The Los Angeles Dodgers will open their season on July 23 at home against longtime rival San Francisco. There will be a national TV (ESPN) audience but – unfortunately — no people in the seats. Right fielder Mookie Betts isn’t the only thing new at Dodger Stadium for 2020. The old ballpark, which opened in 1958, has undergone a $100 million renovation under the direction of Jackson native Janet Marie Smith, the club’s Senior Vice President of Planning and Development. “It’s less of a renovation in an architectural sense,” she recently told lamag.com, “than it is a reimagining of how these buildings come together.” A new plaza beyond center field makes it a more fan-friendly, fan-accessible facility. All it needs now is some fans. The MLB All-Star Game was originally scheduled for Dodger Stadium this summer but will now be played at Chavez Ravine in 2022. Smith, a Mississippi State alumna elected to the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame this year, also has worked directly on stadium projects at Camden Yards, Fenway Park and Turner Field and consulted on many others. Her work at Baltimore’s Camden Yards, which opened in 1992, spearheaded a new era in stadium design. The Boston Globe has described Smith as “the architect credited with saving Fenway Park.” P.S. MLB’s only new stadium, Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, will be formally unveiled on July 24 when the Rangers face Colorado. Ex-Ole Miss star Lance Lynn is slated to start the game for Texas. … Atlanta’s newly named Truist Park (formerly Sun Trust Park) will host its first official game on July 29.
A couple of Mississippi products took star turns on Tuesday night in Boise, Idaho, when the Pioneer League and Northwest League All-Stars faced off in the annual clash of rookie-level circuits. Former Mississippi College standout Blaine Crim went 3-for-5 with two RBIs and earned Top Star honors for the NWL squad. He was upstaged a bit by Sam McWilliams, a Meridian Community College alum from Magee who hit a two-run homer, one of the four homers mashed by Pioneer stars in their 11-7 victory. “It was great to be here with the best guys around the league and just have fun for a night,” Crim told milb.com. “Definitely worth the trip.” Crim, the Gulf South Conference player of the year in 2019, was a 19th-round pick by Texas in June and is having an excellent season at Spokane. The first baseman/DH is hitting .341 with four homers and 24 RBIs. McWilliams, a 19th-round pick by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2018 off a loaded MCC club, is batting .291 with 11 homers and 29 RBIs at Ogden. A second baseman, he hit .276 in the Arizona League last season. P.S. Former Mississippi Braves Cristian Pache and Drew Waters, both promoted to Triple-A Gwinnett on Monday, made smashing debuts on Tuesday, Waters going 3-for-5 with an RBI and Pache 2-for-5 with an RBI. Pache is the Braves’ No. 1 prospect, Waters No. 2.
The projected MLB arrival time (per MLB Pipeline) for Petal’s Demarcus Evans is 2020. The big right-hander, pitching at Double-A Frisco in the Texas system, appears to be running on schedule. Evans, 22, has not allowed an earned run in nine straight appearances and has a 1.40 ERA over 15 games since being promoted from Class A Down East in late May. He posted an 0.81 and six saves for Down East. On Thursday night, Evans worked a clean ninth inning in a 4-2 win over Tulsa to notch his first Double-A save. He has 33 strikeouts and 13 walks in 19 1/3 innings. The 6-foot-4, 270-pound Evans, a 25th-round draft pick out of Petal High in 2015, throws what is described as an exploding fastball and a quality curve. He has averaged 13.7 K’s per nine innings in his five-year pro career. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him move up to Triple-A before this season ends. P.S. Playing shortstop for Tulsa in that Texas League game was Errol Robinson, the former Ole Miss star. He had two hits, including a homer, and boosted his average to .318 for the Los Angeles Dodgers’ affiliate. (He did not face Evans.) Robinson started this season in Triple-A but struggled (.220) and was sent down in late June to Tulsa, where he has begun to perk up.
Mitch Moreland and Drew Pomeranz earned World Series rings on Sunday night when Boston dispatched Los Angeles in Game 5 at Dodger Stadium. Moreland, the ex-Mississippi State star from Amory, hit a key home run in Saturday’s comeback win; Ole Miss product Pomeranz did not make a Series appearance out of the Red Sox’s bullpen. This makes four straight years that a Mississippi-connected player has won a ring. Former Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College star Tony Sipp got one with Houston last year (though he didn’t play in the Series); UM alum Chris Coghlan won his with the Chicago Cubs in 2016; and Southwest Mississippi CC product Jarrod Dyson was on Kansas City’s title team in 2015. … Pomeranz, Sipp, former Southern Miss standout Brian Dozier (who was with the vanquished Dodgers in the 2018 Series) and ex-Ole Miss star Lance Lynn (who won a ring with St. Louis in 2011) are free agents this off-season. … Former Pillow Academy standout Louis Coleman reportedly elected free agency last week after he was removed from Detroit’s 40-man roster and outrighted to the minors.
