Cristian Pache gave Atlanta fans something to feel good about on Wednesday night, hitting his first career big league home run in an otherwise desultory Game 3 of the National League Championship Series. The former Mississippi Braves standout may also have sent fans of the old Jackson Generals on a trip down memory lane. Pache, who had four at-bats in the regular season, became just the seventh player to hit his first career homer in the postseason and the first position player to do so since Melvin Mora in 1999. Mora, who came through Houston’s Venezuelan pipeline in the early ’90s, spent parts of two seasons with the Double-A Generals, batting .298 for the ’95 team and .286 for the ’96 club that won a Texas League title. A versatile infielder, Mora left Houston as a minor league free agent and signed with the New York Mets in 1998. He debuted in the majors in ’99 and shined in the NLCS against the Braves. In addition to hitting his first homer – off Kevin Millwood in a Game 2 loss – Mora had five other hits, drove in two runs, scored three and stole two bases as New York fell in six games. The Mets ultimately dealt Mora to Baltimore, where he blossomed into a two-time All-Star. He batted .277 with 171 homers over 13 seasons, playing until he was 39. The 21-year-old Pache, a Dominican Republic native, can only hope for a career that good, though there is much promise. He is the Braves’ top prospect, having drawn comps to Andruw Jones, and likely will be their center fielder next season. He spent parts of the ’18 and ’19 seasons with the M-Braves, hitting .274 with 12 homers in 133 games. M-Braves faithful might remember Pache’s performance from June 15, 2019, the night of Dallas Keuchel’s tuneup appearance. Pache hit a game-tying homer in the seventh inning – the final scheduled inning – and threw out a runner at the plate in the eighth. The M-Braves went on to win.
Though he doesn’t hit a lot of home runs, Mississippi State product Adam Frazier does have a knack for jump-starting his team’s attack. Frazier hit his ninth career leadoff homer for Pittsburgh on Wednesday night, propelling the Pirates to a 2-1 win against the Chicago Cubs and ace Kyle Hendricks. (Ke’Bryan Hayes – Hattiesburg native Charlie’s kid – followed Frazier’s homer with one of his own.) Frazier, who has 34 career homers over five MLB seasons, is third on the Pirates’ all-time chart for leadoff homers, trailing only Barry Bonds (20) and Al Martin (10). MLB’s all-time leader is Rickey Henderson with a ridiculous 81. Based on a little research in baseball-reference.com, Frazier ranks second – unofficially — among Mississippi-connected players in leadoff shots, trailing only Brian Dozier, who is sitting on the sideline at the moment with 28. Corey Dickerson, still active, has eight, same as Zack Cozart, who is not currently playing. At seven is a group that includes Seth Smith, Matt Lawton, Ellis Burks and Del Unser. Fred Lewis had five and Don Kessinger four. Jarrod Dyson and Billy Hamilton, both active, have three apiece, same as Frank White, Don Blasingame and Eric McNair.
If you were watching, this might seem hard to believe: According to Statcast, Austin Riley’s home run on Sunday night was just the fifth-longest by an Atlanta player since this type of data began to be collected in 2015. Former DeSoto Central star Riley’s blast, part of the Braves’ 17-hit assault in a 14-1 win against the New York Mets, was measured at 458 feet. That’s 8 feet shorter than the Braves’ best, per Statcast, a 466-footer by Ronald Acuna on May 10, 2019. Freddie Freeman has a 464-footer, Acuna a 463 and Freeman a 460. Though somehow short of the team record, Riley’s majestic homer, which struck a façade on one of CitiField’s upper decks while still rising, will no doubt stick in the memory of Braves fans. “This ball was absolutely annihilated,” said ex-Braves star Chipper Jones, who was part of the ESPN broadcast team. The 6-foot-3, 240-pound Riley, only 23, now has 19 homers in 284 big league at-bats, plus 86 bombs over parts of five minor league seasons. Yes, he needs to make more consistent contact (.225 average), but when he does barrel one up, take cover. “My God, that’s a big strong kid,” Braves manager Brian Snitker told mlb.com.
