woodruff watched the Brewers’ bullpen blow a 6-1 lead in the eighth inning and ultimately lose 10-7 in 10 to Colorado, further damaging their playoff hopes.
Buck Showalter, the ex-State standout and current New York Mets manager, watched his club fall to Pittsburgh 8-2, its third straight loss to a last-place club, and slip into a tie for first with the surging Braves in the NL East.
Cody Reed, the Northwest Mississippi Community College product trying to get back to the majors, gave up two runs in 2/3 of an inning of work for Double-A Montgomery (Tampa Bay). The veteran lefty saw his ERA rise to 7.71 for the Biscuits.
James Beard, the Loyd Star High alum, went 0-for-3 with three punchouts for High-A Winston-Salem in the Chicago White Sox’s system. Beard, batting .206, has fanned 17 times in 34 at-bats since being promoted from Low-A.
Regi Grace, the ex-Madison Central star, yielded three hits, a walk and four runs in his High-A debut with Cedar Rapids (Minnesota). He had four wins, four holds, two saves and a 4.45 ERA at Fort Myers.

29 Aug

around the horn

Chad Bradford was back in uniform (sorta) on Sunday as the Oakland A’s celebrated their 2002 team — Billy Beane’s “Moneyball” gang that won a then-record 20 straight games — before the club played the New York Yankees at Oakland Coliseum. Former Southern Miss and Hinds Community College star Bradford was a key member of that A’s team, posting a 3.11 ERA, four wins and two saves over 75 games. The submarine-style right-hander had a 3.26 ERA in 561 MLB games. … In a pregame ceremony at Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park, Hattiesburg native Charlie Hayes threw a ceremonial first pitch to son Ke’Bryan Hayes before the Phillies played the Pittsburgh Pirates. The elder Hayes spent three of his 14 big league seasons with the Phils. Ke’Bryan Hayes, the Pirates’ third baseman, went 1-for-4 with an RBI in a 5-0 win. The duo reportedly will do another first-pitch thing at Yankee Stadium next month. Charlie Hayes won a ring with the 1996 New York Yankees. … Garrett Mitchell became the 56th Biloxi Shuckers alumnus to make the majors when the outfielder debuted for Milwaukee on Sunday, going 1-for-4 with two RBIs in a 9-7 win vs. the visiting Chicago Cubs. Mitchell, a former first-round pick from UCLA, played parts of the last two seasons with the Shuckers, who arrived on the Coast in 2015. … Dylan Moore, who played for both the Shuckers and the Mississippi Braves, hit a big three-run homer for Seattle on Sunday in a 4-0 win against Cleveland in a battle of playoff contenders. … M-Braves alum Drew Waters, who debuted with Kansas City last week, had two hits, two walks, two runs and two RBIs for the Royals in a 15-6 romp over San Diego. … Ex-M-Braves star Michael Harris II, who made the jump from Mississippi in May, went 4-for-4 for Atlanta in its 6-3 loss at St. Louis. It was the second four-hit game for the rookie of the year candidate, who is batting .298 with 13 homers, 45 RBIs and 15 steals. … George County High product Justin Steele, 4-7 with a 3.18 ERA for the Cubs this year, won’t make the trip to Toronto this week because he is not vaccinated against COVID-19. … Former USM star Matt Wallner belted his fourth homer for Triple-A St. Paul — and 25th bomb overall in 2022 — as the Minnesota affiliate beat Iowa in the International League. Ex-Mississippi State star Jonathan Holder gave up four runs in an inning of work and took the loss for the I-Cubs; the onetime big leaguer has a 10.29 ERA in seven appearances. … Jackson Prep alum Will Warren improved to 7-4, with a 3.38 ERA, as the Yankees’ Double-A Somerset club beat New Hampshire in the Eastern League. Warren, drafted out of Southeastern Louisiana last year, went 2-3 in A-ball this season, his first pro duty.

