Marcus Thames’ whirlwind tour of MLB’s big markets reportedly will resume. The Louisville native reportedly has been hired as hitting coach for the Chicago White Sox. Thames, who hit 115 homers over a 10-year big league career that ended in 2011, was the hitting coach with the New York Yankees for several years, took a detour to Miami’s staff in 2022 and then spent 2023 with the Los Angeles Angels, who fired manager Phil Nevin after the season. Thames is a well-respected hitting coach, and the Angels’ offensive numbers in many categories improved under his watch. He will not get a chance to work in 2024 with fellow East Central Community College alum Tim Anderson. The White Sox recently declined an option on the veteran shortstop’s contract, making him a free agent. Anderson signed a seven-year deal ($37.5 million) after a promising rookie campaign in 2016, won a batting title and made two All-Star teams before suffering a dreadful 2023 season, batting .245 with one home run, 25 RBIs and a negative WAR. The outspoken Alabama native is also a lightning rod for controversy. P.S. Mississippi State alum Buck Showalter, dismissed by the Mets after his second year as manager, reportedly is a candidate for the Angels job, as is former Jackson Generals star Ray Montgomery. … Lance Lynn, the veteran pitcher out of Ole Miss, became a free agent after the Dodgers declined an option in his contract. Lynn had a tough year (5.73 ERA) that ended when he gave up four home runs in one inning in a playoff game against Arizona. … Kudos to ex-Mississippi State standout Nathaniel Lowe on winning a Gold Glove at first base for world champion Texas. Mauricio Dubon, who passed through Biloxi on his way to The Show, earned a Gold Glove as a utitity player for Houston. … Oakland outrighted Ole Miss product Chad Smith to Triple-A; he had a 6.59 ERA in 10 games for the A’s. … Olive Branch native Kendall Williams, a Dodgers prospect, pitched in the Arizona Fall League’s Fall Stars Game on Sunday and yielded a 433-foot home run to Kyle Manzardo.
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.
Nathaniel Lowe made a couple of noteworthy contributions Tuesday night in Texas’ American League Division Series-clinching win. The Mississippi State product blasted a 437-foot homer in the sixth inning, capping the scoring in a 7-1 victory over Baltimore. Less attention-grabbing but certainly significant was a second inning at-bat that ended in an out. Leading off the inning, Lowe battled Baltimore starter Dean Kremer for 15 pitches before lining out to left field. The Rangers proceeded to score five runs in that inning, knocking out Kremer (53 pitches all told) and seizing command at Globe Life Field. Lowe’s homer, on a 1-1 pitch, was one of four by the mighty Rangers, who hit an AL-best 233 this season. Lowe, who has prodigious power, had 17 homers, which ranked just seventh on the team. He has not had a hot postseason — 4-for-22 — but his team has won five straight, by a 32-12 count, and is headed for the AL Championship Series for the first time since 2011. (Another ex-MSU first baseman, Mitch Moreland, was on that club.) Baltimore, the AL East champion and top seed in the playoffs, is going home. Former State star Jordan Westburg had a hit and scored the lone run for the Orioles on Tuesday but also struck out three times, including the game’s final out. MSU alum Adam Frazier was 0-for-2, capping a hitless series. P.S. Texas will meet the Houston-Minnesota winner in the ALCS. The visiting Astros crushed the Twins 9-1 on Tuesday to take a 2-1 lead in their best-of-5. Ex-Southern Miss standout — and Minnesota native — Matt Wallner was 0-for-2 with two walks for the Twins. The lefty-hitting Wallner should be in the lineup tonight vs. Astros righty Jose Urquidy when the teams meet again at Target Field. … Lance Lynn, the veteran right-hander out of Ole Miss, will make his 28th career postseason appearance tonight for Los Angeles, which faces elimination against Arizona in the National League Division Series. Lynn is 5-5 with a 5.28 ERA in playoff games.
