It’s just a footnote — but one of significant local interest — on today’s Atlanta-Milwaukee National League Division Series opener. The clubs, meeting for the first time in the postseason, have a rivalry on the Double-A level, where the Mississippi Braves and Biloxi Shuckers reside. The expected pitching matchups for the first three games feature a former M-Brave vs. a former Shucker: Charlie Morton-Corbin Burnes, Max Fried-Brandon Woodruff and Ian Anderson-Freddy Peralta. No weak links there. Both bullpens are also populated with several pitchers who toiled in the Magnolia State en route to the big leagues, most notably Brewers closer Josh Hader, a nasty left-hander. The Brewers are without setup man (and Shuckers alum) Devin Williams, who broke his hand punching a wall last month after the Brewers clinched the NL Central. Atlanta’s dynamic infield is homegrown: Freddie Freeman, Ozzie Albies, Dansby Swanson and Austin Riley all passed through Pearl. By contrast, Milwaukee’s lineup was built with players from other organizations. … There is speculation that catcher Shea Langeliers, a 2021 M-Braves star and Atlanta’s minor league player of the year, could make the NLDS roster. He made the trip to Milwaukee. … The Braves and Brewers split six regular season games in 2021. One stands out. On July 31, the Braves beat Woodruff — with the aid of a bad call. It was 1-1 in the sixth inning at Truist Park when Swanson took an apparent third strike for the second out. Swanson dropped his head and started to walk to the dugout. But the pitch was called a ball. So, of course, Swanson hit the next pitch out of the park for a 3-1 lead, ending Woodruff’s night. The big right-hander glared at home plate umpire C.B. Bucknor as he left the field. … Looking ahead to Game 2, when Mississippi prep products Riley and Woodruff will face off: DeSoto Central alum Riley is 1-for-8 with a walk and two strikeouts against Wheeler High alum Woodruff. … The Braves won a World Series in 1957 when the franchise was located in Milwaukee. The Brewers have been to the Fall Classic once, as an American League team in 1982, falling to St. Louis.
There were rumblings about Craig Kimbrel the last couple years. He was getting hit, coughing up runs. Was the former Mississippi Braves star headed toward the sudden crash-and-burn that strikes many relief pitchers? Nah. Forget that. Kimbrel converted his 13th straight save opportunity Thursday night in the Chicago Cubs’ 2-0 win against the New York Mets. He hasn’t allowed a run in seven appearances this month. He hasn’t allowed a hit since May 26, eight games ago. He is 19-for-21 in save chances this season with a 0.64 ERA and 47 strikeouts in 28 1/3 innings. In the bigger picture, he moved into the top 10 in all-time saves with No. 367, matching the total of former Jackson Mets hurler Jeff Reardon. They are two of the four Mississippi connections in the top 10. Former Generals star Billy Wagner is No. 6 with 422 and Mississippi State product Jonathan Papelbon is ninth at 368. There are three other former Jackson area Double-A players in the top 23: Randy Myers (Mets) at No. 13 with 347, Todd Jones (Generals) at No. 22 with 319 and Rick Aguilera (Mets) at No. 23 with 318. (Note: Lee Smith, No. 3 all-time with 478 saves, actually pitched in two games for the 1998 Generals during his final pro season.) P.S. Former State star Brandon Woodruff surrendered a grand slam Thursday for the first time in his career, covering over 360 innings. Not surprisingly, it happened at Coors Field. Colorado’s C.J. Cron hit an opposite-field shot on a 98 mph fastball as part of the Rockies’ five-run first inning en route to a 7-3 win over Milwaukee. “The margin of error here is just so razor thin,” Woodruff said in an mlb.com piece. Woodruff is 5-3 despite a 1.94 ERA, which ranks fifth in the big leagues.
If there was doubt that Jake Mangum could handle the jump to Double-A, the ex-Mississippi State star has dismissed it. Mangum was hitting .206 at High-A Brooklyn when the New York Mets, forced by injuries to make some moves with their outfielders, promoted Mangum to Binghamton. In nine games, the 25-year-old switch-hitter is batting .368. He enjoyed his best night with the Rumble Ponies on Wednesday, going 3-for-5 with two doubles, a triple, three runs and two RBIs. He led off the 10th inning with a run-scoring three-bagger and scored what proved to be the deciding run in an 8-7 game on a sac fly. A fourth-round pick as a senior at State in 2019, Mangum didn’t hit much for power before arriving in Binghamton, where he has six extra-base knocks and is slugging .605. He has struck out just six times in 38 at-bats. True, nine games is a small sample size. And he’ll run into some outstanding pitchers in the Double-A East. But Mangum knows a little about hitting; he is the SEC’s all-time hits leader, after all. … Down in the Double-A South on Wednesday, Mississippi Braves catcher – and No. 3 Atlanta prospect – Shea Langeliers belted three homers at Pensacola and now leads the league with seven. After a sluggish start in his first Double-A campaign, the 23-year-old former Baylor star is hitting .284 with 13 RBIs. That’s nice, he says, but … . “The biggest role I have on this team is as a catcher,” he told milb.com. “Catching comes first, hitting comes second.” His arm – rated a 70 on the scouts’ 20-80 scale — is already big league-caliber. The bat is coming along.
Freddie Freeman became just the sixth player to hit 250 homers with the Atlanta franchise when he went deep against Milwaukee on Saturday night. The former Mississippi Braves star joins a list that also includes legends Hank Aaron, Chipper Jones and Dale Murphy. Freeman is, at the moment, No. 234 on the all-time home run list. But where does he rank on the chart of former Jackson area Double-A players? He is fifth. Ex-Jackson Generals standout Lance Berkman leads that group with 366, followed by Jackson Mets icon Darryl Strawberry at 335, Gens alum Bobby Abreu at 288 and Brian McCann, the first M-Brave to make The Show, at 282. Freeman, 31, is a virtual lock to pass McCann, who hit 188 of his homers while with Atlanta. P.S. Props to Mississippi State product Ethan Small, who worked the first five innings of a four-man no-hitter for Biloxi against the visiting M-Braves on Saturday night. Small, a 2019 first-round pick and one of Milwaukee’s top prospects, notched his first Double-A win in his second start.