22 Aug

just a little drama

A pair of Mississippi natives went toe-to-toe at Wrigley Field on Sunday in a veritable must-win game for the visiting Milwaukee Brewers. The Brewers did win, but, much to their chagrin, so did St. Louis, which got a clutch performance from another Magnolia State product in its seventh straight victory. Just another day of drama in the National League Central. Chicago Cubs left-hander Justin Steele, the pride of Lucedale, outpitched Milwaukee starter Brandon Woodruff of Wheeler, but the Brewers rallied late against the Cubs’ leaky bullpen for a 5-2 win, avoiding a series sweep. Steele allowed just two hits with nine strikeouts in six scoreless innings; the George County High alum has a 3.25 ERA in 23 starts for a Cubs team that has long been out of contention. Mississippi State product Woodruff, making his 19th start, threw 105 pitches over 5 2/3 innings. Two of his pitches left the yard — homers by Ian Happ and Seiya Suzuki. The Brewers’ rally from that 2-0 hole kept them within 5 games of the surging Cardinals in the division. Milwaukee led St. Louis by 3 games on Aug. 1, when the controversial trade of closer Josh Hader went down. They are 7-11 since. “We can get on a roll here and we can look back at this and talk about it like we always do and say this is a stretch where we got through it and started playing good baseball,” Woodruff said in an mlb.com article. “We’ll see what happens.” Playing at Arizona on Sunday, the Cardinals fell behind 4-3 in the third inning as starter Jose Quintana struggled. Enter Tupelo native and ex-MSU standout Chris Stratton, who stopped the Diamondbacks cold for 2 2/3 innings, paving the way for the Cardinals to rally late for a 6-4 win. Stratton, a trade acquisition from Pittsburgh, has a 4.32 ERA in 8 1/3 relief innings for the Cardinals. Milwaukee and St. Louis will have to wage their battle remotely for a while; they don’t go head-to-head again until Sept. 13-14 at Busch Stadium. P.S. MSU product Nathaniel Lowe hit his 18th homer — a 424-footer — for Texas in a win at Minnesota on Sunday. He is batting .386 over his last 15 games, .295 on the year. … McLaurin High alum Davis Bradshaw, back on his home turf with Double-A Pensacola (see previous post), went 6-for-13 in the rain-plagued series against the Mississippi Braves at Trustmark Park in Pearl. Bradshaw is batting .310 in 14 games since being promoted to Miami’s Double-A club.

02 Aug

whole new ballgame

Welcome to the playoff race, Chris Stratton. Former Mississippi State ace Stratton was traded Monday — along with Jose Quintana — from last-place Pittsburgh to second-place St. Louis, which is feverishly chasing Milwaukee in the National League Central. Stratton, a 31-year-old right-handed reliever, has had a sluggish season with the lowly Pirates — posting a 5.09 ERA in 40 games — but might draw some energy from moving to a contending club. He had a strong 2021, putting up a 3.63 ERA with seven wins and eight saves for another bad Bucs team. He said in a recent story on triblive.com that his issues this season are with the “sequencing” of his pitches, something he believes can be fixed by “just trying to be more thoughtful and a little more unpredictable.” Stratton, from Tupelo, was the SEC pitcher of the year at State in 2012 and was drafted 20th overall by San Francisco that summer. He has a 4.61 career ERA in 218 games, 42 of those starts. He moved to the bullpen in 2019 with the Los Angeles Angels, who traded him to the Pirates early that season. Stratton joins a Cardinals club that includes ex-MSU star Dakota Hudson in its rotation. Division rival Milwaukee also features a pair of former Bulldogs: starter Brandon Woodruff and outfielder Hunter Renfroe. This ought to be fun. … The MLB trade deadline is today.

