Twenty-two years ago, the Arizona Diamondbacks did something amazing. They scored twice in the bottom of the ninth inning against Mariano Rivera and beat the mighty New York Yankees in Game 7 of the World Series. On Tuesday night, the D’backs did something amazing again. They beat mighty Philadelphia — at Citizens Bank Park, for the second straight night — to win Game 7 of the National League Championship Series and reach the second Fall Classic in their 26-year history. The franchise was just four years old when the ’01 team, which included former Ole Miss star David Dellucci, won the championship. That club had been largely constructed by Mississippi State alum Buck Showalter, who was fired as manager after the 2000 season reportedly because of a dispute with ownership. Originally drafted by Baltimore, Dellucci was plucked by Arizona (and Showalter) in the expansion draft in the fall of 1997. He hit .260 with a league-best 12 triples in 1998 and was still a reserve outfielder on the 2001 club. He played in two World Series games, including a pinch-running appearance in the fateful ninth inning of Game 7; he was erased on a fielder’s choice for the first out. Interestingly enough, Dellucci also played for Texas, which will face the D’backs in the Fall Classic that begins Friday in Arlington. Showalter was manager of the Rangers when Dellucci was with the team (2004-05).
Grae Kessinger, rookie infielder for Houston, watched the first eight games of the Astros’ postseason run from the dugout. The ex-Ole Miss star got quite a different view of the proceedings in the ninth inning Friday night, watching from first base as a pinch runner when Jose Altuve launched a momentum-shifting three-run homer that carried the Astros to a 5-4 win over Texas in a wild, wild Game 5 of the American League Championship Series. Kessinger went in at shortstop in the bottom of the ninth and, with two runners on, made a leaping snag of a line drive for the first out. Two outs later Houston had swept the three games at Globe Life Field to go up 3-2 in the best-of-7. The defending champs can earn yet another trip to the World Series with a win in Game 6 at home on Sunday. The grandson of longtime big leaguer Don Kessinger — who never made a postseason appearance in 16 years in The Show — Grae was a midseason call-up by the Astros this year and played sparingly, batting .200 with one homer in 40 at-bats. Houston kept the versatile Kessinger on the postseason roster but didn’t get him into a game before Friday. It was one that won’t soon be forgotten, by Kessinger or anybody else who watched. Before Adolis Garcia’s dramatic three-run homer for Texas in the sixth inning and the benches-clearing kerfuffle he instigated in the eighth, former Mississippi State standout Nathaniel Lowe put the Rangers on the board with an opposite-field homer off Justin Verlander in the fifth. It was Lowe’s second homer this postseason, and he is now 5-for-19 in the ALCS. … Meanwhile, in Arizona, things got a little wild also in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series. The Diamondbacks, summoning a rally for the second straight day, scored three times in the eighth inning, handing ex-Mississippi Braves star Craig Kimbrel the first blown save of his postseason career and beating Philadelphia 6-5. The series is square at 2-2. The big blow against Kimbrel (now 10-for-11 in saves) was a two-run, game-tying bomb by pinch-hitter Alek Thomas. A subsequent single and walk knocked Kimbrel out of the game, and the go-ahead hit came from Gabriel Moreno against Jose Alvarado. The Phillies struck out three times in the ninth. Of note: Brookhaven native and veteran MLB umpire Lance Barksdale is slated to be behind the plate for Game 5 tonight at Chase Field, which will feature aces Zack Wheeler and Zac Gallen.
