Petaluma little leaguers surprised by A's greeting


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.

Crisp homers as Indians shut out Blue Jays to advance to World Series


Crisp homers as Indians shut out Blue Jays to advance to World Series


TORONTO -- A most unlikely pitching performance helped put a most unexpected team into the World Series.

Rookie Ryan Merritt coolly delivered a lead to the Andrew Miller-led bullpen and the Cleveland Indians won their first pennant since 1997, blanking Toronto 3-0 Wednesday in Game 5 of the AL Championship Series.

Cleveland, which has never hosted a World Series opener, will play Game 1 at Progressive Field on Tuesday night against either the Chicago Cubs or Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Indians will try to boost what's already been a magical year in Cleveland after LeBron James and the Cavaliers earned the city's first sports championship since 1964. The Indians' title drought dates to 1948.

The Dodgers led the Cubs 2-1 going into Game 4 of the NLCS on Wednesday night. Cleveland didn't play either team this season.

With all of 11 major league innings under his belt, Merritt took the mound and looked just like a seasoned vet. The 24-year-old lefty retired the first 10 batters and allowed only two hits before being pulled after 4 1/3 innings.

Then it was up to Cleveland's tireless relievers to hold a three-run lead.

Miller again did most of the heavy lifting, pitching 2 2/3 innings, and Cody Allen pitched the ninth for the save. Winner Bryan Shaw worked an inning before Miller came in.

Carlos Santana and Coco Crisp homered for the Indians.

Donaldson homers, Blue Jays beat Indians to stay alive in ALCS


Donaldson homers, Blue Jays beat Indians to stay alive in ALCS


TORONTO -- Josh Donaldson homered to give Toronto a long-awaited lead, and the Blue Jays finally broke through with the bats, beating the Cleveland Indians 5-1 on Tuesday to avert a sweep in the AL Championship Series.

The Indians still lead the matchup 3-1, but Donaldson and a poised Aaron Sanchez handed them their first loss of this postseason.

Edwin Encarnacion later hit a two-run single, a welcome sight for a raucous Rogers Centre crowd that had fallen silent watching its team reach the brink of elimination because of a slumbering offense.

Donaldson's solo shot to left-center field off Corey Kluber in the third put the Blue Jays ahead for the first time all series. Two innings after that, the star third baseman made an outstanding diving stop to preserve a one-run edge.

Sanchez, the American League ERA champion, allowed a run and two hits in six innings, and the bullpen finished with three perfect innings.

Cleveland will try again Wednesday to win to earn its first World Series trip since 1997, but the big concern for the Indians coming into the series - an injury-riddled rotation - still lingers.

Kluber was starting on three days' rest for the first time in his career, and in Game 5 Cleveland will send lightly used rookieRyan Merritt to the mound against Marco Estrada.

Kluber hadn't allowed a run in either of his first two starts this postseason. Donaldson, the reigning AL MVP and sporting a still freshly shaved face, opened the scoring with his first home run of these playoffs.

The wild-card Blue Jays made it 2-0 in the fourth when Ezequiel Carrera's blooper fell between three Cleveland fielders in left-center for an RBI single.

Roberto Perez hit an RBI double in the fifth off Sanchez. Carlos Santana's two-out grounder to the left side might have had a chance to score him, but Donaldson made the play.

The Indians didn't have another baserunner after that. Brett CecilJason Grilli and Roberto Osuna pitched an inning each in relief for Toronto.

Taking no chances, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons brought in Osuna, his closer, in a non-save situation to finish off Cleveland.

The Indians were trying to become the third team to sweep a Division Series and Championship Series in the same postseason. The 2007 Colorado Rockies and 2014 Kansas City Royals both did it.

Cleveland had won nine in a row, including three straight over Boston in the ALDS.

The Indians had a chance to take the lead in the third when Tyler Naquin hit a leadoff double and went to third on a sacrifice. Sanchez retired Santana on a soft grounder with the infield in, and then Jason Kipnis also grounded out.

Kluber was pulled after 89 pitches. He allowed two runs and four hits in five innings.

The Blue Jays added two more runs in the seventh after a throwing error by reliever Bryan Shaw. Encarnacion came up with the bases loaded and the crowd chanting "Eddie" - and his hard grounder skipped off the mound and into center field to make it 4-1.

Trevor Bauer's finger injury put more pressure on Kluber to come back for Game 4 and a possible Game 7 on short rest. Bauer cut his right pinkie on a drone and had to be pulled in the first inning Monday after he started bleeding.

"I had to witness everything he had to go through to try and go out there and pitch last night," pitching coach Mickey Callaway said before Tuesday's game. "Not too many people would have done that. He's been wonderful. He's obviously grown over the years because he wanted to."

Indians: The 24-year-old Merritt has pitched 11 innings as a big leaguer. His only start came Sept. 30, when the left-hander held Kansas City to a run and three hits in five innings.

Blue Jays: Estrada allowed two runs in eight innings in Game 1 against Cleveland.