03 Oct

honorable mention

Whether it means anything for next season, who knows? But Chris Stratton, the Mississippi State product from Tupelo, has done a heckuva job down the stretch as the closer for Pittsburgh. Stratton picked up his eighth save on Saturday, pitching a clean ninth inning in an 8-6 win against Cincinnati. Since Sept. 7, the 31-year-old right-hander has made 11 appearances for the lowly Pirates and registered six saves (in eight chances) and two wins with a 2.45 ERA. For the season, he is 7-1 with a 3.63 ERA for a team that has won only 61 games. The former SEC pitcher of the year has pitched in a variety of roles in a big league career dating to 2016. Closer is a new one. “I think he’s done a nice job of finding his niche out there,” Bucs manager Derek Shelton recently told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Stratton is on a one-year deal with the Pirates and is eligible for salary arbitration after this season. His is 25-19, 4.56 ERA for his career.

05 Jun

‘arrrgh’

As a middle reliever on a bad team, Chris Stratton isn’t going to get many headlines. The Mississippi State alum from Tupelo deserved one on Friday, though a couple of other players with Mississippi connections likely stole them. Stratton retired all 11 batters he faced in Pittsburgh’s 9-2 win over Miami and earned his first save of the season, second career. The veteran right-hander, a converted starter, has a 2.90 ERA, a win and five holds in 22 games for the Pirates, who are 22-34. Don’t blame Adam Frazier for that poor record. Frazier, a teammate of Stratton’s at MSU years ago, went 2-for-3 with two walks, three runs and two RBIs on Friday. Bidding for the All-Star Game, he has 22 multi-hit games and is batting .338 (.402 OBP) with 21 RBIs as the Pirates’ leadoff batter. Even Frazier’s big night might have been overshadowed by Ke’Bryan Hayes’. With his father Charlie, the Hattiesburg native and former big leaguer, in the house at PNC Park, the younger Hayes went 2-for-4 with a homer and three RBIs in his second game since coming off the 60-day injured list. The rookie third baseman is 5-for-13 with two homers on the season. His dad got to see him homer in the majors in person for the first time. P.S. Down in Triple-A, ex-Petal High star Anthony Alford, who opened 2021 as the Bucs’ center fielder, enjoyed a good night: 4-for-5 with his third homer of the year in Indianapolis’ twinbill sweep against Columbus. Alford, hoping for a return to The Show, is hitting .226 for the Indianapolis club. He was batting .083 when the Pirates designated him for assignment and sent him down.

10 Feb

breakout candidate

While the Pittsburgh Pirates were sinking to the bottom of the National League Central last season, Chris Stratton may have kept his career afloat with his work out of the Bucs’ bullpen. The former Mississippi State star from Tupelo was traded twice in a two-month span in 2019, by San Francisco to the Los Angeles Angels during spring training and from the Angels to Pittsburgh in May. His numbers for the Angels weren’t good: an 8.59 ERA working primarily as a starter. He went straight to the bullpen in Pittsburgh and delivered a 3.66 ERA over 28 appearances with only a couple of truly bad outings. The 29-year-old right-hander would appear to have a good shot at winning a bullpen job in spring training. A Pirates-centric website, rumbunter.com, named Stratton a breakout candidate for 2020. A first-round pick by the Giants in 2012, Stratton’s stuff is reputed to be top drawer; the spin rates on his curveball and fastball are among the best in the game, according to rumbunter. But his career hasn’t taken off; he is 16-17, 4.88 in 83 MLB games dating to 2016. This might be the year. P.S. Billy Hamilton, the speedy center fielder from Taylorsville, is called “a perfect fit for Oracle Park,” by nbcsports.com/bayarea. First of all, Hamilton, signed to a minor league deal by San Francisco on Friday, will have to make the big league roster this spring. Hamilton doesn’t hit much but, at 29, is still a factor with his legs, glove and arm. The Giants are shrinking the outfield in Oracle Park — from 399 in center to 391 and from 421 to 415 in the right-center field alley — but speed in center field is still a priority. The team currently lists rising star Mike Yastrzemski as the starter there and also has speedy Steven Duggar as an option.

