Petaluma little leaguers surprised by A's greeting

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Petaluma little leaguers surprised by A's greeting

OAKLAND -- Midway through their afternoon stretch the Oakland Athletics erupted in applause. The Petaluma National Little Leaguers had arrived. As the kids shuffled onto the Major League field, the A's stopped their work and lined up to greet the kids. As they met each other half way, stopping on the left field foul line, it was impossible to tell who was more excited to meet who. "This is so cool," Petaluma head coach Eric Smith said.
REWIND: Petaluma LLWS walk-off leads to A's pregame pie
The A's player's exuberant reception for the kids who advanced all the way to the United States Title Game in the Little League World Series caught everyone off guard. "I think in the kid's mind it is all about getting to meet the big guys," coach Smith said. "So the fact the big guys welcomed them like that, it's not what they expect."The kids took the field and played catch as the A's completed their stretch. Then when batting practice began the boys got to shag balls in the outfield and marvel at some of the tape-measure blasts hit by the Oakland players. "We're excited about having them here," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "Hopefully they are as excited about being here."The kids fit in well on the field with the pros -- the matching green and gold uniforms didn't hurt either. The star attraction for the little leaguers was a chance to meet with Petaluma native Jonny Gomes. He led them on a tour of the clubhouse and dugout and addressed the team. They followed him in a single file line as he guided them through the facilities.
REWIND: Gomes Bros -- Petaluma's National's secret weapons
For the 12 and 13-year-old kids this is just another dose of the type of star treatment they are going to have to get accustomed to. The big league perks are nice, but the little local heroes are just starting to reap the benefit of their miraculous run."We didn't think we were going to have 2,000 people waiting for us when we got home," assistant coach Trevor Tomei said. "They are expecting 20,000 people at their hometown parade."In addition to the warm reception the kids received the ultimate prize from a local pizza place. "All the kids got free pizza for a year from Pinky's Pizza in Petaluma," Tomei said. "They get a free large pizza with one topping any time they want." "I think they are starting to realize how big it is for the Bay Area," Smith said.While the kids competed in Williamsport, Pennsylvania they had little idea of how big a story they had become back home. The reality set in as soon as they landed at the airport. "They had a cannonball solute coming down the runway with two fire engines blowing water over our plane," Tomei recalled. Even though they lost in the U.S. Title Game, their improbable 10-run 6th inning to tie the game electrified the Bay Area and softened the blow of their eventual defeat. "15-5 would have felt bad," Smith said. "Knowing that they gave it a shot and were so close, I think deep down, even though they didn't like the loss, knowing they gave it a shot helps."These kids are experiencing something they will remember for the rest of their lives. While it is all about the accomplishments of the players on the team, it is equally as special for the grown ups as well. Coach Smith's son Hance hit the game-tying home run to cap the 10-run rally. A moment he won't soon forget either. "That's the probably the only time during the series that I let the father get ahead of the coach," Smith said. "When he hit that, I probably jumped more like a fan than a coach." The parade in Petaluma will take place on Sunday. Maybe after that things will settle down and go back to normal for the families and players. This may however, not be the last we'll see of these exceptionally talented kids. They have bright futures ahead of them and a couple of them might end up on the playing surface of a big league field yet again, only in a much larger uniform.

Faltering defense continues to be A's unwanted storyline

Faltering defense continues to be A's unwanted storyline

NEW YORK — A weekend that began with promise instead wound up feeling like another lost opportunity for the A’s.

Their defense once again paved the way to their undoing Sunday, and there were plenty of players willing to accept responsibility for a 9-5 loss to the Yankees in the rubber match of a three-game series in the Bronx.

When right fielder Matt Joyce had a catchable fly ball pop out of his glove for a third-inning error that loaded the bases, it seemed inevitable the mistake would come back to haunt the A’s.

On cue, one-time Oakland draft pick Aaron Judge drilled an opposite-field grand slam off Andrew Triggs to a turn a 2-1 A’s lead into a 5-2 deficit. Joyce said he couldn’t stomach to watch the replay of his missed catch afterward.

“It just hit my glove and I dropped it,” Joyce said. “Obviously that’s pretty tough to swallow for me in that situation. For me, I think that’s an easy play. It’s a little embarrassing. It’s obviously really frustrating, especially with what it led to.”

The A’s (22-27) chalked up two more errors, giving them a staggering 49 in 49 games played. When play began Sunday, they had at least 10 more errors than every other big league club. It’s no surprise, therefore, that they also lead the majors with 35 unearned runs, after five of the nine runs they surrendered Sunday were unearned.

That kind of bumbling play in the field is making it difficult for the A’s to maintain leads when they claim one, and tough to mount comebacks when they fall behind. In a factoid that helps explain why the A’s likely find themselves looking at another summer of selling off veterans, they have won just one of the eight road series they’ve played in 2017. Their 7-17 record away from Oakland is second worst in the American League.

The A’s took Friday’s series opener 4-1 but dropped the final two to the AL East leaders.

“I’ve said often, there’s a psychology to it too,” manager Bob Melvin said. “You feel like you have a chance to battle and come back and score some runs, and when your defense is poor, sometimes mentally it’s tough to overcome or get past it. We just have to keep working on it.”

