1954 Cleveland Indians: AL race tightens in eight-game week

With just a one game lead, the Indians faced the White Sox, Yankees and A’s in an eight game week.

An eleven-game winning streak was snapped when the Indians lost a two game series in Chicago last week. They responded in a huge way, outscoring the Tigers 18-1 in sweeping the weekend series, putting the Tigers six games back.

This week, the White Sox visit Cleveland for a Memorial Day double header and then the Indians hit the road for two weeks, with the first two stops being New York and Philadelphia.

May 31, 1954

May 31 (game 1): White Sox 6, Indians 4

May 31 (game 2): White Sox 3, Indians 6

In game one, Bob Feller faced Bob Keegan. Ferris Fain hit a two run shot in the top of the first to put the Sox up quickly. The Tribe got one back in the third on a George Strickland double and Al Smith two out single. The Sox responded quickly, with an RBI single by Jim Rivera. In the fifth, the Indians loaded the bases on singles and Keegan balked in a run. But he knuckled down and got of the inning with a pop up and two Ks. Jim Hegan tied the game at three in the sixth, but Minnie Minoso hit a two run shot in the eighth to grab the lead again. Chico Carrasquel added a Sox insurance run in the ninth and Bobby Avila homered in the bottom half, but it was not enough as both Keegan and Feller pitched complete games.

The Tribe went for a split with Art Houtteman against Don Johnson. Fain again opened the scoring in the first, this time with an RBI double. An Avila double and Larry Doby single in the third knotted the score at one. The Indians got their first lead of the day on a solo shot by Dave Philley in the fourth. Houtteman faltered in the fifth when Minos doubled in one and  Carl Sawatski singled in another to grab a 3-2 lead. Houtteman helped his own cause with an RBI single in the sixth. It stayed tied until the eighth. Hegan homered to lead off the frame, Avila doubled in Smith and a Doby flyball got the lead to 6-3. Houtteman let the tying run get to the plate, but finished off the game for a much needed split. The Tribe retained their one game edge on the White Sox.

June 2-4, 1954

June 2: Indians 8, Yankees 7 (10 innings)

June 3: Indians 1, Yankees 2

June 4: Indians 3, Yankees 8

Following a travel day on Tuesday, the Indians opened the road trip with three games in Yankee Stadium. The Yankees were just three games back and looking to make up some ground. The opener was expected to be tight as Early Wynn faced Allie Reynolds. Wynn didn't get out of the first, allowing four consecutive singles. Don Mossi couldn't stop the bleeding and the Yankees had put up a seven spot on six singles. Doby got the Tribe back in it with a three run bomb in the third. And in the fourth, the Tribe got three more on four singles and a Gil McDougald error. But by that time, manager Al Lopez had burned his top two relievers, Mossi and Ray Narleski. Bob Hooper pitched a pair of scoreless frames, as did Mike Garcia. Johnny Sain came out for the save in the ninth and Bobby Avila greeted him with a solo shot. And in the tenth, the improbable comeback was complete when Smith also homered. Hal Newhouser pitched the final three innings, allowing just one walk.

The second game did turn out to be a pitcher's duel as Bob Lemon and Eddie Lopat dazzled the crowd. The Indians took the 1-0 lead on three singles in the second, with Lemon getting the RBI. Irv Noren tied it in the fourth, scoring Mickey Mantle on a single. From the fifth through seventh innings, only a walk to Joe Collins and Noren reaching on a Rosen error were the only baserunners. Doby and Rosen both singled with one out in the eighth, but Philley grounded into a double play. Collins led off the bottom of the eighth with a solo shot to take the lead. Rusy Regalado led off with a single in the ninth. Hegan moved pinch runner Dave Pope to second with one out. But Lopat got pinch hitter Dale Mitchell and Smith to both hit into force plays to tie the series at a game apiece.

