August 26, 1948
In a best-of-three series for first place in the American League with the Boston Red Sox this week, the Indians could easily lay claim to victory in two games. However, while they beat the Red Sox yesterday, they beat themselves today.
The Tribe made just one error on the scoreboard, but several fundamental mistakes by the Indians resulted in an early deficit. After battling back to tie the game in the top of the eighth inning, Boston erupted for a big inning against a tired Gene Bearden. Bobby Doerr’s three-run homer broke the tie and gave Boston a lead they would never look back from, winning 8-4 in the series finale. Had Bearden, and his mates, provided better defense in the first seven innings, he may have had more stamina for the later innings.
Cleveland’s loss drops them a half game back of the Red Sox in the standings, while the New York Yankees lurk just a half game behind the Tribe. The three teams are now log-jammed just a full game apart. The Philadelphia Athletics continue to hang around, just three and a half games back.
The wig-wammers put themselves behind early when they handed the Red Sox a pair of runs in the third inning. After Bearden walked Birdie Tebbetts, Red Sox starting pitcher Mel Parnell grounded to third base but Ken Keltner let the ball roll through his legs for his 12th error of the season. Tebbetts was able to take third base on the play. The next hitter, Dom DiMaggio, grounded to Keltner. This time Keltner bobbled the ball just long enough to squelch the possible inning-ending double play and the Tribe could just force out Parnell at second, allowing Tebbetts to score the first run of the game.
Bearden lost focus for a moment and made his first pitch to Johnny Pesky from the windup. Seeing this, DiMaggio was able to steal second base standing up. It made it easy to score when Pesky laced a single to right field for Boston’s first hit of the game and made it 2-0.
Cleveland cut the deficit in half in the top of the fourth when Joe Gordon singled to left field to start the frame. Doby grounded to second, forcing Gordon out at the bag, and Eddie Robinson popped out to first base before Jim Hegan tripled off the center field wall. As Hegan chugged in to third base, Doby raced home and cut the score to 2-1, Boston.
Boston took that run right back in the bottom half of the inning when the Indians again made a fundamental mishap. Vern Stephens started the inning with a double off the wall in left field. Doerr hit a chopper up the first base line that Bearden fielded and threw to first, but allowed Stephens to advance to third base. Stan Spence then grounded to first base and Robinson could have held the runner at third, but he took his eye off the ball. When he did, it scooted past him into right field for a hit and Stephens trotted home to make it 3-1.
The Tribe continued to battle back against the Boston portsider, Parnell. In the sixth, Doby doubled to left field and advanced to third on Robinson’s grounder to the right side. When he reached third base, Doby bluffed as if he was going to steal home. It rattled Parnell enough for him to throw wild and allow Doby to race home, cutting it to 3-2.
Cleveland finally dug out of their self-inflicted hole in the eighth inning. Keltner doubled off the left field wall, just missing a homer by a couple feet to start the inning. After Gordon popped out to second base and Doby struck out, Bob Kennedy pinch-hit for Robinson and doubled to left, scoring Keltner.
But Bearden couldn’t hold the score. With one out Pesky bunted up the third base line for a base hit and Ted Williams singled him to third with a line drive single to right field. Stephens, the hero in the first game of the series, popped out to Lou Boudreau at shortstop for the second out. However, Doerr pulled a three-run homer down the left field line to give Boston a 6-3 lead. His 24th home run put the Red Sox in control.
Spence and Billy Goodman each singled, ending Bearden’s night, but Russ Christopher came on and gave up a triple to center field to Tebbetts, pushing both base runners across the plate and giving Boston an 8-3 lead. Christopher has struggled mightily lately in relief opportunities.
Parnell worked around an unearned run in the top of the ninth from the Tribe to earn the complete game victory. With two out, Boudreau reached safely on an error by Pesky and scampered home on a double to right field by Keltner. Gordon ended the game with a liner into Williams’ glove in left field.
Parnell (10-6) earns the win, allowing four runs – but just two earned – while scattering ten hits, three walks and striking out two. Bearden (12-5) suffers the loss, giving up just eight hits, but was responsible for all eight runs – just seven earned – with five walks and two strikeouts.
It was the smallest crowd of the series, just 20,322 in a sweltering heat. For Cleveland, it was their sixth loss in eleven games at Fenway Park this season and eleventh loss in 21 games between the two teams. They have just one matchup remaining in Cleveland on September 22.
Just a half game back and with 36 games left on the schedule, Cleveland need not panic but they should have a sense of urgency in the next three games in New York. Boudreau’s boys lead the Yankees by just a half game and falling behind both teams would make chasing down the pennant all that much harder.
Cleveland will have to take two of three in New York over the next two days to keep their place at second in the standings. Tomorrow, the Indians will send Bob Feller (12-14, 4.49) to the mound against the Yankees’ Vic Raschi (17-5, 3.37) in the first game of a doubleheader. Raschi is having the best year of his career while Feller is possibly having his worst. In the second game of the twin bill, former Indian Allie Reynolds (13-6, 3.81) will battle for the Yankees against Steve Gromek (7-2, 2.88).