Let the record show, the first home run by a Mississippian in this long-delayed major league season was struck Saturday by Mitch Moreland, the Amory native and ex-Mississippi State standout who went yard for Boston. His 167th career bomb was a wall-scraper to right field at Fenway Park, and it came in a 7-2 loss to Baltimore. Moreland did not play in the Red Sox’s opener, a 13-2 win on Friday. Let the record also show that the first game-winning homer by a Mississippian in 2020 also was struck on Saturday. Richton High product JaCoby Jones blasted a 400-footer in the top of the ninth inning at the Great American Ball Park, giving Detroit its margin of victory in a 6-4 takedown of Cincinnati. The backstory is a good one: Jones had been directed to bunt a runner over from first but fouled off two attempts. So, swinging away with a 2-2 count, he hit his 25th career homer, beating Reds closer Raisel Iglesias. “Screw bunting,” Jones reportedly, jokingly, told Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire after he reached the dugout. “Let me hit.” … Former Mississippi Braves star Phil Gosselin went deep twice for Philadelphia on Saturday and is currently tied for the MLB lead. But Gosselin wasn’t the first former M-Brave to homer in 2020. Rio Ruiz hit one out Friday for the Orioles.
It has only happened 30 times in major league history. First career at-bat. First pitch. Home run. Louisville native Marcus Thames did it on this date in 2002. And he did it against a future Hall of Famer, no less: Randy Johnson. Thames was batting ninth for the New York Yankees before a crowd of 45,000-plus at Yankee Stadium. Johnson was pitching for Arizona in an interleague rematch of the 2001 World Series. Johnson threw a fastball up and over the middle and the right-handed hitting Thames deposited it over the left-center field wall. The two-run bomb in the third inning gave the Yankees a 2-0 lead – yes, Thames got a curtain call from the amped-up crowd — and the Yanks went on to beat the Diamondbacks 7-5. Thames, now the Yankees’ hitting coach, wasn’t drafted out of high school and wasn’t picked until the 30th round out of East Central Community College by the Yankees in 1996. Defying the odds, he went on to play parts of 10 MLB seasons. And that show of power on June 10, 2002, was no fluke. He hit a bunch of big home runs, 115 all told in the big leagues on top of 147 more in the minors. … Other notables on the list of batters to homer on the first pitch they saw: Bert Campaneris, Jay Bell, Kaz Matsui, Starling Marte and Willson Contreras, the last to do it in 2016.
Boom. Bam. Pow. Home runs – in North Port, Fla., Scottsdale, Ariz., and Poplarville – are the theme here. At Atlanta’s new spring home in Florida – CoolToday Park – former DeSoto Central High standout Austin Riley hit a tape measure bomb in a Grapefruit League game against Tampa Bay on Tuesday. Riley’s second homer of the spring traveled an estimated 444 feet, crashing into the massive scoreboard in left-center field. “I’m pumped,” Riley said in an mlb.com story. “If we can just keep riding this out and stick with it, I think it’s going to be a good year.” The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Riley, hitting .316 this spring, is battling for the Braves’ third base job (see previous post). … At Scottsdale Stadium, San Francisco’s Cactus League home, Houlka native and Itawamba Community College alum Tyreque Reed crushed an opposite-field homer in his first at-bat of the spring for Texas. It came off big leaguer Shaun Anderson in the seventh inning and proved to be the game-winning hit. Reed, called over from minor league camp on Tuesday, homered in his lone big league spring game in 2019. An eighth-round pick by the Rangers in 2017, the 6-1, 250-pound Reed has 41 homers in his three minor league seasons. … At Dub Herring Park in Poplarville, Reece Ewing and Bryson Ware slugged two home runs apiece to power No. 2-ranked Pearl River Community College to a doubleheader sweep of Coastal Alabama-East. Ware, a Germantown High product and Auburn signee, has five homers on the year for 10-2 PRCC, while Ewing, a Southern Miss signee, now has three bombs.
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).