Home runs were the dominant theme in the MLB playoffs on Wednesday night. There were 14 in the three games, and a couple of postseason homer records were set. Unfortunately for former Ole Miss star Lance Lynn, he was on the bad end of one of those records. The 36-year-old right-hander, starting for Los Angeles, allowed four solo homers in the third inning, accounting for all of Arizona’s scoring in a 4-2 win that clinched a National League Division Series sweep for the upstart Diamondbacks. No team had ever hit four homers in one inning of a postseason game. “The way (Lynn) was throwing the baseball, I didn’t expect that,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts told the Los Angeles Times. Maybe it shouldn’t have been a total shock. Lynn led all of MLB with 44 homers allowed this season, which he split between the Chicago White Sox and the Dodgers. And the ball flies at Arizona’s Chase Field. Lynn — described by TBS’s Ron Darling as “stubborn, angry and mule-ish” on the mound — got through the first two innings, allowing just two singles. Then … boom: 1,626 feet of home runs in the third. Lynn was gone after 2 2/3 and the Dodgers, the No. 2 seed in the NL, were gone from the postseason a little while later. Lynn has had a great career. He won an SEC title at Ole Miss and a World Series title with St. Louis. He has made two All-Star Games. He has won 136 major league games, five more in the postseason, and he won a World Baseball Classic game earlier this year. But that four-homer inning is no doubt gonna sting for a while. … Elsewhere, Philadelphia hit a club-record six homers, two by Bryce Harper, in a 10-2 win over Atlanta at another homer haven, Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies lead that NLDS 2-1 heading into Game 4 tonight. Former Mississippi Braves standout Spencer Strider, a 20-game winner this year, will start for the Braves. … Houston clinched its seventh straight American League Championship Series appearance by beating host Minnesota 3-2 in Game 4. All the runs in that game came via the long ball, with Jose Abreu hitting the go-ahead shot — his third in the two games at Target Field — in the fourth inning.
Making his first start at first base for the Los Angeles Angels on Saturday night at Colorado, Hunter Renfroe made a nice play to start a double play and end the first inning. Then the former Mississippi State standout celebrated with a single to lead off the second inning. The party at Coors Field was just getting started. Renfroe went 5-for-5 with a walk as the Angels set franchise records for hits (28) and runs in a 25-1 rout of the Rockies. Mickey Moniak also had five hits and four other Angels had at least three. “(H)itting gets contagious sometimes,” Angels manager Phil Nevin told mlb.com in one of the season’s great you-don’t-say statements. Renfroe hit a three-run double in the club record-tying 13-run third inning. He finished with four RBIs and three runs. His career day raised his average to .261. Normally the team’s right fielder, Renfroe is batting .281 over his last 15 games, though he has been stuck on 12 homers since June 13. The Angels (42-36) have climbed past Houston into second place in the American League West. P.S. Ex-Ole Miss standout James McArthur got his first big league call-up Saturday with Kansas City but did not pitch. McArthur, 26, traded from Philadelphia to the Royals in May, has a 4.87 ERA in 12 appearances at Triple-A Omaha. … Ex-Rebels star Mike Mayers, a big league vet, was assigned by the Royals to Omaha last week after a rough stint in the majors. He got a hold in his return to Triple-A on Friday. … Former MSU ace Ethan Small went on the injured list Saturday at Triple-A Nashville (Milwaukee system). The former first-rounder has a 3.46 ERA in the minors this season and made one wobbly appearance with the Brewers. … Houston Harding, who got into pro ball as an undrafted free agent in 2021, made his Double-A debut Saturday for Rocket City in the Angels’ system. The left-hander, who won seven games for MSU’s 2021 national title team, allowed a three-run homer but fanned five in 2 2/3 innings vs. Montgomery. He had a 1.32 ERA in A-ball before his promotion. A Coldwater native, Harding was a strikeout machine at Itawamba Community College before signing with MSU. … Landon Sims, one of the heroes of State’s ’21 championship team, made his pro debut this month and has pitched in four games, allowing no runs, in rookie ball for Arizona. Sims was the 34th overall pick last summer after missing most of the ’22 season at State with an elbow injury.
