Being in must-win mode, Milwaukee must feel pretty good today with Brandon Woodruff going to the mound at Cincinnati. The former Mississippi State star from Wheeler is coming off one of his best starts of 2022, a 4-1 win against the mighty New York Yankees on Saturday, and is 2-0 with a 1.71 ERA in his last three starts. The Brewers aren’t likely to catch St. Louis in the National League Central — they’re 7.5 games back — but they are just 2.5 games back of Philadelphia for the final wild card berth. Woodruff (11-4, 3.26) worked eight innings against the Yankees, allowing five hits and one walk while fanning 10. He got Giancarlo Stanton four times and Aaron Judge once. Judge, the likely MVP of the American League, said Woodruff’s combination of fastballs and off-speed stuff “makes for a tough day trying to pick your poison.” Woodruff should have his way with lowly Cincinnati, even at the hitter’s haven that is Great American Ballpark. The Reds will counter with the flame-throwing Hunter Greene (4-12, 4.97). … At Chicago on Wednesday, the White Sox — also in must-win mode — were counting on a strong outing from ex-Ole Miss standout Lance Lynn against Cleveland, but they didn’t get it. Lynn was knocked around for six runs (three earned) in six innings as the ChiSox lost to the Guardians 8-2. Chicago fell 6 games back of first-place Cleveland in the AL Central, and Lynn fell to 7-6, 4.02.
By some cosmic coincidence, five Mississippi natives debuted in the major leagues on this date between 1917 and 1955: Sammy Vick, Eric McNair, Culley Rikard, Don Blasingame and Fred Waters. Vick, born in Batesville, broke in with the New York Yankees in 1917 and enjoyed his best season in 1919 as the team’s primary right fielder. The next season Babe Ruth arrived in town, and Vick was displaced. They reportedly were pals before Vick was traded in 1921 and faded from the big leagues. He batted .280 over his five-year career. Meridian native McNair, nicknamed “Boob,” debuted with the Philadelphia A’s in 1929 and was a regular on some outstanding clubs. He won a World Series ring with the 1930 A’s. An infielder, he played 14 years in The Show and batted .274 with 82 home runs. Rikard, from Oxford, came up with Pittsburgh in 1941 and batted .270 over three seasons with the Pirates. Blasingame, the “Corinth Comet,” broke in with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1955 and enjoyed an outstanding 12-year career that included an All-Star Game appearance. He hit .258 and stole 105 bases. Benton native Waters, who played at Southern Miss, reached the big leagues in ’55 with Pittsburgh and went 2-2 with a 2.89 ERA in 25 games over two years. P.S. Born on Sept. 20, 1970: former Ole Miss star Chris Snopek, who played in 215 MLB games over four years in the late ’90s.
A show of power carried the Chicago White Sox past Cleveland on Thursday. Not just the five home runs, mind you, but also the stuff coming out of Lance Lynn’s right hand. The big, burly, bearded veteran out of Ole Miss threw 106 pitches, almost exclusively fastballs, at the Guardians over 6 1/3 innings and yielded just two runs in the White Sox’s much-needed 8-2 victory at Progressive Field. The win in the makeup game moved Chicago to within 3 games of first-place Cleveland in the American League Central. Lynn, who allowed six hits and one walk while striking out six on Thursday, is 5-0 with a 1.43 ERA in his last seven starts. He has 51 punchouts and just five walks in that span, flashing the form that made him a Cy Young Award contender in 2021. Chicago needs more of that down the stretch. Lynn’s 2022 season was delayed by a spring training knee injury and surgery, and the 35-year-old had some wobbly efforts early on. He is just 7-5, 3.99 ERA, in 18 starts overall for a team that has underachieved after winning the division last year. This will be an interesting weekend in the AL Central race. While the Guardians are hosting third-place Minnesota for five games through Monday, the ChiSox are at lowly Detroit for three.