The book on David Parkinson says he has average stuff. The numbers from his first full pro season say something else. The Ole Miss alumnus led all of minor league baseball in ERA with a sparkling 1.45 over two levels of A-ball in the Philadelphia system. The 22-year-old left-hander from Virginia went 11-1, struck out 141 batters and walked just 35 in 124 1/3 innings. That doesn’t sound average. Parkinson was a top-drawer starter for the Rebels in 2016 and ’17, winning 11 games total with a 2.78 ERA in 2016 and a 3.39 in ’17. The Phillies picked him in the 12th round of the 2017 draft. He pitched well in limited innings that summer, then blossomed this season as a starter at low-A Lakewood and high-A Clearwater. He went 3-0, 1.24 in August for the Threshers, helping them make the Florida State League playoffs. He could be on the bump tonight in a decisive game. Parkinson is rated the No. 19 prospect in the Philadelphia system by MLB Pipeline. P.S. In the big leagues: Richton High product JaCoby Jones hit his 10th homer for Detroit on Wednesday and became the sixth Mississippian to reach double digits in home runs this season. Brian Dozier has just one bomb since Aug. 9 but still leads the All-Mississippi Home Run Derby with 20, followed by Hunter Renfroe (19), Tim Anderson (18), Mitch Moreland (15) and Corey Dickerson (11). Adam Frazier has eight.
As home run celebrations go, Hunter Renfroe’s on Thursday was a little bit unusual and a whole lot exhilarating. You can’t watch it without feeling his emotion. The ex-Mississippi State standout yanked a ninth-inning grand slam that put San Diego ahead of Milwaukee at Miller Park. After he hit it, Renfroe bent forward in a bow with the bat clutched in front of him, as if to say, “Oooh, I got all of that one.” “It was just like, ‘[Heck] yeah!'” Renfroe told mlb.com. “Let’s be honest here, that’s just the way it was.” He then flipped the bat away and broke into his trot. His teammates went bonkers. The Padres would win 8-4. The resurgent Renfroe has homered in four straight games and now has 12 on the season. He is creeping up on the leaders in the All-Mississippi Home Run Derby, currently topped by Brian Dozier, the Southern Miss alum who hit his 19th – third with the Los Angeles Dodgers — on Thursday. (With 170 career bombs, Dozier trails fifth-place Dmitri Young by one on the all-time list of homers by Magnolia State natives.) Former East Central Community College star Tim Anderson has 15 homers this season and State alum Mitch Moreland sits on 14. (Moreland is ninth on the career list with 146.) Ex-Meridian CC standout Corey Dickerson now trails Renfroe with 11.
Zack Shannon, whose 31 home runs for Delta State this past season were the most ever hit by a Mississippi collegian, is in a long-ball dry spell in rookie ball. Shannon has three homers in 25 games for Missoula in the Arizona chain but hasn’t gone yard since July 2. This is not to say he is slumping, however. The big first baseman, a 15th-round pick in June by the Diamondbacks, is batting .291 (.406 on-base) and has 11 extra-base hits all told, good for a .500 slugging percentage. … Shannon may not have been the top power prospect in the state this year. Simon Landry of Pearl River Community College set a Wildcats record with 19 home runs in 2018 and apparently impressed the Los Angeles Dodgers in a pre-draft workout. “It’s probably the best raw power we’ve ever seen at a workout,” the Dodgers’ scouting director told Dodgers Insider. The Dodgers took the 6-foot-4, 230-pound Landry in the 22nd round. He has played just one official pro game, going 1-for-1 with a double and a walk in the Arizona League. Landry hit .392 for PRCC this year while breaking the school mark for homers set by Wildcats assistant – and ex-big leaguer – Rhyne Hughes. … While neither Shannon nor Landry homered on Thursday, there were long balls to celebrate around the minors. To wit: Former Harrison Central High star Bobby Bradley hit No. 20 – his third in five games – at Double-A Akron (Cleveland system). Mississippi State alum Brent Rooker belted his 16th for Double-A Chattanooga (Minnesota); he is hitting .261 with 56 RBIs in his second pro season. Ex-Itawamba CC star Tyreque Reed bopped his seventh homer for Class A Hickory (Texas). And the red-hot Hunter Stovall hit his fourth in nine games for rookie-level Grand Junction (Colorado). MSU product Stovall, a 21st-rounder this year, has 17 hits and a .447 average.