Seat belts should have been required Friday night for the Amarillo fans in Hodgetown ballpark. They were subjected to a rough ride by a visiting Frisco RoughRiders team that bashed eight home runs, three by a pair of Mississippi products. Former Mississippi College standout Blaine Crim went 5-for-6 with his 20th homer and ex-Mississippi State star Justin Foscue added two bombs, his 13th and 14th, as Frisco steamrolled Amarillo 21-2 in a Texas League game. Crim set a Frisco record for hits in a game, boosting his average to .290, and scored four times. Both he and Foscue, the Texas Rangers’ No. 5 prospect, homered in the Riders’ record-setting 11-run fifth inning. The 21 total runs was also a franchise record. Foscue, batting .289 after a 3-for-6, drove in four runs and scored three. The host Sod Poodles, an Arizona affiliate, put third baseman Ti’Quan Forbes on the mound in the ninth. The former Mr. Baseball from Columbia High yielded two hits, including a homer, in his professional pitching debut. Forbes, in his eighth minor league season, did have two of Amarillo’s 10 hits. P.S. Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton made his Minnesota debut on Friday and was caught stealing as a pinch runner in the eighth inning of a 4-3 loss to the Chicago White Sox. He is 321-of-393 (81.7 percent) in his MLB career that started in 2013.
The baseball branch of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame is quite impressive, featuring major league Hall of Famers Cool Papa Bell, William Foster and Dizzy Dean plus an array of other stars who could form a juggernaut of a dream team. That roster added a pair of luminaries on Saturday, when Barry Lyons and David Dellucci were formally inducted into the state shrine. Lyons, a catcher, was a standout at Biloxi High and Delta State (under the legendary Boo Ferriss) and with the Double-A Jackson Mets on his path to the big leagues. He was the proverbial aircraft carrier for the 1985 Texas League champion JaxMets. He debuted with the New York Mets in 1986, when they won their second World Series, and played parts of six more years in the big leagues. What’s more, he is one of the nicest guys you could hope to meet. Dellucci, an outfielder and also a very personable fellow, played four years at Ole Miss, earning All-America recognition and winning an SEC batting crown in 1995. He would go on to play 13 years in the big leagues, batting .256 and winning a World Series ring with the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks, the team built (though not managed) by Buck Showalter. Dellucci now works for the SEC Network. Lyons and Dellucci join a Hall of Fame team that includes Guy Bush and Buddy Myer, Will Clark and Jeff Brantley, Don Kessinger and Joe Gibbon, Jim Davenport and Roy Oswalt, plus many more. Those are names to know. And if you don’t know them, perhaps you should visit the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum in Jackson. You’d be impressed. P.S. On Saturday in San Francisco, Will Clark’s No. 22 was retired by the Giants in a big pregame ceremony. The former Mississippi State star was drafted No. 2 overall by the Giants in 1985 at a time when the club was struggling. Two years later, they won the National League West. Two years after that, they went to the World Series. Clark “made it cool to be a Giants fan again,” a teammate said. No. 22 jerseys and T-shirts were all over Oracle Park on Saturday. Clark was a five-time All-Star during his eight seasons with the Giants and still ranks among the franchise leaders in numerous hitting categories.
Comes a time for everyone, as the old scout says in “Moneyball,” when you’re told you can no longer play the children’s game. The time may have come for the likes of Mitch Moreland and Jarrod Dyson, veteran free agents in their late 30s with no team to suit up for. But as long as some team somewhere wants you, as long as you still dream of making the major leagues, you soldier on, as Ti’Quan Forbes is doing in 2022. Columbia native Forbes, a pro since 2014 without a big league look, became a minor league free agent last fall. The 25-year-old third baseman had signed with an independent club before the Arizona Diamondbacks came calling in mid-April. He is making good on this, perhaps final, opportunity, batting .283 with four homers and 18 RBIs for Double-A Amarillo. Forbes, who goes 6 feet 4, 225 pounds now, was drafted in the second round out of Columbia High by Texas and traded to the Chicago White Sox (for major league pitcher Miguel Gonzalez) after a productive 2017 season in High-A ball. He reached Triple-A Charlotte last summer but hit just .237 with two homers in 50 games. That trail ran out. He has picked up another. A player can still have an MLB breakthrough at Forbes’ age. Dyson didn’t make The Show until he was 27, and he played 12 big league seasons. Ex-Delta State star Trent Giambrone was 27 when he got the call last year in his sixth minor league season. Giambrone is back in the minors now, playing the children’s game, like Forbes. They haven’t been told they can’t. P.S. William Carey’s fine season ended Tuesday with a loss to Hope International in the NAIA Opening Round at Lawrenceville, Ga. The SSAC Tournament champion Crusaders (37-17) went 2-and-out in the regional.
