July 23, 1948
Friday afternoon, the Cleveland Indians were rained out in New York, cutting their four-game series short at just three. As the Tribe boarded an earlier train for Boston, the rains continued to pound not just on New York, but possibly on the Indians’ pennant hopes.
When the train doors open this evening, the Indians will find themselves in the tightest race the 1948 season has seen yet. Cleveland remains in first place, but Philadelphia trails by just a half game, followed by the streaking Red Sox just a game and a half back and the Yankees in fourth place by just two and a half games. Half of the American League is less than a three-game series from the first place spot.
And while the Indians are losers of three of their last four games, including losing two of three to New York, there isn’t a hotter team on the planet than the Boston Red Sox. Boston has won nine in a row and 12 of 13 since the All-Star break to cut their deficit by five games in the standings. The BoSox were 14-23, mired in seventh place and eleven and a half games back on May 31. Now if they could sweep the Tribe in their three-game series this weekend, they’d likely be in first place.
Cleveland has been in first or second place all season, but a poor showing this weekend could drop them as far back as fourth, depending on the outcomes of New York and Philadelphia.
“I’ve said all season that the Red Sox were the team to beat,” Indians manager Lou Boudreau said. “They’re going to be tough, but I think we can take them, even in their own park.”
Cleveland has used the Green Monster to their benefit the last two seasons, just like the hometown Red Sox normally do. The offensive-minded Indians are 11-5 at Fenway Park over the last two seasons, including a 4-1 mark this year.
Boston has won their 12 games in the second half, all against the western teams of the American League – Detroit, St. Louis and Chicago. The three teams are all in the lower half of the league standings. However, Boston has done almost all of their winning without star slugger Ted Williams.
The Splendid Splinter had been out of the lineup since July 9 with a rib cage strain before today. Williams was back in the lineup, hitting third and going 2-for-4 this afternoon, driving in three runs and registering a double. He added to his league leading batting average of .390 and he is expected to be in the lineup all weekend.
With today’s rain out in New York, Boudreau and the boys will be able to start Bob Lemon (13-7, 2.70) in the first game of the doubleheader on Saturday. Red Sox manager Joe McCarthy is expected to send Jack Kramer (11-3, 4.42). Kramer, whose contract was purchased last winter from the St. Louis Browns, has been instrumental in the Red Sox surge in the standings. Kramer has won eight decisions in a row. Lemon is 1-1 against Boston this season, but has been knocked out of the box twice since the All-Star Game.
The second game appears to be a battle of southpaws on Saturday when the Indians hope Sam Zoldak (5-6, 4.15) can log his first victory in Beantown since joining the Tribe last month from St. Louis. Zoldak pitched in relief in the Washington and New York series. Gene Bearden originally was slated for the nightcap, but was scratched when Lemon was pushed back to Saturday’s twinbill.
Boston will trot Mel Parnell (6-5, 2.76) to the center of the diamond in the second game. Despite his mediocre record, Parnell has been one of Boston’s most reliable hurlers. He’s 1-1 against the Indians this season, shutting them out once and losing 2-1 on a two-run homer by Boudreau.
Boudreau would not commit to a Sunday starter yet. It appears he is in the mindset to win the game in front of him and plan for the next game after this one ends.
“I’m not thinking as far as Sunday yet,” Boudreau said. “The first game will be the important one there and I’m glad we’ll have Lemon ready. After that, both he and Feller will be available for relief.”
Feller pitched yesterday in New York, allowing six runs on two home runs.
Regardless, Boudreau and the Indians know the importance of this series with Boston. With a four-team race and the conclusion of their first east coast trip of the second half, every game matters this weekend against Boston. Meanwhile, New York takes on the lowly Chicago White Sox and Philadelphia will battle Detroit this weekend. The road to first place on Sunday night may be most difficult for the Tribe.
However, 70 games still remain on the Indians’ schedule and Boudreau has perspective entering the weekend.
“If we can’t get them (this weekend), we’ll get them in the long run because the schedule is in our favor,” he said. “The latter part of August and during September we’ll be at home most of the time and they’ll be on the road. And we’ll be playing Chicago, St. Louis and Detroit while they face New York, Philadelphia and Washington.”