Mitch Moreland certainly has postseason experience. Fifty-one games of it, to be precise. The San Diego Padres, one loss from elimination in the National League Division Series, will try to make use of it in Game 3 tonight against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Former Mississippi State star Moreland didn’t start either of the first two games but certainly looked ready for duty on Wednesday night, fueling a ninth-inning rally with a pinch RBI double. Moreland is 4-for-7 in this postseason. In his career, the 35-year-old Amory native has a .261 postseason average with four homers, 19 RBIs, 10 doubles and 17 runs. He has played in three World Series and won a ring in 2018 with Boston. Makes sense the Padres would want him in the lineup in a do-or-die game. P.S. Ex-MSU standout and Crystal Springs native Hunter Renfroe, who hit eight homers this season and another in the wild card round, did not play in the first three games of Tampa Bay’s American League Division Series vs. the New York Yankees and is not in the announced lineup for tonight’s Game 4. A left-hander, Jordan Montgomery, was slated to start for the Yankees. Renfroe, a right-handed hitter, was 1-for-5 in the wild card round vs. Toronto. … DeSoto Central High alum Austin Riley, in his first postseason with Atlanta, is 4-for-17 overall and went 3-for-9 vs. Miami in the division series sweep. … McComb native Corey Dickerson was 1-for-15 (with a home run) in his first postseason before going 3-for-4 for Miami against the Braves today. He was hitless in the first two games.
The Tampa Bay-New York series at San Diego’s Petco Park may have the look of a Mississippi State reunion for some, though these are two teams that really don’t get along. Former Bulldogs star Hunter Renfroe plays for the Rays and former State teammate Jonathan Holder for the Yankees; they are among the six Mississippians expected to be active for the second round of this unique MLB postseason. The openers of the two American League Division Series are today. Renfroe, who spent the first four years of his career playing home games at Petco, had an odd season, hitting just .156 with eight homers and 22 RBIs. He was 0-for-14 with eight strikeouts and three walks against Yankees pitchers. He was 0-for-1 vs. Holder. (MSU alum Nate Lowe, who batted .224 with four homers and 11 RBIs for the Rays after getting recalled in September, was left off the ALDS roster.) Holder, who had a 4.98 ERA in 18 appearances, worked five innings against the Rays, allowing four hits in 18 at-bats. He allowed one run, a homer by Mike Brosseau. On the National League side, MSU alum Mitch Moreland and Ole Miss product Drew Pomeranz are with San Diego, which faces Los Angeles beginning Tuesday, and ex-DeSoto Central High star Austin Riley and former Meridian Community College standout Corey Dickerson go head-to-head in the Atlanta-Miami series. P.S. Here’s a number to crunch: 29. That’s the number of Mississippians (natives or college alums) who appeared in a major league game in 2020. Of those 29, 16 are products of state high school programs. Three players made their debuts this season, Brent Rooker, Garrett Crochet and Demarcus Evans. The totals don’t include Justin Steele, former George County High star who was on the Chicago Cubs’ active roster for four days in early August but did not make an appearance. The full rundown: Hitters: Anthony Alford (Petal High); Tim Anderson (East Central CC); Corey Dickerson (Meridian CC); Brian Dozier (Southern Miss); Jarrod Dyson (Southwest CC); Adam Frazier (Mississippi State); Billy Hamilton (Taylorsville); JaCoby Jones (Richton); Nate Lowe (MSU); Mitch Moreland (MSU); Hunter Renfroe (MSU); Austin Riley (DeSoto Central); Brent Rooker (MSU); Pitchers: Aaron Barrett (Ole Miss); Cody Carroll, (USM); Garrett Crochet (Ocean Springs High); Demarcus Evans (Petal High); Kendall Graveman (MSU); Jonathan Holder (MSU); Dakota Hudson (MSU); Lance Lynn (UM); Mike Mayers (UM); Drew Pomeranz (UM); Cody Reed (Northwest CC); Chris Stratton (MSU); Spencer Turnbull (Madison Central); Jacob Waguespack (UM); Bobby Wahl (UM); and Brandon Woodruff (MSU).