Jarrod Dyson, who’s had to scrap for playing time over most of his 10-year big league career, may well begin the 2020 season as Pittsburgh’s starting center fielder. The Pirates reportedly have agreed to a contract with the McComb native, who spent last year with Arizona and batted .230 with 30 steals in a career-high 130 games and 400 at-bats. Dyson is 35 and has had some injury issues in recent seasons, but when healthy he brings plus-speed on the bases and in the field. He had a very productive 2019, setting career-highs for hits, runs, home runs and total bases. He’s a career .247 hitter (.319 on-base percentage) with 250 steals, second all-time (to Billy Hamilton’s 299) among Mississippi natives. A 50th-round draft pick out of Southwest Mississippi Community College by Kansas City in 2006, Dyson won a ring with the Royals in 2015.
Rumors that Arizona was interested in signing Brian Dozier to play second base apparently were quelled on Monday when the Diamondbacks traded for Starling Marte, who’ll play center field and make Ketel Marte the D’backs’ everyday second baseman. Former Southern Miss standout Dozier, who turns 33 in May, batted .238 (.340 on base) with 20 homers for world champion Washington in 2019, though he played sparingly toward season’s end and in the postseason. Dozier, an eight-year MLB veteran, is a career .245 hitter with 192 homers. He’s a good defensive player and a good clubhouse guy, even if his offensive production has fallen off, so it seems likely that he’ll land a job somewhere as a role player. P.S. Reports continue to pop up linking Mitch Moreland to Boston, where the Mississippi State product – and current free agent — played the previous three years, smashing 56 homers and collecting a World Series ring.
Fans don’t shout “Dee-fense, dee-fense” at baseball games, but making plays in the field is an essential element of winning. The ability to catch and throw, skills he displayed on Monday night, has helped Jarrod Dyson carve out a 10-year big league career. In the sixth inning of Arizona’s game at San Francisco, McComb native Dyson, playing right field, made a leaping catch against the wall for the first out. (It was one of the Top Plays on MLB Network’s Quick Pitch.) Later in the inning, Dyson, shifting toward the line against left-handed pull hitter Brandon Crawford, fielded Crawford’s hit and cut down a runner at the plate, preserving the Diamondbacks’ 3-2 lead. “I played the play in my head before it happened, and it happened exactly how I played it,” the ever-quotable Dyson told The Associated Press. Arizona went on to win 6-4 in a battle of fringe wild card contenders. Dyson has eight assists this season and 165 putouts with just two errors in 96 games. For his career, during which he often has been used as a defensive replacement, Dyson has 59 assists and a .983 fielding percentage. The swift 35-year-old has played all three outfield positions in his career — and actually played all three in Monday’s game. P.S. Mississippi State product Brent Rooker started a rehab assignment on Monday with Minnesota’s Gulf Coast League team. Rooker, out with a groin injury, last played on July 13 for Triple-A Rochester, where he was batting .281 with 14 home runs. … Ex-Southern Miss star Cody Carroll (the one from Tennessee) pitched a scoreless inning Saturday on a rehab assignment with Baltimore’s GCL team. Carroll, who made his big league debut in 2018, has been out all season with a back injury.