Regardless of how the Indians’ season ends, it’s been one of breakout performances. None could be bigger than the emergence of rookie left-hander Gene Bearden.
Bearden tossed a four-hit shutout en route to an 11-0 victory last night against the Chicago White Sox. The win was Bearden’s 18th of the season and moved the Indians two games ahead of both the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees with just four games remaining.
The 28-year old Bearden spent six seasons in the minor leagues and two more years serving in the war. He was a Purple Heart recipient, suffering from leg injuries in combat. Upon leaving the military Bearden was told he’d likely never play baseball again, yet two season removed from his discharge, he’s pitching the Tribe to the pennant.
“There’s the guy who’s responsible,” Bearden said, motioning to Hegan sitting at his locker.
Hegan, one of the best defensive catcher’s in the game, is the reason Bearden feels he’s had new levels of success this season. An All-Star a year ago, Heagan isn’t normally an offensive threat but has 14 home runs and 46 RBIs to go with his .253 batting average after last night. He had just five home runs in his career before this season.
His ability to call a game still makes him stand out, however.
“He’s the best I’ve ever thrown to and in my opinion the best in the business,” Bearden said. “Jim knows what pitch to call and if you can give him that one you don’t have any trouble.”
Bearden had little trouble against the White Sox last evening. After Cleveland’s offense erupted for a six-run fifth inning, the left-hander allowed just one hit over the final four innings.
“My control was on tonight and I could put it where he wanted it.”
Bearden has a chance to earn his 19th win of the season on Saturday when the Indians take on the Detroit Tigers. His emergence in the Tribe’s rotation has made for a valuable 1-2-3 punch in September. Cleveland has won 17 of their last 20 games, largely in part to mound performances by he, Bob Lemon and Bob Feller. The trio has a chance to win a combined 60 games on the season if they win their scheduled starts this week.
Feller will start this afternoon against Chicago and again on Sunday against the Tigers. Lemon will pitch Friday against Detroit and Bearden on Saturday.