Late-inning heroism leads McLain to 30th victory in 1968 | Sports coverage for Fenton, Linden, Holly and Lake

With 18 games left in the 1968 regular season, the Detroit Tigers knocked on the door of the American League pennant as Denny McLain knocked on the door to become baseball’s first 30-game winner since Dizzy Dean completed the task in 1934.

The Tigers’ magic number dropped to just 10 on Sept. 9, the first game of a three-game road trip against the California Angels. Mickey Lolich (14-9) threw a two-hit shutout while Willie Horton, Mickey Stanley and Al Kaline each homered, propelling the Tigers to victory.

McLain took the mound in the next contest and earned his 29th victory of the season in a 7-2 victory over the Tigers. Detroit scored in the first inning on Willie Horton’s RBI single, tackling Jim Northrup, who doubled and never trailed. McLain threw a full game of nine hits, while walking one and striking out 12. He was also big at the plate, going 3-for-4 with a two-run single in fourth and a triple in third. He finally scored after the three-bagger.

“I don’t feel any pressure but I’m tired, very tired,” McLain said. “Control and focus are the most important things for me. I don’t think I have an overwhelming pitch.

A day later, the Tigers wrapped up their three-game sweep over the Angels with an 8-2 victory. John Hiller threw a complete win and Horton hit two solo homers in the first three innings. Bill Freehan also added a solo photo.

“We have to fight every day, every game,” Horton said. “We have a good ball club and we are doing well, but we have to fight every day.”

Detroit returned to Tiger Stadium for a six-game homestand. The top three were against Oakland and the bottom three were against New York. With a few breaks, the Tigers could clinch during this homestand.

Detroit has won four straight with a 3-0 shutout victory over Earl Wilson and the Tigers in Game 1 against Oakland. Dick McAuliffe and Wilson each completed home runs.

Saturday’s game was the big draw. McLain was aiming for his 30th victory of the season, with 33,688 witnesses in the contest. Detroit trailed 4-3 entering in the bottom of the ninth. The ninth started with Al Kaline pinch hitting for McLain. Kaline walked and one out later, Mickey Stanley singled, putting the runners up first and third. Northrup called with an RBI-fielder’s choice grounder that didn’t get anyone out due to an error. Stanley moved up to third place. Horton followed with an RBI single, giving the Tigers the win and McLain his 30th victory. McLain allowed four runs, but threw a six-batter while striking out 10.

“I had a lot of stuff,” McLain said. “I only made one bad throw. (Reggie) Jackson’s first home was good land. The second was a terrible throw. I thought I threw a good ball game.

When asked how McLain felt when he saw Horton’s winning shot, he replied, “It’s hard to describe. I guess I got goosebumps and all.

“I’ll tell you what impressed me about all of this,” Tigers pitching coach Johnny Sain said. “and that’s how Denny’s reacted to all that pressure. And it will get worse. »

McLain said he was going to auction off the 30th-win baseball and donate the money to charity.

A goal has been achieved. McLain took his 30th victory. A second was near. Detroit was now on the verge of picking up its first American League pennant since 1945. Could they do it before the end of homestand? We’ll find out soon