Indians Give Game Away In the Ninth; Yankees 3, Indians 2

August 28, 1948

Walkoff victories come in many shapes and forms. This afternoon the Yankees collected a walkoff victory that was delivered to them with a bow on it, courtesy of the Cleveland Indians.

After eight strong innings from Sam Zoldak, the heat got the best of him and he was unable to pitch the ninth. The 100 degree temperatures left the southpaw fatigued and unable to finish the six-hit masterpiece he had been toiling. What transpired were two runs from the Yankees against the Indians’ bullpen and a 3-2 walkoff victory. New York did not log a hit, or even get the ball out of the infield, in the ninth inning.

The loss by Cleveland drops them to third place in the American League standings. Boston’s 6-2 victory over the White Sox keeps them a game and a half ahead of the now-second place Yankees. The Tribe falls two full games back, and just ahead of the fourth place Philadelphia Athletics, who are only three games back of the top spot. The Tribe’s drop in the standings is a result of their 2-4 stretch this week against Boston and New York.

Cleveland took the lead in the top of the second inning when Larry Doby socked a solo home run into the seats in right field. His eleventh home run of the season gave the Tribe a 1-0 lead, but was the Indians’ 123rd homer of the season, tying the all-time mark for home runs in a season by a Cleveland club.

New York answered back with a run of its own in the bottom half of the inning. With one out, Phil Rizzuto walked and advanced to second when a balk was called on Zoldak. Ralph Houk singled to left field, but Dale Mitchell made a fine fielding play and throw to the plate to cut down Rizzuto at the plate for the second out. Houk advanced to second base on the play and was able to hustle home when Yankee pitcher Ed Lopat singled to center field. Lopat’s single tied the game at one apiece after two innings.

What transpired after the second inning was a pitcher’s duel between Zoldak and Lopat. After the second inning, Zoldak allowed just three hits over the next six frames and did not allow a walk. Lopat, meanwhile, danced around several scoring opportunities to hold the Indians’ offense at their lone run. The Yankee southpaw has made a career out of defeating the Tribe.

Had Zoldak been able to bunt runners around the bases, the Indians may have been able to score some more runs for him. In the top of the third inning Jim Hegan started the frame reaching via an error third baseman Billy Johnson. Zoldak tried to bunt Hegan to second base, but instead bunted hard enough down the third base line that allowed Johnson to throw to second base and then back to first for a double play. Mitchell proceeded to single and Allie Clark doubled before Lou Boudreau stranded both when he flew out to right field. Again in the fifth inning Hegan singled with one out and Zoldak bunted into another double play, started by Johnson.

In the eighth inning the Indians finally tallied a run, but could have scored what turned out to be necessary insurance runs. Clark singled to center field to start the inning and was replaced by pinch-runner Thurman Tucker. Boudreau successfully bunted Tucker to second base before Joe Gordon singled to right field. Tucker raced home and gave the Indians a 2-1 lead. Johnny Berardino flew out to left field and Gordon was caught stealing second with Doby at the plate.

In the ninth the Indians could have scored another run, but let it get away. With an out recorded, Eddie Robinson doubled to right field and Hegan was intentionally walked. Zoldak – intending to go the distance – hit for himself and chopped a single over first baseman Tommy Henrich’s head. With the bases loaded and just one out, Cleveland looked primed to add on, but Mitchell’s smash was right at Rizzuto, who started a double play to keep the score 2-1 Cleveland as the two teams headed to the bottom of the ninth.

After logging hits in the seventh and ninth innings, running the bases, and pitching eight innings, Zoldak informed Boudreau that he did not think he had the strength to record the final three outs in the 100 degree afternoon heat. Boudreau went to the bullpen, summoning Gene Bearden to try and get the final three outs. What transpired was anything other than what was designed.

Bearden hit leadoff man Joe DiMaggio in the knee to start the inning and then fell behind 2-0 on Yogi Berra. Boudreau removed Bearden in the middle of Berra’s at bat and called upon Ed Klieman, who worked the count to full before walking him to put two on and no one out. Bobby Brown, pinch-hitting for Johnson, bunted the two runners into scoring position before Rizzuto was intentionally walked to load the bases.

Charlie Keller pinch-hit for Houk and immediately drew three straight balls. Klieman battled back with two strikes and Keller fouled off two pitches before finally drawing a walk that forced in DiMaggio and tied the game at two.

With the bases loaded still, pinch-hitter Cliff Mapes grounded slowly to second baseman Joe Gordon, who fielded and threw to Boudreau at second base for the second out of the inning. However, Boudreau’s relay throw to first base was not in time to end the inning and Berra scored the winning run. New York’s 3-2 late-inning win came without a hit or the ball leaving the infield.

In addition to second place in the standings being squandered, so was Zoldak’s eight marvelous innings of six-hit baseball and one run allowed. Bearden (12-6) suffered the loss, being charged with both ninth inning runs. Lopat (13-8) went the distance for New York, allowing just two runs while scattering 12 hits, two walks and striking out just one. It is Lopat’s 17th win in 21 career decisions against the Tribe.

The third place Cleveland Indians now travel to Washington for a Sunday doubleheader. Bob Lemon (17-11, 2.81) will try to get the Tribe back on track against the lower-division foe and left-hander Forrest Thompson (4-6, 3.96) in the first game. Don Black (2-2, 6.34) will make his first appearance since August 11 against Early Wynn (7-15, 5.35) in the second game.

Tomorrow’s doubleheader is the third twin bill the Indians have played in eight days. Each has been in a different city.


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