18 Sep

clinchers

Two teams – and several Mississippians — celebrated playoff-clinching victories on Thursday. The Chicago White Sox, with Magnolia State juco products Tim Anderson and Jarrod Dyson in the lineup, rallied past Minnesota, and Tampa Bay, getting big hits from Mississippi State alums Hunter Renfroe and Nate Lowe, completed a twinbill sweep of Baltimore. Anderson, out of East Central CC, was 0-for-4 Thursday but is batting .365. Ex-Southwest Mississippi CC star Dyson (.190) made a rare start and went 2-for-4, with a key steal and a game-tying run in the seventh inning of a 4-3 win. The Rays clinched with a 10-6 Game 2 win vs. the Orioles as Renfroe hit his eighth homer and Lowe went 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run. Renfroe is batting just .163 but has 21 RBIs. Lowe, a recent call-up, is hitting .278 with three homers, nine RBIs and seven runs in 13 games. Northwest CC product Cody Reed, a lefty reliever, is on the Rays’ injured list (finger) and has been moved from the 10-day to the 60-day. … St. Louis’ playoff hopes took a double blow on Thursday as they lost to lowly Pittsburgh and saw former MSU standout Dakota Hudson depart his start early with an elbow problem that has landed him on the 10-day IL. Hudson, 3-2 with a 2.77 ERA, had won three straight starts. P.S. The White Sox summoned former Ocean Springs High standout Garret Crochet from their alternate camp today. The left-hander was the 11th overall pick in the June draft out of Tennessee.

15 Sep

game on out west

Petco Park should be the center of MLB attention tonight. The hard-charging San Diego Padres, with some Mississippi connections kicking in, host the first-place Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 2 of a hot National League West series. The Padres closed to within 1.5 games of the Dodgers with a 7-2 win on Monday night, their eighth straight victory. They’ve made up 4 games in the standings over the last 10. “Of course we’re amped,” Trent Grisham, the former Biloxi Shuckers star who homered off Clayton Kershaw on Monday, told mlb.com. Grisham’s post-homer posturing riled up the Dodgers’ bench, perhaps adding more juice to a growing rivalry. Ole Miss product Drew Pomeranz threw a scoreless inning in relief for San Diego and maintained his 0.00 ERA. Over 17 appearances, the big lefty, a high-priced free agent addition in the off-season, has eight holds and four saves. He has worked two straight days, so he might be down tonight, but ex-Mississippi State star Mitch Moreland won’t be. Moreland, who doesn’t hit left-handers well, sat out against Kershaw on Monday, but the veteran first baseman is in the lineup tonight against right-hander Tony Gonsolin. Moreland was batting .328 with eight homers when the Padres traded with Boston to get him. He has hit just .167 with a homer and four RBIs in 11 games with San Diego. He’s bound to get going, and the last two games of this series are bound to be good. P.S. Washington has recalled Ole Miss alum Aaron Barrett from its alternate camp. The 32-year-old right-hander made an admirable comeback from injuries (see previous posts) to reach the majors last year for the first time since 2015.

14 Sep

leading the way

The Chicago White Sox are on top of the heap in the American League. Having won eight of 10, they lead the AL Central with a 30-16 record, also best in the league. It’s no coincidence, really, that their leadoff batter, former East Central Community College star Tim Anderson, is leading MLB in batting with a .362 average, chasing a second straight batting crown. The White Sox have a stable of good hitters, from veterans Jose Abreu and James McCann to up-and-comers Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert. But Anderson, the 27-year-old shortstop in his seventh big league season, is the one who stirs the drink, both with his on-field skills and his forceful personality. “They’ve got great hitters. It starts with their leadoff guy, one of the better players in this league at a young age,” Detroit manager Ron Gardenhire told mlb.com after Anderson’s four-hit game on Saturday. Anderson is tied for the AL lead (with Mike Trout) in runs with 39. He has seven homers, 17 RBIs and five steals in 36 games. He is also improving on defense. “He can beat you with his bat, he knew that. He can beat you with his legs, he knew that. But now he’s beating you with his glove and with his smarts, and that has stardom written all over it,” ChiSox broadcaster Steve Stone said during a game recently. Abreu is having a monster year with 15 homers and 48 RBIs and is generating MVP buzz. Anderson should be getting some, too. P.S. What are the odds that three Mississippians in the majors would suffer broken bones and hit the injured list within a 12-day span? Only in 2020. Mississippi State product Brent Rooker, off to a nice (.316) start in his MLB debut with Minnesota, went on the IL on Sunday with a broken forearm. He joins Richton High alum JaCoby Jones (wrist) of Detroit and ex-Petal High star Anthony Alford (elbow) of Pittsburgh on the sideline. All are expected to miss the rest of the season.

