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.
To steal a line from Verne Lundquist, “In your life … have you seen anything like that.” The home run. The catch. The throw. A package deal. Fans of the Atlanta Braves surely will never forget what transpired on Oct. 9, 2023, at Truist Park. In a matter of minutes on Monday night, Austin Riley hit a go-ahead two-run homer, Michael Harris II made a sensational catch in center field and Riley fielded a wild throw from Harris and gunned down Bryce Harper for a game-ending double play. Hitless and scoreless for 5 2/3 innings, down four runs, the Braves got up off the mat to beat Philadelphia 5-4, squaring the National League Division Series at a game apiece. The Phillies’ Zack Wheeler handcuffed the Braves into the sixth, striking out 10 to tie a franchise postseason record held by, among others, Meridian Community College alum Cliff Lee. Then the Braves got on the board thanks to some aggressive baserunning by Ronald Acuna Jr. Then Travis d’Arnaud hit a two-run homer in the seventh. Then Riley golfed a two-run shot off Jeff Hoffman to put the Braves ahead in the eighth and send the ballpark into a frenzy. These Braves hit homers. It’s what they do. It was the fourth postseason homer for former DeSoto Central High star Riley; his first, in Game 1 of the 2020 NLCS, put the Braves ahead in the ninth against Los Angeles. In Monday’s ninth, Harper drew a leadoff walk and was at first base when Nick Castellanos launched a drive to deep right-center. Harris — whose defensive skills are well-known to Mississippi Braves fans who watched him at Trustmark Park just last year — ran the ball down, leaping against the fence to make the catch. His throw to the infield got past Ozzie Albies, but third baseman Riley was backing up the play, fielded the ball and threw a laser to first base to catch Harper off the bag. “Right place, right time” was the ever-humble Riley’s postgame explanation. “The postseason is special,” he told mlb.com. And this was a special win for a 104-win team that appeared to be sleepwalking for the first 14 innings of the series. The Braves still have work to do. They must win at least once in Philadelphia to stay alive in the best-of-5. Monday might have been a turning point.
As the Texas Rangers were blasting their way into first place in the American League West over the last seven days, Nathaniel Lowe was relatively quiet. Maybe that’s about to change. The former Mississippi State standout hit his first home run since Sept. 13 on Monday night, the third of three straight bombs that propelled the Rangers to their sixth straight victory, 5-1 against the Los Angeles Angels. Hitting seventh for the first time this year in the Rangers’ stacked lineup, Lowe launched his 17th home run in the sixth inning, following blasts by Adolis Garcia and Mitch Garver. It was the first instance of back-to-back-to-back homers for the Rangers since August 2015, when ex-MSU star Mitch Moreland, Mike Napoli and Elvis Andrus performed the trick. “Three in a row is pretty cool,” Lowe said in a postgame TV interview. “I’ve never been a part of something like that before.” Also pretty cool for the Rangers is that they’ve reduced their magic number for clinching the division to 4 and for clinching a wild card spot to 2 with six games remaining. Lowe is just 2-for-25 during the current win streak and has seen his average drop to .267. He hit .302 last year and has been the Rangers’ No. 3 hitter most of the season. It should be noted that Lowe has drawn 90 walks this season, and his .365 on-base average is eighth in the AL. With power bats up and down their lineup, much like Atlanta, the Rangers lead the league in homers. If Lowe has rediscovered his power stroke, that would be quite a bonus for a club that hasn’t made the postseason since 2016.
Brent Rooker hit a milestone home run on Sunday, his 20th of the season accounting for Oakland’s lone run in a 12-1 loss to Baltimore. On Monday, the ex-Mississippi State star hit a much more significant home run, No. 21 producing a walk-off 6-4 victory for the A’s over Kansas City at Oakland Coliseum. Not only that, the homer came just in time for Rooker and some teammates to scurry over to the Oakland Arena and catch the show by Rooker’s favorite country music star, Zach Bryan. Rooker even made an appearance on stage with Bryan, who was performing before a crowd quite a bit larger than the 3,095 who watched the two worst teams in baseball fight to the finish on Monday. It has been a roller coaster of a season for Rooker, who joined the A’s as an off-season waiver claim from the Royals. He ht .358 with nine homers in April, which earned him an appearance on MLB Network’s MLB Central show and propelled him to his first All-Star Game nod. There have been a lot of struggles since then, but Rooker’s bat has perked up recently. He is hitting .346 over his last seven games. “Swing and approach-wise, I feel pretty solid,” he said. Rooker, batting .245 with 53 RBIs, and many of his teammates may be vying for 2024 jobs with the lowly A’s, who are 35-90. … Rooker stands second on the All-Mississippi Home Run Derby chart to Austin Riley, who has 29 this season. Hunter Renfroe is at 18, Nathaniel Lowe at 15, Adam Frazier at 13 and Matt Wallner at nine.
