Today the Cleveland Indians did something no team in the 117-year history of the American League has done: win 21 consecutive games. That hasn’t been accomplished by any team in 82 years, it’s something much rarer than winning a championship or even winning 100 games in a season. Although we as fans count a World Series championship as the ultimate goal, winning more games in a row than anyone in American League history should be at least a close second.
And although the accomplishment itself is worthy of reverence, the way the Indians have won those games adds an extra aura of wonderment to the streak. The Indians have won none of these games in walk-off fashion, no extra-inning games, and only 3 one-run games. They’ve hit more home runs than runs allowed. They’ve outscored their opponents by more than 100 runs. I could go on, but there’s a game to recap.
Today’s starter, Mike Clevinger, is one of many “role players” to play great during this amazing run. Going into today’s game, he hadn’t allowed a run since August 21, before the streak began. He wasn’t as good today, struggling at times with the strike zone, which ultimately hastened his exit in the sixth inning. But he left the game with the lead, setting up a rested bullpen to finish off the Tigers.
The Indians have rarely trailed during this streak, and has score first in 19 of their 21 wins. But today the Tigers took the first lead of the game via a two-out single in the first. That lead lasted all of five batters, for Jay Bruce would hit a three-run homer that just cleared the wall in center field.
The Tigers are at the beginning of long rebuilding process, and have been an awful team for a month now, but they gave the Indians all they could handle both yesterday and today. It was like this series was their playoffs, having an opportunity to deny the Indians a record-breaking win. This was not a club lackadaisically going through the motions; in fact they at times let their emotions get the most of them. Both Tigers catcher James McCann and manager Brad Ausmus were tossed in the third inning for arguing balls and streaks, and Miguel Cabrera seemed to be carrying on a running conversation with Tribe fans all game.
The Indians held a 4-1 lead until the sixth inning, when a Yandy Diaz error gave the Tigers an opportunity they’d take advantage of. Nick Castellanos doubled home Cabrera to cut the lead to 4-2, then Andrew Romine singled home another. Both runs were unearned, and they spelled the end of Clevinger’s day. The Tribe bullpen was fresh after essentially two off-days (the 11-0 victory in which Danny Salazar pitched, and Corey Kluber’s complete game last night), so Terry Francona could play matchup baseball without stressing anyone’s arm. Nick Goody got the Indians out of the sixth inning and into the seventh, and Tyler Olson retired the lone batter he faced.
Roberto Perez gave the Indians a bit a breathing run in the seventh by hitting his sixth home run (five of them coming since the streak began), and as the eighth began, it appeared that the Indians would need that extra offense. Bryan Shaw allowed a leadoff single, then later mishandled a ball hit back at him. But defensive replacement Giovanny Urshela made a great play for the second out of the inning, then merely a good one to end the Detroit threat.
Carlos Santana made a bid for an inside-the-park homer in the bottom of the eighth, which would have been an amazing topper to this amazing day, but ran out of gas one his way home and was out by 15 feet. That didn’t matter though, for Cody Allen made quick work of the Tigers in the ninth to give the Indians an historical victory.
If it’s at possible, soak up as much of this experience as you can, for I don’t think we’ll ever see the likes of it again.