The list of players who got a hit, even a home run, in their first major league at-bat is pretty long. A list of players whose only big league hit came in their final career at-bat would have to be short. Nate Rolison’s name is on it. Today marks the 20th anniversary of the former Petal High star’s hit, a single for the Florida Marlins against Philadelphia’s Wayne Gomes. It was a big moment for Rolison, who was 0-for-12 at the time. But he never got another opportunity to bat in The Show. For more on what happened to this once-highly rated prospect, see the story on Mississippi Scoreboard.
Corey Dickerson has had a down year by his standards, but the Miami Marlins have had an unexpectedly good year — and as a result, the McComb native is going to the postseason for the first time in his eight-year MLB career. Miami, pegged for a last-place finish in the National League East, clinched second place in the division with a 4-3 win against the New York Yankees on Friday night. Dickerson, who signed with the Marlins as a free agent in the off-season, is batting .259 with seven homers and 16 RBIs in 51 games. He hit .304 in 2019, playing with Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, and is a .284 career hitter with 122 homers. The former Meridian Community College star, 31, was a veteran presence for a Marlins team that was hit hard by a COVID-19 outbreak at the start of this truncated season. … Elsewhere on an eventful Friday night: Former Mississippi Braves star Freddie Freeman may have had his MVP moment when he launched an 11th-inning walk-off homer for Atlanta, which clinched the No. 2 seed in the NL playoffs. Freeman’s blast upstaged Ronald Acuna’s. The M-Braves alum hit a 495-foot homer, the longest in MLB this season, to lead off the Braves’ first inning. It was Acuna’s 19th career leadoff bomb in three seasons. … Former Biloxi Shuckers standout Trent Grisham hit a seventh-inning walk-off home run, giving San Diego a win against San Francisco in the second game of a twinbill. It was Grisham’s 10th homer and it saved Ole Miss alum Drew Pomeranz from taking a loss. Pomeranz gave up a three-run homer in the sixth inning that put the Padres behind. Those were the first runs allowed all season by the big left-hander in 20 appearances. The playoff-bound Padres have clinched the No. 4 seed in the NL. P.S. There’s much more at stake tonight in the NL, and no game is more significant than Milwaukee-St. Louis. Ex-Mississippi State star Brandon Woodruff, the Brewers’ No. 1, faces St. Louis’ longtime ace, Adam Wainwright. Both teams are still grappling for a playoff berth. Woodruff is 2-5 with a 3.43 ERA, Wainwright 5-2, 3.05. Woodruff, who went 11-3, 3.62 and made the All-Star Game in 2019, has not had the type of season that was expected of him. He’s 0-2 in four September starts. Win today, and that’ll be forgotten. Several Cardinals have had success against Woodruff in limited at-bats. Paul DeJong is 3-for-9 with a homer, Brad Miller 2-for-6 with a homer and Paul Goldschmidt 3-for-12. Tyler O’Neill also has taken Woodruff deep.
A day after taking a scary-looking tumble and leaving the game, Corey Dickerson was back in Miami’s lineup for tonight’s contest at Washington. Dickerson, the Meridian Community College and Brookhaven Academy product, hurt his left shoulder on Sunday when he went over the wall chasing a foul ball down the left-field line at Nationals Park. It was the fifth inning of a game the Marlins trailed 9-1. Dickerson said the lopsided score never entered his mind; he was trying to make a play for his team. “That’s how I approach the game,” the McComb native said in an mlb.com story. “I just approach the game to go full force until the last out. That’s how I was raised and kind of got myself here.” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said he wasn’t surprised at all by Dickerson’s daring effort: “He’s never giving anything less than that.” Dickerson, who signed with Miami as a free agent in the off-season, earned a Gold Glove as Pittsburgh’s left fielder in 2018 and has twice won the Heart and Hustle Award for his team during his eight-year MLB career. Dickerson went 2-for-2 Sunday with his third homer as the Marlins (11-11) lost 9-3. After a slow start, Dickerson has hit .346 over his last seven games and boosted his average to .257. He is a career .285 hitter. P.S. Former Ole Miss star Drew Pomeranz will be out until at least Saturday after going on San Diego’s 10-day injured list last week. The veteran lefty’s injury, a shoulder strain, is a blow to the surprising Padres; Pomeranz has four saves and a 0.00 ERA over 10 appearances.