12 Sep

hot and cold

Mississippi State alumnus Nate Lowe took part in an historic event on Friday night, and he took advantage of the opportunity to have one of the best games of his young MLB career. Lowe was part of Tampa Bay’s all-left-handed hitting lineup — the first in big league history — and delivered two homers and four RBIs in an 11-1 rout of Boston. Lowe, who batted .263 with seven homers as a rookie in 2019, was 1-for-14 since being recalled by the Rays on Sept. 1. “I’m pretty thankful for the opportunity and I hope (the bat) gets hot from here. Like, super hot from here,” he told mlb.com. Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash, who’ll seemingly try anything, went with all lefties to try to snap the first-place Rays out of an offensive funk. … Ex-Bulldogs star Brandon Woodruff stepped up in a time of need for Milwaukee (see previous post), throwing seven shutout innings at the Chicago Cubs. He yielded one hit, no walks and fanned 12. The Brewers won 1-0 on a walk-off sac fly. … Austin Riley’s bat has cooled off after a recent surge. The former DeSoto Central star is 5-for-29 (.174) in his last seven games for Atlanta and went 1-for-7, leaving nine runners on base, in Friday’s loss to Washington. The Braves left 22 on base as a team in the 8-7, 12-inning defeat. … Ole Miss product Jacob Waguespack was recalled from Toronto’s alternate site on Friday, but his return didn’t go well. The right-hander allowed six runs on seven hits in 2 2/3 innings in an 18-1 loss to the New York Mets.

11 Sep

crunch time

As the Milwaukee Brewers chased down a playoff berth in 2019, Brandon Woodruff became the ace of the pitching staff. The Brewers desperately need the former Mississippi State standout to reprise that role, starting tonight. Woodruff, 11-3 last year, has struggled in 2020, as have the Brewers, who are 19-22 and currently out of the National League playoff picture with less than three weeks to go. Woodruff (2-3, 3.91 ERA) takes the mound in a very meaningful game against the first-place Chicago Cubs at Miller Park. “These last few weeks are going to be a telltale sign of, are we going to do this thing or not?” Woodruff said in an mlb.com piece. “It’s going to be fun.” Well, maybe. Woodruff’s ERA has been climbing steadily over his last six starts. In only one of those starts has he gone more than five innings. He called his most recent outing, a 4 1/3-inning, 3-run stint in a no-decision against Cleveland, “a disgrace.” He could be positioned for a feel-good result against the Cubs. Collectively, Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, Jason Heyward and Anthony Rizzo are just 9-for-48 (.188) with no homers against Woodruff. P.S. Cody Reed, the Northwest Mississippi Community College alum from Horn Lake, went on the 10-day injured list for Tampa Bay with “left pinky finger irritation.” The left-hander has made two scoreless relief appearances since the Rays got him in a trade with Cincinnati.

09 Sep

that’s one

Brent Rooker, the latest in a string of sluggers Mississippi State has propelled to the big leagues, hit his first home run on Tuesday in Minnesota’s loss to St. Louis in Game 2 of a twinbill. He’ll likely hit a few more. Rooker has been rated one of the top power-hitting prospects in the Twins’ system since he was drafted out of Starkville in 2017. He has 54 minor league bombs in 259 games, and he blasted a tape-measure shot in Tokyo in a Team USA game last fall. Rooker hit 23 homers at State in his All-America junior season and 36 over his three-year career. So, yes, he’s got pop. The all-time leader in homers by a State alum is, of course, Rafael Palmeiro, who ranks 13th on MLB’s career chart with 569. Coincidentally, Palmeiro hit his first career homer on this date in 1986. He played 20 years. Second on the all-Bulldogs list is Will Clark with 284, followed by the active leader, Mitch Moreland, who has 174, including eight in 2020. Hunter Renfroe, who has six homers this year, stands at 95 career. Tyler Moore topped out at 30 after a promising start to his career. P.S. Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton made his Chicago Cubs debut on Tuesday as a defensive replacement in center field, a role that figures to be his primary. The speedy Hamilton was a waiver claim from the New York Mets this week and reportedly would be eligible for the postseason.