Mississippi certainly seems to have a knack for producing power hitters. It’s a thing, as they say. Check the Atlantic League batting leaders today and you’ll find ex-Ole Miss star Thomas Dillard on top in the home run category. Playing for Barry Lyons’ Lexington Counter Clocks in the independent league, Dillard mashed his 21st homer on Wednesday in a 9-4 win against Staten Island. The lefty-hitting first baseman has moved two homers ahead of former Harrison Central High star Bobby Bradley, who led the league about a month ago. Power has been Dillard’s calling card for much of his career. He led the nation in homers as a senior catcher at Oxford High with 16, earning All-America honors and state player of the year recognition from USA Today. At Ole Miss, he belted 14 homers and hit .310 as a junior and was drafted in the fifth round by Milwaukee in 2019. He played three seasons in the Brewers’ system, hitting .241 with 37 homers — 12 at Double-A Biloxi in 2022 — but striking out 356 times in 986 at-bats. Milwaukee released him last December. Lyons was happy to add him to the roster this spring for his first Lexington team. Dillard, only 25, still strikes out a fair bit but has posted a .269 average (.412 on-base percentage) and 53 RBIs for the 30-31 Counter Clocks. P.S. Madison Central product Braden Montgomery did his Shohei Ohtani act on Wednesday for Team USA, hitting a two-run homer and striking out the side in an inning of work against Chinese Taipei. Montgomery is 3-for-15 with two homers and four RBIs for the Collegiate National Team, which begins a five-game series against Japan on Friday.
If you could pick a date for your first career major league home run, the Fourth of July might be the perfect choice. Good job, Grae Kessinger. With the home crowd of 39,533 at Houston’s Minute Maid Park in a celebratory mood from the start, former Ole Miss standout Kessinger launched a 397-foot bomb to give the Astros a 1-0 lead in the third inning of a game they’d go on to win 4-1 against Colorado. Kessinger told mlb.com that he jumped on a hanging curveball from Kyle Freeland for the memorable blast: “I got a barrel on it, was able to elevate it and got to enjoy it.” Kessinger, called up by the Astros on June 5, had gotten just 10 at-bats and one hit prior to Tuesday’s game, when he went 2-for-4. He started at shortstop, his first start since June 17. (The world champion Astros’ lineup is tough to crack.) Kessinger hit six homers in 52 games this season at Triple-A Sugar Land and has 33 in his minor league career. He hit 17 in three years at Ole Miss. Grandfather Don, a six-time All-Star shortstop who played 16 years in the majors, hit 14 homers all told. Uncle Keith, another UM product, hit one homer in his 11 games with St. Louis in 1993. P.S. Hunter Renfroe, the ex-Mississippi State slugger from Crystal Springs, hit a significant homer on Tuesday. Career bomb No. 172 moved him past Dmitri Young and into sole possession of seventh place on the all-time list of homers by Mississippi natives in the majors. Renfroe has 15 homers this season for the troubled Los Angeles Angels, who lost again on Tuesday, their seventh L in 10 games. … East Central Community College alum Tim Anderson smacked his first triple of 2023 on Tuesday, his first extra-base hit since June 9. The former All-Star still doesn’t have a home run in 251 ABs and is batting .235 for the troubled Chicago White Sox, who lost Tuesday and are 13 games under .500.
In what has been a largely forgettable season for defending national champion Ole Miss, Calvin Harris produced a memory for the ages on Saturday, belting a school-record four home runs in a 20-14 win at Missouri. The homers tied an SEC record and his 10 RBIs matched a school record set in 1947 by one Charlie Conerly, better known for his exploits in another sport. Harris is rated the No. 145 prospect by MLB Pipeline for this summer’s draft — he would be the eighth Rebels catcher drafted in the last 10 years — and Saturday’s show of power certainly didn’t hurt his stock. Harris, who bats from the left side, now has 12 homers on the season and is batting .342 and slugging .631. He hit just five homers in his first two seasons in Oxford.
