Nathaniel Lowe made a couple of noteworthy contributions Tuesday night in Texas’ American League Division Series-clinching win. The Mississippi State product blasted a 437-foot homer in the sixth inning, capping the scoring in a 7-1 victory over Baltimore. Less attention-grabbing but certainly significant was a second inning at-bat that ended in an out. Leading off the inning, Lowe battled Baltimore starter Dean Kremer for 15 pitches before lining out to left field. The Rangers proceeded to score five runs in that inning, knocking out Kremer (53 pitches all told) and seizing command at Globe Life Field. Lowe’s homer, on a 1-1 pitch, was one of four by the mighty Rangers, who hit an AL-best 233 this season. Lowe, who has prodigious power, had 17 homers, which ranked just seventh on the team. He has not had a hot postseason — 4-for-22 — but his team has won five straight, by a 32-12 count, and is headed for the AL Championship Series for the first time since 2011. (Another ex-MSU first baseman, Mitch Moreland, was on that club.) Baltimore, the AL East champion and top seed in the playoffs, is going home. Former State star Jordan Westburg had a hit and scored the lone run for the Orioles on Tuesday but also struck out three times, including the game’s final out. MSU alum Adam Frazier was 0-for-2, capping a hitless series. P.S. Texas will meet the Houston-Minnesota winner in the ALCS. The visiting Astros crushed the Twins 9-1 on Tuesday to take a 2-1 lead in their best-of-5. Ex-Southern Miss standout — and Minnesota native — Matt Wallner was 0-for-2 with two walks for the Twins. The lefty-hitting Wallner should be in the lineup tonight vs. Astros righty Jose Urquidy when the teams meet again at Target Field. … Lance Lynn, the veteran right-hander out of Ole Miss, will make his 28th career postseason appearance tonight for Los Angeles, which faces elimination against Arizona in the National League Division Series. Lynn is 5-5 with a 5.28 ERA in playoff games.
It has been a rather quiet start for the smattering of Mississippi-connected hitters in the MLB postseason. Collectively, the seven have five hits and one RBI. Texas has stormed to four straight road wins, but ex-Mississippi State star Nathaniel Lowe is just 3-for-18 (.167) with an RBI and two runs in four starts at first base. Baltimore, which trails Texas 2-0 in their American League Division Series, has alternated former MSU standouts Adam Frazier and Jordan Westburg at second base and seen them go 1-for-8. DeSoto Central High alum Austin Riley went 1-for-4 in Atlanta’s loss to Philadelphia in Game 1 of the National League Division Series at Truist Park; that was one of just five hits the Braves managed in a 3-0 loss. Riley and Co. need to step up tonight against Phillies ace Zack Wheeler. Former Southern Miss star Matt Wallner is 0-for-6 for Minnesota, which swept Toronto in the wild card round and is 1-1 against Houston in the ALDS. Wallner, who typically sits against left-handers, didn’t play in the Twins’ 6-2 win on Sunday. Ole Miss alum Grae Kessinger, an Astros bench player, didn’t get in either game in Houston. Ex-UM standout Nick Fortes has already gone home; he went 0-for-2 as Miami was swept out of the wild card round by Philadelphia. … There is a high standard for Mississippians in postseason play. The record for highest career batting average is held by Charleston native Bill Hoskins, a Negro Leagues star who batted .487 in 43 NL World Series plate appearances between 1937-46. (Baseball Reference now includes Negro League stats in its all-time charts.) Hoskins, a 6-foot-2 left-handed batter, hit .325 with 36 homers in his career, most of it spent with the Baltimore Elite Giants. Tim Anderson, the ex-East Central Community College star still with the Chicago White Sox (for now), has the third-best single-postseason batting average (per baseballreference.com) with a .643 mark in 14 plate appearances in 2020. P.S. Houston kept MSU product Kendall Graveman off the roster for the NLDS because of a shoulder issue, but the right-hander could be activated for the next round. … Ex-Ole Miss star Lance Lynn reportedly is “in play” to be the Game 3 starter for the Los Angeles Dodgers, who got bludgeoned by Arizona in the NLDS opener. Game 3 is Wednesday at Phoenix.