Former Petal High star Anthony Alford has fit in nicely with the KT Wiz of the Korean Baseball Organization. Alford, a onetime big leaguer who played two games for Pittsburgh this season, is batting .268 with 11 homers and 41 RBIs for KT. … Ole Miss product and ex-major leaguer Jacob Waguespack is 2-6 with four saves, five holds and a 3.19 ERA in 27 appearances for Orix in Japan’s Pacific League. … Ex-UM standout and Picayune native Braxton Lee leads the independent Atlantic League in triples with nine and is batting .306 with 73 RBIs, 60 runs and 19 steals for playoff-bound Southern Maryland. The Blue Crabs are managed by Jackson native Stan Cliburn. … Jacob Robson, the Mississippi State alum who had a cup of coffee in the majors in 2021, is playing for the independent Kansas City Monarchs, who are in the semifinals of the American Association playoffs. Robson, a former Detroit farmhand, hit .278 with nine homers, 34 RBIs and nine steals for the Monarchs. His teammates include Mississippi Braves alum Mallex Smith and Casey Gillaspie, son of ex-MSU star Mark Gillaspie. … Former Hattiesburg High star and ex-big league pitcher Robert Carson is the pitching coach for the independent Quebec Capitales, who are in the Frontier League title series. … Colt Keith, the ex-Biloxi High standout, has been given an Arizona Fall League assignment by Detroit. Keith, a highly regarded third base prospect, hit .301 with nine homers at High-Class A West Michigan but didn’t play after June 10 because of a shoulder injury. The AFL season begins Oct. 3. More roster assignments will be announced in the coming days. P.S. Props to Ole Miss product Will Ethridge, who threw five shutout innings on Wednesday night to notch his first Double-A win for Hartford in the Colorado system. Ethridge, a 2019 draftee, is 1-1, 3.42 ERA, in seven games for the Yard Goats. He was 5-6, 5.65, in A-ball.
After getting limited at-bats during a month with Kansas City, Brent Rooker was optioned back to Triple-A Omaha on Friday. The Mississippi State product went 4-for-25 with the Royals. Two of those hits came in his KC debut back on Aug. 13. Kansas City traded with San Diego to get Rooker, a 27-year-old outfielder, at the August deadline, and it was assumed he’d get more of an opportunity with the lowly Royals than he did with the Padres (seven at-bats). It didn’t happen. Rooker, the 35th overall pick by Minnesota in 2017 after an All-America career at State, has hit well in the minors but not so much in the big leagues. Including his two seasons with the Twins, he is batting .200 with 10 homers and 86 strikeouts in 81 MLB games. Between Triple-A El Paso and Omaha this year, he has slugged 22 homers and batted .286. He has a .267 career average in the minors with 96 bombs but has struck out in roughly a third of his ABs. Wonder if he’ll get another shot with the Royals? P.S. Former Ole Miss star Nick Fortes went 3-for-4 with an RBI and two runs to help Miami beat the New York Mets 6-3 on Friday — and to help streaking Atlanta move into first place in the National League East. The Braves blasted four home runs and won 6-4 at Seattle. … Biloxi clinched the season series (see previous post) against the Mississippi Braves with an 8-3 win at MGM Park. The Shuckers are 16-12 vs. their Double-A Southern League rival with two games remaining this weekend.
There may have been cosmic forces at work on Wednesday in Corpus Christi, Texas. Grae Kessinger, the ex-Ole Miss star and Oxford native, got four hits, including a home run, in a doubleheader for the host Hooks, Houston’s Double-A team. Fifty-eight years ago, on Sept. 7, 1964, Kessinger’s grandfather, ex-Ole Miss star Donnie, made his major league debut, going 1-for-2 for the Chicago Cubs and launching a brilliant 16-year career. The younger Kessinger, in his third pro season, is chasing the big league dream and making some strides. A good-fielding shortstop like his grandfather, Kessinger’s bat has perked up in recent weeks at Corpus Christi. He batted .276 in August and is at .333 in six September games, lifting his season average to .212. (He hit .109 in April.) Kessinger has 15 homers, 48 RBIs and 21 stolen bases in his second Double-A tour. A second-round pick in 2019 after an All-America career at UM, Kessinger has been in the Astros’ big league camp each of the last two springs and played in the Arizona Fall League last year. He is 25 and recently slipped off the Astros’ Top 30 prospect chart, so he may be feeling a sense of urgency as this minor league season draws to a close. P.S. On the topic of hot hitting, Mississippi State product Nathaniel Lowe leads all of MLB in batting average over the last 30 days. He got two more hits, including his 24th homer, for Texas on Wednesday and is batting .383 with eight bombs and 21 RBIs in his last 28 games.