28 Aug

prime nine

Down on the farm, a bundle of Mississippi products enjoyed a productive day at the plate on Saturday. Topping the chart: Reed Trimble, the former Southern Miss star. The second-year pro, recently activated from the injured list, went 3-for-4 with a homer and five RBIs for Low-Class A Delmarva in the Baltimore system.
Blaine Crim, Mississippi College alum, went 3-for-4 with two RBIs and three runs for Double-A Frisco (Texas).
Justin Foscue, the ex-Mississippi State star and a highly rated prospect for Texas, went 2-for-4 with an RBI at Frisco.
Tim Elko, a 2022 draft pick out of Ole Miss, went 3-for-5 with three runs and an RBI at Low-A Kannapolis (Chicago White Sox).
Emaarion Boyd, a 2022 draftee from South Panola High, went 3-for-4 with a stolen base for Low-A Clearwater (Philadelphia).
Kamren James, a 2022 draftee out of MSU, went 3-for-4 with two RBIs in a win for Tampa Bay’s rookie team in the Florida Complex League championship series.
Hunter Stovall, former State standout, went 2-for-4 with an RBI, the game-winner in the ninth inning, for Double-A Hartford (Colorado).
Grae Kessinger, ex-Ole Miss star, went 2-for-4 with an RBI for Double-A Corpus Christi (Houston).
Blaze Jordan, the DeSoto Central High product, went 1-for-4 with a pair of RBIs for High-A Greenville (Boston).
P.S. Brandon Woodruff could use a little luck. The former MSU standout from Wheeler threw six shutout innings with 10 strikeouts for Milwaukee against the Chicago Cubs on Saturday. However, the Brewers didn’t score while he was on the mound, rallying late for a 7-0 win. Woodruff has five no-decisions in August despite a 2.70 ERA over 30 innings. He is 9-3, 3.31, on the year with eight no-decisions.

22 Aug

just a little drama

A pair of Mississippi natives went toe-to-toe at Wrigley Field on Sunday in a veritable must-win game for the visiting Milwaukee Brewers. The Brewers did win, but, much to their chagrin, so did St. Louis, which got a clutch performance from another Magnolia State product in its seventh straight victory. Just another day of drama in the National League Central. Chicago Cubs left-hander Justin Steele, the pride of Lucedale, outpitched Milwaukee starter Brandon Woodruff of Wheeler, but the Brewers rallied late against the Cubs’ leaky bullpen for a 5-2 win, avoiding a series sweep. Steele allowed just two hits with nine strikeouts in six scoreless innings; the George County High alum has a 3.25 ERA in 23 starts for a Cubs team that has long been out of contention. Mississippi State product Woodruff, making his 19th start, threw 105 pitches over 5 2/3 innings. Two of his pitches left the yard — homers by Ian Happ and Seiya Suzuki. The Brewers’ rally from that 2-0 hole kept them within 5 games of the surging Cardinals in the division. Milwaukee led St. Louis by 3 games on Aug. 1, when the controversial trade of closer Josh Hader went down. They are 7-11 since. “We can get on a roll here and we can look back at this and talk about it like we always do and say this is a stretch where we got through it and started playing good baseball,” Woodruff said in an mlb.com article. “We’ll see what happens.” Playing at Arizona on Sunday, the Cardinals fell behind 4-3 in the third inning as starter Jose Quintana struggled. Enter Tupelo native and ex-MSU standout Chris Stratton, who stopped the Diamondbacks cold for 2 2/3 innings, paving the way for the Cardinals to rally late for a 6-4 win. Stratton, a trade acquisition from Pittsburgh, has a 4.32 ERA in 8 1/3 relief innings for the Cardinals. Milwaukee and St. Louis will have to wage their battle remotely for a while; they don’t go head-to-head again until Sept. 13-14 at Busch Stadium. P.S. MSU product Nathaniel Lowe hit his 18th homer — a 424-footer — for Texas in a win at Minnesota on Sunday. He is batting .386 over his last 15 games, .295 on the year. … McLaurin High alum Davis Bradshaw, back on his home turf with Double-A Pensacola (see previous post), went 6-for-13 in the rain-plagued series against the Mississippi Braves at Trustmark Park in Pearl. Bradshaw is batting .310 in 14 games since being promoted to Miami’s Double-A club.