07 Sep

big league chew

First, the bad news from Sunday in MLB land. Anthony Alford, the former Petal High star, was placed on the 10-day injured list with a fractured elbow by Pittsburgh. He’s likely done for the season. It’s a cruel blow. A waiver claim by the Pirates on Aug. 28 from Toronto, Alford was getting regular duty in center field and was 3-for-12 with a homer and four RBIs. … For a bunch of Mississippians, Sunday was a good day. Former Mississippi State standout Dakota Hudson went five innings for St. Louis to beat Chicago at windy Wrigley Field; he improved to 2-2 with a 3.19 ERA. Ole Miss product Drew Pomeranz threw another scoreless inning — his ERA is 0.00 over 13 appearances with six holds and four saves — in a win by San Diego. Ex-State standout Hunter Renfroe hit his sixth homer in Tampa Bay’s victory; Renfroe is batting just .155 but has 19 RBIs for the first-place Rays. DeSoto Central alum Austin Riley had a hit, two walks and a run in first-place Atlanta’s win; Riley’s average has climbed to .244. East Central Community College product Tim Anderson had a hit for the first-place Chicago White Sox and continues to lead the American League in batting at .351. Former State star Brent Rooker drove in two runs for Minnesota and is 3-for-11 in his first MLB stint. Surging Adam Frazier (.304 in his last 15 games, .234 for the year) went 2-for-4 for the Pirates, and fellow Bulldogs alum Chris Stratton worked a scoreless inning to trim his ERA to 3.79. Ex-Ole Miss standout Mike Mayers notched a win in relief for the Los Angeles Angels; he has a 2.93 ERA over 19 appearances for a bad team. MSU product Kendall Graveman worked a second straight scoreless inning for Seattle in his return from the IL with a neck problem (see previous posts). McComb native Corey Dickerson, scuffling of late, had a triple and scored twice for Miami. And, finally, former UM standout Henri Lartigue was added to Philadelphia’s 60-man roster and is in the alternate camp.

04 Sep

clearing the bases

Brent Rooker, the former SEC Triple Crown winner from Mississippi State, got some dents in his fender today in his first MLB game. He became the first Mississippian (native or college alum) to debut in the big leagues in 2020 when he started in left field for Minnesota against Detroit in Game 1 of a twinbill at Target Field. In his first career at-bat, vs. lefty Matthew Boyd, Rooker was hit by a pitch on a 1-2 count. He then collided with the Tigers shortstop on a force play. In his second AB, he lined out, after which he was replaced in the field. He was back in the lineup, batting cleanup, for Game 2 and got his first hit and RBI. Rooker, an outfielder/first baseman, was a first-round pick by the Twins in 2017. He has batted .267 with 54 homers and 178 RBIs in 259 minor league games, reaching the Triple-A level last summer. He was a Southern League All-Star in 2018. … Seven players with Mississippi ties are among the 30 nominees, one from each team, for the 2020 Roberto Clemente Award. The award is “an annual recognition of the MLB player who best represents the game through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field.” The honored players include Mississippi State product and Amory native Mitch Moreland (now with San Diego, nominated by Boston); Ole Miss alum Drew Pomeranz (San Diego); ex-East Central Community College star Tim Anderson (Chicago White Sox); Mississippi Braves alumni Charlie Morton (Tampa Bay), Freddie Freeman (Atlanta) and Jason Heyward (Cubs); and Biloxi Shuckers alum Brent Suter (Milwaukee). … Former Biloxi Shuckers star Josh Hader is Milwaukee’s bullpen ace, the hard-throwing lefty with the scraggly mane. Everyone knows this. The Brewers’ secret bullpen weapon is Devin Williams, another Shuckers alum who has been lights-out in 2020, his second MLB season. He has a better ERA than Hader, more strikeouts per inning and fewer walks. One analyst has called Williams “the most dominant reliever in baseball.” Featuring a great changeup, he has a 0.60 ERA and 31 punchouts and six walks in 15 innings. The right-hander, 25, pitched for Biloxi in 2019, posting a 7-2 record, four saves and a 2.36 ERA in the Double-A Southern League. He struck out 76 in 53 1/3 innings. He was also an All-Star Futures Game participant last summer before getting his first call-up in August. … Whatever happened to: Ernesto Mejia, who had a monster season with the Mississippi Braves back in 2011, is still swinging it for the Seibu Lions in the Japanese Pacific League. The 34-year-old Venezuela native hit a walk-off home run earlier this week and has seven bombs in 24 games. He has hit 340 homers in pro ball. Mejia had one of the best seasons ever by an M-Brave, batting .297 with 26 homers and 99 RBIs for the 2011 club. He reached Triple-A but never got to The Show. He has been in Japan since 2014.

