The American League pennant race is deadlocked at the top with just eight games remaining.
Cleveland, who was four and a half games behind Boston just two weeks ago, tied the front-running Boston Red Sox for the lead in the American League with a 5-2 victory in front of 76,772 spectators on Don Black Night. Black is the Tribe’s fallen pitcher who has been hospitalized with a brain hemorrhage. He’ll receive approximately $40,380 of the gate receipts. The win extends the Indians’ current winning streak to seven games.
The Tribe honored their fallen pitcher while another hurler provided a star effort. Bob Feller tossed a three-hit, complete game for his fifth straight victory. The struggling fireballer did not allow a hit until the sixth inning. The man tabbed by Indians manager Lou Boudreau at the All-Star break as the key to the pennant, pitched like a catalyst to October.
Cleveland struck Red Sox starter Joe Dobson in the bottom of the first inning for three early runs. With one gone, Thurman Tucker walked and stole second base while Boudreau uncharacteristically struck out. Joe Gordon roped a line drive single to left field and Tucker raced home to give the Indians a quick 1-0 lead.
After falling behind in the count, 2-0, Dobson grooved a fastball to Ken Keltner that the Tribe third baseman turned around and planted in the left field seats. Keltner’s 28th home run gave the Tribe a 3-0 lead and the raucous crowd was sensing an Indian win early. It was Keltner’s fourth home run of the season off Dobson.
It was all the offense Feller would really need. He came out focused and pounding the strike zone with crisp fastballs and breaking curves. He struck out Dom Dimaggio and Johnny Pesky to start the game before getting Ted Williams to fly to left field. Feller struck out six in the first five innings and did not allow a hit.
Just as the fans were starting to feel the possibility of a no-hitter in the air, Birdie Tebbetts dashed their hopes with a double down the left field line to start the sixth inning. Dobson helped his own cause with a single to left field that brought Tebbetts to the plate and cut Cleveland’s lead to 3-1. Boudreau cut off Mitchell’s throw from left field and relayed back to second base to cut down Dobson for the first out of the inning. Feller was able to minimize the damage and keep Boston at just the lone run.
Cleveland tallied two more runs in the bottom of the seventh inning and put the game away. Boudreau singled off Dobson to start the inning and advanced to second base when Gordon bunted him over. Keltner singled back up the middle to put runners on first and second with just one out.
Larry Doby smacked a hard, ground ball that Doerr was able to knock down, but had no play. Boudreau crossed the plate to extend the Indians’ lead. Wally Judnich slapped a single to right field to score Keltner and give the Indians a 5-1 lead.
It would be all for Dobson’s evening. After a rocky first inning, it appeared he had settled down and found his command. Dobson (16-9) did not survive the seventh inning though, being charged with five runs on ten hits and five walks in six and one-third innings. He struck out one. Dave Ferriss came on and got Jim Hegan to ground into a double play to end the rally.
Staked to a four run lead, Feller cruised through the Red Sox in the eighth inning before allowing an unearned run and his final hit of the evening in the ninth. Boudreau muffed a grounder from Dimaggio to start the inning. After groundouts by Pesky and Williams, Vern Stephens singled to right field to score Dimaggio and make it 5-2. Feller finished the game a hitter later when Doerr flied out to left field.
When the game ended the crowd of over 76,000 gave Feller a splendid ovation. Feller (17-14), who has been the center of Clevelanders’ boos for most of the summer, was kindly thanked and congratulated for his complete game effort. He allowed two runs—just one earned—while allowing just three hits and two walks while striking out six.
The win gets the Tribe to the exact same 91-55 that Boston has and also ties their season series at 11 wins a piece. The New York Yankees can make it a three-way tie tomorrow if they can beat the White Sox in Chicago. Both Boston and Cleveland are idle on Thursday before starting weekend series. A Yankee win tomorrow against the last place White Sox will put them at 91-55, too.
The Tribe will travel to Detroit for three games this weekend. Friday afternoon the Indians will send Bob Lemon (20-12, 2.74) to the mound after his 21st victory of the season. Tigers manager Steve O’Neill promised yesterday to send his best against the contenders, so the Indians will face Fred Hutchinson (12-10, 4.39). The three game road trip is the last time the Indians will leave Municipal Stadium this season.