It would be a stretch to call Game 3 of the World Series an instant classic. What it was was a crazy train of a game that rattled and rolled along for 18 innings and 7 hours, 20 minutes, the longest in Series history. And Mississippians Mitch Moreland and Brian Dozier will always be able to say they played in it. Neither was in the game in the wee hours of this morning when Max Muncy’s home run won it for Los Angeles 3-2, cutting Boston’s Series lead to 2-1. Drew Pomeranz, the ex-Ole Miss star, was warming up in Boston’s bullpen when Muncy went deep on Nathan Eovaldi’s 97th pitch. Pomeranz was one of just four active players who didn’t get in. Mississippi State product Moreland, batting third for the Red Sox, went 0-for-5 before being lifted as part of a double switch. The Gold Glove candidate was not at first base in the 13th when Ian Kinsler made his wild throw on a play that should have ended the game but instead allowed the tying run to score. Dozier, the former Southern Miss standout, had a chance to be a hero for the Dodgers in the bottom of the ninth but fouled out as a pinch hitter against Craig Kimbrel with runners at first and second in a 1-1 game. Who would’ve guessed it would take nine more innings to settle it? Gotta wonder what’s in store for Game 4.
Errol Robinson, the former Ole Miss standout, got the best of Petal High product Demarcus Evans on Wednesday in one of those Arizona Fall League matchups that scouts surely love to see. Robinson, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ No. 20 prospect, banged a one-out, walk-off single against Evans, a rising star in the Texas system, giving Glendale a 3-2 win against Surprise. Robinson, coming off an injury at the end of the regular season, is batting just .188 in the AFL but is excited about the opportunity he is getting in the showcase league. “It’s just another level up. It’s great stuff,” he told milb.com. Robinson hit .247 with 10 homers, 50 RBIs and 18 steals at Double-A Tulsa this season. The 6-foot-5, 275-pound Evans averaged a ridiculous 16.6 strikeouts per nine innings this year at Class A Hickory. In four games and five innings against the stiffer competition in the AFL, he has nine punchouts while yielding four hits, four walks and three runs. Evans, moved from starter to reliever this year, told an mlb.com writer that he wasn’t happy initially about the shift but decided it was an “opportunity for me to get better.” That, he did, posting a 1.77 ERA, four wins and nine saves in the South Atlantic League. … Justin Steele, the Lucedale native and George County High alum, made a second straight solid start for Mesa on Wednesday, yielding a run on four hits with four K’s in four innings. The left-hander, a Chicago Cubs prospect, is 1-0, 5.19 ERA in three AFL outings. Former Delta State standout Trent Giambrone, another Cubs prospect with Mesa, didn’t play Wednesday but leads the club with a .412 average. … Mississippi State product Daniel Brown (a Milwaukee farmhand) and DSU alum Dalton Moats (Tampa Bay), both pitching for Peoria, are among the handful of AFL hurlers yet to allow a run. Brown has worked 6 2/3 innings, Moats 5 1/3. … Ex-State star Brent Rooker is not going to play in the AFL because of a sprained ankle suffered during a mini-camp. The Minnesota Twins prospect hit .254 with 22 home runs at Double-A Chattanooga this season.
In case anyone was wondering – and someone was – Brian Dozier was not the first Mississippian to lead off in a World Series game when the Fulton native did so in Game 1 on Tuesday night. That distinction belongs to Buddy Myer, the Ellisville native who hit first for Washington in Game 1 of the 1933 Fall Classic against the New York Giants at the Polo Grounds. Myer, like Dozier, struck out to start the game. Longtime big leaguer Myer, who would win a batting title in 1935, led off in all five games of the ’33 Series for the Senators, who lost to the Giants. Myer went 6-for-20 overall, including a three-hit, two-RBI performance in Game 3, the only game the Senators won. (In the 1945 Series, Meridian native Skeeter Webb led off in all seven games for Detroit, which beat the Chicago Cubs.) … Eduardo Nunez’s big home run on Tuesday – off former Mississippi Braves ace Alex Wood — was the first pinch-hit Series homer for Boston since ex-Ole Miss star Bobby Kielty went deep in Game 4 of the 2007 Series against Colorado. (See previous post.) … Saw this very cool item on the baseball subreddit: Dave Parker, Ellis Burks and Mitch Moreland are tied for the most postseason home runs by a Mississippi-born player. As of today, each has three. Amory native Moreland, of course, could jump ahead with a bomb in this World Series. He struck out in a pinch-hit opportunity in Game 1. Moreland hit his three postseason homers in 2010 and ’11 with Texas, two of them in World Series games. Parker, a Grenada native (per baseball-reference.com), hit all of his postseason homers with Oakland in 1989 – at the age of 38. Vicksburg’s Burks – the state’s career home run leader — hit one each with the Chicago White Sox in 1993, San Francisco in 2000 and Cleveland in 2001. Of note: Louisiana’s leaders are Reggie Smith and Albert Belle (6). For Arkansas, it’s Brooks Robinson and Pat Burrell (5), Alabama Delmon Young (9), Georgia J.D. Drew (7), Tennessee Bill Madlock (4) and Florida Chipper Jones (13).