Hunter Renfroe is a good outfielder with a great arm. The former Mississippi State star also runs pretty well for a 230-pound dude. But never mind that. It’s his ability to hit dingers that grabs our attention. The Crystal Springs native hit his 161st big league homer on Monday, a three-run blast in the first inning that boosted the Los Angeles Angels to a 5-4 win over Boston on Patriots Day at Fenway Park. Renfroe has moved past Bill Melton and Frank White (both with 160) and into eighth place on the all-time homer list of Mississippi natives in the majors. (Dmitri Young, with 171, is next in Renfroe’s sights.) Renfroe was a power prodigy in high school, belting an MAIS record 20 bombs for Copiah Academy back in 2010. He went deep 16 times as a junior at State in 2013, earning All-America honors and then getting drafted in the first round by San Diego. He continued to rake in the minors, belting 77 homers over parts of four seasons before his first big league call-up in 2016. He got his first MLB bomb in his fourth game. In his five full seasons in the majors (not counting 2020), Renfroe has hit 26, 26, 33, 31 and 29 homers. Oddly enough, he has been traded three times since 2019. He’ll likely never be a .300 hitter, but he has improved in that area the previous two years, batting .259 for Boston in 2021 and .255 for Milwaukee last season. The Angels dealt three young pitchers to the Brewers to acquire Renfroe in November, hoping he can help power them into the postseason for the first time since 2014. With four homers in 16 games, he is off to a strong start.
Mitch Moreland, one of the Magnolia State’s most prolific home run hitters, has retired from major league baseball, the Amory native and ex-Mississippi State star told a Boston radio station on Tuesday. Moreland hit 186 homers over his 12 years in the big leagues, ranking sixth on the state’s all-time list. The lefty-hitting first baseman won a World Series with Boston in 2018, also earned an All-Star Game selection that season and won a Gold Glove with Texas in 2016. He batted .251 with 618 RBIs and compiled a 10.9 WAR for his career, which spanned 2010-21. He did not play in 2022. He is currently in Red Sox spring camp working as an invited instructor. P.S. Here’s the top 10 home run hitters among Mississippi natives: Ellis Burks 352, Dave Parker 339, George Scott 271, Chet Lemon 215, Brian Dozier 192, Mitch Moreland 186, Dmitri Young 171, Bill Melton 160, Frank White 160, Hunter Renfroe 157. Renfroe, from Crystal Springs, is the only one still active.
Among the smattering of home runs hit by Mississippians in pro ball on Friday was a milestone blast by Hunter Renfroe. The former Mississippi State standout from Crystal Springs hit his 150th career homer for Milwaukee, which lost to Chicago 8-7 at a windy Wrigley Field. Renfroe’s 22nd homer of the season carried 427 feet to center field. In just his sixth full season (counting 2020 as a full season), he currently sits 10th on the all-time home run list of Mississippi-born players in MLB. Bill Melton and Frank White are tied for eighth at 160. The rest of the list: Ellis Burks 352, Dave Parker 339, George Scott 271, Chet Lemon 215, Brian Dozier 192, Mitch Moreland 186 and Dmitri Young 171. Corey Dickerson, from McComb, now playing for St. Louis, is second to Renfroe on the active list with 132 homers, four this season. (Moreland hasn’t officially retired but has not played this season.) … Austin Riley, the ex-DeSoto Central High star, hit career bomb No. 90 for Atlanta in a big 6-2 win against Houston in their World Series “rematch.” Riley has 31 on the year, his fourth in the big leagues. At Triple-A Norfolk in the Baltimore system, MSU alum Jordan Westburg hit his 10th homer for that club and 19th total in 2022. At Double-A Hartford (Colorado), former Bulldogs standout Hunter Stovall hit his ninth of the season. And at Low-A Visalia (Arizona), ex-Ole Miss star Kevin Graham hit homer No. 2 in his 10th career game. P.S. Toronto is interested in Billy Hamilton, according to a report. The veteran outfielder from Taylorsville recently became a free agent after Miami sent him to the minors. Since 2018, his last season with Cincinnati, his original club, the dash-fast Hamilton has hooked up with nine different major league organizations. Speed never slumps.