It had all the makings of a good day. The Tribe already had taken the first game of the doubleheader and led the second game 4-3 in the eighth inning. The fans had been positive, cheering most of the afternoon and it looked like the Indians were about to build upon their first place lead.
Things change quickly.
The boo-birds came out quickly when Bob Feller relieved Sam Zoldak in the eighth inning. Zoldak had given the Tribe seven and one-third innings, scattering eight hits around his three runs and leaving with the lead. Indians manager Lou Boudreau went to the bullpen, summoning Feller, who appeared to find himself on the last road trip. Feller looked like the same wilting veteran the last time he was at home though, walking Vic Wertz and Hoot Evers before giving up a game-changing home run to Pat Mullin. The homer erased the Indians lead and helped the Tigers to a 7-5 come-from-behind victory Monday afternoon.
Feller was showered by boos when Mullin hit the homer and as he left the field to end the top of the eighth inning. When Boudreau came to the plate in the bottom half of the inning, he too, was given ridicule from the Cleveland patrons.
The Tribe picked up where they left off from the first game when they scored two runs in the first inning of the second game. Dale Mitchell singled and advanced to second base on a fielder’s choice that left Hank Edwards safe too at first base. After Boudreau bunted the two runners into scoring position, Eddie Robinson — reinstated into the cleanup spot — double to left field bringing them both home and establishing a 2-0 lead.
Cleveland extended its lead in the bottom of the fourth inning when Ken Keltner and Wally Judnich hit back-to-back home runs, making the lead 4-0. Both dingers were solo shots. Keltner’s round tripper was his second of the day and 19th of the season, while Judnich found the seats for the first time this year.
Zoldak cruised through the first five innings, allowing just four hits and barely a scoring opportunity for Detroit. With two gone in the sixth inning, Zoldak allowed a single to center field for Jimmy Outlaw and made a mistake to Evers. Evers crushed a two-run homer run, his fifth of the season, and cut the Indian lead to 4-2.
After allowing a leadoff triple in the top of the seventh inning to Sam Vico, Zoldak used a comebacker to the mound to retire Vico in a rundown between third and home and avert any more damage, but the bullpen began to spring into action. Having only thrown one complete game all season, it seemed Boudreau would need to call upon help to cinch this victory.
Yet, Zoldak started the eighth inning, still leading 4-2. But after retiring the first hitter of the inning, the scrappy Eddie Lake squeezed his first home run of the season over the fence, cutting the lead to 4-3. That finished Zoldak’s day, receiving a round of cheers as Feller trotted in from the bullpen.
Feller took the mound to a mixture of boos and cheers from the 59,042 Cleveland faithful. After retiring George Kell on a fly ball to center field, Feller walked Wertz and Evers and then coughed up a three-run homer to Pat Mullin. Mullin’s blast to right field was his 12th of the season and gave Detroit a 6-4 lead. It was the decisive blow in the game and unleashed the boo birds.
Feller (8-9) finished the inning, but his 13th home run allowed this season cost the Tribe the game and a new round of ridicule from Indians fans.
Steve Gromek relieved Feller in the ninth, but allowed another run when he gave up singles to Hank Riebe, Johnny Lipon and Lake. Lake’s single plated the Tigers’ seventh run, extending the score to 7-4. Ed Klieman had to earn the final two outs of the inning.
The Tribe did try to rally in the bottom of the ninth inning, but Detroit’s ace was able to provide the relief help Feller could not. Tiger starter Fred Hutchinson had survived his way to the ninth inning, retiring 13 of 14 hitters since the back-to-back homers in the fourth inning. Robinson quickly got back one of the Tribe’s runs in the ninth when he lead off the inning with his 10th home run of the season.
Tigers manager Steve O’Neill, guarding a 7-5 lead, pulled Hutchinson after striking out Joe Gordon and walking Keltner. With the tying run at the plate, Hal Newhouser came in to the game to protect Detroit’s lead. Pinch-hitter Allie Clark popped out to shortstop and Bob Kennedy hit a soft fly ball to end the game. The Indians heard another round of boos as the game concluded. O’Neill understood Boudreau’s decision to bring in Feller. He felt he did the same with Newhouser.
“I did the same thing today with Newhouser in the ninth,” O’Neill said. “Hutchinson wanted to finish the game but he has had a sore arm and I thought it would be better to put in Newhouser. He came through, that’s all.”
Hutchinson (4-3) pitched eight and one-third innings, allowing five runs on six hits and two walks while striking out three. He was able to dodge the plight of allowing three home runs. Newhouser earned his first save of the season in relief.
Cleveland also allowed three home runs, two by Zoldak and one by Feller. The Feller big fly overshadowed a three-hit, three RBI effort by Robinson.
The squandered second game was an opportunity to lost to make ground on both the Philadelphia Athletics and New York Yankees. New York was swept in Boston today and still lost a game to the Tribe in the standings. The Athletics also split their doubleheader in Washington and remain just one game behind Cleveland.
Tomorrow night the Indians will try to win the series with the Tigers. Bob Muncrief (5-1, 2.22) will take the mound for Cleveland. He was originally supposed to pitch today, but was backed up after the rainout in St. Louis yesterday. He’ll be opposed by right-hander Dizzy Trout (7-9, 3.91).