We should not expect much from the two Mississippi products in the 2018 World Series, according to one espn.com writer, who has offered a guide to each of the players on the Boston and Los Angeles rosters. The 50-player list was “loosely organized by how prominently each player should figure into his team’s hopes and plans.” Former Mississippi State star Mitch Moreland hit .245 with 16 homers and 58 RBIs for the Red Sox this season and is a Gold Glove-caliber first baseman. He was hindered by a hamstring injury early in the postseason. Brian Dozier, a Southern Miss alumnus, has played sparingly for the Dodgers in recent weeks, perhaps also bothered by the lingering effects of a knee injury. On the espn.com chart, Moreland was ranked No. 21, just ahead of Yasiel Puig and Nathan Eovaldi. And yet, the 33-year-old Moreland, an All-Star this summer, was described as “an old, slow first baseman with a low batting average and only moderate power, who costs enough money for it to count and offers little upside beyond what’s there.” Uh, OK. The writer’s assessment of Dozier was far less complimentary. He was ranked No. 50, making him, by extrapolation, the least impactful player in the World Series. An LA newspaper’s description of Dozier in July as a streaky hitter, the espn.com scribe writes, “looks darkly prescient, as Dozier had the worst month of his career in September (he hit .087/.189/.229) and has been demoted to the bench for all but one postseason game so far.” All that is true — but it’s also true that Dozier, 31, is a career .324 on-base guy with 172 homers and owns a Gold Glove at second base. Maybe Moreland and Dozier don’t exactly blow your hair back, but it seems foolish to underestimate either of these battle-tested veterans on baseball’s grandest stage. P.S. Moreland isn’t likely to start Game 1 tonight against Clayton Kershaw, one of many lefties the Dodgers can run out. Dozier very well could start against Chris Sale; he’s 12-for-47 career with three homers vs. the Red Sox left-hander.
Eat up some innings. That was Job 1 for Brandon Woodruff on Wednesday, and in that he succeeded. History will show that Woodruff, the former Wheeler High and Mississippi State standout, took the loss in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series. But he pitched well and, most important for Milwaukee, he pitched 5 1/3 innings, giving some needed rest to other members of the bullpen that carries the Brewers’ hopes. The Los Angeles Dodgers lead the series 3-2 after Wednesday’s 5-2 victory at Dodger Stadium. Woodruff, who had thrown two hitless innings in Game 1, came on – as part of a master plan – one batter into Game 5 and pitched into the sixth, battling Clayton Kershaw blow for blow. “I was just trying to get deep in the game,” Woodruff said in a TV interview. He allowed five hits – all singles — and a walk, hit two batters and was charged with three runs, one of them unearned. He struck out eight of the 22 batters he faced. He was lifted after allowing an opposite-field hit to Max Muncy that delivered a runner from second base and put LA ahead 2-1. Though Woodruff’s longest stint in an MLB game this year was five innings back in May, he threw five or more in 10 of his 17 Triple-A starts. Length was what the Brewers needed Wednesday, and that’s what Woodruff gave them, along with a chance to win. Manager Craig Counsell praised his effort. And now the vaunted Brewers pen is locked and loaded for Game 6 on Friday in Milwaukee.
Quite a few atta boys to pass out to the Mississippi connections after Tuesday’s league championship games. Who better to start with than:
Brian Dozier. The Southern Miss product from Fulton, making his first postseason start for the Los Angeles Dodgers, went 1-for-4 with a walk and an HBP and drove in the Dodgers’ first run with a two-out single in the first inning in the National League Championship Series. “For him to spark us, and get a point early, I thought that was huge,” LA manager Dave Roberts told The Press-Enterprise of Riverside, Calif. After the 2-1, 13-inning, series-squaring win over Milwaukee, it’ll be interesting to see if Dozier gets another start in Game 5 today at Dodger Stadium.
Alex Wood. The ex-Mississippi Braves star threw a clean 11th inning with one strikeout for the Dodgers.
Orlando Arcia. The Biloxi Shuckers alum went 1-for-5 and scored Milwaukee’s lone run. After an uneven regular season, Arcia is batting .280 with three homers, seven RBIs and six runs in the postseason.
Freddy Peralta, Corbin Burnes and Josh Hader. The former Shuckers chuckers worked a combined six scoreless innings in relief duty and punched out 11 for the Brewers.
Mitch Moreland. The ex-Mississippi State star from Amory picked up his second RBI for Boston in the American League Championship Series when he was hit by a Roberto Osuna pitch with the bases loaded and two outs in the eighth inning. That run extended the visiting Red Sox’s lead to 4-2, and Jackie Bradley Jr. followed with his game-breaking grand slam as Boston rolled to an 8-2 win and a 2-1 series lead over Houston.
Tony Sipp. The Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College product from Moss Point closed out the sixth inning for the Astros after Joe Smith yielded Steve Pearce’s go-ahead homer. Sipp, making just his second postseason appearance, walked the first batter he faced but got a strikeout and a ground out to end the inning.
Charlie Morton. The M-Braves product will get the ball for his first postseason start of 2018 for Houston in tonight’s Game 4, a virtual must-win for the Astros. Morton, 15-3 with a 3.13 ERA this season, was the winning pitcher in Game 7 of both the World Series and the ALCS in 2017.