A maroon four are bound for the stage in the Baltimore-Texas American League Division Series, with two former Mississippi State Bulldogs on the roster of each team. All four best-of-5 division series get under way Saturday. Baltimore, featuring Adam Frazier (MSU 2013) and Jordan Westburg (MSU 2020), is the top seed in the AL and will host Games 1 and 2 against wild card entrant Texas, which suits up Nathaniel Lowe (MSU 2016) and Chris Stratton (MSU 2012). The veteran Frazier, a lefty-hitting infielder, batted .240 with 13 homers, 60 RBIs and 11 steals in his first year with the Orioles; he has a .217 career postseason average and went 2-for-16 against Rangers pitching this year. Westburg, also an infielder, is a rookie called up in July. He hit .260 with three homers and 23 RBIs and didn’t face Texas. Lowe, Texas’ first baseman, saw a dip in his average (.262 from .302) and homer total (17 from 27) from 2022 but did post a .360 OBP, smack 38 doubles and drive in 82 runs. He has a .154 career postseason average; he was 2-for-24 with a homer against Baltimore this season. Stratton, acquired from St. Louis at the deadline, put up a 3.41 ERA for the Rangers, though he didn’t pitch in many high-leverage situations. The veteran right-hander didn’t face the Orioles in 2023. … In the other ALDS — Houston-Minnesota — the Astros’ roster is expected to include State alum J.P. France (11-6, 3.83 ERA as a rookie), ex-Bulldogs star Kendall Graveman (2.42 in 23 games with Houston in 2023) and former Ole Miss standout Grae Kessinger (.200 in 40 at-bats). France started 23 games this season, but his postseason role seems unclear. Graveman, a veteran reliever, has a 1.64 career postseason ERA (in nine games with Houston in 2021). Kessinger, a reserve, has played four infield positions. Minnesota trots out Matt Wallner, the ex-Southern Miss slugger who belted 14 homers for the Twins and 11 more in the minors this year. He went 0-for-3 in the wild card round. … In the National League, DeSoto Central High product Austin Riley is the lone Mississippian on either active roster for the Atlanta-Philadelphia series. Riley batted .281 with 37 homers and 97 RBIs this season and finished strong. In the postseason, he has a .216 average, three homers, 13 RBIs and a World Series ring (from 2021). … Ex-Ole Miss star Lance Lynn went 7-2, 4.36, as a starter for Los Angeles after arriving at the deadline, and he has pitched in 27 postseason games over a long career. Still, his role for the Los Angeles-Arizona series was undecided at last report; he gives up a lot of home runs (44 all told in ’23), which seem to play an outsized role in the postseason.
Observations from a Tuesday locked into televised baseball:
First pitch of game one — Texas at Tampa Bay — of the four wild card series openers is at 2:07 p.m. CDT. … Christian Bethancourt, the former Mississippi Braves catcher, is not in Tampa Bay’s lineup; he played in 104 games this season. … Nathaniel Lowe, former Mississippi State standout, gets a hit in his first at-bat and scores the first run of the day for Texas in the second inning. … Brookhaven native Lance Barksdale, veteran MLB umpire, is at second base for the Rangers-Rays game. … With the bases loaded and no outs in the fifth, Lowe pops up; it’s still 1-0. … Andy Fletcher, an Ole Miss alum and Olive Branch resident, is the ump behind the plate for the Toronto-Minnesota game. He rated relatively low on ball-strike accuracy in 2023, per umpscorecards.com. … In his first postseason at-bat, ex-Southern Miss star Matt Wallner draws a walk for Minnesota in the second inning. He is stranded. … Toronto’s bullpen coach is Jeff Ware, who spent a year as a pitcher/coach with the independent Jackson Senators some 20 years ago. Ware got the bullpen job this spring, 27 years after he last wore a big league uniform as a Jays pitcher. … Texas wins 4-0; Lowe finishes 1-for-5. … Wallner, who made one error all season in 100 chances, is replaced in left field in the seventh inning. … Milwaukee’s starting lineup against visiting Arizona includes four former Biloxi Shuckers — pitcher Corbin Burnes, second baseman Brice Turang and outfielders Sal Frelick and Tyrone Taylor — and a Mississippi Braves alum — catcher William Contreras. … Minnesota wins 3-1, snapping an 18-game postseason losing streak dating to 2004. Former Jackson Mets shortstop Ron Gardenhire was the Twins manager that season. … In Miami’s starting lineup at Philadelphia is catcher Nick Fortes, the Ole Miss