Pitching on 20 days “rest,” Mississippi State product Dakota Hudson went four innings for St. Louis on Sunday and allowed just two hits and a lone run. Hudson had last pitched on July 26; St. Louis’ season was interrupted three days later by COVID-19 issues. Hudson (0-2, 5.40 ERA) was the tough-luck loser as the Cardinals fell to the Chicago White Sox 7-2 in their third game back from the hiatus. Hudson’s replacement, rookie Roel Ramirez, gave up the record-tying four straight home runs in the fifth inning. … If anyone was wondering, no Mississippi-connected hitters have been involved in any of the 10 occurrences of the back-to-back-to-back-to-back blasts. But … on June 8, 1961, when the Milwaukee Braves became the first team to do it, Jackson native Marshall Bridges, pitching for Cincinnati, yielded the last two homers to Joe Adcock and Frank Thomas. (Bridges actually had a nice MLB career: 23 wins, 25 saves, a 3.75 ERA and a World Series ring over seven seasons.) … Ex-Ole Miss star Drew Pomeranz already has a career-best four saves for San Diego and may get even more opportunities now that Kirby Yates, the erstwhile closer, has gone on the injured list with an ailing elbow. Pomeranz has not allowed a run in nine appearances (7 2/3 innings) entering Monday’s play. … Former Petal High standout Anthony Alford hit his second career homer on Sunday in a rare start for Toronto. He is 2-for-10 this season. Alford’s first career homer was a memorable walk-off bomb last year. … Meridian Community College alum Corey Dickerson went on the bereavement list on Saturday, which means he’ll miss a minimum of three games for Miami. He is batting .208 in his first year with the Marlins. … Wondering what’s next for Brian Dozier, the former Southern Miss star who was designated for assignment by the New York Mets on Sunday. The veteran second baseman, who got only 15 at-bats with the Mets after joining the club on July 30, could be traded or claimed on waivers by another club, but it seems more likely he’ll become a free agent — again. Over a two-year span, the one-time All-Star has been with five different teams. He batted .238 with 20 homers for Washington last season.
The expansion of MLB rosters for the 2020 season to 60 eligible players – 40-man roster members plus a taxi squad of 20 – might open the door for some Triple-A level players to get their first MLB opportunity. Mississippians who fall into that category include non-roster spring invitees such as Trent Giambroni (Cubs), Jack Kruger (Angels), Jacob Robson (Tigers) and Brent Rooker (Twins) along with Zac Houston (Tigers), Dalton Moats (Rays), Errol Robinson (Dodgers) and Bradley Roney (Braves). The 60-man rosters are to be announced by Sunday. … With 30 players to be active for the first two weeks of the season, the chances of Petal High product Demarcus Evans making Texas’ opening day roster would seem to be enhanced. Evans, 24, a hard-throwing reliever, made the 40-man for the first time this off-season but was optioned to the minors just before the shutdown. He has a 2.53 career ERA and has averaged 13.7 strikeouts per nine innings. … In addition to the MLB taxi squads, there is a tentative plan for a group of veteran free agents to play a short season of games in Nashville starting in late July. The Tennessean newspaper reported that Triple-A Nashville Sounds GM Adam Nuse has a list of about 70 free agents who might participate. Those players would provide another pool of talent for MLB teams to draw from down the stretch. Ole Miss products Zack Cozart and Chris Ellis and ex-Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College star Tony Sipp are current free agents with big league experience. … Add former Southern Miss star Taylor Braley and Meridian CC alum Milton Smith II to the lengthy list of minor league players released in recent weeks. Braley, a right-hander from Hattiesburg, had a career ERA of 3.86 over three years in Miami’s system, having reached high Class A in 2019. Starkville native Smith batted .326 with 27 steals in two years in the low minors with the Marlins.