20 Jun

something’s brewing

A three-game home run streak for Hunter Renfroe has coincided with the three-game win streak Milwaukee will take into a big four-game series against National League Central rival St. Louis starting tonight at American Family Field. The teams, both of which feature Mississippi products, are tied atop the division at 38-30. Former Mississippi State star Renfroe, whose 444-foot homer at Cincinnati on Sunday was his first on a Father’s Day since the death of his dad — his “best friend” — last summer, has 13 homers on the season and is batting .250 with 27 RBIs as the prime power source in the Brewers’ lineup. This series will feature some good pitching matchups, including Thursday’s between ex-State standout Dakota Hudson of the Cardinals and Jason Alexander, a 29-year-old Brewers rookie. Hudson, who beat Boston at Fenway on Saturday, is 5-3 with a 3.31 ERA in his first full season after Tommy John surgery. He has never faced Renfroe in the big leagues, and their careers at State did not intersect. Missing from this series, unfortunately, are State product Brandon Woodruff, one of the Brewers’ top starters, and ex-Meridian Community College star Corey Dickerson, a St. Louis outfielder. Both are on the injured list and on rehab assignments. P.S. East Central CC alum Tim Anderson, out roughly three weeks with a groin injury, is expected to return to the Chicago White Sox’s lineup at shortstop today against Toronto. Anderson is batting .356. … Blaze Jordan, the 19-year-old slugger from DeSoto Central High, clubbed two homers as part of a three-hit game Sunday for Boston’s Low-Class A Salem team. Jordan, a second-year pro, is batting .291 with six homers and 37 RBIs in 57 games this season.

01 Oct

stealing the show

Javier Baez may be an MVP candidate, but the shortstop who most looked the part in today’s tiebreaker game at Wrigley Field was Orlando Arcia. Biloxi Shuckers fans will remember him. The former Shuckers star went 4-for-4 and scored twice as Milwaukee beat Chicago 3-1 to claim the National League Central title. For Arcia, it was the kind of performance Brewers fans – and brass — had thought they’d see more of. Arcia, 24, had a poor season in 2018, batting just .227 and spending time in the minors, but he was a full-fledged star as he rose through Milwaukee’s system. He batted .307 with eight homers, 69 RBIs and 25 steals on a good Biloxi team in 2015. He played in the All-Star Futures Game that summer. He was a Triple-A Pacific Coast League All-Star in 2016 and made his big league debut that year. Arcia hit .277 with 15 homers and 14 bags as the Brewers’ regular shortstop in 2017 but started so poorly this year that he went to the minors for much of June and July. It’s October now, and he looks like he belongs in The Show.

24 Sep

central casting

All eyes – well, a lot of them — are on the National League Central and the two intra-divisional series that start today in Chicago and St. Louis. And, yes, Mississippi ties are all around. The first-place Cubs host fourth-place Pittsburgh – officially eliminated from postseason contention on Sunday – in a four-game series at Wrigley Field, while second-place Milwaukee – 2.5 games behind the Cubs – and the third-place Cardinals – 4.5 games behind the Cubs – tangle in a three-game set at Busch Stadium. The Brewers and Cardinals top the wild card standings, with Colorado lurking 1.5 games back. The Brewers’ roster includes former Mississippi State standout Brandon Woodruff and several other former Biloxi Shuckers, notably pitchers Josh Hader, Freddy Peralta, Jacob Barnes and Taylor Williams and shortstop Orlando Arcia. Brewers coach Carlos Subero is a former Shuckers manager. Ex-Ole Miss star Mike Mayers and State alum Dakota Hudson have been key contributors in St. Louis’ bullpen, and ex-Mississippi Braves John Gant and Chasen Shreve are also on the pitching staff. The Milwaukee-St. Louis season series is tied 8-8. The Cubs suit up a pair of M-Braves alums – Jason Heyward and Tommy LaStella – and their pitching coach is former Jackson Generals coach Jim Hickey. The Cubs have the best record in the NL but they’re in no position to breathe easy against a Pirates lineup that usually features Meridian Community College alum Corey Dickerson, one of the league’s leading hitters, and ex-State standout Adam Frazier. Pittsburgh is managed by former Jackson Mets skipper Clint Hurdle, and the hitting coach is Waynesboro native Jeff Branson. P.S. Frazier hit his 10th home run on Sunday and joins Hunter Renfroe, Brian Dozier, Tim Anderson, Mitch Moreland, Dickerson and JaCoby Jones as Mississippians with double-digit bombs in the majors this season.