The Cleveland Indians have set an American League record for consecutive wins with their 21st-straight tonight. Depending on whether or not you count a tie as part of a winning streak, they have also tied a major league record for the same thing.
No matter your perspective, the Indians have done something incredible, and something so rare that it has only happened a handful of times since the dawn of baseball. A new World Series winner is crowned every year, perfect games are a dime a dozen, and even the home run record has been broken several times. But setting records for winning consecutive games is extremely rare.
The Oakland Athletics were the last to set a record when they won 20 in 2002, a streak special enough to warrant a movie starring Brad Pitt and sort-of (not really) Chris Pratt. The Athletics’ streak broke an American League record that stood for 55 years as the previous record holders, the New York Yankees, won 19 straight games in 1947 — 20 years before the first Super Bowl, the same year as the first NBA championship, and (sadly) one year before the Indians won their last World Series.
If you want to get into the discussion of the Indians winning tomorrow and setting the major league record for wins — again, discounting that tie that shouldn’t count — then they would be snapping a streak dating back to 1935, which is a whole ‘nother can of mind-boggling worms to get into.
That’s really the amazing thing about this record, to me at least. It’s a feat that previously outlasted entire sports, and looking at Let’s Go Tribe’s analytics I’m going to assume most of you were not alive in 1947. Heck, some of you might not even have been alive in 2002, or at the very least were confused toddlers watching the A’s on TV at the time.
Cleveland entered the streak having lost two in a row, 4.5 games up in the American League Central, and worrying about a series of key injuries heading into the final month of the season. With the American League record in hand, they are now odds-on favorites to win the World Series, own the top seed in the AL, and are on pace to win 100 games for the third time in franchise history. By all accounts they are amazing, and the wins count no matter how cynical you want to be about who they faced. You may not realize it until you reflect years down the road, but we witnessed the baseball equivalent of Halley’s Comet over the last few weeks.
Winning 10 games in a row defies odds; winning 21 breaks them. Individually, the Indians were massive favorites to win each game against the Detroit Tigers, upwards of 70 percent in each game. But the odds winning them consecutively shrunk by the day. Just think of flipping a coin and hoping it lands on the same side 21 times. Now put a team of professional athletes in your way doing everything they can from stopping heads every single time.
Here’s a fun way to look at it: If you started with $100 and let it rode (i.e. bet the accumulated winnings after every game you would have won $1.18 million.
Everything about doing that would have been insane, especially betting $884,286 on the Indians winning game 21, but if you only had faith you could have been loaded by now.
Breaking the game of baseball doesn’t come without heroes, of course, and Indians fans have seen Jose Ramirez flourish to unimaginable heights. The scrappy little utility player has turned into an absolute monster; a viable MVP candidate. During the streak he slashed an incredible .391/.420/.992 with eight doubles, eight home runs, and a triple. He rarely walked, but he rarely struck out either — three times for each, to be exact.
Ramirez’s being a Gold Glove candidate pretty much anywhere on the diamond allowed the Indians to shift him to second base in Jason Kipnis’ absence, effectively opening the way for Yandy Diaz 2.0 (now with lift technology®). The Biceped One had himself an amazing streak as well, though it came in fewer at-bats as he split time with defensive wizard Giovanny Urshela. He finished with 20 hits in 68 plate appearances, including five doubles and a 20.6 percent walk rate. While he didn’t homer — and he still hasn’t homered in his major-league career — he is still slapping the ball everywhere for power, to the tune of a .509 slugging percentage.
Francisco Lindor hit nine home runs during the streak while walking more than he struck out, and he smiled the entire time.
Corey Kluber lasted seven innings in his four starts and struck out 35 batters while walking just two.
Two top prospects — Greg Allen and Francisco Mejia — debuted and contributed.
Carlos Carrasco threw a pair of shutouts and struck out at least eight in each of his four starts. He also stole a microphone and gave us one of the best off-the-field moments ever.
Trevor Bauer found his curveball and used it to dominate the Chicago White Sox so hard that they forgot he was allowed to throw it.
There are so many specifics to get into with a streak like this, so many that it can get overwhelming. But the bottom line of it is that it was fun. The Indians were having fun, and it has been one of the most enjoyable three weeks of my baseball-watching life. I want the Indians to win the World Series this year with everything in my being, but this 2017 team is already one of the most exciting things I’ve ever tangentially been a part of.
We will see a lot of World Series winners, but we may never again see a 21-game winner.