Another potential landing spot for free agent Brian Dozier appears to have been eliminated. The Chicago Cubs, in the market for a second baseman, have signed Jason Kipnis to a minor league deal. The Cubs were reported to be interested in ex-Southern Miss standout Dozier, who is no doubt seeking a major league contract. Several teams have been linked to Dozier. One of those was Arizona, which opted to trade for Starling Marte and make Ketel Marte its regular second baseman. Miami is another; the Marlins’ current starter is Isan Diaz, who batted .173 in 49 games as a rookie last year. Dozier, 32, hit .238 with 20 home runs in 2019 for Washington, though he got only six postseason at-bats as the Nationals rolled to the World Series title. Over his eight-year career, Dozier is a .245 hitter (.326 on-base percentage) with 192 homers. He made $9 million in 2019.
Making the New York-Penn League All-Star Game likely was not a major goal for Milton Smith II — who has expressed a much bigger dream — but it’s a nice feather in his cap. Smith, a former Meridian Community College and Starkville High star, was named to the short season Class A league’s showcase event on Thursday. The game is Aug. 21 at Staten Island, N.Y. A 22nd-round pick by Miami out of MCC in 2018, Smith is batting .319 (sixth in the NYPL) with 27 runs and 17 steals in 47 games for Batavia. He hit .362 last year, playing at the rookie level plus five games in high-A. That followed his sophomore season at Meridian when he batted .381 and swiped 24 bags in 40 games. Smith, a 5-foot-10, left-handed hitting outfielder, has what his former high school coach called “elite” speed. That’s a valuable tool, one that could help him stand out in a Marlins system that currently features 11 other outfielders among its Top 30 prospects. Smith also possesses a high level of confidence. Three years ago, at a ceremony when he signed with MCC, Smith told The Dispatch of Columbus/Starkville that his goal in baseball was not just to make the major leagues but to make it to Cooperstown, i.e., the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
The Miami Marlins, headed for a 10th straight losing season, are counting on their farm system to get things turned around. At short season Class A Batavia, Milton Smith II is clamoring to be a part of that rebuilding process. Starkville native Smith is leading the New York-Penn League in hitting with a .416 average through 22 games. The lefty-hitting outfielder, a 22nd-round pick out of Meridian Community College in 2018, has 15 runs and four steals and recently rang up a five-hit game. He hit .362 in his debut season. Smith is one of several Mississippians playing in the low levels of the Marlins’ system. Also on that Batavia club is Dustin Skelton, an 18th-round pick from Mississippi State last month. The catcher is 4-for-17 since joining the Muckdogs. A step up at low Class A Clinton is former McLaurin High and MCC star Davis Bradshaw, an 11th-round pick in 2018 who batted .354 in his debut campaign. The lefty-hitting outfielder has found the going a bit tougher in the Midwest League, batting .222 in 29 games. At high-A Jupiter, former Southern Miss pitcher Taylor Braley, a sixth-rounder in 2017, has a 3.45 ERA in 15 appearances (and 3.96 in his career), and ex-Ole Miss catcher Nick Fortes, a fourth-round selection in 2018, is hitting .212 with two homers and 18 RBIs. … Blake Anderson, a first-round pick out of West Lauderdale High in 2014 who converted from catcher to pitcher in 2017, is not currently listed on a Marlins minor league roster.