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Mitch's Sports Report: Merritt Badge: Rookie Pitcher Helps Cleveland Win American League Pennant

The Cleveland Indians are headed back to the World Series for the first time since 1997, and with a chance to win their first title since 1948.

This Cleveland team is defying all the conventional wisdom. They headed into the post-season with injuries to two of their top pitchers, and most hardball pundits had them bowing out in the first round to the Boston Red Sox, and even after a sweep of the Sox, the thinking that the powerful Toronto Blue Jays offense would be too much for Terry Francona's squad to handle. But Cleveland needed just five games to take out the Jays, and they clinched the American League pennant with a 3-0 shut out of Toronto behind a rookie pitcher who's depth of big league experience prior to yesterday's game was a total of eleven innings on the mound. Things sure have changed in Cleveland since Lebron James came home and delivered the goods.

Call it the ultimate merit badge for Ryan Merritt, who pitched five innings of shut-out ball under the most high pressure of circumstances and then turned things over to the Cleveland bullpen, which has been utilized to perfection by manager Francona, and once you get to lefty closer Andrew Miller, it's pretty much game over, and he went a lot longer than he usually does, pitching two and two thirds innings to make sure the lead was maintained. The only run Cleveland needed came off a double by Mike Napoli that was misplayed off the wall and allowed Francisco Lindor to score all the way from first.

Now Cleveland does have that long drought of a championship title, and they were up by a run in the ninth inning in 1997 when they blew the lead and lost to the Florida Marlins, but they don't have quite the history of heartbreak losses nor the length of title-less years of the team I think will be their opponent in the Fall Classic, the Chicago Cubs.

The Cubbies still have work to do to get there, but they knotted up their National League Championship series with the L.A. Dodgers after a 10-2 thumping of L.A. last night. The game was scoreless until the fourth when Addison Russell hit a two-run homer and the Cubs tacked on two more for a lead they would never give up, ripping off five more runs in the sixth inning. John Lackey would have cruised to the win for Chicago but he was taken out in the fifth after issuing two walks and Mike Montgomery got the win in relief. So Game five in L.A. looms large with former Red Sox lefty John Lester taking the hill for the Cubs against Kenta Maeda for the Dodgers.

In the NHL Thomas Vanek and Drew Miller scored for the Detroit Red Wings, who got a terrific performance in net from Jimmy Howard, who made 32 saves in a 2-1 win over the NY Rangers at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers opened the scoring just over a minute into the game on a tip in by Mika Zibanejad, but Detroit came back to win their second consecutive game after opening the season with two losses.

Locally in mens' soccer the St. Michael's Purple Knights took on Southern New Hampshire and had leads of 1-0 and 2-1 before ultimately losing 4-2 to the Penmen in Manchester, New Hampshire yesterday. Aaron DaCosta opened the scoring for the Purple Knights just five minutes into the game and after the Penmen tied it up on a goal by Rayane Boukemia, freshman Andres Rivas put the Knights ahead again. But the lead couldn't hold against Boukemia, who added to his first goal of the match by scoring the next three accounting for all of Southern New Hampshire's offense in the win.

On the womens' pitch Rivier shut out Norwich 2-0, and in college field hockey action St. Anselm shut out the St. Michael's Purple Knights 3-0, while Middlebury topped Rensselaer 2-0 on goals by Kelly Coyle and Annie Leonard. It was the second consecutive shut out for the Panthers, who improve to 10-3 on the season with the victory.  
 

A graduate of NYU with a Master's Degree in journalism, Mitch has more than 20 years experience in radio news. He got his start as news director at NYU's college station, and moved on to a news director (and part-time DJ position) for commercial radio station WMVY on Martha's Vineyard. But public radio was where Mitch wanted to be and he eventually moved on to Boston where he worked for six years in a number of different capacities at member station WBUR...as a Senior Producer, Editor, and fill-in co-host of the nationally distributed Here and Now. Mitch has been a guest host of the national NPR sports program "Only A Game". He's also worked as an editor and producer for international news coverage with Monitor Radio in Boston.
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