A's walk-off hero experiences new twist


A's walk-off hero experiences new twist

OAKLAND -- Typical Oakland Athletics baseball. Fall behind, rally, walk-off, pie, Gatorade, water, rinse and repeat. The only thing that ever changes is that it is a new hero each day. This time the hero was Brandon Hicks. His first career home run, was the blast that gave the A's their Major League-leading ninth walk-off win. After the dust, whipped cream, and cooler remnants had settled, the A's had defeated the American League West-leading Texas Rangers 4-3. "I've been waiting for it for a little while and for it to come like that it was awesome," Hicks said of his first home run. "It's exciting to get that kind of big hit in that situation to win a game."For his troubles, Hicks was rewarded with a pie to the face from Josh Reddick. Not satisfied, Reddick hid behind Kate Longworth and myself, then snuck behind us and pied Hicks again in the clubhouse.Of the nine walk-off wins and subsequent forced desserts, this is the first one that happened in the clubhouse."Who was that Reddick?" Hicks asked while blinded by the frothy can-served dairy product. "I wasn't ready for that one. He's tried to cut both of my interviews short." "Well he avoided me and I got the side of his face, so don't avoid me," Reddick explained. "You are going to get it eventually. It's your first career homer as a big leaguer and it was a walk-off. Why would you want to avoid it?" Reddick is poised to strike with a well deserved pie at any given moment. He is like a viper. He can get away with it because he backs it up on the field. Reddick's two-out two-run game-tying double in the seventh inning gave the A's an opportunity to walk-off in the fashion they did. "This is a fun time," Reddick said. "We just seem to start off slow and kick it off after the sixth inning and make it exciting."Starting pitcher Travis Blackley kept the A's in the game for five innings. He allowed just three runs, and struck out four Rangers hitters. He hasn't allowed a home run in his last eight games. It was a controversial balk call that ultimately ended up separating his performance from average to pie-worthy. "I think guys just like getting cream in their face," Blackley said. "I wouldn't know what it's like to get cream in my face. I guess if I hit a walk-off" Guess again. "Pitch a complete game and he'll find out," Reddick said. It is obvious the A's are a confident bunch in the late innings. They are 17-10 in games decided in the last at-bat. They are so confident in fact that Blackley said he knew his teammates were going to win it in the ninth inning. "I had a good feeling," Blackley said. "I thought I'd come down for the bottom of the ninth and sure enough, first hitter."Oakland has the second best record since June 2 at 25-14. The top team over that span is the New York Yankees who are 29-11. They will be here on Thursday for a four-game series. Get the whipped cream ready.

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.