1954 Indians flashback: Tribe stumble to 2-4 week, lead shrinks

The Indians had finally gained some breathing by taking seven of eight from the Red Sox and Senators the week before. They looked to keep the lead or even extend it with visits from the Athletics and Yankees.

A 7-1 record versus Boston and Washington the week prior had finally given the Tribe their first substantial lead of the season, four games. Could they keep their proverbial foot on the gas when Philadelphia and New York paid a visit to Cleveland Stadium?

June 22-24, 1954

June 22: Athletics 4, Indians 1

June 23: Athletics 2, Indians 5

June 24: Athletics 5, Indians 1

Fresh off a three game sweep in Philly two weeks prior, the Athletics arrived looking to atone for those losses. Early Wynn was the starter for the first game, against Al Sima. The Indians tallied one in the first on an Al Smith walk, groundout, passed ball and another grounder. Four singles by the A's and a Rudy Regalado error in the fourth led to three unearned runs. If not for Smith's throw to second, it could have gotten worse. Meanwhile, the Tribe only managed one runner past first from the second to seventh innings, who was stranded. The A's managed to get an insurance run in the eighth. The Indians started a mini rally in the eighth, first and second with one out, but Sonny Dixon quelled the threat after hitting Al Rosen by getting Dave Philley to hit into a force play. The Indians went a meek 1-2-3 in the ninth and the A's had prevailed.

Bob Lemon went for the equalizing win while Bob Trice aimed to get a second victory for the A's. A two run homer by Larry Doby in the first got the Indians a quick lead. Joe DeMaestri doubled in one in the second to halve the lead. But another two run homer, this one from Rosen, extended the lead to 4-1. Again, the A's halved the lead when Bill Wilson homered off Lemon in the seventh. Lemon hit the Tribe's third homer of the day to make it 5-2 which was enough to tie the series up as the A's managed just one more baserunner on a single in the ninth. Lemon finished the game with seven hits, two walks and four strikeouts.

Art Hotteman was tasked with getting the series win against Arnie Portocarrero. There wasn't a single baserunner until the floodgates opened in the third. The A's scored four on a pair of singles, a triple and a two run blast by Lou Limmer. An RBI grounder by Smith got the Indians on the board in the third too, but Houtteman was done for the day. Ray Narleski took over and DeMaestri hit a solo shot in the fourth off him. Bob Hooper pitched three scoreless and Dave Hoskins had one of his own, but the Tribe offense didn't really threaten the rest of the way. Portocarrero finished his complete game with just five hits, three walks and six strikeouts. The Tribe had lost their first home series since the Yankees visited in early May and their lead was now down to just two games. And the Yankees just happened to be the next opponent on the docket.

June 25-27, 1954

June 25: Yankees 11, Indians 0

June 26: Yankees 11, Indians 9

June 27: Yankees 3, Indians 4

The opener promised to be a tight match as Mike Garcia faced Allie Reynolds. But Garcia ran into the Yankee buzzsaw in the third. Six of the first seven reached base on four singles and a pair of free passes, ending Garcia's afternoon. Don Mossi came in and walked the bases loaded again. But a Rosen error on a grounder led to three more runs and the lead grew to 7-0. The Indians managed to load the bases in the third but nothing came of it. Narleski, Hoskins and Hooper each pitched two innings, with Hooper being tagged for four runs on a Joe Collins homer, and a RBI single by Gene Woodling in the eighth, and a Wally Miranda sacrifice fly in the ninth. The Tribe managed to get at least one baserunner in each inning from the fourth on, but Reynolds was on his game, stranding every one of them, finishing with a shutout on nine hits, two walks and eight strikeouts. And with the loss, the White Sox pulled within one game.

Wynn was on tap in game two as Eddie Lopat squared off against him. Gil McDougald led off the game with a homer, but Smith answered with one of his own in the bottom half. The Indians even took the lead in the first when an errant Mickey Mantle throw scored Doby after he and Rosen singled. A bit of small ball by the Yankees in the second tied the game at two when Wynn blew the sacrifice bunt throw. Jim Hegan homered in the third and a Doby RBI groundout in the fourth pushed the lead to 4-2. Wynn was chased in the third after a walk and two singles. Mossi was not able to put the fire out, with a Mantle double pushing the Yankee lead to 6-4. Bobby Avila homered in the fifth to trim the lead to one. In the seventh, mantle homered and a two run double by Miranda off Bob Hooper made it 9-5. Smith crushed a three run homer off Bob Grim in the seventh to make it a one run game yet again. Garcia pitched a quiet eighth, but allowed two more in the ninth. The Tribe managed to put the tying runs on base in the ninth, but could only get one in, losing 11-9. Luckily the White Sox also lost, keeping the Indians alone in first.

Lemon was given the chance to stop the three game skid, with Whitey Ford aiming for the series sweep. McDougald scored after doubling in the first and scoring on a Mantle ground ball. Lemon only allowed another double in the second, but that would cap his day as Hal Newhouser took over in the third. Philley had a solo homer in the fourth and Wally Westlake had a two run shot in the sixth to make it 3-1. After Ford loaded the bases in the sixth, Tom Morgan came in. Smith said hello with an RBI single. Phil Rizzuto doubled in Hank Bauer in the seventh. And a Yogi Berra homer in the eighth off Newhouser got the Yankees within one, 4-3. Garcia replaced Newhouser for the ninth and set the Yankees down in order to salvage the series finale for Cleveland.

Transactions/Moves

Manager Al Lopez did plenty of shuffling this week. Avila took over at second on Wednesday after recovering from his injury. Smith replaced Regalado at third for the Yankee series while Vic Wertz and Westlake played left in his stead. Sam Dente was activated over the weekend, with Hoskins likely sent down to clear the roster space.

Summary

The 2-4 record for the week gave the White Sox the opportunity to knife into the lead, pulling within 1.5 games, with the Yankees also gaining ground, just 3 back. Chicago also regained the Pythag lead this week. Next week, the Indians make a quick trip to Baltimore for two games, before returning home to face the White Sox four times over the 4th of July weekend.

Standings

W

L

Pct

GB

RS

RA

Pythag

Cleveland Indians

46

22

676

-

333

248

632

Chicago White Sox

45

24

652

1.5

354

253

649

New York Yankees

44

26

629

3.0

344

260

625

Detroit Tigers

29

36

446

15.5

260

272

479

Washington Senators

29

38

433

16.5

291

299

488

Baltimore Orioles

27

42

391

19.5

238

309

383

Philadelphia Athletics

26

41

388

19.5

258

355

358

Boston Red Sox

24

41

369

20.5

246

328

371

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