product who has had a tough year (.206, six homers). … The Phillies’ infield coach is Laurel native Bobby Dickerson, father of ex-USM shortstop Dustin Dickerson, now in the Kansas City system. … Taylor — the No. 9 hitter — hits a two-run homer for the Brewers, putting them ahead 3-0 in the second inning. … Milwaukee pitching coach Chris Hook, who pitched briefly for the Jackson Generals in 1998, makes a trip to the mound after Burnes surrenders back-to-back homers that tie the score for Arizona. … Cristian Pache, once a highly rated prospect with the M-Braves, makes a nice running catch in left field to record the first out for the Phillies at raucous Citizens Bank Park. … In the second inning at Philly, ESPN’s Karl Ravech talks about Phillies infielder Bryson Stott’s work with Bobby and Dustin Dickerson in the off-season in Mississippi. … Fortes, in his first postseason AB, hits into an inning-ending double play in the third; the score is still 0-0. … Burnes, a 10-game winner this year, is pulled in the fifth by the Brewers, down 4-3; rookie Abner Uribe, a 2023 Shuckers alum, replaces him. … Pache — whose first big league homer came as a rookie for Atlanta in the 2020 National League Championship Series — gets an RBI knock in the fourth to put the Phillies up 3-0. … In Milwaukee, Taylor lines into an inning-ending double play in the fifth with the bases jammed and the Brewers still trailing 4-3. D’backs veteran third baseman Evan Longoria, 37, who passed through Trustmark Park with the Montgomery Biscuits back in 2006-07, makes the crucial, leaping snag. … Milwaukee goes to its closer, former Shuckers star Devin Williams (36 saves), in the ninth. He issues three walks — around a strikeout and a caught stealing — before Christian Walker doubles to plate two more runs. … In the bottom of the ninth, Frelick makes the last out on a pop up in Arizona’s 6-3 win. … In Philadelphia, the Phillies go to ex-M-Braves star Craig Kimbrel — the occasionally erratic closer — who gets through the ninth to finish off a 4-1 victory. The last out of the fourth and final game is recorded at 9:55 p.m. … What a day. And the postseason has only just begun.
Former Biloxi High star Colt Keith had a game on May 16 he’ll surely never forget. And now he has an award to commemorate it. Keith, playing for Double-A Erie in the Detroit system, went 6-for-6, hitting for the cycle, with two home runs and seven RBIs. Keith received MLB Network’s award for Best Single-Game Performance, announced during Monday night’s MiLB Awards Show. In his third pro season, Keith — Detroit’s No. 2 prospect — reached Triple-A and finished 2023 with a .306 average, 27 homers and 101 RBIs. An all-Mississippi minor league All-Star team would have to include Keith, who could slot in at second base, his secondary position. Here’s a position-by-position roster:
Starting pitcher: Will Warren (Jackson Prep), 10-4, 3.35 ERA, at Double-A and Triple-A (New York Yankees system)
Relief pitcher: Landon Harper (Southern Miss), 6-3, five saves, two holds, 3.34, in Low-Class A (Atlanta)
Catcher: Chuckie Robinson (USM), .290, 13 homers, 74 RBIs, at Triple-A (Cincinnati)
First base: Blaine Crim (Mississippi College), .289, 22 homers, 85 RBIs, at Triple-A (Texas)
Second base: Keith
Third base: Blaze Jordan (DeSoto Central High), .296, 18 homers, 86 RBIs, at High-A and Double-A (Boston)
Shortstop: Grae Kessinger (Ole Miss), .283, six homers, 32 RBIs, at Triple-A (now with Houston)
Outfield: Jake Mangum (Mississippi State), .298, five homers, 52 RBIs, 16 steals, at Triple-A (Miami); Emaarion Boyd (South Panola High), .262, 36 RBIs, 68 runs, 56 steals, in Low-A (Philadelphia); Davis Bradshaw (Meridian Community College), .314, .383 OBP, four triples, 47 runs, at High-A and Double-A (Miami)
DH: Tim Elko (UM), .295, 28 homers, 106 RBIs, in A-ball and Double-A (Chicago White Sox)
Utility: Justin Foscue (MSU), .266, 18 homers, 84 RBIs, in Triple-A (Texas)
P.S. The best season by a player drafted from the state this year was posted by USM product Matthew Etzel, a 10th-round selection by Baltimore who batted .323 with two homers, 25 RBIs and 21 steals in 30 games over three levels, topping out in High-A. Former Magnolia Heights star Cooper Pratt, a sixth-rounder by Milwaukee, hit .356 in 12 games in rookie ball and won a championship. Kellum Clark, the last player picked (20th round) from the state out of MSU, hit .262 with a homer and eight RBIs in 22 games at the rookie and Low-A levels in the Mets’ system.
