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1954 Indians flashback: Ho-hum, another 6-1 week; Larry Doby profile

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After a successful 6-1 week prior, the Indians had an 82-33 record, but were clinging to just a three game lead over the hated Yankees. This week would be four games at home with the Tigers and then three in Baltimore with the Orioles.

Doby scoring after a bomb
Doby scoring after a bomb

A great week prior did not help in the standings as the Yankees actually picked up a game in the standings as the Tribe went 6-1. This week the Indians take on the same two teams, the Tigers and Orioles, only this time they would be home for Detroit and then head to Baltimore.

August 17-19, 1954

August 17: Tigers 3, Indians 4

August 18: Tigers 0, Indians 4

August 19 (game 1): Tigers 3, Indians 4

August 19 (game 2): Tigers 8, Indians 2

Riding a six game winning streak, Bob Lemon took the hill against George Zuverink. The Indians struck in the fourth when a bunt single by Bobby Avila went awry, allowing Al Smith to score from second after his double. The Tigers matched in the sixth an bases loaded fielder's choice. A Frank House solo homer in the eighth gave the Tigers a 2-1 lead. A pair of infield errors by the Tiger infield let the Tribe knot it in the bottom half. Lemon gave up one in the ninth and the streak was in jeopardy. Three straight singles in the bottom of the ninth tied the game. After Smith was intentionally passed, Avila ended the game with a single to right.

Early Wynn got the nod in the Wednesday matchup. Billy Hoeft matched Wynn's zeroes until the sixth when Avila hit his thirteenth homer of the year. A three run blast by Smith in the seventh pushed the lead to 4-0. Wynn scattered six hits and three walks in his shutout.

Bob Feller pitched the opener of the Thursday doubleheader. Dave Pope gave him a two run cushion in the second with a two run shot off Ned Garver and Vic Wertz hit a solo shot in the third. The Tigers scratched solo runs in the fifth and sixth. Sam Dente singled in Al Rosen in the sixth to get a two run lead back, 4-2. Ray Boone homered off Feller in the eighth, but Ray Narleski struck out the side in the ninth to make it nine straight.

But the Tribe couldn't make it to ten in a row, as Mike Garcia couldn't get out the fifth, leaving with the Tribe down 4-2. A three run homer by Bob Nieman off Don Mossi in the seventh made it 7-2. The only Tribe offense was a Dente RBI single in the second and a solo shot by Wertz in the third.

August 20-22, 1954

August 20: Indians 7, Orioles 2

August 21: Indians 4, Orioles 1

August 20: Indians 12, Orioles 1

The Indians headed to Baltimore to take on the lowly Orioles, who at that point were only 46.5 games back and riding a nine game losing streak. A two run triple by Larry Doby and Rosen's 21st homer gave Art Houtteman a quick 4-0 lead in the first. Avila tripled in Smith in the second, chasing Joe Coleman. Doby singles in Avila and Houtteman cruised with a 6-0 lead. Hal Newhouser pitched three innings of shutout relief. Dente added an RBI double to finish the Tribe scoring.

On Saturday, Lemon took his second turn of the week, facing Bob Turley. A sacrifice fly by Vern Stephens in the first gave the Orioles a quick 1-0 lead. A bases loaded triple by Doby in the sixth put the Tribe up 3-1. Dente again added an insurance run in the ninth as Lemon snagged yet another complete game.

The Indians went for the sweep on Sunday, hoping to make the Orioles losing streak reach an even dozen. A four spot in the third off Bob Kuzava gave Wynn all he would need. But the Tribe exploded for six more in the fifth, with Dente adding an RBI single in the eighth and Wertz a sacrifice fly in the ninth as the Tribe pounded out 20 hits.

Player of the Week

Both Bob Lemon and Early Wynn had two starts each, but neither was flat out dominant. I'll highlight the week Sam Dente had, 280/379/320 and 5 driven in, but the player of the week was Bobby Avila,  370/433/593 and 5 RBI of his own.

Player Spotlight

Center Fielder Larry Doby

Doby is another all-time great, finishing at #5 in the Top 100 Indians series. 1954 was not his best season as an Indian (1950 to 1952 were all better), but in 1954 he led the league in homers (32) and RBI (126). He slashed 272/364/484, good enough for 129 OPS+. He was in his sixth straight All Star game, and powered by the two-thirds of the triple crown, finished a close second behind Yogi Berra for MVP (230-210 points). If Avila and Lemon hadn't 10 first place votes of their own, he likely would have won it. In fact, the Indians had four of the top six in voting.

Summary

Another 6-1 week proved fruitful at last. The Indians pushed their lead over the Yankees to the largest all season, 5.5 games. The White Sox were essentially out of it at 9.5 games back. They were now 19-4 in August, and 27-6 since the pair of ties in Boston. Next week they finish the final long road trip with stops in Philly, Washington and Boston.

Standings

W

L

Pct

GB

RS

RA

Pythag

Cleveland Indians

88

34

721

-

600

411

666

New York Yankees

83

40

675

5.5

650

471

643

Chicago White Sox

80

45

640

9.5

594

416

657

Detroit Tigers

54

68

443

34.0

461

509

455

Boston Red Sox

53

67

442

34.0

543

588

464

Washington Senators

49

69

415

37.0

498

538

465

Philadelphia Athletics

40

79

336

46.5

426

679

299

Baltimore Orioles

39

84

317

49.5

389

549

347