13 May

dynamic duo

Funny how these things happen in baseball. In five starts and two relief appearances for the Los Angeles Angels this season, Chris Stratton was 0-2 with an ERA over 8.00. Traded to Pittsburgh on Saturday – and reunited with ex-Mississippi State teammate Adam Frazier – Stratton made his debut on Sunday, pitched a scoreless inning and got the win as the Pirates rallied past St. Louis 10-6. Frazier, pinch-hitting for Stratton in the seventh inning, knocked in the go-ahead run with a two-run double. Stratton and Frazier were a dynamic duo for the 2012 Bulldogs, who won the SEC Tournament. Frazier batted .371 that season and was MVP of the league tourney. Stratton went 11-2 with a 2.38 ERA, earned first-team All-America honors, the SEC pitcher of the year award and the Ferriss Trophy. He was drafted in the first round by San Francisco that June. The Tupelo native went 15-14, 4.63 over parts of three seasons with the Giants, who traded him to the Angels at the end of spring training. He was designated for assignment by L.A. on May 7. With the Pirates, he’ll reportedly work mainly out of the bullpen. … The Pirates’ rally on Sunday at Busch Stadium denied Dakota Hudson, another former Bulldogs ace and first-round pick, what would have been his third win of 2019. He left with a 6-3 lead after six innings. Hudson is 2-3, 4.61 in nine games, eight starts.

26 Mar

newsworthy

With opening day a mere two days away, Chris Stratton finds himself on a new team. Stratton, a former Mississippi State star from Tupelo, was traded late Monday from San Francisco to the Los Angeles Angels. “I’m definitely in shock,” the right-hander told the San Francisco Chronicle. Stratton, a former first-round pick who has a 4.63 ERA over three MLB campaigns, did not win a job in the Giants’ rotation this spring. (Former Ole Miss standout Drew Pomeranz, a free agent signee, took one of those spots.) Stratton is out of minor league options, so rather than run him through waivers, the Giants worked a trade with the Angels for lefty Williams Jerez. At some point, Stratton may get a shot at a starting job with the Angels, who play their last exhibition game tonight at Dodger Stadium. … Kudos to Spencer Turnbull and Brandon Woodruff, who have officially earned spots in the rotation with Detroit and Milwaukee, respectively. Madison Central alum Turnbull is slotted as the Tigers’ No. 3 and will work at Toronto on Saturday. Woodruff, a State product from Wheeler, will pitch one of the three weekend games in Milwaukee against St. Louis. … Cool moment on MLB Network Monday night: Ex-Ole Miss star Aaron Barrett made his first appearance at Washington’s Nationals Park in four years and got a rousing ovation. The right-hander, battling back from a series of injuries, including a broken arm, worked in the exhibition game against the New York Yankees. In camp as a non-roster invitee, Barrett posted a 6.75 ERA in seven games; he’ll start the year in the minors.

01 Mar

it’s all good

Bryce Harper’s flirtation with San Francisco had put Giants pitcher Chris Stratton on alert. The former Mississippi State standout wears No. 34, which is Harper’s number. As you might’ve heard, Harper spurned the Giants and chose to sign with Philadelphia on Thursday. “Not gonna lie, I’m a little disappointed because maybe I could have gotten a Rolex or something like that,” Stratton told mlb.com. Now that he knows he’s keeping his number, Stratton will continue to work on keeping a job in the Giants’ rotation. He pitched well on Thursday, throwing three scoreless innings against Milwaukee in his second Cactus League outing. Stratton, 28, had an up-and-down 2018 campaign, going 10-10 with a 5.09 ERA and spending some time in the minors. The former first-round pick is 15-14, 4.63 over three MLB seasons. His competition in Giants camp includes Ole Miss product Drew Pomeranz, a free agent signee who has made one spring appearance to date. … Several other former Mississippi college pitchers did positive work on Thursday: Ex-State star Jonathan Holder retired all four batters he faced and notched a win for the New York Yankees against Pittsburgh. Brandon Woodruff, another former Bulldogs standout, made his first appearance for Milwaukee and pitched a shutout inning against Cincinnati despite issuing three walks. Southern Miss product Conor Fisk, in Toronto’s camp as a minor leaguer, pitched a scoreless inning vs. Philadelphia, his third appearance without yielding a run.

15 Sep

good stuff

There were two significant firsts involving former Magnolia State prep stars in the majors on Friday, one in San Francisco, the other in Cleveland. Start with Chris Stratton, the former Tupelo High (and Mississippi State) standout who threw his first big league shutout, leading the Giants past Colorado 2-0. And then there was Spencer Turnbull, the Madison Central alum who threw a 1-2-3 inning in his MLB debut for Detroit against the Indians. Stratton allowed just two hits and two walks with seven strikeouts against the powerful Rockies lineup. Now 10-9 with a 4.66 ERA, Stratton called it “one for the record books there for me.” The win against the National League West leader stopped an 11-game losing streak for the Giants, and they celebrated both that and Stratton’s gem on the field postgame. The Tigers also celebrated a win against a first-place club, and Turnbull played a key role, delivering a shutdown seventh inning after his club had taken a 4-2 lead in the top half. With a contingent of family and friends at Progressive Field, the 25-year-old right-hander retired Yan Gomes (by punchout), Jason Kipnis and Francisco Lindor. Detroit won 5-4 against the American League Central leader, which was denied a division-clinching victory. P.S. Baseball America has published a correction to its ranking of the states by pro players produced (see previous post). Mississippi still ranks fourth in players produced per 100,000 people, behind Florida, California and Georgia and ahead of the likes of Arizona, Louisiana, Alabama and Texas. BA’s original state population numbers were wrong, which threw off its ratios.