In what was probably — probably — the last game of Buck Showalter’s managerial career, the New York Mets’ disappointing season ended with a blowout loss — 9-1 to Philadelphia at CitiField. Former Mississippi State star Showalter announced before Sunday’s game that he would not be returning for a third season with the Mets. He was greeted with a standing ovation from Mets fans when he took out the lineup card pregame. A 101-win playoff team in 2022, the Mets suffered some key injuries and tumbled to 74-87 this year. “It’s not the ending I wanted, but I still love the city and the players,” Showalter told The Associated Press. He has won 1,726 games (.509 win percentage) over 22 years with five different clubs, claiming four manager of the year awards, including in 2022. His teams went 0-for-6 in postseason series, bowing out last year in a wild card series against San Diego. … The question about Showalter’s future in New York was one of several involving Mississippians in the majors headed into the off-season. To wit: Will East Central Community College alum Tim Anderson be back with the Chicago White Sox? The team holds an option on his contract, but the combustible former batting champ hit just .245 with one home run and scuffled on defense at shortstop. … Will ex-Mississippi State star Hunter Renfroe and Meridian CC product Corey Dickerson land jobs for 2024? Renfroe, who belted 20 homers in 2023, was waived in August by the Los Angeles Angels, claimed by Cincinnati and then released before season’s end. Dickerson, who hit .250 in 50 games, was released by last-place Washington in August. … What’s next for Spencer Turnbull? The former Madison Central High standout, who threw a no-hitter for Detroit early in 2021, missed all of 2022 after elbow surgery and endured more injury issues this season, which he finished in the minors. He was 1-4 with a 7.26 ERA for the Tigers, 0-1, 6.23, in the minors, pitching just twice in September. … Is Drew Pomeranz done? The Ole Miss product, 34, who has a 3.91 career ERA and a World Series ring, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2021 because of injuries and made just seven minor league appearances this year. He is a free agent for 2024. … Two players who finished strong and possibly solidified their jobs for 2024: Ex-MSU star Brent Rooker and former Ole Miss standout James McArthur. Journeyman Rooker, an All-Star in his first year with Oakland, belted his 30th homer on Sunday; he hit. 306 with six bombs over his last 15 games. McArthur, a rookie in his first year in Kansas City’s system, notched a two-inning save against the Yankees on Sunday. In his last seven appearances, the tall right-hander went 1-0 with four saves and did not allow a run in nine innings.