The 1-2 punch of Blaine Crim and Justin Foscue, a pair of Magnolia State college products, delivered again for Round Rock on Sunday and powered the Express into the Triple-A Pacific Coast League playoffs. Ex-Mississippi College star Crim went 2-for-3 with a homer and three RBIs and Mississippi State alum Justin Foscue added a double and two RBIs as Round Rock, a Texas affiliate, beat Tacoma 11-6. The Express, winners of seven of their last nine, will tangle with Oklahoma City (Los Angeles Dodgers) for the PCL title. Crim hit .289 with 22 homers and 85 RBIs in his fourth pro season. Foscue, the Rangers’ sixth-rated prospect in his third season, batted .266 with 18 homers and 84 RBIs. … Biloxi High product Colt Keith went 1-for-5 for Triple-A Toledo to finish his 2023 season with a .306 average, 27 home runs and 101 RBIs. Detroit’s No. 2 prospect, Keith, 22, played at Double-A and Triple-A this season, his third in the minors. … Kudos to Rick Sweet, who was the Jackson Generals’ first manager in 1991-92, for becoming Triple-A Nashville’s all-time winningest skipper with 321 victories over four seasons. Nashville is a Milwaukee farm club; ex-MSU standout Ethan Small went 2-4 with a 3.18 ERA and three saves in 38 games for Sweet’s Sounds this year. … In the big leagues, James McArthur, former Ole Miss star, struck out Yordan Alvarez with the tying run on base to save Kansas City’s 6-5 win at Houston, the last-place Royals’ third straight win vs. the Astros. Combined with Texas’ sweep at Seattle, the Astros are now 2.5 games back of the first-place Rangers in the American League West. McArthur, a rookie, has a win and two saves vs. Houston in his last five appearances. He has not allowed a run in 10 September games. … Ole Miss product Lance Lynn posted a third straight strong start (two runs in six innings) for the playoff-bound Dodgers, who beat San Francisco 3-2 in 10 innings. On the heels of a pair of bad outings, the 36-year-old Lynn has allowed just seven runs in 18 innings (3.50 ERA) in his last three; he is 6-2, 4.50, since the Dodgers acquired him at the trade deadline. Lynn has extensive postseason experience, having made 27 appearances since 2011.
On May 9, 2017, before a modest-sized crowd at Trustmark Park in Pearl, Ronald Acuna Jr. demonstrated the flair for the dramatic that has become a defining characteristic of the Atlanta Braves outfielder. In his first Double-A game — a big moment for every professional player — on the first pitch he saw, Acuna launched a home run over the left-field fence. He went 3-for-4 with three RBIs in that game, powering the Mississippi Braves to victory. That indelible memory bubbled up — yet again — while watching Acuna on Thursday night. Facing the Los Angeles Dodgers before a huge crowd at Dodger Stadium, the 25-year-old Venezuela native hit his 30th homer of the 2023 season, becoming the first player in MLB history to have 30 homers and 60 steals in the same season. More than that, the history-making homer was a grand slam — a 429-foot bomb to left-center in the second inning that gave the Braves a four-run lead en route to a hair-raising 8-7 win over a team it might just meet again for the National League pennant. Acuna, also a superb right fielder, later came within inches of robbing Mookie Betts of one of the two home runs he hit in fueling LA’s comeback. (And, yes, Acuna got married to his longtime girlfriend hours before the game. Talk about dramatic.) With a month left in the season, Acuna is on an MVP track, batting .337 with 30 homers, 83 RBIs, 120 runs and 62 steals. … Former M-Braves Austin Riley and Michael Harris II also homered for Atlanta against Lance Lynn, the warhorse out of Ole Miss who suffered his first bad outing in six for the Dodgers since being acquired in a trade. Lynn has allowed the most homers — 37 — in the majors this season. Spencer Strider, another M-Braves alum, went six innings for Atlanta, punching out nine, to get the win, his 16th, which leads MLB. He may well be on a Cy Young Award track.
Five of the six first-place MLB teams kept their foot on the gas on Friday, and Mississippi college products were a driving force for three of those winners. Brandon Woodruff, Matt Wallner and Lance Lynn delivered praiseworthy performances for Milwaukee, Minnesota and the Los Angeles Dodgers, respectively. Start in Milwaukee, where ex-Mississippi State standout Woodruff threw six innings and allowed one run while punching out 11 batters in the Brewers’ 7-3 win against San Diego. It was Woodruff’s fourth start since he came off a long stay on the injured list (shoulder), and he has won two of them to run his record to 3-1 with a 2.65 ERA. Friday’s outing was his best yet; he has 19 career double-digit strikeout games. “It’s the best time of the year,” he told mlb.com “(A)nd it’s fun when you’re winning.” The Brewers have won six in a row and lead the National League Central by 4 games. At Minnesota, Southern Miss alum Wallner keyed a four-run first inning with a bases-loaded triple and the Twins went on to pound Texas 12-2. Wallner also had a double, scored three times and made a great catch in left field. He is batting .244 with nine homers and 25 RBIs in just 123 at-bats for Minnesota, which leads the American League Central by 6 games. Texas, the first-place team in the AL West, lost for the eighth straight time and fell into a tie with Seattle. Mississippi State product Nathaniel Lowe went 2-for-4 with an RBI in defeat for the Rangers. At Boston, former Ole Miss star Lynn battled through six innings and got the win as the Dodgers rallied late to beat the Red Sox. Lynn, 4-0 with a 2.03 ERA since moving to LA, gave up a couple of early home runs — a season-long bugaboo — but shut the BoSox down from innings 3-6. The NL West-leading Dodgers scored six times in the sixth and seventh innings to win 7-4. They lead the division by 12 games. … For the record, NL East leader Atlanta won at San Francisco, though DeSoto Central High product Austin Riley had a quiet night, and AL East leader Baltimore topped Colorado with MSU alums Jordan Westburg and Adam Frazier combining for one hit in four ABs.