In the rubber match, Wynn took the hill after his previous short outing. The Yankees sent out Whitey Ford. Wynn wasn't sharp again as Phil Rizzuto singled and stole second. He walked Mantle and Yogi Berra crushed a three run homer. Heading to the sixth, the Indians had only mustered two walks and two singles and two double plays. Wynn doubled to center and Smith tripled him home. A Doby flyball got them within one. But single runs in the sixth and seventh by the Yankees made it 5-2. In the eighth, Mantle smacked a three run shot off Narleski to make it 8-2. A Philley solo home run completed the scoring, but Ford was unable to get the complete game as he walked both Hegan and Mitchell. But Sain got Smith to flyout to end the game. And just like that, the White Sox were tied for first and the Yankees were just two back.

June 5-6, 1954

June 5: Indians 4, Athletics 1 (11 innings)

June 6 (game 1): Indians 2, Athletics 1

June 6 (game 2): Indians 7, Athletics 5

After five games against the top two other teams in the league, a visit to Philadelphia to face the 17-28 Athletics was definitely a welcome sight. The Saturday game had Garcia face Alex Kellner. Garcia was pretty wild early on. He walked one in the first and third, two in the second and another pair in the fourth. But the first hit he gave up was also in the fourth which loaded the bases. Kellner hit a deep enough flyball for the first run of the game. Kellner was a bit more dominant, scattering three hits through six innings. Philley tied it on a solo shot in the seventh however. Neither pitcher flinched until the eleventh inning as there were just two baserunners after the home run. Garcia led off with a walk in the eleventh and Smith singled him to second. Avila was credited with a single, but Jim Finigan threw the ball away, scoring Garcia. After a popout by Doby and an intentional pass to Regalado, Philley hit a deep enough fly that scored both Smith and Avila. Garcia finished off the A's in the bottom half to secure the eleven inning complete game.

Feller got his second start of the week, this time against Arnie Portocarrero. The Tribe scored two in the second on a pair of triples by Philley and Strickland, with both of them scoring on sacrifice flies by Bill Glynn and Hegan respectively. Portocarrero got one run back with a homer off Feller in the third. The A's threatened to tie it up with teo more singles, but Feller got out of it. Other than two more singles in the fourth off Feller, neither side did much the rest of the game as only three other A's reached base and no Indians. Portocarrero retired the final eighteen batters. Newhouser retired the final batter of the game for Feller.

In the nightcap, Houtteman faced Marion Fricano, going for the doubleheader and series sweep. Doby's home run in the first put the Tribe up 1-0, but a Finigan homer and RBI single by Elmer Valo got the A's the lead 2-1. Houtteman homered in the third and drove in a second run with a  sacrifice fly after a bases loaded triple by Hal Naragon. The A's got one back in the fourth, but Vic Wertz got his first Tribe RBI in the fifth to make it 7-3. After the A's got single runs in frames six and seven, manager Al Lopez went to the bullpen. Bob Hooper pitched the eighth but was pulled after a leadoff walk in the ninth. Newhouser got a force out and then Lemon relieved him. Lemon gave up a single to put the tying run on base and Mossi got the final out for his first save of the year.

Transactions/Moves

Rosen got nicked up at some point during this week as Glynn started the Saturday and Sunday games in his stead at first. Heading toward the June 15 trading deadline, general manager Hank Greenberg made a shrewd move, sending reliever Bob Chakales to the Orioles for outfielder Vic Wertz. Chakales could be a starter, but with the Indians deep rotation, there was no room. Wertz made his first start in left during the Sunday nightcap.

Summary

Normally a 5-3 week would be an acceptable result. But the three losses were to the White Sox and Yankees, the two teams hot on their heels. The White Sox pulled even and the Yankees kept pace. But the Tigers fell far enough back to almost eliminate them from the conversation.

Up next, the road trip concludes in D.C. and Beantown.

Standings

W

L

Pct

GB

RS

RA

Pythag

Cleveland Indians

32

15

681

-

234

170

642

Chicago White Sox

33

16

673

-

244

167

667

New York Yankees

30

20

600

3.5

232

183

607

Detroit Tigers

23

21

523

7.5

182

180

505

Washington Senators

19

28

404

13.0

195

211

464

Boston Red Sox

16

25

390

13.0

180

209

432

Baltimore Orioles

17

31

354

15.5

148

214

337

Philadelphia Athletics

17

31

354

15.5

181

262

337

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