20 Aug

power surge

Among the smattering of home runs hit by Mississippians in pro ball on Friday was a milestone blast by Hunter Renfroe. The former Mississippi State standout from Crystal Springs hit his 150th career homer for Milwaukee, which lost to Chicago 8-7 at a windy Wrigley Field. Renfroe’s 22nd homer of the season carried 427 feet to center field. In just his sixth full season (counting 2020 as a full season), he currently sits 10th on the all-time home run list of Mississippi-born players in MLB. Bill Melton and Frank White are tied for eighth at 160. The rest of the list: Ellis Burks 352, Dave Parker 339, George Scott 271, Chet Lemon 215, Brian Dozier 192, Mitch Moreland 186 and Dmitri Young 171. Corey Dickerson, from McComb, now playing for St. Louis, is second to Renfroe on the active list with 132 homers, four this season. (Moreland hasn’t officially retired but has not played this season.) … Austin Riley, the ex-DeSoto Central High star, hit career bomb No. 90 for Atlanta in a big 6-2 win against Houston in their World Series “rematch.” Riley has 31 on the year, his fourth in the big leagues. At Triple-A Norfolk in the Baltimore system, MSU alum Jordan Westburg hit his 10th homer for that club and 19th total in 2022. At Double-A Hartford (Colorado), former Bulldogs standout Hunter Stovall hit his ninth of the season. And at Low-A Visalia (Arizona), ex-Ole Miss star Kevin Graham hit homer No. 2 in his 10th career game. P.S. Toronto is interested in Billy Hamilton, according to a report. The veteran outfielder from Taylorsville recently became a free agent after Miami sent him to the minors. Since 2018, his last season with Cincinnati, his original club, the dash-fast Hamilton has hooked up with nine different major league organizations. Speed never slumps.

14 Aug

rise and shine

Christian Johnson, a former Clinton High star who has been plugging away in the low minors since 2019, hit his first career home run on Saturday night for the Low-Class A Charleston RiverDogs, then belted his second in his next at-bat. Johnson, now 21, was drafted in the 19th round by Tampa Bay in ’19 and had played in rookie ball for three seasons before getting a brief call-up to Charleston in July. He went back to the Florida Complex League after two games (1-for-7), then returned to the RiverDogs on Aug. 4. He is 4-for-17 since. Johnson’s career average is just .177, but maybe Saturday’s performance will be a spark. … A trio of Mississippi State products took star turns in the big leagues on Saturday. Hunter Renfroe smacked his first triple since 2019, driving in the go-ahead run and then scoring an insurance run in the 10th inning of Milwaukee’s 3-2 win at St. Louis in the National League Central showdown. The Brewers are just a half-game behind the Cardinals entering today’s series finale. Renfroe, batting .246, has 44 RBIs. At Texas, Nathaniel Lowe went 2-for-3 with a walk and a run as the Rangers, playing a spoiler role, beat wild card-chaser Seattle 7-4 in an American League West clash. Lowe, a .284 hitter this year, has a 19-game on-base streak during which he is batting .357. And at Kansas City, while the hapless Royals were getting crushed by the Los Angeles Dodgers 13-3, Brent Rooker got his first two hits of 2022 in his first game for KC. He also drove in a run and threw out a runner at the plate from left field. Rooker, a .211 career hitter in 68 MLB games, was 0-for-7 for San Diego this year before being traded at the deadline. P.S. Ex-Taylorsville High star and big league vet Billy Hamilton chose free agency rather than accept an assignment to the minors by Miami. He has played for seven different big league clubs since 2013 and swiped 321 bases, most ever by a Mississippi native. He also has 401 minor league bags.