As the big league season grows shorter, the games get bigger. None was more significant Monday than the clash of contenders at T-Mobile Park, where ex-Ole Miss star Lance Lynn rose to the occasion and Mississippi State product Adam Frazier came up empty at a critical time. Lynn threw seven dominant innings to lead the Chicago White Sox to a 3-2 win against host Seattle. Frazier came on as a pinch hitter in the ninth for the Mariners with the tying and winning runs in scoring position and struck out to end the game. The White Sox, who have battled adversity all year, remained 2 games back in the American League Central, in third place behind leader Cleveland and Minnesota. The Mariners, who had won seven straight, dropped into a tie for the AL wild card lead with Tampa Bay; the White Sox are essentially out of that race. Lynn, 5-5 on the year but 4-1 over his last seven starts, allowed just three hits and an unearned run, struck out 11 and retired the last 17 batters he faced. He got 25 swings-and-misses. MSU alum Kendall Graveman worked a scoreless eighth for the ChiSox, preserving a 3-1 lead for his 23rd hold. Things got a little hairy for closer Liam Hendriks in the ninth, but he blew away Frazier on three pitches to seal the win, the fifth in six games for Chicago. Frazier, an All-Star for Pittsburgh in 2021, has had an uneven season for the M’s, hitting just .242. Game 2 of the three-game series is today. P.S. George County High product Justin Steele has been placed on the injured list with a back problem by the Cubs. … Ex-State star Dakota Hudson was optioned to Triple-A Memphis as St. Louis cleared a roster spot for Jack Flaherty. … Former Mississippi Braves star Drew Waters hit his first MLB homer Monday for Kansas City; he is batting .237 in 13 games.
Shortly after he was drafted in July, former Ole Miss star Tim Elko said his experience against SEC competition and in NCAA Tournament play had prepared him well for pro ball. “I’ll feel pretty comfortable getting in there,” he told milb.com. He appears to have been right. Playing at Low-Class A Kannapolis in the Chicago White Sox’s system, the 23-year-old Elko has 10 hits in his last six games and boosted his average to .310 in 10 games there overall. The 6-foot-4, 240-pound first baseman, who set a single-season record with 24 homers for the national champion Rebels this season, started slowly in rookie ball, going 4-for-26 with 13 strikeouts, though three of the hits were homers. He moved up to Kannapolis on Aug. 23 and started to click against better quality pitching. He went 3-for-4 on Saturday, his second three-hit game for the Cannon Ballers. He has hit one homer, giving him four for the year. Elko cemented his place in Ole Miss lore when he returned from a serious knee injury in 2021 to help the Rebels’ drive to an NCAA Super Regional appearance. He was a team captain this season as a fifth-year senior, put on a stunning slugging performance in the Coral Cables Regional and made the College World Series All-Tournament team. The White Sox drafted Elko in the 10th round. “He’s got a chance to have a nice career in front of him,” Chicago scouting director Mike Shirley said at the time. P.S. DeSoto Central High alum Austin Riley homered for the fourth straight game Saturday in Atlanta’s 2-1 win vs. Miami. He has 35 round-trippers on the year, third-most in MLB. Great comment in an mlb.com story from rookie Michael Harris II, like Riley a former Mississippi Braves star: “I tell him every time he hits a home run [that] I wanna be like him when I grow up. … I really look up to him, and he’s a big leader in this clubhouse.” … UM product Drew Pomeranz reportedly suffered a setback in his injury rehab, casting doubt on whether he’ll pitch for San Diego this season. He had arm surgery a year ago in August. … St. Louis has announced that ex-Mississippi State star Dakota Hudson will move to the bullpen. He is 7-7 with a 4.43 ERA as a starter this season.
