September 4, 1948
In a season that appears will go down to the final games or innings, the Indians may have several unfortunate moments to point back to if the pennant does not go their way.
Another one of those moments may have taken place in the fifth inning on Saturday afternoon when the St. Louis Browns erupted for three runs against Tribe starter Satchel Paige. It was the only inning the lowly Browns scored in regulation, but that outburst and a well-pitched game by Ned Garver, was enough to push the game to extras where the Browns won 4-3 in ten innings in front of 17,092.
The loss, combined with wins by the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees today, now drops the Indians to three games back in the standings and deep into third place. They trail the second place Yankees by two and a half games and if the Tribe can do no better than recent results against second division teams, this could become a two-team race for the pennant between proverbial east coast juggernauts.
Both Garver and Paige were in control early. Garver danced out of trouble due to a double play in the third inning. After Eddie Robinson started the inning with a double to right field and Jim Hegan singled to center field, the Indians had runners on the corners with no one out. Paige popped out to shortstop for the first out and then Garver got lucky when Dale Mitchell laced a line drive at second baseman Jerry Priddy. He snagged the liner and threw to first base to double up Hegan and end the inning.
The Tribe took the lead in the top of the fourth inning. Wally Judnich and Larry Doby started the inning with singles to center field. However, on Doby’s single, St. Louis center fielder Paul Lehner misplayed the ball and let it get behind him and both runners were able to advance an extra base. With runners on second and third and no one out, Joe Gordon grounded out to first base and Judnich scored to put the Indians on the board. Ken Keltner flew out to right field deep enough for Doby to trot home and give the Indians a 2-0 lead.
But in the tumultuous fifth inning the Browns drove Paige from the game and took the lead. The ageless Alabaman’s first pitch of the inning was sizzled back into center field by Eddie Pellagrini. Garver flew out to left field before Bob Dillinger looped a flare over Keltner’s head at third base to move Pellagrini up a base.
Al Zarilla crushed a double off the right field screen, bringing Pellagrini around to score, cutting the lead to 2-1. Priddy finished Paige’s day when he singled to left and Dillinger and Zarilla scored to make it 3-2, St. Louis. While it may have been a quick hook, Lou Boudreau made the move to the bullpen for Russ Christopher in hopes of keeping the score close and this pivotal game in reach.
Christopher got ground outs from Dick Kokos and Hank Arft to end the inning. Paige survived just four and one-third innings, allowing three runs on nine hits while striking out two. Christopher finished the fifth and pitched a solid sixth inning, having a good outing after several struggles on this road trip. Ed Klieman took over for Christopher in the seventh inning.
The Tribe evened the game in the seventh inning when Boudreau singled to left field to start the inning. After Robinson struck out, Hegan singled to center field to put two on and one out. Hal Peck pinch-hit for Christopher and popped out to second base before Mitchell walked to load the bases. Garver then walked Judnich to force in a run and tie the game at three. With the bases loaded, Doby could not come through with a hit, instead grounding out to first base to end the inning.
Both teams worked out of a jam in the eighth inning. Keltner doubled to left with one out. After Boudreau lined to center field, Garver intentionally walked Robinson before getting Hegan to fly out in foul ground to end the Indian threat. The Browns got back-to-back one-out singles from Arft and Lehner, but Klieman and the Tribe got a ground ball double play to end the inning, Boudreau to Gordon to Robinson.
Cleveland lost the game in the tenth off the bat of an unexpected hero. Kokos doubled to center field off Klieman to start the inning. After intentionally walking Arft to set up a double play, Lehner and Les Moss each flew out. Joe Schultz pinch-hit for Pellagrini, but Klieman pitched cautiously and eventually walked him with Garver on deck. However, the pitcher laced a singled through the left side allowing Kokos to score and the Browns to walkoff with a 4-3 win.
Garver (7-8) went the distance pitching all ten innings – and appeared to be ready to pitch the eleventh if the game continued. He allowed just three runs, only two earned, on eight hits and six walks, but struck out five. Klieman (3-2) took the loss in relief, allowing just the game-winning run in three and two-third innings. Boudreau feels Klieman tires after two or three innings, but with the Tribe’s bullpen struggles of late, he felt he had no choice but to continue with his most reliable arm.
Cleveland will try to even their four-game series with the Browns tomorrow when left-hander Gene Bearden (13-6, 2.74) takes the mound. St. Louis will counter with right-hander Fred Sanford (9-17, 4.58). With just 25 games remaining on the schedule, the Indians can ill-afford to fall any further behind in the pennant chase.