14 Sep

up for a challenge?

Tonight, for the third time in his last four starts, Chris Stratton will face a contending team as he goes to the mound for the fading San Francisco Giants, who have been out of the running for a while. The ex-Mississippi State star from Tupelo goes against the Colorado Rockies, who have won seven of their last 10 and lead the National League West race by 1.5 games over Los Angeles. Stratton (9-9, 4.99 ERA) beat Arizona, an NL West challenger, on Aug. 27 and lost to NL Central contender Milwaukee in his last outing on Sept. 8. Stratton has been up and down from the minors in what has been an erratic season for the 28-year-old right-hander. But since his last recall on Aug. 21, having made some mechanical changes, he has posted a 2.84 ERA. Less encouraging, however, are his numbers against the hard-hitting Rockies. Charlie Blackmon is 6-for-12 career with two homers vs. Stratton, Nolan Arenado 5-for-11 with two bombs, Ian Desmond 5-for-8, D.J. LeMahieu 4-for-8 with three RBIs, Trevor Story 5-for-9. At least the game is at the Giants’ AT&T Park, where the hits and homers are a little tougher to come by than at Coors Field. P.S. Former Madison Central High standout Spencer Turnbull, now on Detroit’s active roster, has yet to make his MLB debut (see previous post). Maybe it’ll happen tonight when the Tigers tackle Cleveland. … Stratton and Turnbull are among the 12 pitchers from Mississippi preps or colleges currently in The Show.

21 Aug

watch for it

Tweaks to his mechanics helped Chris Stratton post wins in his last two starts at Triple-A Sacramento. Tonight, the Mississippi State product from Tupelo gets to see if the changes pass muster in the big leagues. Stratton was recalled by the San Francisco Giants to start against the lowly New York Mets at CitiField. In his previous three big league appearances, Stratton allowed 17 runs in 10 innings. That precipitated a second trip to the minors this summer for the right-hander, who was in the Giants’ rotation to start the season. Though he hasn’t won a game in the majors since June 17, he still leads the San Francisco staff in victories. He is 8-7 with a 5.52 ERA in 20 games. The Giants are a sub-.500 club whose postseason hopes are hanging by a thread. A sweep of the current four-game series against the Mets is a virtual necessity – and a real possibility. The Mets, in their first year under Ole Miss alum Mickey Callaway, have been snake-bit, and not just by injuries. They handed the Giants the winning run on Monday when two fielders collided and a pop fly dropped. Shades of ’62.

26 Jul

catching his breath?

At first blush, it seemed a little strange. On July 7, San Francisco demoted the winningest pitcher on its staff. Former Mississippi State star Chris Stratton, sporting an 8-6 record for a club battling to stay in the playoff chase, was sent down to Triple-A Sacramento. The Giants needed a roster spot for Jeff Samardzija, coming off the disabled list. Giants manager Bruce Bochy said Stratton, who had been knocked around in his last two starts, needed to “catch his breath.” How’s that working out? Hard to tell. Stratton was scratched Wednesday night from what would have been his third start for Sacramento, and he isn’t scheduled for tonight. Could mean something’s up. He is 1-0 with a 4.91 ERA at Sacramento, his second outing having been much sharper than his first. In 38 big league appearances over the past three years, Stratton is 13-10 with a 4.41 ERA. P.S. A well-done article published in the Tupelo Daily Journal earlier this week featured the four former American Legion Tupelo 49ers who have played in the big leagues this season. Stratton, a Tupelo native, is among them, along with Mitch Moreland (Amory), Brian Dozier (Fulton) and Brandon Woodruff (Wheeler). All four were coached on the 49ers by former Tupelo High star Kirk Presley, whose promising pro career was curtailed by injury. Presley “was always such a good mentor,” Stratton told the Daily Journal. Moreland and Dozier were teammates on the 2004 49ers, and they’ll be on the same field this weekend when Boston hosts Minnesota.