Leading 5-2, New York added to its lead in the fourth with help from a Josh Phegley throwing error on Aaron Hicks’ stolen base. Hicks wound up on third and came home on Chris Carter’s sacrifice fly. The A’s pulled to within 7-5 on Khris Davis’ 15th homer which in the eighth, a two-run shot. But the Yankees answered right back with two more off reliever John Axford, who hurt his cause with two walks.

There were other mishaps that didn’t cost the A’s runs, like Davis making a poor throw to third that allowed a Yankee runner to advance an extra base, and third baseman Ryon Healy losing a foul pop up in the sun.

Regardless of the defensive issues, A’s starter Andrew Triggs wasn’t looking to hand off blame. Just one of the six runs he allowed was earned over his six innings. But Triggs still had a chance to preserve a 2-1 lead in the third if he could have retired Judge with two outs and the bases loaded. Instead he left a 2-1 sinker over the plate and Judge mashed it over the right field wall.

“In my mind it was either sinker away or sinker in, and I thought away was better,” Triggs said. “But you gotta execute the pitch and I didn’t.”

It was the first career grand slam for Judge, who was drafted in the 31st round out of high school by Oakland in 2010 but opted to attend Fresno State. The Yankees took him in the first round in 2013, and in clubbing his 16th homer Sunday (tying him with Mike Trout for the league lead), Judge continued building his strong early case for the Rookie of the Year award.

A's fall short of series win vs Yankees after Judge's grand slam

A's fall short of series win vs Yankees after Judge's grand slam

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK -- Aaron Judge hit his first career grand slam and the New York Yankees took full advantage of Oakland's shoddy defense Sunday in a 9-5 victory over the Athletics.

Michael Pineda (6-2) tossed six innings of three-hit ball to win his third straight start. Aaron Hicks and Chris Carter each had an early sacrifice fly as the AL East leaders scored five unearned runs and took two of three in a well-pitched series.

Judge connected with two outs in the third for his 16th home run, tying Mike Trout of the Angels for the big league lead. The drive landed in the right-field seats, not far in front of The Judge's Chambers cheering section installed by the Yankees for the 6-foot-7 rookie at the start of this 4-2 homestand.

Khris Davis hit his 15th home run for the A's, who committed two more costly errors to raise their season total to 49. They began the day with 10 more than any other team in the majors.

The fielding failures put starter Andrew Triggs (5-4) in tough situations. He went six innings and gave up one earned run - but even that could have been prevented if not for a poor throw by the weak-armed Davis in left.

Gary Sanchez added an RBI double in the seventh that squirmed out of the glove of a diving Davis. Brett Gardner drove in two insurance runs with a pop-fly double in the eighth.

Adam Warren retired all four batters he faced for his first save since July 28, 2015.

The Yankees trailed 2-1 when Ronald Torreyes reached on a soft infield single leading off the third, and Sanchez singled with one out. Matt Joyce then dropped Matt Holliday's fly ball in the right-field corner for an error that loaded the bases.

After Starlin Castro struck out, Judge lined a fastball the other way to put New York ahead. Triggs had given up just three home runs in his first nine starts this year.

Hicks stole second in the fourth and advanced to third on a throwing error by catcher Josh Phegley. That set up Carter's sacrifice fly, which made it 6-2.

And while Triggs' defense was betraying him, New York's fielders gave Pineda a big boost when he needed it.

With nobody out in the second, Ryon Healy was thrown out by Gardner trying to stretch a two-run single to left field. Torreyes followed with a diving play at third base.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Athletics: 1B Yonder Alonso was back in the lineup after missing three games with a sore right wrist. ... CF Rajai Davis was rested in favor of Mark Canha, who batted leadoff for the first time in his major league career. ... One-time closer Sean Doolittle, on the DL since April 30 with a strained left shoulder, threw 20 pitches Saturday and felt good, according to manager Bob Melvin. "So we'll figure out the next step here in the next day or so," Melvin said. ... Oakland plans to put RHP Kendall Graveman (shoulder) on the 10-day disabled list Monday and recall RHP Daniel Mengden from Triple-A Nashville to make his first big league start of the season in Cleveland.

Yankees: Slumping 3B Chase Headley was given a second consecutive day off to work on his swing. He'll return to the lineup Monday, manager Joe Girardi said. ... All-Star closer Aroldis Chapman (shoulder) was scheduled to throw for the second straight day before a day off in his program Monday.

UP NEXT

Athletics: The 24-year-old Mengden began the season on the disabled list following surgery on his right foot. He was activated May 20 and optioned to Triple-A Nashville. Including his rehab assignment, Mengden is 2-1 with a 2.21 ERA in four Triple-A starts this year. He reached the majors for the first time last season and went 2-9 with a 6.50 ERA in 14 starts for Oakland. RHP Carlos Carrasco (4-2, 2.93) pitches for the AL champion Indians.

Yankees: Begin a seven-game road trip Monday afternoon in Baltimore, with rookie LHP Jordan Montgomery (2-3, 4.30 ERA) on the mound against Orioles RHP Dylan Bundy (5-3, 2.92).