There was a bit of an “old home week” vibe Tuesday night at Huntington Park in Columbus, Ohio, where the host Clippers and the Iowa Cubs hooked up in a Triple-A International League game. Pitchers from each of Mississippi’s Big 3 Division I schools went to the mound: Former Ole Miss standout Wyatt Short started and posted a win for the I-Cubs; Mississippi State product Konnor Pilkington started and took the loss for Columbus; and ex-Southern Miss standout Kirk McCarty also worked for the Clippers, a Cleveland affiliate. (For the record, Delta State alum Trent Giambrone, an infielder, watched from the Iowa bench.) Short, a closer at UM and a reliever for most of his minor league career, made his third start and pitched a strong five innings in the I-Cubs’ 4-0 victory. The 5-foot-8 left-hander from Southaven is now 4-1 with a 3.67 ERA at Iowa in his sixth pro season. Wyatt has yet to get a big league call, unlike Pilkington and McCarty, both of whom have been up this year. Pilkington, a lefty from Pascagoula, yielded four hits, four walks and three runs with nine strikeouts in four innings, falling to 2-4, 5.66, with Columbus. He is 1-2, 4.17, in 12 MLB games this season. Hattiesburg native McCarty, a left-hander who has two big league wins for the Guardians, allowed one run in four innings Tuesday, trimming his ERA at Columbus to 3.58. … In an International League game at St. Paul, Minn., ex-USM star Matt Wallner and Taylorsville’s Billy Hamilton combined for four runs, four walks, two hits and a stolen base as Minnesota’s Triple-A club beat Omaha 10-6. The stolen base was the first for the veteran Hamilton in his second game with the Saints — and No. 402 in his minor league career. P.S. Several other former Ole Miss pitchers are in the news. Doug Nikhazy was promoted to Double-A Akron in the Cleveland system; he is slated to start Saturday. Taylor Broadway was traded to Boston from the Chicago White Sox to complete an earlier deal; the 2021 Rebels closer was pitching at Double-A Birmingham. Veteran big leaguer Mike Mayers, starting Tuesday for the Los Angeles Angels against the visiting New York Yankees, gave up three homers, including Aaron Judge’s No. 51, and took an L. Lance Lynn, 3-5, 5.00, for the White Sox but coming off one of his best starts, gets the ball tonight against Kansas City as the fading ChiSox try to stay in the playoff hunt.
Down on the farm, a bundle of Mississippi products enjoyed a productive day at the plate on Saturday. Topping the chart: Reed Trimble, the former Southern Miss star. The second-year pro, recently activated from the injured list, went 3-for-4 with a homer and five RBIs for Low-Class A Delmarva in the Baltimore system.
Blaine Crim, Mississippi College alum, went 3-for-4 with two RBIs and three runs for Double-A Frisco (Texas).
Justin Foscue, the ex-Mississippi State star and a highly rated prospect for Texas, went 2-for-4 with an RBI at Frisco.
Tim Elko, a 2022 draft pick out of Ole Miss, went 3-for-5 with three runs and an RBI at Low-A Kannapolis (Chicago White Sox).
Emaarion Boyd, a 2022 draftee from South Panola High, went 3-for-4 with a stolen base for Low-A Clearwater (Philadelphia).
Kamren James, a 2022 draftee out of MSU, went 3-for-4 with two RBIs in a win for Tampa Bay’s rookie team in the Florida Complex League championship series.
Hunter Stovall, former State standout, went 2-for-4 with an RBI, the game-winner in the ninth inning, for Double-A Hartford (Colorado).
Grae Kessinger, ex-Ole Miss star, went 2-for-4 with an RBI for Double-A Corpus Christi (Houston).
Blaze Jordan, the DeSoto Central High product, went 1-for-4 with a pair of RBIs for High-A Greenville (Boston).
P.S. Brandon Woodruff could use a little luck. The former MSU standout from Wheeler threw six shutout innings with 10 strikeouts for Milwaukee against the Chicago Cubs on Saturday. However, the Brewers didn’t score while he was on the mound, rallying late for a 7-0 win. Woodruff has five no-decisions in August despite a 2.70 ERA over 30 innings. He is 9-3, 3.31, on the year with eight no-decisions.