02 Sep

‘it stinks’

Former Richton High standout JaCoby Jones has played a significant role in the Detroit Tigers’ surprising 2020 season. Unfortunately, he’ll only be able to watch how the rest of it plays out. Jones’ left hand was broken by a pitch on Tuesday, and he is done for the year. Playing regularly in center field, Jones was batting .268 with five home runs, 14 RBIs and 19 runs for a Tigers team that is 17-16 with six straight wins. The worst team in baseball in 2019 is in contention for a playoff spot. “I’ve been waiting on that for my whole career,” Jones, in his fifth MLB season, told mlb.com prior to Tuesday’s game against Milwaukee. “It’s going to be a lot of fun for our guys and I’m looking forward to it.” It’s the second straight year Jones’ season has been ended prematurely by a hand injury. He has endured more than his fair share of injuries the last few years, having been hit in the face by a pitch in 2017 and spent time on the injured list with back, shoulder and hamstring issues. The Tigers may never miss him more than this month. “He’s been the spark plug to this team all year — his hitting, his defense, his leadership in the dugout. It stinks to lose a guy like that,” Tigers pitcher Michael Fulmer told mlb.com. P.S. On the bright side: Former Mississippi State star Kendall Graveman was activated from the IL by Seattle. He has been out since Aug. 4 with neck problems stemming from a benign tumor on his spine. The veteran right-hander reportedly will shift from starter to the bullpen. Graveman, 0-2 with an 8.31 ERA in two starts for the Mariners, is in his first season with the team as he comes back from Tommy John surgery that sidelined him most of last season. … Ke’Bryan Hayes told reporters that his father, Hattiesburg native and ex-big leaguer Charlie Hayes, couldn’t stop crying when informed his son was getting called to the big leagues. In his debut for Pittsburgh on Tuesday, the younger Hayes, a third baseman like his pops, went 2-for-5 with a homer that likely brought more tears. “Even when I was in the minor leagues and I hit a home run, my mom said he would cry,” Ke’Bryan Hayes said. “I thank him for everything.”

01 Sep

that’ll work

With a boatload of makeup games ahead for the St. Louis Cardinals in September, the durability of their pitchers will be tested as they try to make a playoff push. Ex-Mississippi State star Dakota Hudson gave them some length on Monday, working seven innings in a 7-5 win against Cincinnati that got the Cardinals to 13-13. The 25-year-old right-hander (1-2, 2.77 ERA in five starts) allowed just one earned run on four hits at the Reds’ so-called Great American Small Park. He struck out seven and walked none. While winning 16 games for St. Louis as a rookie in 2019, he led the majors in total walks (86 or 4.4 per nine innings), a stat that needs to improve. Through 26 innings in 2020, he has seven walks (2.4 per nine). He is reportedly throwing more curveballs and fewer sinkers this year. Hudson got a final swinging strike from three Reds batters on a different type of pitch in one inning. “It’s just me recognizing quality hitters that I’m facing and having a complete arsenal as a starter, rather than just being out there trying to overpower guys,” Hudson said in an mlb.com piece. P.S. Ke’Bryan Hayes, son of Hattiesburg native and longtime big leaguer Charlie Hayes, is slated for his big league debut tonight for Pittsburgh. The younger Hayes, one of the Pirates’ top prospects, is in the lineup at third base, batting seventh, against the Chicago Cubs at PNC Park. … Tampa Bay has recalled ex-MSU standout Nate Lowe from its alternate camp. Lowe batted .263 with seven homers as a rookie for the Rays in 2019. … Olive Branch native Kendall Williams, a second-round pick out of IMG Academy in Florida last year, has been traded from Toronto to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The right-hander was in the Blue Jays’ alternate camp.