Emaarion Boyd, the second-year pro out of South Panola High, got the walk-off knock Thursday for Low-Class A Clearwater in the Philadelphia organization. Boyd was 2-for-5 with a walk, a run and a triple in the 5-4, 11-inning win against Dunedin. Boyd, 19, the Phillies’ No. 13 prospect, ranks second in the Florida State League in steals (49), fifth in runs (65), ninth in triples (five) and 10th in batting average (.272). “His ceiling is that of a speedy table-setter,” according to the scouting report on mlb.com. … Lance Lynn, former Ole Miss star, tossed seven shutout innings for the Los Angeles Dodgers, who beat Milwaukee 1-0 for their 11th straight win on an eighth-inning homer by Austin Barnes. The Dodgers are 4-0 in Lynn’s four starts since acquiring the veteran right-hander from the Chicago White Sox and 3-0 in his starts at Dodger Stadium. “I’ve always enjoyed pitching in this ballpark, and it’s definitely a lot better as a home player,” Lynn told mlb.com. He is 3-0 with a 1.44 for the Dodgers after going 6-9, 6.47, with the struggling ChiSox. … Tim Elko, the ex-Ole Miss slugger, hit his first Double-A home run for Birmingham and now has 23 for the season across three levels. A 2022 draftee by the White Sox, the big first baseman is batting .267 for the Barons, .301 with 88 RBIs for the year. … East Central Community College product Tim Anderson, now with the White Sox, finally issued an apology (on Instagram) for the fight he started with Cleveland’s Jose Ramirez on Aug. 5. Anderson will begin serving a five-game suspension (reduced from six on appeal) today. The two-time All-Star and 2019 batting champ went 2-for-17 while his appeal was pending and is at .230 for the year. … Konnor Griffin, Jackson Prep’s two-way star, and Samuel Richardson, Lewisburg High slugger, are among the 50 players on the rosters for Sunday’s Perfect Game All-American Classic in Phoenix. Both played on state championship teams this past season. Pitcher/outfielder Griffin, an LSU commit considered a top MLB draft prospect for next summer, participated in the Baseball Factory/Under Armour All-America Game last Sunday in Arlington, Texas, and has been invited to USA Baseball’s 18U national team tryout camp set for Aug. 21-25 in California. Those who make the final roster will compete for Team USA in the U-18 World Cup in Taiwan in September. Richardson, a Missouri commit, played in the Hank Aaron Invitational in Atlanta on July 30. … Drew Davis, a pitcher/infielder at Sumrall, has made the 15U Team USA that is going to the Dominican Republic for a tournament in September.
Back in May, playing for Ole Miss, Calvin Harris hit four home runs in a game. On his list of 2023 highlights, that might still be No. 1 — but what he did Friday night has to be a close second. Harris’ first homer as a pro was a two-run walk-off shot that gave Low-Class A Kannapolis an 8-7 win against Down East. A fourth-round draft pick by the Chicago White Sox, Harris, a catcher, is batting .297 in seven games for the Cannon Ballers. … On Fernando Valenzuela Night at Dodger Stadium, ex-Ole Miss ace Lance Lynn threw five innings, allowing one unearned run, and struck out nine as Los Angeles beat Colorado 6-1. Lynn, 36, is 3-0 with a 2.00 ERA since joining the Dodgers at the trade deadline. He has 1,881 career strikeouts over 333 career games. … Former DeSoto Central High star Austin Riley went 3-for-4 with his 27th homer and two RBIs in Atlanta’s 7-0 win over the New York Mets. Riley, a 2023 All-Star, is batting .355 with five homers in his last 15 games and .333 with 11 bombs, 28 RBIs and 21 runs since the All-Star break. … In manager Bruce Bochy’s return to San Francisco, former Mississippi State standout Nathaniel Lowe belted his 14th homer — 70th career in MLB — to help Bochy’s Rangers beat the Giants 2-1. Bochy, in his first year in Texas, won three championships with the Giants; the Rangers are seeking their first. … Southern Miss product Nick Sandlin threw four pitches and got a hold in a Cleveland win on Thursday. On Friday, he threw three pitches, the last of which was blasted for a walk-off homer by Tampa Bay’s Wander Franco. That came after the Guardians had scored three times on wild pitches in the top of the ninth. … Olive Branch native Kendall Williams tossed six shutout innings in his second start for Double-A Tulsa in the Dodgers’ system. The 22-year-old right-hander is 1-0 with a 0.90 ERA for the Drillers. … The Double-A Mississippi Braves scored 18 runs in a sweep at Rocket City, getting homers from Luke Waddell, Drew Lugbauer and Jesse Franklin V. Franklin has a 22-game on-base streak.