The last day of September was eventful, to say the least, and the MLB postseason picture is settled. Well, sorta. Five teams clinched the remaining playoff berths on Saturday, and six Mississippians took part in those celebrations. Start with Nathaniel Lowe, the ex-Mississippi State standout who has been running cold at the plate of late. In Texas’ 6-1 win at Seattle, Lowe knocked in the first run with a single and scored the third in a four-run third inning that launched the Rangers into the postseason for the first time since 2016. Former MSU star Chris Stratton did not pitch for the Rangers on Saturday but did get to take part in the muted party. The American League West title remains unsettled because Houston also won, 1-0 at Arizona, and remained a game back of first-place Texas. MSU product Kendall Graveman notched a wobbly hold for the Astros, loading the bases with one out in the seventh before Hector Neris bailed him out. Fellow former Bulldogs pitcher J.P. France, who was scratched from a scheduled Friday start because of a “family emergency,” was available in the Astros’ bullpen Saturday but didn’t get in. Neither did ex-Ole Miss star Grae Kessinger, a versatile bench piece. (The AL wild card seedings are also up in the air; Toronto clinched a spot, either second or third, despite losing to Tampa Bay.) In the National League, Miami clinched a wild card spot with a 7-3 victory against Pittsburgh. Ole Miss product Nick Fortes, a platooning catcher for the Marlins, didn’t play in the clincher. Miami’s win eliminated the Chicago Cubs and former George County High star Justin Steele, who is slated to pitch today’s finale. Despite losing to the Astros, Arizona clinched a wild card because Cincinnati lost. (The NL wild card seedings are also unsettled. Depending on today’s results, Miami may have to return to New York on Monday to complete Thursday’s suspended game against the Mets.) … A total of 12 Mississippians are likely to be on postseason rosters, with Adam Frazier (Baltimore), Jordan Westburg (Orioles), Matt Wallner (Minnesota), Austin Riley (Atlanta), Brandon Woodruff (Milwaukee) and Lance Lynn (Los Angeles Dodgers) having previously celebrated division titles. The postseason begins on Tuesday.
The 1-2 punch of Blaine Crim and Justin Foscue, a pair of Magnolia State college products, delivered again for Round Rock on Sunday and powered the Express into the Triple-A Pacific Coast League playoffs. Ex-Mississippi College star Crim went 2-for-3 with a homer and three RBIs and Mississippi State alum Justin Foscue added a double and two RBIs as Round Rock, a Texas affiliate, beat Tacoma 11-6. The Express, winners of seven of their last nine, will tangle with Oklahoma City (Los Angeles Dodgers) for the PCL title. Crim hit .289 with 22 homers and 85 RBIs in his fourth pro season. Foscue, the Rangers’ sixth-rated prospect in his third season, batted .266 with 18 homers and 84 RBIs. … Biloxi High product Colt Keith went 1-for-5 for Triple-A Toledo to finish his 2023 season with a .306 average, 27 home runs and 101 RBIs. Detroit’s No. 2 prospect, Keith, 22, played at Double-A and Triple-A this season, his third in the minors. … Kudos to Rick Sweet, who was the Jackson Generals’ first manager in 1991-92, for becoming Triple-A Nashville’s all-time winningest skipper with 321 victories over four seasons. Nashville is a Milwaukee farm club; ex-MSU standout Ethan Small went 2-4 with a 3.18 ERA and three saves in 38 games for Sweet’s Sounds this year. … In the big leagues, James McArthur, former Ole Miss star, struck out Yordan Alvarez with the tying run on base to save Kansas City’s 6-5 win at Houston, the last-place Royals’ third straight win vs. the Astros. Combined with Texas’ sweep at Seattle, the Astros are now 2.5 games back of the first-place Rangers in the American League West. McArthur, a rookie, has a win and two saves vs. Houston in his last five appearances. He has not allowed a run in 10 September games. … Ole Miss product Lance Lynn posted a third straight strong start (two runs in six innings) for the playoff-bound Dodgers, who beat San Francisco 3-2 in 10 innings. On the heels of a pair of bad outings, the 36-year-old Lynn has allowed just seven runs in 18 innings (3.50 ERA) in his last three; he is 6-2, 4.50, since the Dodgers acquired him at the trade deadline. Lynn has extensive postseason experience, having made 27 appearances since 2011.