Drew Bianco, the former Oxford High star and son of the Ole Miss coach, is getting a ton of attention after making a sensational catch for Houston in a game on Sunday. Bianco, playing center field for the Cougars, made a long run and went over the outfield wall to snag a drive off the bat of an Incarnate Word hitter. (The video is all over the Internet and was SportsCenter’s No. 1 play among its daily Top 10.) Bianco, an All-State pick and state champion at Oxford, is a grad transfer at Houston after four seasons at LSU, where he had modest numbers (.202, 10 homers) on some outstanding teams. This year, he has made two highlight-reel catches for the Cougars, matching his number of hits in five games. Also on the UH roster is former Ole Miss and Magnolia Heights pitcher Braden Forsythe. P.S. Two familiar names appear on mlb.com’s list of the top dark horse candidates for opening day rosters: Brent Rooker with Oakland and Jason Heyward with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Mississippi State product Rooker is with his fourth organization in less than a year. The 2017 SEC Triple Crown winner has 102 homers in the minors — 28 in Triple-A in 2022 — but batted just .200 with 10 homers in 81 big league games, most of those with Minnesota. He hopes to stick as the A’s left fielder. Heyward, a former Mississippi Braves star, has been reunited with old buddy Freddie Freeman. They debuted with the Double-A M-Braves together in 2009. Cut loose by the Chicago Cubs after last season, Heyward has struggled at the plate for several years but reportedly revamped his swing and stands a good chance of making LA’s club. His outfield defense is still top drawer.
The New York Yankees — and their fans — may be laughing about it now, having won Game 1 of the American League Division Series against Cleveland. But what happened in the bottom of the fifth inning Tuesday night with the score tied was cringe-worthy. First base coaches generally work in anonymity, but Travis Chapman, the ex-Mississippi State standout who handles that job for the Yankees, became a co-star in a moment that could have ranked as an all-time gaffe. Josh Donaldson thought he hit a home run and broke into a trot out of the box. Chapman also thought the ball was gone into the right-field bleachers at Yankee Stadium. He slapped hands with Donaldson as he approached the bag. But the ball hit the top of the wall and bounced back into play. Donaldson was cut down diving back into first. He saved face only because the Yankees won the game 4-1. … There had to be some disappointment for Southern Miss product Kirk McCarty, who was on the Guardians’ active roster for the Wild Card Series but was taken off before Tuesday’s game, joining the injured Nick Sandlin, another former Golden Eagles pitcher, on the sidelines. … There were a lot of frowns in Atlanta after the Braves’ 7-6 loss to Philadelphia, most notably on the faces of former Mississippi Braves Austin Riley (0-for-4, three strikeouts), Max Fried (six runs and a costly error in 3 1/3 innings), Dansby Swanson (1-for-5, four K’s) and Michael Harris II (0-for-4). Game 2 of the National League Division Series is today, with M-Braves alum and 21-game winner Kyle Wright starting for the Braves. … Ecstatic might best describe how former M-Braves pitcher Evan Phillips felt after escaping a two-on, no-out jam in the sixth inning, preserving Los Angeles’ two-run lead vs. San Diego. Phillips, an extremely effective reliever (7-2, 1.14 ERA, two saves) for the Dodgers this season, got a punchout and a double-play ball to register the hold. The Dodgers held on to win 5-3. … Crushed might best describe how ex-State star Adam Frazier felt in the ninth inning as he watched Yordan Alvarez’s three-run moon shot sail into the right-field seats at Minute Maid Park, delivering Houston an 8-7 win against Seattle. Frazier, the Mariners second baseman, went 1-for-4 with a run as his club built a 7-3 lead through seven innings. P.S. Mississippi native Lance Barksdale is part of the umpiring crew for the Dodgers-Padres series. He was in left field Tuesday.