Minnesota clinched its division; Milwaukee clinched a playoff berth with a 16-run outburst; Texas won its third straight and moved into first place in the American League West; and San Diego won its eighth straight to cling to its wild card hopes. Mississippians were involved in many of Friday night’s big events. At Minnesota, former Southern Miss star Matt Wallner drew a pair of walks and picked up an RBI in the Twins’ AL Central-clinching 8-6 win against the Los Angeles Angels. The Brewers, who lead the National League Central by 8 games, put up a 12-run second inning en route to pounding Miami 16-1. Ole Miss alum Nick Fortes had the misfortune to be behind the plate for the Marlins, whose NL wild card hopes took a blow. Former Mississippi State standout Brandon Woodruff (5-1, 1.89) goes to the mound today at loanDepot Park with Milwaukee a win away from clinching the division title. MSU product Nathaniel Lowe scored a run and drove in a run — his 80th RBI — to help Texas beat Seattle 8-5 and move a half-game ahead of Houston and 1 up on the Mariners in the crazy AL West. Ex-Ole Miss star James McArthur, a sudden sensation for Kansas City (see previous posts), got the last five outs for the last-place Royals as they beat Houston 7-5. McArthur, a rookie, is 1-0 with two saves and a 0.00 ERA in his last seven appearances. MSU alum Dakota Hudson, who has pitched well down the stretch for St. Louis, threw six innings, allowing two runs, but couldn’t stop San Diego, which rallied for a 4-2 victory. The red-hot Padres (76-78) are 4 games back of the third NL wild card and behind three other clubs. Former DeSoto Central High standout Austin Riley smacked his 37th homer and drove in four runs — 96 RBIs — as Atlanta beat Washington 9-6 and moved closer to clinching home field throughout the NL playoffs. The Braves (99-55) have a 4.5-game lead on the Los Angeles Dodgers, who lost Friday. In games of lesser import: Former State star Brent Rooker homered for the third straight game and sixth time in his last nine, giving him 29 on the year for Oakland, which beat Detroit. Ocean Springs native Garrett Crochet, making his first MLB appearance since June 15, blew a save and took the loss for the Chicago White Sox against Boston. P.S. Billy Hamilton, the veteran big leaguer out of Taylorsville, went 1-for-3 with a run and stolen base as Triple-A Durham beat Gwinnett 3-0 and clinched an International League playoff berth. Hamilton, hoping for a call-up, is 4-for-13 with five steals in six games for the Tampa Bay affiliate.
Blaze Jordan finished the 2023 season in the Double-A Eastern League, but the former DeSoto Central High masher left his mark in the High-Class A South Atlantic League. Jordan was named the third baseman on milb.com’s SAL All-Star team. Rated the No. 12 prospect in Boston’s organization, Jordan hit .324 (.533 slug) with 12 homers and 55 RBIs in 73 games for High-A Greenville, helping the Drive win a first-half division title before his promotion to Double-A Portland on July 14. The Drive won the league championship on Tuesday. Jordan, at age 20 the youngest player on Portland’s roster, batted .254 with six homers and 31 RBIs for the Sea Dogs. A Portland teammate recently said this about Jordan in an milb.com piece: “He’s one of those guys that will roll out of bed and just hit .300, just rake, his first swing of the day is just a backside missile at 107 mph. It’s unbelievable.” A 6 feet 2, 220 pounds, power is Jordan’s best tool; he has 36 homers in 270 pro games. P.S. A couple more Mississippians got to celebrate minor league championships on Wednesday. Decatur native and ex-Ole Miss standout Kemp Alderman helped Jupiter, a Miami affiliate, win the Low-A Florida State League pennant, beating Clearwater 7-4 in the deciding game. Alderman, a second-round draftee this year and the Marlins’ No. 9 prospect, batted .313 in the playoffs and .205 with a homer and 15 RBIs for the season. He went 0-for-2 with three walks, a run and an RBI in Wednesday’s game. Mississippi State alum Christian MacLeod, a third-year pro, partied with the Cedar Rapids Kernels after the Minnesota affiliate won the High-A Midwest League title. MacLeod, a lefty, went 5-2 with a 4.13 ERA this season. … MSU product Jacob Robson went 1-for-4 with two RBIs as Kansas City beat Chicago 7-6 on Wednesday to claim the independent American Association’s Wolff Cup. Robson hit .250 with 10 homers and 31 RBIs for the Monarchs this season and hit three bombs in the postseason. Ex-MSU standout Gavin Collins, who didn’t play in the clincher, batted .314 with 10 homers and 41 RBIs for KC. The Monarchs’ first-base coach is Greenville native and former MLB All-Star Frank White.